March 2018 Principal's Message

posted Mar 18, 2018, 1:22 PM by Vice President Communications   [ updated Mar 18, 2018, 1:22 PM by PFC Webmaster ]

Happy March, Walnut Acres Parents!

We are all engrossed in learning as we begin the last trimester of the 2017-18 school year. Students are being assessed to measure their progress on California Standards and the results of that work will be shared with you when progress reports are sent home on Friday, 3/16. Meanwhile, teachers are using the assessment results to inform their instruction in the classroom.

While we constantly hone our academic curriculum implementation strategies based on the data we collect, we also maintain our effort to promote social emotional learning for our students. We recently had our Fairness Sing-out to support that work. We also had a wonderful Soul Shoppe assembly that every child attended.

Soul Shoppe Work

Soul Shoppe is an educational organization based in Oakland.  Their mission is to “create safe learning environments that bring forth a culture of compassion, connection and curiosity—eliminating bullying at the roots.”  Their programs aim to not just address problem behaviors, but to help transform the ways we see and interact with each other. At our recent “Bystanders to Upstanders” assembly, a Soul Shoppe presenter talked to us about being a SuperAlly, someone who steps up to help when there is a conflict.  SuperAllies activate their “Balloon Vision” to see if someone may have a “full balloon,” which is an analogy used to describe storing or stuffing negative emotions without dealing effectively with them.  You can see Soul Shoppe founder Joseph Savage explain the full balloon analogy to K-1st graders here:

And watch Joseph explain the balloon to 2nd-6th graders here:

If students witness a conflict or someone being harassed, they can Power Up, and Calm Down by taking a deep breath, then Use their Ally Words: “1.) Please stop; 2). Do you need help?; and 3) Do you need a friend?” 

In March and April, there will be parent opportunities for you to learn more about the Soul Shoppe concepts in a supportive atmosphere here at school. Joanne Finn, our school counselor, will provide a parent workshop called “What’s in your balloon? Reinforcing Soul Shoppe lessons at home” on Monday 3/26 from 1:45 to 2:30 p.m. and she will repeat the workshop on Wednesday 4/25after our Trustworthiness Sing-out (9:30 to 10:15 a.m.)

Other Upcoming Activities

At school

You may have heard the national conversation about a Wednesday, 3/14, walk-out to make a statement about the recent Florida shootings. We will participate in the day in our own Walnut Acres way. We will avoid a political statement and we will not introduce topics that will be unknown to many students. Instead, teachers will talk to children about our Citizenship life skill at each grade level and students will place a ribbon on the back fence of our playground to spell out LOVE ONE ANOTHER!  

This year we registered to participate in the Kangaroo Math Contestthanks to the leadership of Walnut Acres parent Chao Yang. He coordinated a series of collaborative practice events to prepare participants in 1st-5th grades for the culminating exam. That 75-minute test will be held on 3/15 at 3:00 p.m. and again at 7:00 p.m. at school. For more information about the Math Kangaroo Contest, check out their website at

On 3/19 children will not attend school so that teachers may participate in professional development classes. In the morning we will attend district trainings and in the afternoon we will be on site to discuss emergency safety with a local Walnut Acres Police Department representative then focus on math curriculum development.

On 3/21 we will welcome a presenter from the Contra Costa Water District to teach us about water conservation in the guise of a juggling assembly. Every student will attend an age-appropriate version of the assembly on that Wednesday morning. You can learn more about the educational program by at

On 3/28 at 8:00 and 8:30 a.m. we will have our March Sing-out, which focuses on the life skill of Citizenship.

On Friday, 3/30, we will begin our Spring vacation, so do not bring your child to school on that day! We will see you back at school onMonday, 4/9.

