August, Message from the Principal

posted Aug 19, 2014, 12:55 PM by Jana Corral   [ updated Aug 19, 2014, 12:55 PM by PFC Webmaster ]

Welcome to 2014-15 Walnut Acres parents!


I am writing to you from a comfortably air-conditioned office and I am happy to report that all our children will be similarly cool and comfy in each classroom during the dog days of summer! Let me sketch out some of the major changes you will see around campus along with our well-ventilated rooms...



I can't definitively tell you whether or not we will have combo classes because it depends on the grade levels of children in families who walk through our door to register. However, at this point I am hopeful that we can maintain one Transitional Kindergarten (TK), three kindergartens, three first grades, three second grades, four third grades, three fourth grades and three fifth grades, along with our three Special Day Classes (SDC) for students with autism. Keep your fingers crossed with me. A tentative map of our facility configuration is on our website. (Click here.) You will note that Mrs. Bellendir is moving to 4th grade (with a math focus), but otherwise teachers remain at their 2013-14 grade level assignments.


We also need to know who will not be returning to our school this year in order to have an accurate class count. Please contact the office and share your plans if you are moving.



MDUSD is reinstituting instrumental music for fifth grade students. The pull-out model will allow band/orchestra students to attend one 45-minute instrument lesson weekly and one 45-minute instrument family (brass, strings, winds) lesson weekly. Our instrumental music teachers will be with us during a portion of Wednesday and Friday mornings. Participation in the instrumental music program is voluntary. Fifth graders will continue to receive vocal music instruction and choral/performance instruction weekly within their homeroom groups. Our PFC is also continuing the Wednesday after-school instrument program which remains open to all fifth graders.



There are more new faces than usual as we count down to the start of the 2014-15 school year. Allow me to introduce you...


Lauren Lux is teaching Transitional Kindergarten (TK) in A6. A graduate of UC Berkeley, Mrs. Lux earned her credential in 2007 from CSU Monterey Bay and her Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction in 2012. She has been teaching since 2006.  A mother of toddler twin boys, she is excited to be working with students just a tad older than her own. Mrs. Lux is looking forward to working with our youngest students as she returns to the community in which she was raised!


Leigh-Ann Andrada is teaching 1st grade in A4. Leigh-Ann graduated from UC San Diego with a degree in English and began teaching in 1995 after earning her credential from SF State. She got her Master's in Special Education in 2000 and she has taught in the primary grades as well as in reading intervention programs. Mrs. Andrada comes to us from Pleasant Hill Elementary and she is excited that she will be teaching in the community in which she lives. (Mrs. Andrada has one daughter at Northgate, one daughter at Foothill, and one daughter with us entering 4th grade.)


Chrissie Cattalini is teaching 3rd grade in C2. Ms. Cattalini graduated from St. Mary's in 2000 and returned for her teaching credential in 2001. She has been teaching 2nd and 3rd grades in MDUSD at Woodside for 13 years. She grew up in the Northgate community and used to play soccer games at Walnut Acres while swimming for Scottsdale. On a personal note, Ms. Cattalini has shared that she loves to read, she's obsessed with the Giants and 49ers, and although she's a horrible singer, she'll do anything for her students!   


Kaitlyn Diebel is joining our 3rd grade team. Mrs. Diebel taught for four years at Delta View Elementary, including two years of teaching 3rd grade. The 3rd grade teachers are excited to have Mrs. Diebel on their team as they hone curriculum and instruction to deepen critical and creative thinking, as well as collaborative and communication skills, this coming year. A personal tidbit from Mrs. Diebel: she has two young children and she grew up in our community. In fact, she attended Walnut Acres over 20 years ago!


John Paradiso is teaching 3rd grade in B4. He graduated from Sonoma State with his credential in 2002 after earning a Human Ecology degree from Humboldt in 1997. He has spent the last 10 years teaching 6th grade students in Marin County. He has worked in the elementary grades as an environmental educator, summer school teacher and a tutor. John is thrilled to teach 3rd grade and is looking forward to the enthusiasm and curiosity of this grade level. He recently relocated to our community to get married.  


Megan Smolarek is teaching Reading Intervention in our lab, now located in A5. Ms. Smolarek attended Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, graduating first with a Marketing degree in 2006 and then with a Master's degree in Childhood Education in 2007. In 2013, she earned a Certificate of Advanced Study in Literacy Instruction from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She focused on intervention teaching for elementary and middle school students in New York, and recently moved to our area with her fiancé. They have a September 12th wedding planned, so Mrs. Zeitler is the name we'll all need to remember!


Cynthia Young is joining Eve Albright who came to us last year to teach vocal music, and Mrs. Ryken, who is an icon of music and performance at Walnut Acres. Our new fifth grade instrumental music teachers have not been announced yet.


After many years of service, Kickan Wilson is increasing her days at Foothill. Crystal Valdivia is full-time at Oak Grove Middle School, and Lavinia Henlon will now provide psychologist services to our students two days a week.


Sandy Lendvay, our longtime PE teacher, has retired, and Christian Visperas will be heading up the PE team for fourth and fifth graders.


Alma Spring, our counselor, has taken a full-time position at MDHS. We are seeking someone who will support our students with social skill and problem-solving challenges.



On our website under the 'Parents' tab (scroll down until you see the section that says 'Forms'), is a very important letter (click here) that states the District does not have insurance for students and provides information about where insurance may be purchased. 



Please note that Supply Lists and tentative Field Trip Plans are on the website ( click here). I hope we have made it abundantly clear that supplies and field trip monies are donations. No parent is required to provide funds. If there is a shortage of donations, we will reduce or cancel activities/field trips as needed.


If you would like to support children in our district who do not have ANY supplies for the start of the new school year, contact the Mt. Diablo Homeless Outreach Program for Education (Mt. HOPE). They are accepting donations of school supplies and gift cards (i.e. Kohl's, Target), which allow families to pick out their own supplies. There is a HOPE PayPal button at 100% of tax-deductible donations go directly to foster youth and homeless children in Kindergarten-12th grade.  School supplies can be dropped off at the Mt. Diablo Unified district office: 1936 Carlotta Drive, Concord, CA, in boxes near the front desk.  Backpacks filled with assorted school supplies are appreciated.



Our New Family Welcome Meeting is a wonderful way to meet parent leaders and other new parents. It is also an opportunity to get your questions answered. Please join us on Tuesday, August 19th at 6:00 p.m. in the MUR and consider staying at 7:00 p.m. for the first PFC meeting of the year. You will learn a lot about school events, how our parent-school team works, and budgetary challenges.


Jaguar Day is coming soon! Join us on Thursday, August 21st, from 2:00-5:30 p.m. Turn in outstanding registration paperwork to the office by Wednesday, August 20th, so you are ready to receive your child's class on Jaguar Day and enjoy the first important event of the school year with fellow Walnut Acres folks!


Our annual New Student Picnic is scheduled for Friday, August 22nd, from 11:30-12:30 p.m. This is a fun and low -stress way to introduce a new child to our school and tour the facility with a longtime WA student to get questions answered...student to student!


And for parents, new and old...our Back to School Breakfast at 8:00 a.m. on our first day of school, Monday, August 25th, will be an opportunity to see friends, meet new folks, and let me meet you!


It's going to be a great learning year and I welcome you all to 2014-15! Thanks for being part of our learning family. The Walnut Acres staff knows that you are sharing your most precious gifts with us and we hold that honor sacred. Please note that my door is open to you as we begin our collaboration to help our children achieve their potential!


Cheers, Colleen Dowd

Walnut Acres Principal