Welcome to the 2016-2017 School Year!

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Dear Simi Valley Schools Community:

Welcome to the 2016-2017 school year!

The first day of school is upon us and we are excited to get started. Last year, we ushered in many changes to our schools and we, and our students, are better for it. Thank you all for your patience and your commitment to our children’s education. Here are some of the highlights from the last year:

  • We opened the Justin Early Learners Academy to serve the preschool needs of our community.
  • Connected Learning Programs were formed to thematically partner some of our elementary, middle and high schools. CLPs create seamless, focused learning experiences in international studies, fine and performing arts, medical sciences and more.
  • Middle and high school Pathways programs continue to expand.
  • Our high schools now offer more Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes to accommodate more students in higher-level classes.
  • There are campus/facility improvements throughout the district, ranging from new landscaping to exteriors renovations, heating/AC systems and technology upgrades.
  • Monte Vista School, the district’s homeschool program, moved to a permanent home at the former campus of Lincoln Elementary School. It also offered Kindergarten programs for the first time. The result was the doubling of its enrollment over the previous year!
  • We gave ourselves a redo as well, by rolling out our new district logo, Promise Statement and motto.

We’re still working hard. Moving forward into this new school year, some of the new things you will find are:

  • For the first time in a long time, we’ve hired 35 new teachers and will possibly bring on more during the year!
  • The implementation of the Unique Learning System for teaching functional skills to our moderate and severe Special Education students.
  • The piloting of prospective English/Language Arts curriculum in all grades.
  • The piloting of the elementary Medal of Honor-Character Education national curriculum, which our teachers helped to write.
  • We’ve expanded our Foreign Language offerings to include Greek, Italian, French, Spanish, Chinese, German and American Sign Language at some schools.
  • Our district’s budget has received a three-year positive certification from the County.
  • The rebranding of the Simi Valley Adult School, which will be revealed in the near future.
  • Continued facility improvements at some campuses.
  • The rollout of 14,000 Chromebooks and carts for our classrooms. Also, the District’s WiFi systems will be upgraded at every campus.
  • Measure X, the General Obligation Bond, will appear on the November 8 ballot for voter approval. (More information can be found on the District’s website, simivalleyusd.org.)

Improving student achievement and ensuring that every member of our staff continues to provide the best customer service possible to our families remain our top priorities. We believe that every child coming through our doors can and will reach their highest potential. From our highly qualified teachers to our nurturing and compassionate counselors, administrators and support professionals, we create an environment of inclusion and instill a love for learning. Our doors are open to every child; that’s our promise to you.

With innovation comes change. Once again, we ask for your patience as we continue to implement programs and systems to improve our students’ educational experience. If we stumble along the way, please let us know. We are here for all of you. And please, remember to drive safely in and around our campuses, especially in these first weeks of schools.

Our students are our top priority because at Simi Valley Schools, our students go from here to anywhere!

Have a wonderful school year.

Dr. Jason Peplinski
District Superintendent

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CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR VENTURA COUNTY TEACHER OF THE YEAR!

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In a surprise ceremony today at Mountain View Elementary School in Simi Valley, teacher Jamie Reese was awarded the Ventura County Teacher of the Year by Ventura County Superintendent of Schools Stan Mantooth from the Ventura County Office of Education, and Simi Valley Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Jason Peplinski.

Ms. Reese teaches a Special Day Class for K-3 grade at Mountain View Elementary School, where she’s been since 2009. Her peers, and her principal, Jennifer Goldman, nominated her for her commitment to her students and their families, and for her unending support of her fellow teachers and staff. She is known around the District for her high level of technology knowledge and willingness to help and train other teachers and staff. She helped her co-workers at Mountain View Elementary create and maintain individual websites to better the flow of communication between the classrooms and families. She has mentored new teachers through the county’s programs, produces a districtwide monthly newsletter and is a Google Certified Educator, to name just a few of her efforts.

“As a site-based administrator, there is a part of me that wants to keep her right here on campus all of the time; however, that would be a tremendous disservice to the profession,” Ms. Goldman said. “Ms. Reese possesses unlimited potential to impact countless students by sharing her vision with teachers across the country.”

