September 2018 Principal's Message

posted Sep 18, 2018, 1:39 PM by PFC Secretary   [ updated Jan 15, 2019, 5:29 PM by PFC Webmaster ]

Happy September, Walnut Acres Parents!

During our first month of school, our dedicated teachers have concentrated on building a strong learning family in preparation for the academic challenges ahead. They have established a safe, happy classroom community through the development of a positive tone, routines and procedures, team building, and clear, rigorous behavioral and academic expectations. They have completed baseline assessments and they have begun forging relationships with each child in their care. These efforts are foundational as the school year begins. While these activities will continue throughout the year, now we will turn our focus to implementation of our academic program. 

As we engage students more deeply in the academic curriculum, please note these crucial 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 your teacher or me know if we 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 consecutive days or more. Please allow teachers 2 weeks to create the work required.  See Amanda in the office for further information.

2.     Be an active member of our school community. There are many opportunities to interact and have a voice at Walnut Acres.

  • Most crucially, as I shared with you at your Back-To-School Night event, the more you collaborate with your child’s teacher, the more successful your student will be. Regularly scheduled parent conferences are one way to connect and collaborate. You and your child’s teacher may also set a parent conference at any time. I encourage you to email or call your child’s teacher with questions, concerns, or challenges you have. You and your child’s teacher are a team, and I am here to support your team as needed.
  • Our School Site Council (SSC) meets every first Thursday of the month in the Faculty Room at 3:00 p.m. and meetings are open to the public. The SSC develops and approves the Single Plan for Student Achievement (SPSA) which includes Walnut Acres’ goals and establishes the budget to support our SPSA. The SSC then reviews, monitors, and evaluates plan implementation and effectiveness. Agendas and minutes are posted at the front of the school and on the school website. Parent representatives to our School Site Council are Dara Buzzard, Catherine Canillas, Victoria Devincenzi, Shakeya St. Julian Garcia, and Sarah Waters. They will happily bring your voice to our meetings if you want to share your input with them.
  • Our Innovation Team will meet on 10/3, 11/7, 1/1, and 3/6 in B-6 from 3-4:00 p.m. This group helps to lead our transformative efforts to enhance student voice and ownership of learning, including our technology development and design thinking rigor. If you would like to join the Innovation Team, please contact me at (925) 939-1333 and I will be happy to provide more details about the group.
  • And don’t forget the PFC meetings that are held monthly! If you want to be one of the dedicated folks who help make decisions about how PFC supports our school, join tonight’s meeting (Tuesday, Sept 18) at 7 pm in the Library or the next meeting on Tuesday, October 16, at 8:15 a.m. in the Faculty Room. These meetings are open to all parents, so take advantage of the opportunity if the time suits your schedule.

3.     Check out the school website, the district website, and the PFC website to keep current about activities and news. For example:

  • From MDUSD Nutrition Services - New meal applications must be submitted for the 2018-2019 school year to receive lunch and breakfast for free or at a reduced price. The meals being served are healthy, nutritious, and support your student’s academic achievement. If you have any questions or need help, please call Food & Nutrition Services at (925) 682-8000 ext. 4124. You may also submit meal applications online at the MDUSD Food & Nutrition Services webpage at  
  • From the Office of State Superintendent Tom Torlakson – check out the letter under ‘Current News’ on the school website about digital inclusion, earned income tax credits, and student mental health.

4.     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!
  • The PFC is now spending approximately $650 per student to support current programs, personnel, and materials at our site. Your donations (including employer matching funds) go directly to funding staff positions, including classroom assistants, science aides, choral music personnel, and technology assistants, as well as materials to support learning. Please support Jaguar Fund at whatever level is appropriate for your family. The PFC hopes to achieve 100% participation, with the understanding that all contributions make a difference and no contribution is too small.
  • In addition to the Jaguar Fund, additional fundraising through school-wide activities and events such as the Read-a-thon, the Walk-a-thon, and our annual Auction is integral for maintaining our current programs and personnel. Participation in fundraisers is community-building, lots of fun, and raises crucial funds to support student learning. We encourage everyone to join in whichever activity or activities suit your family to help us continue to fund the quality education Walnut Acres has become known for. Thank you for all your efforts!

5.     Practice safety at school by following rules and procedures.

  • Drop-off and pick-up rules are crucial to keep all children safe. This week a grandmother came into the office in tears because she almost ran over a child whose parent had directed her to walk through the pick-up line to the staff parking lot and her waiting car. Please follow procedures at all times!
  • Visitors to our school must check in at the office and get a Visitor’s Badge. Reminder that parents are considered visitors if you are on campus after 8:15am or before 2:15pm.
  • Younger siblings are welcome to use the playground after school is dismissed if supervised by parents. Please note that on Wednesdays our older students are on the playground as part of their school day until 12:40 p.m. They have (as the children would say) ‘dibs’ on the playground until dismissal.  
  • I enjoyed this article about the stress of drop-off routines courtesy of a parent. Read it and channel the moral…a good sense of humor is very effective when patience is required

Learning together

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 2018-19 and to our beautiful children who have so much to teach us all!   

Your lucky principal,

Colleen Dowd