September Principles Message

posted Oct 3, 2013, 1:57 PM by Jana Corral   [ updated Oct 3, 2013, 1:57 PM by PFC Webmaster ]

Dear Walnut Acres Parents,


Our 2013-14 school year is now in full swing and we are once again a dynamic and busy learning center. I thank all of you who took the time to participate in our Back to School events and I encourage every parent to attend the remaining introductory nights if you have a child in 1st or 2nd grade. As you attend these evenings, I hope you get a sense of our continued 21st century transformation and the efforts we are making to empower students and deepen their learning experiences. 


Common Core

To enhance our continued transformation, we are training as a staff in the areas of Common Core instruction and intervention for differentiation. We are also working with expert coaches; Nicole Padoan is supporting our Writer's Workshop efforts, the district is providing Being A Writer support, and Hellena Postrk will provide math guidance. 


The district will host parent information sessions regarding the Common Core this year. I will inform you of the meetings as I learn more details about this plan.



We are once again piloting the i-Ready benchmark assessments in lieu of the CA assessments required by the district. The i-Ready assessments are based on Common Core standards, they are computer-based, and they are adaptive, which means that every question on an assessment is based on the previous answer provided by the student. The i-Ready benchmark assessment process for the collection of baseline data will begin over the next few weeks. 


Student Leadership Opportunities

Our student leadership programs, including Student Council and student newsletter team, will return this year. We hope to augment these student opportunities with a recycling club and special event activities. Our first special event is an MDUSD Cook-Off "Iron Chef" competition for 4th and 5th graders. See your child's teacher for further information. We also have a very special after school opportunity for 3rd-5th grade students...Odyssey of the Mind is finally returning to Walnut Acres! Parents of students in 3rd-5th grade are invited to an information meeting on Thursday, 9/26, from 6:00 PM -7:00 PM in A-1. Alex Pike, MDUSD teacher, and past Walnut Acres teacher, will lead the Odyssey of the Mind group this year. Odyssey of the Mind is an after-school program designed to promote design thinking and it is a perfect extension of our 21st century work. It gives students practice in collaborative problem solving, as well as critical and creative thinking.  


Life skills

Implementation of the 6 Cs (critical and creative thinking, collaboration, communication, global citizenship and global citizenship) requires the ability to get along with others and make good life decisions. Life skills are a cornerstone of daily life at Walnut Acres and our monthly life skill focus, our sing-out celebrations, our recycling program, as well as our 3 'Be rules' and awards, will continue. This year we are augmenting our life skill curriculum and instruction in a number of important ways.


1.         We are extending our life skill instruction to our expanding work on the internet this year. Students attended an assembly to introduce the concept of Digital Citizenship. The ethics and etiquette for using the internet will continue throughout the year. Mrs. Galindo, our amazing site tech II, (available thanks to your generosity as PFC contributors) will introduce various citizenship lessons as a part of computer lab curriculum, and teachers will continue the lessons in classrooms. You are welcome to check out Common Sense Media ( click here) to view some of the lessons that students will experience.


2.         We are introducing the Peace Path. This is a process for problem solving that will hopefully become a set of valuable skills for students to use throughout their lives. The basic components are called "I messaging" and "Clean-up". "I messaging" is a practice for asserting oneself in a respectful manner and "Clean-up" is a method of cleaning up a messy situation with a friend just as one would clean-up one's room or desk. We now have 2 peace paths with footprints and sentence starters on our playground (and one simplified version on the K playground) that are intended to visually guide students through their "Clean-up".  We've had an introductory assembly by Soul Shoppe (click here to check out their website) to kick off our work this year with the peace process and now Mrs. Spring, our valuable counselor (available to us thanks to PFC funding), will meet with individual classes of students to practice using the peace paths. In October, Soul Shoppe will return to our site to train 3rd-5th graders to be peace pal leaders who support peers in routinely using the path. Parents are invited to a Parent Awareness Workshop to learn more about the Peace Path process on Tuesday, 10/22, from 6:00 PM-8:00 PM. in the Library.  You may learn strategies that you wish to extend to problem solving practices at home and you certainly will master vocabulary that your children are learning to use at school!       


3.         We are adding a Positive Behavior Referral process to our current Discipline Referral Process to help us honor students that model our life skills. Just as students with a discipline referral are sent to me to discuss their problematic behavior choices, now students who earn a positive referral will also be sent to the principal's office to review their exemplary choices. This will hopefully be a reinforcer for the students, not to mention great fun for me!


I close this message with a thank you to all parents and friends of Walnut Acres who support the many programs, people, and materials that allow us to maintain and grow our instructional program. (For a detailed accounting of how PFC money is allocated, click here for a link to the PFC website financial page.) The donation and fundraising work that you do is truly tremendous and pivotal to our success.  I met with the School Site Council (SSC) last week and shared with them that while the SSC supervises the categorical funds provided to our site, those funds total about $32,000 while the PFC maintains a budget of almost $400,000 to provide personnel, programs and materials!  The difference is staggering and speaks to the enormity of PFC's role in maintaining our learning environment.

Your service in donating money, time, and energy on behalf of our children is most appreciated.  As we start the school year I thank you especially for your contribution to the Jaguar Fund.


 "I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy."                 ~Kahlil Gibran  


May your service bring you joy.



Colleen Dowd

Walnut Acres Principal