Students are the highest priority for Ms. Reese. She wrote, “When I think about my views on teaching, I keep coming back to the students. I believe that teaching should be student-centered, but what does that actually look like in a classroom…. I believe that by making my classroom more student centered, I am able to more frequently highlight the strengths of my students and as a direct result of that, students are excited about school and their self-esteem goes up.”

In the nomination application, one of Ms. Reese’s students said, “She makes me happy. She does things to make me laugh. She turns me into a burrito when I am mad. I can talk to her when something is bothering me. She teaches very good. She reads mindset stories to teach me not to give up.”

“We are incredibly proud of Ms. Reese and her commitment to her students, families and co-workers,” Dr. Peplinski said. “This is an amazing honor for her to receive. We are lucky to have such highly skilled and committed teachers, like Ms. Reese, in our classrooms. Her enthusiasm is contagious and she serves as a great model for other educators everywhere.”

Ms. Reese will go on to compete at the state level in 2017 for Teacher of the Year. This program has been in place since 1973 and this is the first SVUSD winner since 1977.

Welcome our new administrative hires from out of the district

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TIM BEDNAR
PRINCIPAL
HILLSIDE MIDDLE SCHOOL

He started as a business major, but Tim Bednar was drawn to another discipline, which he followed.

“I decided it was a calling to go into education and teach English and coach a sport,” he said.

For many years, Mr. Bednar taught English and coached Boy’s Basketball, mostly at Moorpark High School. Now he leaves his position as Moorpark’s Assistant Principal to serve as the new Principal of Hillside Middle School, a position he said he’s excited to begin.

“When I look at moving to another position, I look at moving to a school that I feel is up and coming. I know that a good number of parents and students want to attend Hillside. And that was a draw for me, people really wanting to be at the school,” he said.

Married for 33 years to his high school sweetheart, Mr. Bednar has four grown children (two boys and two girls) and two grandchildren.

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ANGELICA CHAVEZ
ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL
SANTA SUSANA HIGH SCHOOL

Going to UC Berkeley to become a lawyer was the starting goal for Angelica Chavez. But plans changed after she had an encounter of another kind.

“I started mentoring a girl and I realized I wanted to help kids before they needed a lawyer.” she said chuckling. “I changed my major to history, just in case I wanted to go back into law.”

Fortunately she never had to turn back to the law. Teaching now for more than a decade, Dr. Chavez has been teaching in the Multimedia Business Academy at Oxnard High School. She’s also taught in the Green Technology Academy. Both backgrounds will transition nicely into the specialized programs found at Santa Susana High School, where she will serve as the Assistant Principal next year.

Dr. Chavez said it was Santa Susana’s unique programs that drew her to the job.

“I’m really interested in the wall-to-wall academy structure,” she said.

Dr. Chavez is married and has one son, 19, who attends college locally.

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EDDIE GRIGORIAN
ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL
VALLEY VIEW MIDDLE SCHOOL

Eddie Grigorian is bursting with excitement.

Coming in the Simi Valley Unified School District as Valley View Middle School’s new Assistant Principal, Mr. Gregorian said he can’t wait to get started on what he sees is a perfect fit between his skills and passion and the district’s evolution.

“It’s an opportunity for me to grow,” Mr. Grigorian said. “When I walked into your district office, it was home. It felt right. This is education. Everyone is polite and warm and nice.”

Mr. Grigorian is a former history teacher Chatsworth Charter High School (LAUSD). He’s single (except for his puppy) and committed to helping other people through education.

“I always wanted to help people and motivate others. I feel amazing when I’m able to help someone and to do that every day and to help others reach their goals, it’s amazing,” he said. “With a district that’s growing and moving in the right direction. I want to be a part of it.”

AARON DOBSON
ACTIVITIES DIRECTOR
ROYAL HIGH SCHOOL
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For Aaron Dobson, Southern California means family—being closer to family, enjoying his growing family and working at a school where he said he could tell from everything he read that it was like being a part of a family.

