November 2017 Principal's Message

posted Nov 15, 2017, 10:11 AM by Vice President Communications   [ updated Nov 15, 2017, 10:11 AM by PFC Webmaster ]

Happy November, Walnut Acres Parents:

During this season of holidays, we focus on the life skill of kindness. In November, we discuss the value of giving thanks to support a positive, appreciative and healthy approach to living.  While December, no surprise, is all about giving to others. Time will fly over these busy holiday months and we are making the most of our learning time to support student cognitive, social, emotional, and physical growth. To that end, we are industriously analyzing student products and assessments, enthusiastically implementing our instructional lessons, and collaboratively (often with our dedicated parents) preparing unique learning experiences for the beautiful children in our care.  

Here’s what’s happening at Walnut Acres, with a request associated with each item…

Parent Survey Time

Each year Mt. Diablo seeks input from parents in order to evaluate relationships among students, parents, and school staff. The data is used at the district level to assess needs, so your input matters! Results will also be reviewed by Walnut Acres staff, School Site Council, and our Safety Committee as we analyze our successes and challenges leading to next year’s goals.

Between 11/1/17 and 12/31/17 you are invited to go to the Walnut Acres website homepage hereand scroll to ‘Current News’ to complete the anonymous 15-minute survey. The link is also on the school website. You are welcome to request a pencil-paper copy of the survey from the office if you prefer. We will have the Colab (B-6) open during parent conferences so that if you do not have the opportunity to complete the survey prior to your conference, you may complete the survey before or after your parent conference. 

REQUEST: However you choose to participate, we encourage you to complete the survey so that the data we collect will include YOUR PERSPECTIVE!

New to WA: Math Kangaroo Competition

This year, Walnut Acres is participating in the 23rd Annual International Math Kangaroo Competition for students in 1st-12th grades. You will soon be able to register online for a $20 fee. Registration will remain open until 12/15. Participants will be invited to practice their math problem-solving skills with parent volunteer leaders over a few Saturdays to be announced in preparation for a written, strategy-based math contest held each spring.

On 3/15/18, students will 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 some math fun, and enhance their math skills. For more information, go to or contact Walnut Acres parent Chao Yang is coordinating the contest at Walnut Acres.

Mr. Yang will host a Math Kangaroo information session on Wednesday evening, 11/29, at 7:00 p.m. You are welcome to join us to learn more about this fun math learning experience.  Sign up here for the Math Kangaroo Info Meeting so we can track the number of participants and place the meeting in a room to hold the group.     

REQUEST: Check out the Math Kangaroo website and register on Konstella to learn more about the competition at our informational meeting.

Intradistrict Transfer Process is Closing Soon!

11/17/17 is the last day to apply for an intradistrict transfer for the 2018-19 school year. If you have a student currently enrolled in 1st-12th grade and you are seeking an intradistrict transfer, apply online by going to Select ‘Parent and Community’ and you will find the Intradistrict application link in ‘General News.’ No applications will be accepted by MDUSD after 11/17.

Incoming parents of 2018-19 kindergartners interested in an intradistrict transfer must complete enrollment at their home school and then complete an online application for an intradistrict transfer between 2/9/18–3/9/18.

REQUEST: Follow these deadlines if you seek an intradistrict transfer for 2018-19.

Growing Digital Citizens Together

Ms. Galindo and the classroom teachers are consistently promoting digital citizenship with specific lessons and classroom reminders. Teaching students to THINK (Is it True, is it Helpful, is it Inspiring, is it Necessary, is it Kind?) before they do anything on an electronic device is an ongoing effort. Please corroborate with your child that these questions are crucial at school and at home. Reinforce digital citizenship through your own modeling and by monitoring your child's electronic activities just as you supervise their TV and book selections. Some steps you can take at home include: allowing access to devices only in public spaces, limiting time on devices, monitoring email communications. A great resource to parents regarding digital citizenship can be found on the Common Sense Media website ( 

Also remember that on 3/20/18 at Northgate High, there will be a parent workshop entitled Cyber Safety and Above the Fray. I recommend it to all parents who have children on devices.

