Monthly Archives: September 2014

SVUSD Seeks New Bond Oversight Committee Members

Crestview Elementary School's Computer Lab was the one of the first elementary computers labs upgraded and completed through Measure C4 bond funds. Since last year, every school's computers and labs have been upgraded, thanks to Measure C4. This is just one small example of the bond's success in our schools.

Crestview Elementary School’s Computer Lab was the one of the first elementary computers labs upgraded and completed through Measure C4 bond funds. Since last year, every school’s computers and labs have been upgraded, thanks to Measure C4. This is just one small example of the bond’s success in our schools.

The Simi Valley Unified School District is seeking new members for the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee, which oversees the District’s bond expenditures.

In 2004, the community passed the $145-milllion Measure C4 general obligation bond to repair and upgrade facilities and technology needs throughout the District. Since its passage, the District’s facilities have undergone dramatic and needed repairs and renovations affecting every school site in the District. Technology upgrades have also been implemented district-wide. While most of the bond work has been completed, there remain some projects that have yet to be started, or completed.

Under California law, an oversight committee must be in place to monitor the expenditures, provide accountability and report to the community on the progress of bond projects.

The ICOC is required to include in its members people active in a business organization, senior citizen organization and taxpayer organization. It must also include parents of Simi Valley students, one of who is active in a school site council or the PTA/PTSA. Other people not meeting these criteria may also be on the ICOC.

New appointees will replace those members whose terms have expired. Each member serves at least a two-term and can serve for a maximum of two consecutive terms.

The new courtyard (shown under construction over the summer) on the Sinaloa Middle School campus enables better access for Special Education students using the surrounding classrooms. This is another example of a Measure C4-funded project that has improved our schools.

The new courtyard (shown under construction over the summer) on the Sinaloa Middle School campus enables better access for Special Education students using the surrounding classrooms. This is another example of a Measure C4-funded project that has improved our schools.

Membership applications are available online at www.simivalleyusd.org or through the link HERE. The deadline for applications is Nov. 1. Phone calls can be directed to Anthony Joseph, Bond Manager, at (805) 306-4500, extension 4461.

Life’s A Carnival for Simi’s Special Ed Students

Matthew Slaby, 6, enjoying one of the rides at the Simi Valley Days Carnival Special Children's Day.

Matthew Slaby, 6, enjoying one of the rides at the Simi Valley Days Carnival Special Children’s Day on Thursday.

Matthew Slaby couldn’t decide between the blue cotton candy or the pink cotton candy.

So he ended up with both, and a sugar rainbow around his mouth.

The wheelchair-bound first-grader from Santa Susana Elementary School was one of about 400 students from the Simi Valley Unified School District to attend Special Children’s Day at the Simi Valley Days carnival.

Held Thursday morning on the parking lot at the Simi Valley Mall, the carnival opened for several hours only for the special education students of all levels. Hundreds of volunteers came together to support this event, said Shari Schultz. Schultz, a member of the Simi Valley Days committee, has organized this event for many years. Each year the number of children participating grows.

“It’s kind of wonderful,” she said.

Diana Mata, (left) and Aracely Sosa, both 12 and 6th-graders at Santa Susana Elementary School enjoying their carnival day.

Diana Mata, (left) and Aracely Sosa, both 12 and 6th-graders at Santa Susana Elementary School enjoying their carnival day.

Every part of this event was a gift to the students. No student paid for anything–rides, food or transportation. Entertainers and ride operators offered their fun for free. Food was donated. Transportation–school buses and modified buses to accommodate wheelchairs–was paid for by a single donor. Bank of America sent about 350 volunteers to help teachers and program aides with the children. The Dylan Gregory Hatch Foundation also brought volunteers to help.l

Balloon artist enters the Artist was tired but smiling by the end of the event in the early afternoon.

“It’s the least I can do for these kids and teachers and parents,” she said.

Lorena Soto (left) and her niece, Katrina Martinez, 9, enjoying the last few minutes of the Special Children's Day at the Simi Valley Days Carnival.

Lorena Soto (left) and her niece, Katrina Martinez, 9, enjoying the last few minutes of the Special Children’s Day at the Simi Valley Days Carnival.

Many of the families of these children would not be able to afford a day at the carnival with their kids, said Santa Susana Elementary School teacher Nancy Lachman.

“It’s the economics in the home. These families have lots of struggles,” she said.

Lorena Soto brought her niece, Katrina Martinez to the carnival with Katrina’s fifth-grade class. She said that they would not have been able to spend the money to bring her niece to the carnival otherwise.

It’s not just about the money. Many of the children need extra time to get onto rides, especially those who use wheelchairs or with visual impairments. Because the carnival time during this event is dedicated only to the special education children, the ride operators and aides are able to take more time to work with the children to settle them into the rides. Special accommodations can be made for those needing it where this would not be possible when the carnival is overflowing with crowds.