“The more I learned about Royal High School, the more it was a lock for me. There’s so much about Royal online. Even Mr. Derrick having a Twitter account–I just can see this prevailing tone of family and spirit. And that’s a lot like the high school and community I came from in Michigan,” he said.

His wife is also a teacher, a math specialist, and they have two children, a two-year-old daughter and a newborn son.

While currently working as an Assistant Principal for a large elementary school (1,200 students) in Sunnyvale, Mr. Dobson’s background is in high school activities. He said that he grew up in a small town where most of the focus was on local education.

“School was always a big part of my life,” he said. “Becoming a teacher seemed like a natural progression for me.”

Welcome Back to School from Supt. Dr. Jason Peplinski

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Dear Simi Valley Schools Community:

Today our students started the 2015-2016 school year and we are honored and thrilled to have them with us!

There are many changes this year, from new math textbooks and instructional materials in all grades, to all-day kindergarten, improved technology in every classroom, and College-and-Career Readiness programs in our middle and high schools, to name just a few. We know that some of these changes might be overwhelming, but we are also very excited by the opportunities these bring to our staff and students.

Change is not always graceful or easy, but we know that these changes will benefit our students in the most positive of ways. Our students will be better prepared for their future. They will not just be filled with facts, but with a love of learning that will extend far beyond our time with them.

It is not enough to declare change. Change must be nurtured and adjusted to be successful. In the coming months, you will see new and improved programs and methods to reach out to all of you because we do want to know if what we are doing works for you. Look for revamped websites, a district smart phone app for direct parent communications, and expanded social media outreach. We are bringing in new software to better disclose our fiscal status, making us more transparent to the public. We are also working to make our campuses as safe, efficient, and attractive as possible. Many of these things will take time to complete, but we are excited about the possibilities they will bring. As I told our staff last week, I ask that you honor that space between “no longer” and “not quite yet,” and please be assured that we are working tirelessly to complete all of these tasks as quickly as possible.

We ask that you walk with us on this journey, that you support our staff and students as they embark on these amazing years to come, and that you offer your input if we stumble along the way. We are here for you, whether you reach out to our staff at our school sites or the district office, come to me, or turn to your SVUSD Board Trustees.

Have an amazing 2015-2016 school year!

Dr. Jason Peplinski
SVUSD Superintendent

Getting the Word Out About Traffic Safety-A Message from the SVPD and Us

For almost 18,000 children, Monday marks the end of Summer 2015 as Simi Valley public schools open for the first day of school.

The first days and weeks of school bring nerves and excitement to our school sites. They also bring increased traffic and frustration around our campuses and those neighborhoods as parents and their children navigate parking lots and narrow residential streets to get to school. When School of Choice was implemented, many students transferred to schools outside of their immediate neighborhoods, requiring families to drive their children to school, hence the increasing congestion in recent years.

The Simi Valley Unified School District has partnered with the Simi Valley Police Department to offer a public service presentation about traffic concerns around our school sites. The link below will take you to our home page, where the PowerPoint can be found at the top of the page.

SVPD Commander Robert Arabian said his traffic officers will increase patrols in and around school sites during the first few weeks of school.

“The major congestion happens when a parking lot is full and the (driver) just stops (on the street),” he said.

Drivers are not allowed to interfere with the flow of traffic on a street by stopping and waiting to turn into a school’s parking lot, he said, and may end up with a citation if they block traffic.

The link below offer a PowerPoint presentation on traffic safety. The SVPD has asked that parents watch the presentation to understand how the traffic rules apply around campuses.

Besides the presentation, there are several basic dos and don’ts that can help all of us manage traffic around our school sites better and keep our students safe.

