At a special board meeting tonight, the SVUSD Board of Trustees approved and announced some management changes beginning in the 2015-2016 school year. Dr. Stephen Pietrolungo, current principal of Simi Valley High School, will take on the position of principal at Monte Vista School. Monte Vista is the district’s independent study/homeschool program and it has seen steady enrollment growth over the last several years as some families seek more flexible education options while still following state curricular guidelines. Board President Dan White called Dr. Pietrolungo’s appointment “exciting,” and said that the growth of Monte Vista’s programs was a big part of the district’s overall strategy for growth in the future. By expanding the independent study programs offered through Monte Vista, the district hopes to see more increased enrollment. Currently the school is led by Dean May, who is also the principal of Apollo High School. May will remain as Apollo principal. Plans are also in place to relocated Monte Vista to the Abraham Lincoln Elementary School campus next year. Dr. Terri Leon, the current assistant principal at Royal High School, will be moved to Valley View Middle School as assistant principal. Under Deborah Salgado’s leadership at Royal, Dr. Leon oversaw the application and approval of Royal’s new International Baccalaureate Diploma School designation. Patti Myszkowski, the current assistant principal at Hillside Middle School, will assume Dr. Leon’s place at Royal. Nicole Perryman, the current principal of Abraham Lincoln Elementary School (which will be closing at the end of this school year) will become dean at Sinaloa Middle School. Dr. Jason Messinger, current dean, will be reassigned to a classroom next year at a school as yet to be determined. Stacy Walker, the current principal at Justin Elementary (which will be closing at the end of this school year) will be reassigned to a classroom next year at a school as yet to be determined.
Category: Elementary School
Hour of Code: Raising the Bar on 21st Century Skills
Frozen’s Elsa is poised on the ice, waiting for her instructions.
Our student, Samantha, creates a list of commands. If she organizes the list correctly, Elsa will “skate” a snowflake on the ice.
-move forward by 100 pixels.
-turn right by 90 degrees.
-repeat 10 times.
And so on.
When done, Samantha will click “Run” and Elsa will gracefully skate the pattern Samantha commanded on the screen ice. If the pattern is correct, Samantha will move to the next level and continue the game by writing more challenging instructions.
Yes, this is a game. But what Samantha and many other students throughout Simi’s schools, and the world, are doing is coding. Coding is computer programming, where specific commands are used to tell the computer to carry out actions. Last week, in an ongoing, international effort to promote teaching kids how to code, many of Simi’s schools participated in the Hour of Code.
To help support the effort to teach coding, some of the biggest names in tech, retail and entertainment joined together to create games, classroom apps, tutorials and curriculum that teachers could use to expose their students to coding. During the week of Dec. 8-14, the official Hour of Code organization offered live web chats with celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher and Jessica Alba to 100 classroom winners. Major corporate sponsors included Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Best Buy, Disney, Google and The Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
From kindergarten through high school, students jumped into these programs–alone or in pairs–to write code and get to the next level. And at many schools, parents were welcomed participants in after-school coding parties.
John Brinkman is a computer programmer. He’s also the father of Theodore, a second grader at Wood Ranch Elementary School.
“This is real good,” Brinkman said. “It’s teaching them sequential skills. This is actually how it happens in real life. Well, not with Angry Birds, but otherwise it is. Soon, before they know it, they’re tricked into doing their own video game.”
This week, following the completion of the Hour of Code week-long event, the website had 77,441 Hour of Code events registered. In all, it’s estimated that 15 million students learned an hour of code last week! The games and tutorials weren’t just used on computers. Smart phones, tablets, iPads and other devices were all used with the coding apps.
Here in Simi, the Hour of Code was a voluntary program. Dustin Ellis, Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) in charge of technology, said the turn out was much better than last year with most schools participating in some way.
“Hopefully they will continue on with coding,” Ellis said. “There are several teachers that are taking this on and continuing with it.”
One example is Deborah Ibbott, a fourth grade teacher at White Oak Elementary. Ibbott has made coding a part of her daily instruction with her students. One hour each day is spent on coding to help teach the students computer science. But coding also requires students to know geometry, math, language skills and more, making coding a great Common Core choice for classroom instruction.
For more information on coding, go to hourofcode.com. Disney’s Frozen, the Angry Birds and other code games can be found at studio.code.org. The Walt Disney Co. has more information about its involvement in Hour of Code HERE. A quick search in the iTunes store for “Coding” will also glean a ton of apps for children and adults wanting to learn basic coding.
