February 2019 Principal's Message

posted Feb 7, 2019, 8:58 AM by PFC Secretary   [ updated Feb 7, 2019, 8:58 AM by PFC Webmaster ]

Dear Walnut Acres Parents,

You may have heard informally that I am retiring, and now I am making it official. I want you to know that leading the Walnut Acres community has been an exciting journey and a beautiful 11 years to cap my 40+ memorable years in education. I treasure my time with you, our staff, and our students.

There is a line in a beloved poem that says, “It is in giving that we receive,” and that has certainly been my experience! I have been truly blessed by the teachers, staff, and parents with whom I have worked, but it’s the hearts of our youngest community members that have energized me and kept me coming back for more all these years. The beauty and sincerity of our children will warm me in the years to come; their voices will ring in my ears; their hopes and dreams will become my prayers. I have often shared that our children deserve no less than our best, and I have tried to model that statement.

Now it’s time to turn leadership of our wonderful school to a new principal who will bring a different energy and perspective to the work we do. I hope you will work resolutely with that person to continue our transformation as a student-owned learning environment. As I gather information about the process for selection of a new Walnut Acres principal, I will certainly share it with you.      

And what do I intend to do? I hope to travel, continue learning, and find a new path to work at making a positive difference in the world, but that’s all down the road. Let me assure you, I remain committed to our children and our school, and I will do my best to guide us to a positive conclusion to our school year while we plan for 2019-20. So no good-byes yet – let’s concentrate on the months ahead.

Here’s the scoop for February…


Upcoming Events

Our annual Science/STEM Fair is right around the corner! On Thursday, 2/7, the students will tour the “Science Center” (our very own MUR), and I hope to see you there at the Fair’s Open House for families to do the same from 2:30-4:00 p.m. and 6:30-8:00 p.m. The district STEM Showcase for prize-winning projects will be on Saturday, 3/16, from 9:00-11:00 a.m.

Our Fifth Grade Girl Scout Troop 33570 has just initiated a change drive fundraiser to raise money for a filtered water bottle filling station for the water fountain near the Reading Lab. From 2/5 through 2/14, they are asking students to bring spare change or bills to school and put them in the labeled water bottle in each classroom. There will be prizes for top fundraising classes as participants help make our campus a little more environmentally friendly by contributing to the fundraiser, and by using reusable water bottles! Thank you to our scouts for their great legacy project!

Our annual Spelling Bee is coming soon. You are welcome to join us on Monday, 2/11, at 1:00 p.m. in the MUR to watch our 4th and 5th graders compete in orally spelling some pretty sophisticated words. 

Please note that we have no school on Friday, 2/15 (School Recess Day) and Monday, 2/18.  (President’s Day). Enjoy the long weekend!

Our next Sing-out on the character trait of Practicing Fairness will be on Wednesday, 2/27. You are welcome to join us as we celebrate this life skill together in the MUR with 3rd-5th graders participating at 8:00 a.m. before TK-2nd graders enjoy their turn at 8:30 a.m. for some character trait reinforcement and fun!


Safety Plan update

The SSC will vote on an updated Safety Plan this Thursday, 2/7, at 3:00 p.m. We meet in the Faculty Room the first Thursday of each month at the same time, and our meetings are open to all community members.

There are two components to Safety Plan goals – the first is The Social Climate, People and Programs at the school that promote emotional and physical safety. Within that component our goals are:

1.      Proactively support a climate in which students feel safe, comfortable, and supported at school.

2.      Create an environment in which all parents feel welcome and informed.

3.      Promote choice, autonomy, and ownership of social/emotional and academic learning.  

This coming year we want to add specific activities that will educate staff about significant mental health issues. We will recommit to educating our general population about our special needs students with at least one Autism Awareness assembly. We will continue our classroom learning circles, school-wide Sing-outs, positive rewards, peace path, Chill-Out Zone, counselor work, and restorative justice approach to enhance our positive climate. 

The second component of our Safety Plan focuses on our Physical Environment. We have two goals we are addressing:

1.      Provide emergency response training to paid and volunteer adults.

2.      Improve campus safety.

We want to provide first aid and AED (Automated External Defibrillator) training to at least one staff member in each wing of our facility and involve CERT (Community Emergency Resource Team) members in our response drills to gather expertise on improvement ideas. We will recommit to sharing the safety plan with stakeholders, purchase and install door lock catch mechanisms on every classroom door, and confer with MDUSD personnel about working blinds for every window on campus, fencing needs, and more visually accessible directions to the office from common entrance points around campus. 


From the District

I’ve previously shared with you that with the passage of Measure J, the district has begun the process of planning for site improvements across MDUSD. Renovations will include security enhancements and other facility improvements.

You’ve had a chance to give your input regarding our facility needs via survey and the next step to finalizing a plan will be at the upcoming Town Hall at Northgate  on Tuesday, 2/19, from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. We are invited to review drafts of site facility needs and ask questions about plans being formulated for our site.

Two parents, two teachers, a classified staff member, and I will officially represent the Walnut Acres community at the Town Hall event, but all stakeholders are invited (that includes you!) to participate in the process. 

Here are some links to additional information about the 10-Year Facility Master Plan:



The LCAP (Local Control Accountability Plan) Speaker Series is offering two more opportunities for the community to attend sessions designed to educate and inform regarding topics pertinent to all parents. The next session is 3/26 at College Park High School from 6:00-8:00 p.m. and the topic is “How Parents Social Media Presence Affects Their Children and School Communities.” The last Speaker Series session is 5/22 in the Board Room of the MDUSD office from 6:00-8:00 p.m. with the topic of “LCAP (Local Control Accountability Plan) and its Impact on MDUSD’s Budget.” 

Heads Up Regarding Internet Access

This week I had a round robin of beautiful children in my office to discuss poor behavior choices stemming from their electronic media experiences. Some students were bringing video combat to life, others were passing along a mysogynistic riddle learned on an e-site, and still others were sharing the words of an offensive song from a blog. There was enough of a pattern that I want to share a word to the wise about monitoring your child’s video and other electronic activities.

Technology can be a great tool, and it is tempting to use it as a babysitter in our busy lives, but it is not a trustworthy child-minder! I recommend you pull out a game, or a book, or art supplies, or almost anything else when you need to keep your kids busy. Save the technology use for times when you can monitor their experiences! Game-makers and other technology creators continue to throw a lot of aggression-enhancers and sexual innuendo at our children. So please supervise carefully and check in with children to maximize opportunities for them to get accurate information from you to feed their developmentally-appropriate curiosity. 

I'm also attaching a link here to an interesting article about the video game, Fortnite, which I received from our 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Clark.  Many of our students, even kindergartners, are playing this game and others like it. Addiction is a potential challenge. The World Health Organization has added “Gaming Disorder” to their list of addictions. I don’t share this to alarm you; rather, I remind you to be aware and monitor your children’s technology use as part of your routine to keep them safe.

In closing…

Being a parent is the most difficult and rewarding job in today’s hectic world, but as psychiatrist, Dr. Bruce Perry, so aptly stated, “Children don’t need more things. The best toy a child can have is a parent who gets down on the floor and plays with them.”   

I applaud you for the times you get down on the floor with your child, and I thank you for your dedication to supporting our school so that we can join you in this most valuable work!

Your lucky principal,

Colleen Dowd