September 6, 2011

posted Aug 25, 2011, 10:29 AM by Anna Saunders   [ updated Sep 5, 2011, 4:31 PM by PFC Webmaster ]

Welcome to the new school year, Walnut Acres Parents!

It was an absolute pleasure to welcome your children to 2011-12! I have had a chance to visit every classroom and I am delighted to renew my practice of connecting with students in the MUR at lunch each day. I am energized by their earnest and eager spirits. You have my word that we will all do our very best to provide our children with the quality of education that they deserve. During my brief introduction at Back to School Nights I will share with you our commitment to learning through our continued focus on becoming a 21st Century learning community.

I want to remind you of a few ways that you can support your child’s learning at Walnut Acres:  

1. Have your child at school every day on time.

·         Most of our students are on time every day because you know that coming late to school puts your learner at a real disadvantage. Late students are often afraid to ask questions because they assume what they don’t understand has already been covered in class. If your child has unnecessary tardies or absences, please reassess your schedule and let me know if I can support your efforts.  

·         If your child is ill, please call 925 682-8000 ext. 7242 or report the absence online at Please do NOT report absences or give attendance notes to busy teachers.

·         Independent Study contracts are available if your student will be out of school for 5 days or more. Please allow teachers one week to create the work required.  See Nora in the office for further information.

2. Attend school functions.

·         Back to School Nights are crucial to learn about your child’s classroom from your child’s teacher. We hold separate Back to School times for each grade level to enhance your ability to focus on each of your children. I will offer a 15-minute presentation in the MUR prior to each Back-to School grade level meeting with the exception of the 9/6 5th grade event.

·         Please remember that 4th and 5th grade Back to School nights were switched:

5th grade Back to School Night                 5:45-7:00 p.m.

                                Outdoor Education Orientation     7:00-8:00 p.m.

                   4th grade Back to School Night                 5:45-7:00 p.m.

This shift allows parents of Foothill students to participate in the outdoor education program without missing Foothill’s Back to School event.

·         There are many opportunities to interact and have a voice at Walnut Acres. You are welcome to ALL meetings whether or not you are a member of a particular committee. Our School Site Council (SSC) meets every first Thursday of the month in A-1 and everyone is welcome. Agendas and minutes are posted at the front of the school and on the school website.

3. Connect with your child’s teacher and staff.

·         Back to School Night is one formal opportunity to meet teachers. Regularly scheduled parent conferences are another. Remember that you and your child’s teacher may also set a parent conference anytime that it would be helpful.

·         Let your teacher inform you of the most effective way to connect with him or her, understanding that there are times when teachers need to focus on their students and cannot have a parent conversation. Our teachers want to work with you because they understand the strength of parent-teacher teamwork.

·         Despite cuts to their hours, Denise and Nora are in the school office with a smile and a ‘can-do’ approach to serve you and your children. They are approachable, extremely competent, and they want to be helpful answering your questions.

·         My door is always open and input is confidential if you choose.

4. Stay informed.  Go to for links to many of the following:

·         The district website has valuable information for you including Board agendas and documents. Here are some recent highlights:

o letter from Mark Peterson, Contra Costa County district attorney, regarding attendance

o letter from Dr. Lawrence regarding a district-approved medical and dental insurance program

o Bi-monthly MDUSD Updates regarding district activities, which includes API results and solar information.

·         The school website offers school updates, SSC meeting agendas and minutes, principal’s newsletters and this year, my monthly newsletters to students.

·         The PFC website is a tremendous source of information. Track this parent-run website created to serve you!

·         Walnut Acres e-news that you receive twice monthly is filled with the latest PFC and school news and also includes larger community announcements. 

·         A principal e-newsletter such as this one will be sent to you monthly with a perspective and school news.

·         Teacher newsletters will be sent home at least once a month. Classroom news will be the topic of each newsletter.

5. Contribute time, talent, resources – no contribution is too small.

·         When you volunteer you send a message to your child that education is a priority in your life. Your child will note the message loud and clear!

·         WAEF (Walnut Acres Education Fund) is now spending $455 per child to support current programs, personnel and materials at our site. Your donations (including employer matching funds) go directly to classroom assistants, science aides, vocal music, and enhanced technology resources, including our technology assistant. Please support WAEF at whatever level is appropriate for your family. The PFC hopes to gather 100% participation in WAEF, with the understanding that no contribution is too small.

·         Families generally cannot support WAEF at the level needed to maintain current programs and personnel, so fundraising is key to maintaining current educational opportunities. Participation in fundraisers is community-building, lots of fun, and raises crucial funds to support student learning. Select an activity or two that works for your family and thank you!

Thank you for sharing your precious children with us. Together we will provide them with an opportunity to develop their confidence, enhance their skills, and realize their own unique potential!  Meanwhile, of course, we will no doubt learn from them everyday. I’ll close with an anonymous quote that is true, but often forgotten… “While we try to teach our children about life, our children teach us what life is all about.”

Here’s to 2011-12 and here’s to our beautiful children!   

Yours in a great learning year,

Colleen Dowd, Walnut Acres Principal