November 2018

Welcome to the Holiday Season Walnut Acres Parents,

Infusing Life Skills into Our Holiday Events

Halloween was an exciting celebration at school, and our little ghosts, monsters, and princesses tell me they had a good time. We can be proud that the vast majority of our students are able to make good behavior choices on a crazy day like Halloween and practice the life skill of Responsibility despite the uniquely stimulating experiences of the day. All our children try very hard to do their best and practice the character skills we collaboratively promote at home and school.

We now focus on the life skill of Caring. In November, we emphasize the aspect of Caring related to gratitude, starting with our appreciation of our Veterans around the recent Veteran’s Day holiday and in anticipation of Thanksgiving. We explain to the children that giving thanks is a very healthy thing to do. A focus on gratitude helps people to live happier and longer lives. The Sutter Health website indicates, Numerous scientific studies indicate that regularly focusing on what you appreciate rewires your brain to counteract negativity and generates health benefits, including better sleep, happier moods, and higher self-esteem.

During the month of December, we focus on the giving component of Caring with our culminating celebration at our Sing-out on 12/19. Research suggests that giving is also good for health. The Providence Health Plan website suggests, “A growing body of research shows that giving a gift, as well as volunteering or donating to charities, has a positive impact on your physical and mental health and can contribute to a longer life. For some time, researchers have been measuring the benefits of giving, and their findings reveal that giving and volunteering help reduce stress and depression. They also promote healthy social connections and a sense of purpose.”

Walnut Acres Appreciation and Easy Ways to Make an Impact

Parent Survey results are in, and we thank you for sharing your insights and perspective! We had approximately 45% of families respond to the survey. Survey results will be posted on the Walnut Acres website in December, including edited comments. We promised the students extra recess if 75% of their class had stakeholders complete the survey. I’m pleased to report that classes of Mrs. David, Mrs. McGoldrick, Mrs. Cowles, Ms. Proctor, Ms. Carella, Ms. Cattalini, Mrs. Diebel, Mrs. Perham, Mr. Aring, Mrs. Clark, and Mr. Grebe will receive extra recess time. I also promised a treat to each class that had response rates over 90%, and I’m happy to share that Mrs. David’s class, Mrs. McGoldrick’s class, and Ms. Carella’s class have earned that extra treat from me.

Survey results will be analyzed by our various site leadership groups. The Innovation Team has begun that process and decided to follow-up on survey input with a couple of parent focus groups. Mr. Herbert Lee has offered to facilitate two sessions of 4-6 parents each to share their input on our school vision and activities. We hope there 8-12 volunteers who would like to participate in providing further insights about our school.

To that end, I have several requests:

Request #1 – If you have an interest in being a member of our focus team please contact Mr. Lee at or me at The focus teams will discuss items related to some of our survey statements and sessions lasting approximately 45 minutes will be scheduled for some time in January 2019.

Request #2 – We have written another recycle grant for $1500 that is assigned according to community votes. Please vote for project #5 on the Contra Costa Republic Services website and ask your family and friends to do the same on their website

or click here to go directly to the voting site…remember, vote for #5. Thank you for your support!

 Request #3 – We need one more noon supervisor. Please tell neighbors or consider this 7 ½ hour position for yourself. It’s a great middle-of-the-day job for work-at-home parents. Anyone interested is welcome to apply on EdJoin or contact me at 925 959-1333.

Keeping Students Safe

We practice our emergency drills routinely to prepare ourselves for any emergency. This week we will have a fire drill as we do each month. Last week we had a lock down drill, and we participated in the statewide shelter-in-place drill. When we have these drills, teachers talk to students about behavior expectations in a developmentally appropriate manner so that our children are as ready as we can be for an unforeseen circumstance.

For the past several school days, we also kept students inside as often as possible with options or requirements for inside recess depending on the heaviness of the smoke in the air. We continue to monitor air quality and respond as appropriate. If you have particular health concerns, please communicate those to your child’s teacher.

Reminder to please do your part to support student safety by practicing safe driving habits on nearby streets and in the drive-thru.

Upcoming Events Reminder

*Our Science Fair Coordinator, Faye Mettler, is graciously offering a Science Fair Ideas Workshop on Tuesday, 11/13, at 6:00 p.m. in the Science Lab, B-5.

*Immediately following the Workshop on 11/13, the PFC is holding their monthly meeting at 7:00 p.m. in the library.

*Local weatherperson and celebrity, Paul Deanno, will talk to grade levels about weather on Wednesday, 11/14. From 8-8:30 a.m. 3rd-5th graders will attend the presentation in the MUR, from 8:45-9:05 a.m. TK-1st grade will participate, and from 9:25-9:50 a.m. 2nd grade will attend.

*Our entire school (TK – 5th Grade) is joining once again in the largest annual learning event in history: The Hour of Code, during Computer Science Education Week (12/3-12/7). Our Hour of Code is an introduction to coding, and we continue coding throughout the school year as part of our weekly Co-Lab curriculum. Grade levels will participate in developmentally appropriate hands-on coding experiences as follows:

Monday 12/3

8:10-9:10 a.m.             2nd grade

9:45-10:45 a.m.           Kindergarten

1:30-2:30 p.m.             5th grade

Tuesday 12/4

1:00-2:00 p.m.             3rd grade

Wednesday 12/5

10:21-11:21 a.m.         4th grade

Friday 12/7

8:10-9:10 a.m.             1st grade

10:15-11:15 a.m.         TK

We are seeking volunteers from Foothill, Northgate and, of course, our Walnut Acres parent community to support our students as they take next steps in coding. Contact Patty Galindo at if you would like to be a coding volunteer.