REQUEST: We ask you to supervise electronic conversations and check your child’s communication histories to ensure that your child is safe and routinely practicing responsible citizenship online

Hour of Code

Speaking of all things digital, our annual Hour of Code is coming up 12/4/17-12/8/17. If you are legally approved to volunteer and you would like to assist with Hour of Code activities at a particular grade level, contact Ms. Galindo at The schedule for coding is as follows:

M 12/4 @8:15-9:15 1st grade

M 12/4 @ 9:45-10:45 Kindergarten

W 12/6 @ 8:05 -9:05 5th grade

W 12/6 @ 9:15 – 10:15 4th grade

Th 12/7 @ 8:15 - 9:15 3rd grade

F 12/8 @ 8:15 – 9:15 2nd Grade

F 12/8 @ 10:15 - 11:15 Transitional Kindergarten

REQUEST: Ask your child about their coding experiences so far this year and consider joining us for our grade-level Hour of Code experience.

Innovation Team meeting

Since I am sharing so many technology-related activities with you, I want to alert you that our Innovation Team will meet on 1/16/18 at 4:00 p.m. in the Colab. This team has been pivotal over the last 8 years to our development of design thinking, engineering, and all things technology-related. If you would like to join us, please do so, we love passionate, out-of-the-box folks at our innovation meetings!

REQUEST: Contact me at 939-1333 if you want to learn more about the role of our Innovation Team at Walnut Acres.


Ready, Set, Read! Our 2017-2018 Read-A-Thon begins today and runs for 18 days, ending on 11/30. This year’s theme is “American Ninja Reader: A Workout for your Brain!” Like past years, all students are encouraged to participate through daily reading and personal financial sponsors. The Read-A-Thon will launch at lunch today in the MUR, and later this week there will be a fun obstacle course on the playground to get kids excited about the fundraiser and the theme: American Ninja Reader.

You will receive 2 key pieces of information for the fundraiser today, your child’s donation/reading log envelope and an email from Your child’s donation envelope will include their reading log, information sheet, and keepsake bookmark. Your email from will contain a link to your child’s personal fundraising page. Donations can also be collected in person and submitted via the Read-A-Thon envelope. All donations are due on Friday, 12/1.

REQUEST: Gather further information about Read-A-Thon, including prizes, at Read-A-Thon - Walnut Acres PFC.

School Plan for Student Achievement (SPSA)

The School Site Council approved the 2017-18 SPSA last week. Our plan is focused on developing our math instruction to enhance rigor, support differentiation, renew articulation across grade levels, and increase performance-based learning opportunities. We will also practice our Reading and Writing Workshop strategies to deepen our instructional practices, develop a more integrated phonics program, and grow our technology/engineering program. We will hone our intervention activities to support our special needs populations and students who need extra support and we will maintain our positive climate efforts through our Climate Team. Our school funding will support all these efforts.

The plan now goes to the MDUSD Board of Education for approval, after which it will be posted on the district website.

REQUEST: Take a look at the SPSA when it becomes available on the MDUSD website, and remember that our SSC meetings are open to the public if you would like to be part of our discussion.

Thank you once again

I realize that I am a broken record in thanking you on these messages, but the truth is that you make Walnut Acres what it is through your level of volunteerism, your donations, and your leadership practices. We can develop vision plans and apply school funds to support our work, but a cursory review of the SPSA budget clearly indicates that without ongoing sustenance from our PFC, our students would not enjoy the levels and varieties of support currently available to them and our visions could remain forever, just that.

There is a Japanese proverb that states, “Vision without action is a daydream.” Accolades to community members who routinely and passionately act to help us more closely implement our vision of student-owned learning at Walnut Acres. While our vision will remain just out of reach as we continually raise expectations, thanks to you, we are making great progress!

Your lucky principal,

Colleen Dowd