  1. When lined up in a school parking lot to drop off or pick up a child, please move your car as far forward as possible to allow the cars behind to move into the parking lot.
  2. Obey the posted speed limits.
  3. Don’t block the sidewalk by stopping your car short of the parking lot. Children walk and ride bikes on the sidewalks and it’s illegal–and dangerous–to block their ability to move.
  4. Never, ever allow your child to run into the street to jump into your car! The same goes for stopping short of the designated pick up area in a school’s parking lot to let your child jump into the car.
  5. Learn the school’s parking lot pick up/drop off routine. Every campus has one.
  6. Listen to the city’s crossing guards and the school’s staff and volunteers who help direct traffic. They are there to protect your children.
  7. The SVPD is asking that if you approach a parking lot and cannot fully enter it because of other cars, that you circle the block and return, instead of stopping in the middle of the street and waiting for traffic to clear. This might take a few minutes longer, but you won’t run the risk of receiving a traffic citation for blocking other drivers.
  8. Be patient! Traffic usually lightens as the school year progresses.
  9. Please be considerate of the homeowners surrounding our schools. Don’t block their driveways or access to their homes.
  10. Do try to form carpools with other parents to lessen the amount of cars coming to school.

With everyone’s cooperation, we can keep our students safe as they come and go from school.

SCHOOL ZONE TRAFFIC SAFETY PRESENTATION

Three Simi Valley Schools Receive Top State Recognition

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Three Simi Valley Unified School District schools were named California Gold Ribbon Award Schools today by the California Department of Education. There were only eight schools in Ventura County to receive the award this year.

Santa Susana High School, Sinaloa Middle School and Valley View Middle School have been recognized for making “gains in implementing academic content and performance standards adopted by the State Board of Education,” according to the CDE.

“We are very proud of our schools that received this prestigious award,” said Dr. Jason Peplinski, district superintendent. “They join an exclusive list of schools in California to receive the state’s Gold Ribbon School Award.”

The California Gold Ribbon Award temporarily replaces the California Distinguished Schools award. As the state is not testing and gathering Academic Performance Index (API) data, and the Distinguished Schools award is based on API information, the Gold Ribbon Award was created to recognize outstanding schools on other criteria. This year, middle and high schools were invited to apply. Next year, elementary schools will be considered.

Altogether, 193 middle schools and 180 high schools received the honor this year.

“These schools are academically successful, vibrant and innovative centers of learning and teaching,” State Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson said. “They provide great examples of the things educators are doing right–embracing rigorous academic standards, providing excellence and creativity in teaching and creating a positive school environment.”

Santa Susana High School is a magnet school specializing in technology, the performing arts and rigorous academics. Long recognized for its excellent programs, it was named a California Demonstration School last year. This designation makes Santa Susana a model school upon which other California schools can use to develop similar programs. Santa Susana’s principal is Wendy Mayea.

Sinaloa Middle School was named a School to Watch last year for being a “high performing middle school model.” The school has an emphasis on leadership and is working on obtaining its International Baccalaureate Middle Years designation in partnership with Royal High School.

“It navigates that what we do here on a day-in, day-out basis is the right thing. They came to validate our C.H.A.M.P. program and our intervention program,” Mrs. Janke said. “They said we’re right on and doing a great job.”

The largest of Simi Valley’s three middle schools, Valley View Middle School is known for its excellent academic success, popular music programs and its growing relationship with Simi Valley High School’s medical and health science programs. Valley View’s principal is Michael Hall.

JK/TK Adds Another Educational Option for Young Families

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Joel Matthews is delighted.

And not just about the money this father of three boys saves this year by having his middle son, Kashton, enrolled in Township Elementary School’s Junior Kindergarten/Transitional Kindergarten (JK/TK) program.

It’s more about how Kashton, 5, is thriving at Township.

“What’s so nice is that my son is even more ready for kindergarten. Kindergarten next year will be a cakewalk,” he said.

For the last six years, Simi Valley Unified School District, along with districts throughout the state, has offered JK/TK classes to area families.

JK/TK serves as a bridge between preschool and kindergarten. These free programs target children whose will turn 5 between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2 on the year they enter school, which means they just miss the birthday cut-off for “regular” kindergarten. (For this coming school year, a child born on Aug. 15, 2010 would be admitted into kindergarten whereas a child born Sept 15, 2010 would enroll in JK/TK.) JK/TK also serves children whose parents feel their child would benefit from an extra year of kindergarten experience. JK/TK students go into regular kindergarten when they are done with their JK/TK year.

