September 2016

Dear Walnut Acres Parents,

Thank you for sending your student to us for another year of learning and growing together! 2016-17 is off to a great start with a total of 648 unique and wonderful learners. Accolades to all our active parents, and in particular our dedicated PFC leaders and volunteers for working with Walnut Acres staff to create a smooth and dynamic launch!

Kick-off Events
Our pilot online Homelink program was very successful, and I encourage all of you who did not complete your paperwork online, to do so now. If you do not have access to a computer at home, you are welcome to use a school device. For those of you who choose not to complete the tasks online, we are sending home paperwork for you to complete and return.

Your attendance at our Back to School Nights made our teacher/parent event a success, as well. I enjoyed chatting with many of you and I hope you enjoyed learning about the curriculum, activities and procedures in your child’s classroom. If you did not attend the principal’s welcome and “State of Walnut Acres” presentation prior to your classroom visit, I invite you to check out the principal’s power point on the Walnut Acres website homepage under “Current News”.

Within the classroom, our teachers have been leading the students through beginning-of-year activities. They have focused on setting a positive, welcoming tone in their classrooms, establishing positive relationships with students, and routinizing daily procedures. They then added baseline data collection to that mix along with introducing students to our curriculum. I-ready Diagnostic Assessments in grades 2nd-5th are a part of our data collection process along with Reading Running Records collected on every student in 1st-5th grades. With expectations in place, a safe learning environment established, and data collected, our classrooms are now focused on academic instruction.

Our Ice Cream Social, what I consider to be our last introductory event of the year, was delightful. It was a low-key, old-fashioned opportunity to interact and connect as a community. I always enjoy the Northgate Band that marches through our school with happy children in tow. My appreciation to the hardworking parents that coordinated the lovely evening so our community could enjoy the Social.

WA Updates
Please remember that attendance at school daily and on time is crucial to support your student’s success at school. There is overwhelming research to indicate that improving attendance has more impact on literacy and math skill acquisition than any other single change in a child’s academic program. I am available to help brainstorm solutions to any tardy or absence issues. If your child is sick, thank you for keeping them home. Otherwise, we hope they are with us everyday on time to learn and grow.

Our new classroom teachers are happily ensconced in their classrooms and working collaboratively with their grade level teams. The district is still searching for a music teacher to serve our 1st-3rd grade students but there is a plan to soon provide instrumental music to our 4th and 5th grade students. You will hear more about the instrumental music rollout this week.

Thanks to our PFC, our library is in the midst of a shift to become a cozier, more inviting spot. It is still a work in progress, but new lighting, comfy, lightweight furniture, and moveable shelving are transforming the room. Over winter break, we will continue our revamping by removing the half walls, losing the huge circulation desk, and putting in new carpeting.

Our traditional computer lab has been dismantled and in its place we have a fledgling Colab (our technology-based Maker Space) for students to use as they learn programming and practice design thinking. We have already begun providing students with hands-on coding experiences and look forward to more engineering exploration. Routine use of computers, iPads, and chromebooks will take place in classrooms as teachers check out devices for their classes. Eventually, we hope to have more than the current number of devices designated in each classroom, but at this point our carts of devices will help us infuse technology into our work. The PFC is again complimented for funding this transformation of our traditional lab into a new kind of learning space for our students to practice the 6Cs of learning. (If you are not familiar with the 6 C’s of learning, check out the principal Back to School Night presentation on our website.)

You will soon see a new Reading Bench and Buddy Bench on our playground. The Reading Bench is a gift from the Grant Family and will be available to our children as a cozy place to read on the playground. The Buddy Bench, a gift from Girl Scout Troop #32210, is a spot for children to sit when they need a friend to play with at recess. We will be teaching the children to be ‘bench watchers’ so that a child who needs someone to play with will be asked by a ‘benchwatcher’ to join in some fun. Our buddy bench will be our focus topic at our first Sing-out on Wednesday, 9/21, at 8:00 and 8:30 a.m.

Staying Up to Date and Thanks
The CAASPP state test results were recently released publicly. Here is the link to the CAASPP website to check out the findings: http://caaspp.cde.ca.gov/sb2016/default

If you are the parent of a 5th grader, please note that in Spring, 2017, our 5th grade teaches a family life unit. The focus is on how human bodies change at adolescence. Materials being used are available to parents for inspection and preview at the District Instructional Media Center, C-2, Willow Creek Center, 1026 Mohr Lane, Concord, Monday through Friday, October 3, 2016 through October 7, 2016, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., and Monday through Friday, January 23, 2017 through January 27, 2017, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

A local scout earning his Eagle Scout rank, has built tables and chairs for our students. He has asked me to thank Ace Hardware and Ashby Lumber for donating the materials he used to create the gift for the 4th and 5th grade corridor.

And since I am spreading thanks, my appreciation to all who donated or plan to donate to the Walnut Acres Jaguar Fund! Your support is invaluable in the growth of our instructional capabilities and our ability to begin to personalize learning for our students. Without you there would be no science lab, no technology Colab, no assistants at any grade level, no vocal music with Mrs. Ryken, and no pull-out intervention support. Classroom teachers would be the only staff providing any intervention and each teacher with an English Learner would need to provide 30 minutes of English language learning daily. We would not have the technology that we now have available, and nearest and dearest to my heart, we would not be a Reading and Writing Workshop school because we could not have afforded the training and coaching required to implement the process. Parents and staff are a team in growing our school and as a member of PFC, YOU play a crucial role. I salute your commitment to education! If you would like to make a contribution and haven’t done so yet, there is still time!

I encourage you to keep yourself up-to-date about Walnut Acres news that affects your children, through the PFC website, Konstella, the Walnut Acres website, or the MDUSD website. My door is open to you if you want to share ideas or concerns. Meanwhile, remember that the best way to build student success for your child this year is to work collaboratively with your child’s teacher. As the old saying goes, a teacher is a child’s third parent!

Here’s to a great 2016-17 school year!
Colleen Dowd, Principal