March 2019 Principal's Message

posted Mar 6, 2019, 9:45 AM by PFC Secretary   [ updated Mar 6, 2019, 9:48 AM by PFC Webmaster ]

Hello Walnut Acres Parents,

Our children often write about small moments and I had two lovely small moments myself the other day. I was working in my office and a teacher asked to use my table because she could not find a space around campus to complete a running record with a student. I continued working but found myself drawn to the conversation between them. My heart was full as I listened to the earnest young reader and the kind, focused teacher who asked her questions about her text and encouraged her sharing, while noting fluency, decoding and comprehension. It was a simple interaction, but to me it represented the culmination of our years of focused curriculum work.

Just a few minutes after the couple left, another teacher burst enthusiastically into my office to share her students’ writing assignment results. It was a delight to witness her enthusiasm in her students’ progress and a treat to read their information writing products. 

I spent some time quietly celebrating the dedication of our teachers and our PFC that afternoon! Thank you for all you have done to help us develop a language arts process that is built on a foundation of student choice as well as differentiation; that promotes a love of reading and writing; and that honors each learner. Thank you for supporting the coaching process that has enhanced our instructional expertise, thank you for providing powerful and effective Tier 3 intervention, and thank you for your patience as we introduced our Wilson “Fundations” decoding/encoding program to supplement student phonics/spelling skill development. I salute you all Walnut Acres Parents!


Upcoming Auction

With our upcoming Midnight in Paris Auction on Friday, 3/8, we have another opportunity to support our school and build on our good work. Our precious support personnel, including science lab assistants, site technology support, classroom assistants, Math, Reading/ELD intervention teachers, and our choral music teacher, will remain as PFC funds allow. Valuable supplementary services, such as online program sponsorship and device replacement will also remain depending on the success of PFC fundraising. Our Auction is a big part of our annual fundraising effort and I look forward to seeing you at Boundary Oaks to share the lovely experience, have some fun, and support our school!


Second Chance Breakfast Pilot

The district is implementing a pilot program this month that will allow our students to purchase a “second chance breakfast” during their first recess each school day, except Wednesdays. The breakfast/ brunch service will be in the MUR and students can count on receiving juice, milk and a healthy entree. The cost of breakfast is $2.00. (If you qualify for free and reduced price meals, you also qualify for the breakfast program, with no additional paper-work.)  Use your Titan account, or give your child $2 to purchase a meal. I am told we need to sell 75 breakfasts a day across our site to make the Second Chance Breakfast Program sustainable.

Next week (March 4-8) is National School Breakfast Week so the district will host a contest to celebrate the occasion and encourage students to try the Second Chance Breakfast pilot.  The class that has the most breakfast participation wins a pizza lunch for the entire grade at a later date!  

New Website

We have moved our school website platform to School Loop for a variety of reasons, largely related to ongoing issues with the previous platform. Please check out our new home at  We have had difficulty redirecting the old URL to the new site, for which I apologize, and we are continuing to work on that connection. The new site is a work in progress, but we are happy with the switch in platforms and hopeful that the site will more easily promote interactive sharing.

Please share any thoughts you have as you visit our website. If there is a tab you would like to see on the site, let us know. If there are errors, shout out; and if you like something, that would be valuable information, too.

Please note that the link for notifying us about absences is the first blue rectangle under the Quick Links heading on the left side of the home page below the rotating image. On most screens you can see it without scrolling.   

Input Requested on Our 10-year Facility Plan

I thank all of you who attended our Town Hall meeting to hear from the architects focused on 10-year Facility Plans for MDUSD sites. For those of you who missed it, we reviewed the first draft of a proposed plan and looked at ancillary information, before discussing the plan and adding thoughts from the group with post-its on the document. 

Now I invite all of you to share your thoughts on the first phase of the proposed facility plan. You are welcome to come by the office where the plan is mounted on our office bulletin board for all to view.

You are also invited to check out the plan on our school website. (Just scroll down the home page to Current News.) Send your feedback to me via email and I will incorporate your suggestions into my feedback commentary.

In about a month, LPA Architectural group representatives will return to our site and meet with me to collect our input. The plan is to incorporate our ideas into the next draft plan they create.    


MDUSD Requests Input for State Evaluation

The California Department of Education requires that all districts assess school climate and parent engagement. To meet this requirement, the district is again requesting that parents/guardians and community members complete the WestEd’s California Healthy Kids Survey. The direct link is and can be found on the homepage of the district website  under Current News. The survey can be taken in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, or Korean.  All responses should be submitted online. The survey window is open from 3/1/19 -3/31/19.   


