January 9, 2017

posted Jan 30, 2017, 6:15 PM by Vice President Communications   [ updated Jan 30, 2017, 6:15 PM by PFC Webmaster ]

Happy New Year, Walnut Acres Families!

We welcome students back to school with enthusiasm and renewed energy after our holiday! The upcoming cold months are crucial focused learning times and we will make the most of them.  To support our efforts, I would like to introduce new personnel, request your support in filling a few positions, share good facility news, update our school climate work, and remind us all about basic school safety habits

Staff updates

There is some great personnel news as we start our 2017 routine. We have a new music teacher, Sally Anderson, who will provide weekly music classes to our 1st-3rd graders on Thursdays and Fridays. Mrs. Anderson is a member of the Northgate community, her children attended Walnut Acres, and she currently provides support to the band and orchestras at Northgate High. Until we have space for a music room, Mrs. Anderson will be teaching in our Colab. (This is feasible because Mrs. Galindo, our site tech who works in the Colab, will student teach one day a week and she will push into classrooms the other day.) 

Meanwhile, our friend Sandy Villers, who served as science lab assistant for 1st, 4th, and 5th grade students, will be student teaching at Westwood, and Faye Mettler has taken on those science lab assistant responsibilities. Mrs. Mettler was the Walnut Acres PFC president when I first came to Walnut Acres, and we feel lucky to have her back with us. 

We have a new nurse, Cathy Kora, who will be with us once a week. I’ve been asked recently what a school nurse does. It is the responsibility of our nurse to ensure that we are up-to-date with all immunizations, that vision and hearing screenings are completed, that emergency medications are maintained for individual students, and that particular students are monitored as needed, which includes participation in specific 504, attendance, or special education meetings. 

We also need to fill a few positions at our site. We are seeking another Noon Supervisor to work a 2-3 days a week and we are looking for 2 special education assistants to serve in our SDC classes. If you would like to know more about either of the jobs, just check in at the office or give me a call.

Facility Updates

Over the holiday, the MDUSD Maintenance & Operations employees worked on our library renovation. The old desk and half-walls are gone, and there is a new carpet in the library that cost almost $17,000 (including prep work on the floor). The district paid for the labor and the new carpet (actually carpet tiles so that if there is a spill or other problem, a portion of the carpet can be replaced to bring the carpet back to its current unblemished status.) The MDUSD workers also built new double-sided, mobile bookcases which we purchased with 2015-16 Fund-A-Need money. Now our librarian, Mrs. Ritthaler, will work with parent volunteers to redecorate and reorganize the library. She will also cull books from the fiction section and set some books in themed tubs as prescribed within the workshop approach.

Climate Work

We are continuing our efforts to maximize a strengths-based approach to serving our students. Towards this goal, our 3rd-5th grade selected students are currently receiving peacemaker training, while our noon supervision staff, including lunch patrol volunteers, are invited to receive an adult version of the training led by Soul Shoppe personnel.  

Meanwhile, our teaching staff will participate in Restorative Justice training over the next 2 months during staff meeting times. Restorative Justice is the process of helping our children to take responsibility for their poor behavior choices and make amends with the input of the people they offended. It is an extension of the class meetings (or circles) that we are implementing this year. Our goal is to build our children’s ability to communicate, problem-solve, and collaborate regarding their interpersonal challenges just as we are teaching them to do so with academic challenges.

Safety Plan

This is the time of year when we are asked to review and update our Safety and Emergency Plan. If you are interested in joining a committee that will analyze our current plan and develop a 2016-17 plan, let me know this week via email or with a call to the office (939-1333.)

As we focus on safety, it’s an appropriate time to remind our community about basic safety in our community!

  1. Drop your children off at 7:45 a.m., when we have adult supervision for children. Remember that we do not have supervision on the playground after school. If you want your child to play on the playground, you need to provide supervision.
  2. Sign in at the office when you visit during school hours and wear your name tag so children know that you are a safe person on campus.
  3. Follow all drop-off and pick-up rules as detailed in the Walnut Acres Handbook you received and acknowledged reading with your signature at the beginning of the year.

To reduce drive-thru traffic, save gas money, and take positive action for our environment while adding fun and exercise to your student’s routine, consider a New Year’s resolution of walking or biking to school. Whether walking, biking or driving, let’s keep our students safe!

As we hit 2017 running, our staff will work collaboratively to refine our safe environment, enhance our strength-based approach, and guide our students to rigorous, engaging learning experiences. We look forward to sharing the joys and struggle of our valuable work with you in 2017 because we appreciate your input on this learning journey! As President Woodrow Wilson once commented, “We should not only use the brains we have but all that we can borrow.”

Here’s to a successfully collaborative learning year for the entire Walnut Acres community!


Colleen Dowd

Walnut Acres Principal