December, Message from the Principal

posted Dec 3, 2014, 2:00 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Dec 3, 2014, 2:00 PM by PFC Webmaster ]

Happy Holidays, Walnut Acres Parents!


Survey Results

"I know Walnut Acres is the BEST school ever and I am never moving back to where I used to live! I love Walnut Acres!"


Such was the theme of many 3rd-5th grade student comments on our recent Walnut Acres Student Survey. (1st-2nd graders also took the survey, but were not asked the final write-in question, "What would it take to make Walnut Acres the best school in the world?")


We will place the graphed results of our student survey on the school website for you to review. Meanwhile a cursory analysis suggests three types of comments to our question and Other Comments section.

1.   Those that reinforce our "awesomeness":

"I really appreciate the support helping students." 

"Thank you for the opportunity to make our school ...FUN!"

2.    Those that recommend improvements that will not happen,  

but are delightful:

"I would like a chocolate fountain."

"We need a water slide, swings, a pool, a laser tag room, and a gaga ball pit."

"We should have penguins."

3.    And those that recommend specific modifications:

Some contradicted each other, such as "More learning and less art projects" vs. "more music, art, and a dance class." 

Some are very doable, such as "More balls and PE equipment, like scooterboards," and "I would like to go to the library during recess."

Some suggested shifts related to our transformational efforts, such as "More coding time and more computers available," "More personalized learning," and "Give us time to be creative, come up with new solutions to a project, and not be rushed."    


I intend to honor student input by sharing our analysis of student responses with the children and requesting dissatisfied customers to share further insights.


What is most impressive is that students took the time to share so many heartfelt comments on the survey. I had over 20 pages of 3rd-5th grade insights in 10-point type. That outcome suggests the success of our Writer's Workshop process as our students become more fluent and confident communicators.


My thanks to all parents who took the time to complete the Walnut Acres Survey, as well! That survey just closed and results will also be posted in the near future. I look forward to reading your comments, though I doubt they could be nearly as enchanting!


Hour of Code

Many of our students will be delighted that we are once again participating in the National Hour of Code inaugurated last year by internet gurus, and now organized by the nonprofit organization  We will be joining with students from all over the world to learn about coding-the language of computers-in a one-hour grade level experience during the week of 12/8. Students will be involved in a variety of age-level appropriate exploration using Scratch Jr., LightBot, and Hopscotch sites, as well as tangible manipulatives.


If you would like to volunteer to support students as they explore code in teams and groups, contact your child's teacher.


Here's the schedule for student exploring:

M        12/8   Kindergarten  9:45-10:45 a.m.

W        12/10 5th grade      8:05-9:05 a.m.

W        12/10 4th grade      10:45-11:45 a.m.

Th       12/11 3rd grade       8:15-9:15 a.m.

Th       12/11 1st grade       9:45-10:45 a.m.

F         12/12 2nd grade      8:15-9:15 a.m.

F         12/12 TK                 10:15-11:15 a.m.      


Digital Citizenship

Some of our computer lab sessions are dedicated to a focus on Digital Citizenship. The three general themes of our 2014-15 curriculum include Security & Safety, Global Community, and Ethics (Respect & Responsibility.) Teachers will help students reinforce their newfound skills in the classroom. We will eventually put information about our activities on the Walnut Acres website so you can support the teaching at home, as well. We plan to introduce and discuss a total of three to five lesson modules throughout the year.


Each 1st-5th grade class has created their own digital citizenship pledge that every class member will sign. Signed pledges will be displayed in the classroom and in the lab.


We continue to develop our digital citizenship curriculum and instruction practices so students grow as respectful and responsible users of technology. Ask your student about digital citizenship and their class pledge.


Upcoming Conferences

During the last two weeks before winter break, 12/8-12/19, our Arrival and Dismissal Schedule is as follows:



Early friends:  Arrival at 8:15 a.m.; Dismissal at 11:17 a.m. all week.

Late friends: Arrival at 9:36 a.m.; Dismissal at 12:38 a.m. all week.

1st-3rd grades 

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday: Arrival at 7:55 a.m.; Dismissal at 12:59 p.m. Wednesday remains a 'regular' minimum day.

4th-5th grades 

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday: Arrival at 7:55 a.m.; Dismissal at 1:06 p.m.

Wednesday remains a 'regular' minimum day.


Below are some tips for preparing and participating in an effective parent-teacher conference from the Harvard Family Research Project.


Before-the-conference checklist

  • Schedule a time to meet. If you can't go at the scheduled time, ask the teacher about other times.
  • Review your child's work, grades, and progress reports.
  • Talk with your child about his or her progress in school.
  • Talk with others-family members, after school staff, mentors, etc. (and your child, I have to add)-about your child's strengths and needs.
  • Make a list of questions to ask during the conference.
  • Think about ways you would like to be involved in your child's learning so that you can discuss them with the teacher.


During the conference: "BE HEARD"

Keep these principles in mind for a great parent-teacher conference:

Best intentions assumed

Emphasis on learning

Home-school collaboration

Examples and evidence

Active listening

Respect for all

Dedication to follow-up


Giving Opportunities for the Season

Our PFC has a Toy and Clothing Drive from 12/1-12/5 to benefit Shore Acres Elementary. They are looking for all sizes and types of clothing (except undergarments) from infants to adults, including shoes and jackets. Clothing should be free of stains and tears.  Toys, books, and small household items (e.g., linens and picture frames) are also appreciated.  


MDUSD is collecting gifts for the homeless and foster children in our district. Please consider contributing to Mt. Diablo HOPE and Foster Youth Services if you are looking for ways to make a real and lasting impact in kids' lives this holiday season. For further information, check out the front page of the district website or read the PDF at this link.


Thanks for Modeling Caring

Walnut Acres has a wonderful parent community! You model caring for our children every day through your volunteerism and dedicated efforts to support our school. I thank you and hope that you see the results of your consistent effort as you enjoy your children during our holiday. I certainly see your diligence to community in the comments on our student survey. Consider, for example, the attitudes and values reflected in the following comments:


"We should do more drives to help poor people."

"Kids should appreciate the volunteers by having a we-appreciate-you-party and having a special parade to celebrate our school and maybe some of my friends and I can have a bake sale to raise money for the school."

"We need more people to help recycle."

And it may be that a student was thinking about you when he wrote, "I just want to say, I love this school, you always make us smile!"



You, and our beautiful children, make me smile, too! Happy holidays!



Colleen Dowd, Principal