October 2018 Principal's Message

posted Oct 16, 2018, 2:11 PM by PFC Secretary   [ updated Jan 15, 2019, 5:28 PM by PFC Webmaster ]

Happy Halloween month, Walnut Acres parents!

As I wrote this month’s update, our children were repainting our US map and checkerboard, cleaning library books, sweeping, raking, pulling weeds, and picking up trash as part of Walnut Creek Community Service Day. Thanks to Caroline Clerempuy with help from Courtney Wasserman for leading this community service opportunity for our families and for giving us a bit of a facelift! I feel so proud to be connected to you all; you know what service learning is and you model that work-of-the-heart for our children routinely.

The Walnut Acres staff is also working devotedly to dig deeply into learning now that routines and procedures are in place and we have established our learning communities. Our work includes implementation of new instructional practices, such as our articulated phonics support in TK-3rd grades and our 4th grade math pilot. We are also enhancing rigor with established curriculum such as Reading and Writing Workshop, Math Talks, hands-on science lab experiences, design thinking activities, and project-based learning opportunities at all grade levels. We continue to deepen our technology curriculum with coding, digital citizenship, and engineering exploration. As we promote social and emotional growth, we are implementing strategies across grade levels that include class circles, peace path skills of I-messaging and active listening, and character life skill-focused activities.

Halloween Sing-out

Speaking of the life skills, our monthly Sing-out is a culminating activity for each life skill focus, and we will celebrate Responsibility on Wednesday, 10/31. It’s also Halloween, so we will extend the event with our annual parade. The Sing-out begins as usual at 8:00 a.m. with our 3rd-5th grade students in the MUR. As the older grades Sing-out ends, we will call all students to the playground for the parade. After the parade, the TK-2nd grade students will head to the MUR for their Sing-out. You are welcome to attend any of these events!

Please keep in mind that our Sing-outs and parade are fun, community-building learning experiences for our children, rather than polished performances for an audience. That means I don’t know when the second Sing-out begins because it will depend on how much time 620 children need for the parade that particular day. It also means that teachers need the chairs along the sides of the MUR to monitor student needs during Sing-out. We ask parents to please stand or sit in the back, so all children can see and focus on the activity at hand.

Collecting Parent Input!

As we continue work to enhance student ownership of learning through our growth mindset approach, our curriculum and instructional choices, and our focus on the whole child, we need your help! Please take about 10 minutes to complete the Walnut Acres Parent Survey on our website (scroll down to Current News or click here). The survey will close on 10/31/18.

Teachers and students are completing the survey now and your input is crucial, so that we have data from across our community as we assess our progress. To encourage parent participation, we will provide extra recess time to every class that earns a response rate of 75% or higher and a treat from me for any class that has a response rate of at least 90%. So, share your insights, support our growth, and make your child happy!

The results of the teacher, student, and parent surveys will be analyzed and shared
at a future staff meeting and with various school/community teams to inform our work. Results will also be posted on the school website for you to review.

State Test Scores

Our school survey process is one method of analyzing our successes and our current needs. Another tool used across the state is the CAASPP (CA Assessment for Student Performance and Progress). If you have a 3rd, 4th, or 5th grader, your individual student scores were sent home to you. The link to more fully understand the results is on the MDUSD website: http://www.mdusd.org/caasppresources. The third line down from the heading “California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) Results” contains a “Click here” button for schoolwide test result data.

Along with the CAASPP, we use a variety of routine assessments, including: running records; Boulder CO Math Screening; pre and post-Reading and Writing Workshop unit assessments; student self-evaluation rubrics; the online, adaptive iReady diagnostic assessments; student work products; and observations of each student in class and around school.

2019 Math Kangaroo Learning Opportunity

Assessment doesn’t have to be a chore for children. Here’s a fun opportunity to enhance math skills…

We are participating again in the International Math Kangaroo Contest thanks to the leadership of parent, Chao Yang. The competition will be held on Thursday 3/21/19. Children can participate in a 3 p.m. or 7 p.m. test session. Registration is open now and will close on 12/15/18. The invitation codes for Walnut Acres are CAWALNU0003518@19MK (for the 3 pm session) and CAWAKNU0003528@19MK (for the 7 p.m. session). You will need one of these codes to register your child. Here is the link for more details: http://www.mathkangaroo.us/mk/default.html.

There will also be an information meeting for all interested parents on Wednesday evening, 10/24/18, at 7:00 p.m. in our library. Come hear about the engaging, collaborative Saturday math practice sessions that will be held to prepare students for the 3/21 Math Kangaroo Contest.

Activities Sponsored at the District Level

District Office leaders do their best to support families and children with learning. From parent workshops to MDUSD Education Foundation efforts to opportunities to attend alternative schools, the district seeks to support students.

MDUSD will be continuing the LCAP Speaker Series throughout the 2018/19 school year. The next topic, Fostering Adolescent Resilience, will be presented on Wednesday, 11/14/18, at Concord High School beginning at 6:00 p.m. Please see the flyer to learn more!

The MDUSD Education Foundation is raising money to support a new project: the Largest Illustrated Story - Chalk Drawing by Mark Wagner! So far, they have raised enough money to provide the hands-on program to 8 schools and they are working to bring the activity to schools on the waiting list (Walnut Acres is 4th on that list.) Stay tuned for further information.  

MDUSD intra-district transfers for the 2018-19 school year are online for grades 1-12 and must be submitted between 10/15/18 and 11/15/18; no applications will be accepted after the deadline. Intra-district requests for Kindergarten will be accepted from 2/18/19 ​through ​3/18/19​. Students MUST be enrolled at their school of residence prior to submitting a transfer request.

CCCOE Parent Event

MDUSD is part of the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) consortium. CCCOE generally offers indirect support to our learning community, but they are currently providing a direct service invitation in the form of a Parent Coffee on Wednesday, 10/24 from 7:30-8:30 a.m. sponsored by the 32nd PTA and CCCOE for all school parents at Pleasant Hill Community Center at 320 Civic Drive, Pleasant Hill.

The speaker is Nicole Hockley, founding member of Sandy Hook Promise. She will share the Sandy Hook Promise ‘Know the Signs’ programs as CCCOE introduces these programs to middle and high schools throughout our county. More information and RSVP at:


Collaborating to Support our Children

As we promote the 6 Cs (Content mastery, Collaboration, Communication, global Citizenship, Critical thinking, Creativity) through our instructional strategies that support cognitive and social/emotional growth, we know that we are not perfect. Please remember that you are our partner in teaching your child. If there is a challenge we need to tackle, please tell your child’s teacher and get me involved as needed so we can develop a solution that supports student learning.

Our goal is three-fold: to provide each of our children with a foundation of academic and social confidence in their basic skills and their ability to tackle new learning; endow them with a sense of ownership for their own learning; and encourage them to celebrate their uniqueness while appreciating the differences of others who share their community in our neighborhood and across the globe.

It’s a big goal, and we have 6 years together to work towards our desired outcome for every student, but working together we will succeed. Our children deserve no less.

As educator leader Rita Pierson so eloquently stated, Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.” I relish our collaboration to champion our kids!

Your lucky principal,
Colleen Dowd