August 2018 Principal's Message

posted Aug 21, 2018, 2:08 PM by PFC Secretary   [ updated Jan 15, 2019, 5:29 PM by PFC Webmaster ]

Welcome Back Walnut Acres Parents!

It’s the earnest voices and the exuberance of the children that call educators from lazy summer days to the flurry of school opening preparations. Early last week, a 5th grader came by to sneak a peek at school activities and offered to help because we looked like “we needed it”; a new 1st grader told me with charming indignation that we should have started last Monday rather than last Thursday so we could have an extra full week of school; a student returning to us after some time out of state shared that she is relieved to be back. The enthusiastic trust the children place in us is a calling we take very seriously, and we are honored to serve our students. 

Staff and teachers have been working hard to prepare for the return of the unique and awesome children that we share.  We had a successful first few days and we welcome back Walnut Acres students, and all of you, to a great 2018-19 learning year!

Here are some basics as our school routine begins…


You already know that we said goodbye to Ellen Bellinder and Rohnda Datzman as they retired, but you may not know that Bob Cadloni also retired, Lauren Lux left us to focus on the burgeoning theater company she and her husband founded, and our SDC teachers have moved on to other programs. With their departures, we welcome Autumn Ayllon and Kelly Rose Jensen to kindergarten; Rachel Proctor and Rebecca Cowles to 2nd grade; Lynette Myers, Lynn Buckingham, and Amanda Graves to 4th grade; and Jaclynn Uhalde and Carla Stewart to our SDC program.  We have returning teachers shifting positions and new colleagues leading classrooms, but you will find that our vision remains intact, our collaboration is rigorous, and our transformation as a student-focused learning community continues.

Curriculum and Instruction

We are systematically deepening student ownership of learning through choice, engagement, differentiation, and rigor. For the 2018-19 school year, our effort translates academically to a thoughtful honing of Workshop instructional skill, implementation of the Fundations phonics program in K-3rd grade, continued schoolwide Math Talk and Problem of the Month activities, as well as exploration of YouCubed math and a small pilot of the Bridges Math Program. We will provide design thinking, coding, and robotics experiences in every classroom, along with project based learning and experimental learning opportunities for students at all grade levels.

Because we want to support every child’s social and emotional development, we will maintain our climate development work and promote daily life skills practice to be discussed routinely as Jaguar Way choices and celebrated at Sing-outs. Our class circles will provide opportunities for students to salute one another and problem-solve as well, while our peace path and ally practices will strengthen student affective skills. We hope to provide more opportunities this year to invite parents to apply these strategies at home using the same language and procedures we use at school.

Fund-A-Need Spending

Parents were incredibly generous during last Spring’s Auction Fund-A-Need and we are putting those funds to great use this fall. With the arrival of new Chromebooks and iPads, we are close to creating a full class of devices within each grade level. This powerful upgrade means that we need to depend less on sharing devices across grades. Charging stations to store and charge devices within classrooms will support ease of use and accommodate within-grade-level sharing. Meanwhile, our 4 new interactive TVs and 1 TV in the library are propelling us toward our goal of interactive TVs in every room.

Keeping Our Kids Safe and Focused on Learning

Safety is foundational to all we do at school. Please do your part to keep our children safe! Follow basic driving laws - avoid speeding, talking on your cell while driving, and making U-turns in the middle of Wiget and Cerezo Drives. Read your Student Climate & Parent Safety Procedures Handbook for drive-thru procedures and use the drive-thru for drop-offs only, not parking. Know that handicapped parking spots and blue zones, such as the one in front of our school, are for folks with disabling conditions and our special education buses - please honor these accommodations.

Sign in at the office and get a visitor’s badge if you stay at school after 8:05 a.m. or arrive before 2:15 p.m. Our students are taught to tell a staff member if they see an adult on campus without identification! On our open campus it is important to consistently remain alert to potential strangers on campus and track adults on our site.

Please sit at the tables in the courtyard until dismissal if you have parked off campus and are waiting to pick up your child after school. This routine allows classrooms to have quiet space until class has ended for the day, and it means any strangers on our campus will be highly visible if they wander through the school.

Supervise your child if you allow your student to stay after school to play. To keep all students safe, they must be supervised! If you see unsupervised children after school, please send them to the office for safe-keeping, and we will contact parents.

Working Together

Back to School Nights are wonderful opportunities to familiarize yourself with the learning experience your child has in store this year. If you also want to have a conversation with your child’s teacher about your student, please make an appointment to do that in a separate meeting.

I invite you to attend my 15-minute welcome in the MUR prior to each event, excluding our SDC and 5th grade Back-to-School Nights. I use the forum to talk about our goals for the year and how you can support your child’s learning at home. The event dates are:

8/22     6:00-8:00 p.m.    5th grade

8/28     5:45-7:00 pm.     3rd grade

8/29     5:45-7:00 p.m.    1st grade

8/30     5:00-6:00 p.m.    SDC classes

8/30     5:45-7:00 p.m.    2nd grade

9/5       5:45-7:00 p.m.    4th grade

9/6       5:45-7:00 p.m.    TK/K classes

I close with a poem titled “Partners” that I routinely share as the school year begins. The anonymous author makes a potent statement about the power of collaboration between teachers and parents…

I dreamed I stood in a studio,
And watched two sculptors there.
The clay they used was a child's mind,
And they fashioned it with care. 

One was a teacher; the tools used,
Were books and music and art.
One, a parent with guiding hands,
A gentle and loving heart. 

Day after day the teacher toiled,
With a touch both deft and skilled.
The parent labored side by side,
And all the values filled. 

And when at last their task was done,
They looked at what they'd wrought.
The beautiful shape of the precious child,
Could neither be sold nor bought. 

And each agreed it would have failed,
If one had worked alone.
For behind the parent stood the school,
And behind the teacher, home.


Happy collaborating Parents! We are eager to work with you to create a happy, safe, and successful 2018-19 school year – our children deserve nothing less!


Colleen Dowd
Lucky Walnut Acres Principal