BOARD REPORT: New Superintendent Named; Trustees Sworn In
From a new superintendent to new board members, there were many changes welcomed in from last night’s (Dec. 9) Simi Valley Unified School District School Board meeting.
Dr. Jason Peplinski, acting interim superintendent, was appointed by the board with a 4-1 vote (Trustee Debbie Sandland dissenting) to become the permanent district superintendent.
Dr. Peplinski began his teaching career in Lancaster, California, where he taught Spanish and led the choir at Quartz Hill High School. He came to Ventura County through Moorpark High School in 2000, where he taught Advanced Placement (AP) Spanish and served in several different leadership capacities.
The Simi Valley Unified School District welcomed Dr. Peplinski in 2004 when he accepted a job as the assistant principal of Royal High School. From there, he served as principal of Abraham Lincoln School in Simi (2007-2009), Moorpark High School in Moorpark (2009-2011) and then Santa Susana High School from 2011-2013.
In 2013, he accepted the position of Director of Educational Services at the district office. In 2014, he was promoted to Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services. In October, Dr. Peplinski agreed to serve as the Interim District Superintendent, following the retirement of Dr. Kathryn Scroggin. A national search for a permanent superintendent was conducted and the Board of Trustees interviewed three other candidates in November.
Dr. Peplinski earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the Central Michigan University in 1997, a Masters of Arts with Distinction in Educational Administration from CSUN in 2003 and his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from California Lutheran University in 2014. He also served as a Regent for the CLU board from 2012-14.
Two new school board members were sworn in at the meeting. Trustees Scott Blough and Bill Daniels won the two open school board seats at the November election. Trustee Arleigh Kidd did not run again and Trustee Jeanne Davis was defeated in the election.
Trustee Blough works in finance and Trustee Daniels is an officer with the Simi Valley Police Department. Both have children in Simi schools and have been active in other community efforts.
The annual reorganizational meeting for the board was also held tonight. Trustee Dan White was elected board president and Trustee Blough was elected as clerk of the board.
Brad Torti, one of the District’s four Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSA), was named the new assistant principal of Santa Susana High School. Mr. Torti is a former Royal High School English Language Development teacher. He’s worked closely on the District’s Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) and several other related projects.
In other business, Assistant Superintendent Ron Todo presented the First Interim Fiscal report for the District, showing that the District is fiscally solvent for the next three years, as is required by the state. The entire report can be found HERE.
The Board took another step closer to closing and repurposing two schools by scheduling the public hearings required for the process. Abraham Lincoln Elementary School will have its public hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 7 at 6 p.m. and Justin Elementary School’s hearing will be held on Thursday, Jan. 8 at 6 p.m. Both schools have been in declining enrollment for several years. Lincoln has 241 students and Justin has 216 students. Closing each school could save the District up to $250,000 each year for each school. Earlier this year, the Board voted to close Simi Elementary School, after the aging facility proved to have extensive repairs and renovations required for student use. Right now, a special committee is looking at options for using the property.
It’s a Sticky Situation But Somebody’s Gotta Do It!
How many rolls of duct tape does it take to adhere your principal to the wall?
About 19, if you’re Aldo Calcagno.
As principal of Arroyo Elementary School, Calcagno was asked if he would help inspire the students by becoming the reward for the PTA membership drive. If the students brought in at least 200 PTA members, Calcagno agreed to be taped to the wall.
“I tried to offer even more of an incentive by telling them they could tape me to the wall upside down if they doubled the membership goal,” he said.
He figured it would be hard enough for the kids to meet the goal since last year, the membership drive only brought in 82 people. But his students had other ideas.
Teacher Jennifer Johnston watched as her students cheered and chanted while Calcagno was secured to the wall, one strip at a time.
“The kids are really excited,” said the 5th/6th grade teacher. “I think he’s a really good sport. Based on last year, we didn’t think they’d reach (the goal).”
PTA President Jennifer Wade found the idea to tape the principal to a wall in a PTA magazine. It took five adults, including Wade, to tape Calcagno up in under an hour.
Tony Karch, principal of White Oak Elementary School, looked on as his friend slowly found himself locked into place. There might have been just a dash of worry in Karch’s eyes.
“I was in a dunking tank about a week ago, but that’s nowhere near as crazy as this,” he said.
BOARD REPORT: Regular Board Meeting June 24, 2014
Tuesday’s regular meeting for the Simi Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees is the last of the school year and several important actions were taken by the Board that need to be reported. The full agenda pack with back up materials can be found HERE, as well as the meetings recorded video.