For Dylan Lira, 10, the cotton candy was fun, but his favorite part of the day, he said, was, “hanging out with the B of A people.”

The Simi Valley Days Carnival opened Thursday afternoon to the general public and will run through Sunday. Tomorrow morning (Saturday) the Simi Valley Days Parade will be held. For more information, go to simivalleydays.org.

If you don’t want to miss any news published here about Simi Valley schools, please sign up for email notifications in the upper right hand area of this page. We usually post District news one to three times a week. Any questions or article ideas? Contact Jake Finch at jake.finch@simivalleyusd.org. Also follow us by “liking” our Facebook page, or on Twitter. 

Saying goodbye at the end of a fun day. The Special Children's Day at the Simi Valley Days Carnival is an annual event that's free to the special education students in the Simi Valley Unified School District.

Saying goodbye at the end of a fun day. The Special Children’s Day at the Simi Valley Days Carnival is an annual event that’s free to the special education students in the Simi Valley Unified School District.

BOARD REPORT: New Interim Superintendent Named-Special Meeting Recap

At last night’s Simi Valley Unified School District special board meeting, the Board voted to release current Interim Superintendent Dr. Kathryn Scroggin from her position and install Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Dr. Jason Peplinski as interim superintendent effective Oct. 11.

By a 3-2 vote with Trustees Debbie Sandland and Rob Collins dissenting and Trustees Arleigh Kidd, Jeanne Davis and Dan White assenting, the Board agreed to let Dr. Scroggin remain in her position through the next regular board meeting scheduled for Oct. 7.

Candidates for permanent superintendent are already being solicited through the District’s Personnel Services department and Board members said they hope to begin interviewing by the Oct. 7 meeting.

At the meeting, Dr. Scroggin told the Board that the three assistant superintendents, Dan Houghton, Ron Todo and Dr. Peplinski, have all said they did not intend to apply for the position of permanent superintendent.

On Sept. 30, the board will schedule a special meeting in order to determine its criteria for selecting a new superintendent. The time and location are pending, but the board will solicit public input on the criteria.

The Board also voted unanimously to adopt a new self-funded insurance plan for the District’s health plans that would save the District between $1 and $2 million in premiums over the first two years alone. The projected longterm savings through the new plan would be even greater, said Ron Todo, assistant superintendent of Business and Facilities.

Almost all of the current benefits and providers will remain in place, but some small changes will come with how prescriptions are filled and hospital co-payments, for instance. More detailed information outlining all of the changes in the existing health plans will be given to employees later this month and October has been designated an open-enrollment month to allow for any health plan changes employees wish to make as a result of the new benefits.

If you don’t want to miss any news published here about Simi Valley schools, please sign up for email notifications in the upper right hand area of this page. We usually post District news one to three times a week. Any questions or article ideas? Contact Jake Finch at jake.finch@simivalleyusd.org. Also follow us by “liking” our Facebook page, or on Twitter. 

Filling in the Gaps: Simi Valley Ed Foundation

Maria Baro wasn’t wearing make-up.

And it was Ponytail Thursday.

From left, teacher Christieann Rohal (left) and Principal Nora Kuntz (right) enjoy the moment when teacher Maria Baro realizes she was named Teacher of the Month on Sept. 4.

But that didn’t stop a small horde of people from invading this third-grade teacher’s staff meeting with cameras and gifts in order to honor her as Teacher of the Month earlier this month.

Maria, humbled and embarrassed, insisted that any good coming from her efforts was a reflection of the talent and dedication shown by ALL of her co-workers at Crestview Elementary School.

The award is the most recent program implemented by the Simi Valley Education Foundation to help public schools throughout the Simi Valley Unified School District and to honor staff and teachers who do great work. Maria is the first recipient of the award; it will be handed out monthly through the end of the school year.

Founded in 1989 by Lew Roth, a Simi Valley school board trustee for 23 years, the foundation raises money through private donations, corporate gifts and community/special events. The money raised is then returned directly to the schools in the district through grants, scholarships and special programs. Not affiliated directly with the district or any one school, the district does support the foundation, which had donated more than $600,000 through its efforts.

IMG_3058

Brian Miller, president-elect of the Simi Valley Education Foundation honors Maria Baro for her work.

Next week, on Sept. 19, another annual fundraising is scheduled. The Tee-Up For Kids Golf Tournament will be held at the Lost Canyons Golf Course. (For more information, go to www.svef.org.)

In January, the annual Lew Roth Awards Dinner will honor teachers and staff from Simi Valley schools for their contributions. The foundation gathers and evaluates the nominations and the awardees are announced at the dinner.

Another major fundraiser for the foundation is the Celebration of Education Gala, held usually in March, but not yet scheduled for 2015. This is the primary community fundraiser and features a big theme party, complete with auctions and special events.

The foundation also works with many area business to secure grants and donations. Alcoa Fastening Systems, Bank of America and a program that brought together most of the new and used automobile dealers in the city are just some of supporters for the foundation.