In the case of the Matthews family, Kashton attended two years of private preschool before going to Township. Kashton missed the kindergarten cut-off age by two weeks, and Joel Matthews said he and his wife are happy they gave Township’s program a try.

“He’s learning at a young age what it’s like to be in a classroom,” he said. “I think that’s the greatest thing and all kids should do this.”

Janet Herman has 26 JK/TK students in her class at Township, including Kashton. Twenty-two kids are TK and the rest are JK, but the class is blended and easily taught together.

On a recent morning visit, her students gathered on the rug around Herman as she read aloud from a book. Then it was Center Time, where students chose different activities—most play-based—and did them for the hour before lunch.

At one table, children were cutting pictures and pasting them onto papers. Classroom volunteers helped the children as needed and everyone was treated with affection and patience.

On the rug, several students played with dolls, animal figures and blocks. Koki Omuro decided that his dinosaurs needed a zoo, so he built one from blocks. Then he made cages for a pig and a cow, all the while talking confidently about what he was building and why. This was a child, Herman said, who started the school year speaking no English. Now he is fluent.

Herman worked with a handful of children at a half-round table where the students were asked to finish the sentence, “I like…” with words and a picture. She helped each student sound out the words to write, which was easy for them because they already knew their alphabet. The students had fun answering Herman’s questions and didn’t seem to know that they were learning, which is one large reason why Sheila Decker is so happy to have her daughter, Elizabeth, in the program.

“I think the biggest difference between JK/TK and a regular kindergarten program is that they still have time to play,” Decker said. “It’s a more natural learning process. They are still learning. They have sight words and blended words and they learn all the letters of the alphabet. But they still have this time where they explore.

“It’s a gift that she’s getting the mix of preschool and academics,” Decker continued. “It’s like a total bonus year for her.”

“The JK/TK program gives students the ‘gift of time’ to develop socially, emotionally and academically before entering traditional kindergarten,” said Kathy Roth, the district’s director of elementary education. “A developmental approach involves students learning in a less formal setting through hands-on activities and their senses. This includes singing, purposeful movement and engagement strategies that inspire a love of learning by discovery.”

As for Herman, she loves teaching in this age group.

“I think JK/TK provides a real developmental component that’s so important for this age,” she said.

Dorothee Chadda is a 9th-grade English teacher. She put her son, Adi, into the JK/TK program because she approved of the curriculum. All of the JK/TK teachers are credentialed. They collaborate with each other to develop appropriate curriculum.

“For me as a teacher I look extensively at the curriculum. I do my own research and I see the way its being implemented in the classroom and it works. What matters to me is that my kid is able to use this program independently. The independence part is what’s important to me,” she said.

The program began six years ago at Berylwood Elementary with two classes, Herman said. Now there are nine classes spread among six schools.

As the program’s enrollment grows, classes will be added at more campuses. Right now, JK/TK classes are placed throughout the offer the greatest accessibility to the most families. A family living on the east side of Simi will likely be offered a spot in a JK/TK class on that side of the city. Because it’s not known until the start of school how many children will be enrolled in JK/TK and where the classes will be best located to help the most families, parents don’t have the option of designating at what campus they wish their child to be placed.

“We want this program to grow,” Roth said. “JK/TK gives our students an incredible opportunity to learn in a developmentally-appropriate manner, with highly qualified teachers guiding them. It provides early-childhood educational support for families in our community at no direct cost to those families.”

For working families, most JK/TK classes are located at schools with before- and after-school care. Plans are being made now to make JK/TK and regular kindergarten into all-day programs. (These classes would be released 10 minutes before the first-sixth grade classes.)

Township Principal Lori Neiman said about half of her JK/TK parents have opted to remain at Township for kindergarten while the other half will either attend their neighborhood schools or have applied for School of Choice to other campuses.

For more information about JK/TK, visit the district’s website at www.simivalleyusd.org or pick up an application at your neighborhood school.

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