1. (Action Item Educational Services 3.1) The Board unanimously approved the District’s Local Control Accountability Plan for the 2014-15 school year. This plan, newly mandated by the state in 2013, requires all California school districts to provide a three-year goal-setting and implementation plan for each district to follow. Part of the process of developing the LCAP required intensive input from “stakeholders” in the local educational community–students, teachers, parents, administrators and community members. The eight priority areas each District’s plan must address are: student engagement, student achievement, school climate, basic services, Common Core State Standards, access to a broad curriculum, parent involvement and other student outcomes. The LCAP is required before any school district receives funding from the state. More information about the LCAP and the final plan are found HERE.
2. (Action Item Educational Services 3.2) The Board voted 4-1 with Trustee Debbie Sandland dissenting to close Simi Elementary School in the 2015-2016 school year. The school has been operating independently at the Mountain View Elementary campus since February when the Board agreed to close the campus because of safety concerns affecting the entire property. Over the last few weeks, the District began consolidating some logistics. Simi Elementary Principal Kate Snowden was reassigned to Wood Ranch Elementary and Mountain View Elementary Principal Jenny Goldman will oversee both schools this year with the assistance of a dean. Simi Elementary students will continue to be bussed to the Mountain View campus as requested.
The vote also included the Board’s directive that a community-based committee be created to oversee the preservation and future use of the historic property. The front/main building of the Simi Elementary campus was the oldest operating building in the city of Simi Valley, but repairs needed to seismically retrofit were estimated at $6.3 million from quotes obtained a couple of years ago. Additionally, the cost to upgrade the remainder of the property was estimated at up to $4.3 million, again from quotes obtained a couple of years ago.
Closing the campus is estimated to save the District between $350,000 and $400,000 the first year and if the property is repurposed, that estimate drops to $200,000 to $250,000 annually. In 2013-14, about 235 students were enrolled in the school. For 2014-15, about 109 students are expected to remain in Simi Elementary School. More information documenting the maintenance issues at the campus can be found HERE.
3. (Action Item Business & Facilities 5.2) The Board unanimously approved the District’s 2014-2015 proposed budget. With expected revenue of $142 million and expected expenses at $144 million, the District will make up the difference through surplus reserves remaining from the 2013-2014 budget year, leaving a surplus after reserves are accounted for of about $411,000 at the end of 2014-2015. The next two year’s budget estimates also project small surpluses.
Declining enrollment continues to be a factor in the budget with an estimated student loss of 418 students for a projected enrollment districtwide of 17,935 students. There are also increases in some employee health benefits, including a 11.54 percent increase in PPO coverage and a 3.08 percent increase in Blue Cross HMO coverage. To help balance the budget, employees will now pay for some of the medical coverage provided to their spouses under the District’s benefit plan.
But, all potential teacher layoffs–38 total–were rescinded because of the overwhelming response to the District’s early retirement incentive plan (PARS). There will still be three furlough days on the next year’s school calendar and the Kindergarten through third grade class size will be reduced to 26:1.
This is only the preliminary budget and the Board will once again be asked to review a revised budget after the State Legislature and Governor approve a state budget. For more specific information about the District’s budget, go HERE.
4. (Action Item Business & Facilities 5.6) Related to the Simi Elementary closure, the Board also unanimously agreed to look into exterior fencing to protect the front/main building on the Simi Elementary campus. Believing it would be less visibly obtrusive, District staff recommending exploring an interior bracing system to support the walls until repairs could begin on the building, but several community members asked that fencing be considered instead so as to not cause further damage to the building’s walls. The Board agreed and staff will gather estimates and options for different types of fencing.
5. (Action Item Business & Facilities 5.4) The Board unanimously agreed to repair/replace the roofs at the following schools: Atherwood Elementary, Big Springs Elementary, Hillside Middle School, Hollow Hills Elementary, Royal High School, Santa Susana Elementary, Sinaloa Middle School and Valley View Middle School.
These schools were identified as having the most deteriorated roofs. The estimated cost to repair these roofs is $2 million and will be paid for through the Measure C4 bond, leaving a balance in the Measure C4 bond account of about $11.6 million.
6. (Action Item Business & Facilities 5.5) The Board unanimously agreed to replace the broken air-conditioning and heating units at the Education Service Center for almost $150,000. Two of the four units in the main building stopped working in April. District maintenance staff will install the new units, which are expected to provide better energy efficiency.
The next regular SVUSD School Board meeting is scheduled for August 5.