Respectful Request of Parents/Students

I am asking our community to support the work of our night custodian by honoring the practice of picking up forgotten homework, supplies or clothes by 4:00 p.m. each day. Every time we ask our custodian to open a classroom it takes time from completion of her responsibilities. She is not allowed to give keys to others, so she must leave her job and accompany petitioners to whatever rooms they wish to visit.

Our night custodian, Sandra Solis, is doing a great job of making our old facility shine! As you may remember, for the last couple of years we have had a series of temporary night custodians/short-term employees and their noncommittal approach was reflected in the unkempt state of our facility. Ms. Solis came and changed that equation immediately! She works diligently to clean our rooms, and she takes pride in her work. Let’s help her to help us keep our school clean by allowing her to focus on her work. We know there are emergencies and exceptions to every best practice, but let’s be very thoughtful about invoking those exceptions. Many thanks!


March Events

Monday, 3/11, is a Professional Development Day for teachers. Students have the day off. We will attend instructional workshops in the morning, including time focused on analyzing the recently completed MDUSD formative Reading and Math assessments. In the afternoon, we will be back on site to analyze the district writing assignment results and discuss next steps in our Math curriculum and instruction.


Our Annual Walnut Acres Art Show is around the corner on Thursday, 3/14, in the MUR. Classes will tour the Art Show throughout the day. The Artist’s Reception for families is 6:00-8:00 p.m. It’s a lovely, non-fundraising community experience. Check out the event on the PFC website for further details.


The MDUSD Stem Fair/Showcase is Saturday, 3/16, at Willow Creek Center, 1026 Mohr Lane in Concord, from 9:00-11:00 a.m. I again congratulate all Walnut Acres students represented in the Showcase and invite our entire community to attend the event!


The Second trimester ended on 3/1 and you can expect your child to bring home a report card on Friday, 3/15.


On Monday, 3/18, Soul Shoppe will return to our site for a life skill assembly. They will be working with grouped grade levels to present, “Clean It Up: The Sorry Show.” They will remind students to use the “Clean Up Process” to resolve problems at their roots. This workshop addresses social emotional competencies of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship skills.


Thursday, 3/21, is our second annual Kangaroo Math Contest. The 34 enrolled students have been problem-solving in teams on weekends and after school. They will now take an individual math test after school in competition with other students at their grade level from around the world. All participants will earn prizes, enjoy math fun, and enhance math skills. If you missed the fun, look for the event again next fall.

Friday, 3/22, is our second annual International Festival from 4:00-7:30 p.m. This is a lovely PFC event that focuses on appreciation of our ethnic diversity and celebration of our differences. I hope this multicultural experience also serves as a reminder that what divides us is not nearly as important as the commonalities we share. In order to support this message, teachers will be introducing the event on 3/22 during the school day. Each grade level has selected one continent, and classes will study cultures on that continent. Prior to the International Festival, classes will have a culminating learning experience designed to enhance student participation in and understanding of International Festival goals.  


The next LCAP Series event is Tuesday, 3/26, from 6:00-7:30 p.m. at College Park High School (201 Viking Drive, Pleasant Hill.) The topic is “How Parents’ Social Media Use Affects Their Children and School Communities.” Refer to the flyer on the district website for further details.  


Wednesday, 3/27, is our next Sing-out and we will be honoring the life skill of Citizenship at our usual times, 8:00 and 8:30 a.m. in the MUR. You are welcome to join us. The following month, on Wednesday, 4/24, our Sing-out is also our Volunteer Appreciation Event, so please be sure to put that assembly on your calendar!


Heads Up to Our Parents

We have many fun and educational events coming up, but I am closing this message with information about an experience that is advertised as fun, but evolves in an appalling way. The Momo Challenge is a game that begins with a search for a special phone number online to send a text or WhatsApp message to “Momo.” The player enters into a conversation with Momo, who sends distressing images and aims to persuade the player to complete challenges that start simply, such as waking up at certain times, but escalate to dangerous activities that end in self-harm or suicide.

The whole issue may be a high tech-ghost story, but I am sharing this information with you because I am hearing our children talk about Momo. Here is a Denver news story to warn parents about Momo and an article written in Forbes by writer, Andy Robertson, purporting that the game is a hoax. He suggests that the real danger of viral shock fads like Momo is that it keeps parents from focusing on the daily work of teaching kids to be savvy about using the internet. If like me, you hadn’t heard of Momo, please take a moment to do a little research so you can talk to your child about the situation. Real or fad, it’s a learning moment opportunity.  


Today’s readily available technology options have certainly added to the complicated task of parenting. You have a challenging job as parents. As educators, we are your partners in supporting your child, so please let us know how we can help. We’ll do the same! To paraphrase Robert John Meehan, The most valuable resource that all teachers and parents have is each other. Without collaboration our efforts are limited by our own perspectives.”



Colleen Dowd

Lucky Walnut Acres Principal