One of the biggest impacts the foundation has on local education is found with its Classroom Enhancement Grants.

Last year, the foundation awarded 91 recipients more than $50,000 in grants. Teachers apply for these grants to fund specific classroom needs. Examples include incubators for hatching ducklings, play mats for a kindergarten classroom, maps, books, science equipment, computer software and music curriculum. This is just a small sampling of the hundreds of classroom needs the foundation has supported over the years for Simi’s teachers.

This year’s grant applications are due Oct. 10. The foundation tries to fund as many as possible, and concentrates on those projects/needs that have the greatest impact on the classroom, either by longevity or breadth.

Student scholarships are also given each year, and again, information is found on the website.

Teachers’ Wishes Come True with DonorsChoose

Caroline Hardeman, a sixth grade teacher at Hollow Hills Elementary School, shows off her new class seismograph, purchased through donations over DonorsChoose.org.

Caroline Hardeman, a sixth grade teacher at Hollow Hills Elementary School, shows off her new class seismograph, purchased through donations over DonorsChoose.org.

Caroline Hardeman is no novice to classroom fundraising.

Over the years, the veteran sixth-grade teacher has proudly pursued any opportunity to help fund different material needs that arise from her ever-expanding repertoire of science lessons. Sometimes the hunt for funds ended successfully and quickly. Other times, it felt like wasted time.

Until she discovered DonorsChoose.org.

The clouds parted and the angels sang as much-needed supplies and equipment found their way to Classroom A6 at Hollow Hills.

“It’s so easy,” she said. “Your school community wants to help you and you just have to let them know what you need.”

DonorsChoose is a non-profit company that enables public school teachers (and only teachers) throughout the country to create fundraising campaigns to buy specific classroom supplies through charitable donations.

Teachers “shop” for what they need through Amazon. Then they create a campaign–a webpage on the DonorsChoose site where they write about what they want for their classroom and why, set a funding goal and a time limit. Outreach comes next, with many teachers using Facebook and other social media to get the word out to parents. Some send notes home or ask parents directly.

Donors give directly through the DonorsChoose website, eliminating the need for the schools or districts to monitor the money received. The donations are banked in an account for the teacher and when the goal is met, the teacher can order the supplies and materials directly through Amazon. DonorsChoose handles all of the tax notices; all donations are charitable deductions. Should a goal not be met for a specific campaign, the money that is raised is banked for the teacher to use for other supplies.

In the last year, Hardeman has launched four campaigns, all successful. Her requests included a seismograph ($938), a tectonics demonstration model and lab supplies to teach about earthquakes ($878) and supplies for starting a school garden and compost center ($993). And last month, Hardeman raised $2,051 to purchase an wall-mounted projector for her classroom that replaces some aging equipment.

“I’m winning grants left and right,” she said. “None of my grants have been online for more than a week.”

One of the best aspects of DonorsChoose is that they’ve formed partnerships with foundations and corporations to help fund specific projects. In Hardeman’s case, three of her four campaigns were partly funded with matching grants, two from Disney and one from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. That means that less money is needed from parents and friends to fund a campaign.

“With the matching funds, it’s the easiest thing ever,” she said. “You go shopping online and start small. I donate first (on my own campaigns). You can link to FaceBook from the DonorsChoose page. If you have a parent in the class who wants to let people know, I link to the parent on the PTA website.”

Sixth grade teacher Holly Dye uses DonorsChoose to supplement her English classroom's reading materials.

Sixth grade teacher Holly Dye uses DonorsChoose to supplement her English classroom’s reading materials.

Hardeman’s teaching partner, Holly Dye, used DonorsChoose a couple of years ago to fund a classroom set of mythology books. Thirty-six copies of “D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths” sit proudly on Dye’s shelf.

Dye also used DonorsChoose to buy masks and graphic novels for her classroom.

Currently, only three schools hosting five campaigns from Simi Valley are posted on the website. Requests include math supplies, iPad Minis, books and science materials. (You can search locally for teachers in need.)

Hardeman said it’s important to have good relationships with the class parents, a current email list and to send thank-you notes on time. (The thank-you notes are a requirement of DonorsChoose.)

DonorsChoose supports itself through a voluntary contribution added to the teacher’s campaign. Suggested at 15%, the donation is enough to support the 14-year-old company.

DonorsChoose launched in 2000 when a New York City history teacher, Charles Best, developed a website to collect class donations from others in lieu of continuing to spend his own money on supplies. Since then, DonorsChoose has raised more than $260 million for almost 200,000 public school teachers in almost 58,000 schools. Altogether, 488,139 projects have been funded through DonorsChoose. (For some interesting stats on DonorsChoose, click HERE.)

If you don’t want to miss any news published here about Simi Valley schools, please sign up for email notifications in the upper right hand area of this page. We usually post District news one to three times a week. Any questions or article ideas? Contact Jake Finch at jake.finch@simivalleyusd.org. Also follow us by “liking” our Facebook page, or on Twitter.