Within district

The MDUSD Community Speaker Series is sponsoring “Cyber Safety with Above the Fray” from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at Northgate High School. Above the Fray is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering responsible and safe social media users. The event is open to all MDUSD parents, guardians, and caregivers to look at what’s happening in the digital lives of young people, which may be a surprise for many parents. They will proactively address topics like cyberbullying, social media, internet safety, sexting and gaming. The objective is to give parents tangible tools to start meaningful conversations at home before issues arise. Learn more at

The district would like you to know about the schools of choice that are available within MDUSD. Learn more about Schools of Choice in MDUSD by going to

Although we still have a good 2 ½ months of learning before us, I know that you are beginning to think about summer plans, so I want to share with you the programs that will be offered at Walnut Acres over the long holiday.

Summer plans at Walnut Acres

Camp Galileo

Pre-K-5th graders unleash their inner innovators by exploring art, science and the brave outdoors at Camp Galileo. Campers develop the courage to create, celebrate mistakes, and boldly innovate. As they grow, so does their curriculum—to include more advanced concepts, projects and creative freedom. They make their own mini stop-motion movies, construct the coolest catapults, make anything from marbleized paper to pneumatic machines. There are four weekly themes: The Makers—Materials Challenge, Space Explorers, The Incredible Human Body, and Road Trip Adventure. Sessions will be held 6/18 – 8/3, from 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Extended care and financial assistance are available. Visit for further information.

Curtains Up! Youth Theater

CUYT presents “Summer Magic,” a musical story that connects three great scenes from three great musicals. The production is open to students who have completed 2nd-5th grades at the end of the 2017-18 school year. Camp runs from 6/18-7/21 on Monday-Friday afternoons. (No camp 6/29-7/6.) Performances will be 7:00 p.m. on 7/18-21. Auditions will be held on 6/11 and 6/12. For further information go to the PFC website or click here.

Walnut Acres Children’s Center

Walnut Acres Children's Center (WACC) is a place where children know their choices will be respected. From planned activities to spontaneous interests, WACC provides tools to foster each child's independence and growth. With adventurous weekly trips and special guest appearances they strive to keep your children entertained and wanting more.  WACC has been serving the community for over 35 years. See more at

Other local summer plans

MDUSD Summer program

The summer program this year is offering extended learning classes that will focus on literacy through science (STEM) and mathematics for the elementary schools. The program dates are 6/18/18–7/13/18 from 8:15 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Teacher-selected 1st and 3rd grade Walnut Acres students will attend the program at Woodside. This is a limited, invitation-only program that will focus on the core curriculum. More information will be coming in April.

Cal State East Bay program

Summer reading skills classes will be offered in Concord and Pleasant Hill for students based on the grade they will be entering for the 2018-19 school year. Skills in the area of phonics, fluency, comprehension, textbook reading, and speed reading will be taught, and a love of reading will be an underlying goal. For further information or to register call 1-800-903-0162 or visit the website at Flyers are also located in the Walnut Acres front office.

Thank you

You may be aware that our school budget will be decreased for 2018-19. At Walnut Acres, we pay our expenses from a general fund and a supplemental fund that is targeted to at-risk students. Our general fund was $47,640 in 2017-18 and is targeted to decrease by $10,356 for the next school year, while our supplemental budget was $25,920 this year and is scheduled to be $17,280 for 2018-19.

How does this information lead to a thank you? Our school thrives on the generosity and hard work of our dedicated parents and other volunteers. So I thank you for your dedication to our school and the children we serve! With the success of our just completed auction, I offer specific accolades to Shakeya St. Julien Garcia and Catalina Franklin for coordinating this complicated fundraiser, I salute the many volunteers who made it happen, and I offer my appreciation to all those who participated in the event!

Thanks to all of you who work to support our school through our Auction, our Jaguar Fund, or other events such as our upcoming Walk-A-Thon. I know that Walnut Acres will not only survive a budget reduction, we will thrive. H.E. Luccock wrote, “No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.” On behalf of all our children, thanks for collaborating to make beautiful music!


Colleen Dowd,

Lucky Walnut Acres Principal