*On Wednesday, 12/5, we will hold our “Go with the Flow” assembly, which involves an entertaining juggling presentation to promote the message of water conservation. Our 3rd-5th graders will attend from 8:00-8:45 a.m. in the MUR while from 9:25-10:10 a.m. our younger students will be audience members.

Parent Conference Dates

Our first trimester ended on Friday, 11/9/18. Some schools may send home report cards in November, but Walnut Acres teachers want to share report cards at parent conferences so that they can explain scores and comments during this first reporting period.  During parent meeting weeks, all students will be dismissed early (except early friends in TK and K, who will arrive late) to allow you and teachers to connect and discuss individual student progress. Because my next message to you arrives just prior to winter vacation, I’m including the conference scoop now:

We will have an alternate schedule for the two weeks prior to winter vacation. The school schedule is in place from 12/10-12/21 at the following times:

Transitional Kindergarten                Every day

Early Friends   8:15-11:17 a.m.

Late Friends    9:36-12:38 p.m.


Early Friends   8:15-11:17 a.m.           Except Wednesdays (Schedule is usual 7:55-12:00 p.m.)

Late Friends    9:36-12:38 p.m.           Except Wednesdays (Schedule is usual 7:55-12:00 p.m.)

1st – 3rd grade   1:00 p.m.                   Except Wednesdays (Schedule is usual 7:55-12:29 p.m.)

4th – 5th grade   1:10 p.m.                   Except Wednesdays (Schedule is usual 7:55-12:40 p.m.)

Please remember to arrange for your child to be picked up after school in a timely fashion during this shift in our dismissal routine, please. Students get nervous when they feel forgotten. I know the time changes may be confusing, but the process serves a “greater good”.

Teachers have sent or soon will send home times for you to register for your conference. Please respond promptly, so they can set their appointments.

I realize that many of you wouldn’t dream of missing your appointment with your child’s teacher, but for those who are trying to decide whether you should take the time to attend, I encourage you to use this conference to learn about your child’s progress during these first twelve weeks of school.

Parent Teacher Conference Planning

Each parent-teacher meeting is a golden opportunity to support your child’s growth and achievement. Here are a few key ingredients that the NEA (National Education Association) has developed to enhance the value of each parent conference:

  1. Show up, please! “We know parents are busy, but it is important to carve out time to invest in your child’s education and ensure success at school,” said National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel. “To get the most out of parent-teacher conferences, parents need to take an active role in their child’s education year-round and come prepared to discuss how their child can reach their full potential.”
  2. Get Ready. Do your homework prior to parent-teacher conferences. Think about the questions you have and ask your child to tell you about relished and disliked school experiences. Then prepare by writing notes to yourself concerning:
  • Any questions about the school’s programs or policies.
  • Things you can share with the teacher about your child and his life at home.
  • Questions about your child’s progress.
  1. Ask Important Questions. Don’t be afraid to engage in a frank conversation with your child’s teacher. Your goal is to develop an action plan for your child’s success at school. Good questions to ask the teacher include:
  • What are my child’s strengths and weaknesses?
  • How does my child get along with classmates?
  • Is my child working up to his or her ability? Where could he or she use improvement?
  • What can we do at home to support what you are doing in the classroom?
  1. Initiate the Action Plan. Start immediately on the action plan you and the teacher put together. Discuss the plan with your child and track his or her progress. Stay in touch with your child’s teacher throughout the year and keep the communication lines open.

Closing with Thanks and One More Giving Opportunity

During this month of giving thanks, here’s my most recent professional gratitude list. I am grateful for…

  1. Our dedicated teachers, who give their best to our children every day.
  2. Our effective intervention program that recently returned 50% of reading intervention students to classroom teachers to continue their growth.
  3. Our PFC leadership, who organize amazing fundraisers that help support our school AND offer great learning experiences to our students, such as our current Read-A-Thon.
  4. Our Innovation Team parents, who are coordinating our first-ever focus group, and our School Site Council, who have developed our 2018-19 School Plan for Student Achievement.
  5. Our PFC parents, who model caring by coordinating activities (like our upcoming “Toy and Clothing Drive” on 12/3-12/7) that show our children how to share our gifts with others less fortunate.
  6. Our beautiful children, who brighten our days with their enthusiasm and hope, their potential, and their joie-de-vivre.

Count your blessings this Thanksgiving with your little miracle at the top of your list! And if you want to pass along some of your gratitude, consider a donation in honor of our neighbors to  the north who are struggling in the Camp Fire through the Red Cross at 1 800 RED-CROSS or, and Salvation Army at 1 800 SAL-ARMY or AIRB&B to list your home.

Your effort will model for your children what William Arthur Ward wrote, Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

Happy “Thanks Giving,” Walnut Acres families! I wish you a warm hearth, a bountiful celebration, and a family attitude of gratitude.


Colleen Dowd

Lucky Walnut Acres Principal