Simi Elementary School: A 10-Year Timeline and History
On Monday, June 16, 2014, the Simi Valley Unified School District will hold a Public Hearing on the potential closure of Simi Elementary School. This is not a board meeting and no decision will be made at the hearing. The hearing’s purpose is strictly to hear public comment on the issue.
Simi Elementary School has been the topic of many SVUSD School Board meetings and much public discourse for several months, beginning with the District Advisory Committee’s (DAC) request in January that the School Board decide what would be done to repair the front/main building before the DAC makes a recommendation on the school’s future.
Shortly after this, the entire school body was relocated to Mountain View Elementary, amid serious concerns about the safety of the entire Simi Elementary School campus. The physical campus has remained vacant since then, pending further School Board action, but the school continues to operate separately at the Mountain View campus.
The link below will direct you to a comprehensive timeline documenting the history of Simi Elementary School’s physical campus over the past 10 years, beginning shortly after the 2004 passage of Measure C4, the $145 million facilities and technology bond to modernize all of the District’s campuses. This information has been gathered to factually answer the many questions and concerns about how the campus was maintained over the years; what Measure C4 Bond funds and additional monies were spent on maintaining and improving the campus; and how the District and School Board responded to the rapid physical decline of the campus.
Getting Kids to Love Reading at Berylwood Elementary School
It’s a number almost too high to really count.
But that’s what the teachers at Berylwood Elementary School did to determine how many words their students read in total for the school’s Accelerated Reader (AR) program.
During an all-school assembly on June 5, students in every grade of the K-6 school received awards and cheers for their reading efforts.
And not just for AR points. That’s just one part of the year-long campaign the staff launched to improve reading at this Title I school, said Principal Rob Hunter.
Two years ago, the kids, he said, hated reading. His students were more likely to play video games instead of picking up a book to read for pleasure.
Now, 10 months after the start of the reading effort, Berylwood’s students treasure their reading time.
“They take their books to lunch. I see them on the playground reading. I’m even bumping into kids who are too busy reading their books while they are walking,” he said.
It all started just before school began last August when Berylwood’s teachers agreed to participate in a 5-day program, Teaching Readers to Think, on their own time. The program taught teachers about the science of learning—how kids learn best—and how to apply this information in their classrooms.
“We know how kids learn. We needed to remodel how we teach,” Hunter said.
The teachers walked away with a simple philosophy: If we want kids to be good readers, then they have to read, a lot.
Teachers set aside the textbooks with excerpts of literature (because taking in pieces of stories is not the same as reading the entire story) and instead sent kids to read whole books on different topics. The students were allowed to select any books they wanted to read, at their reading level. Their teachers also read aloud to them. There were fun reading nights (one staff member brought in her comedian son and his friends and they read to the kids for an evening), and a lending library was created so every Tuesday students could borrow up to 10 books—in English and Spanish—to read during the week. The school library stayed open longer, and this summer it will be open on four separate days for kids to check out books. Each month the entire school came together to celebrate the reading milestones the students achieved. The students were invested in their reading, Hunter said. They were excited.
It’s also about writing. Teachers tucked away the workbooks normally used to measure reading comprehension. Hunter said that the fill-in-the-blank answers usually required of workbooks don’t encourage students to think about their answers. Instead the school purchased hundreds of blank notebooks and had their students write about the books they read. Students gave reports, wrote reviews and used their writing to support their reading, always showing that they understood the depth and context of what they were reading.
“If you want them to master language, they have to write,” Hunter said.
Berylwood’s success this year is measurable. Taking the average reading level for all 480 students from the start of the last school year to now, the school has increased its reading level by two years, in 10 months!
This summer, Berylwood’s teachers will once again give up some of their summer vacation to focus on math. Hunter’s passion for teaching is contagious, and the results are empowered teachers working with engaged students.
“I love working in a school like this,” he said. “It’s like working in the emergency room. But you have to have the best teachers. And we have the best teachers.”
Learning Should Be Fun: A Day at Park View’s Kindergarten
It’s the end of the school year at Park View Elementary School in Simi Valley and the school’s two kindergarten classes have come together for a morning of fun.
In a busy, color-filled room, one group of students plays a dice game with partners, while another works on counting games and still another practices math through playing cards. And the group along the room’s side wall? They are at the computer stations where the children play learning games.
It’s Game Day and the 27 kindergarteners of Joyce Leas and Teri Smyres’ classes don’t seem to notice, or mind, the educational value embedded in each of the games they play. Instead, they interact with each other while their teachers, and the three room volunteers, encourage them to work together to find the answers. And the grown-ups never seem to stop encouraging their young charges.
When you visit Park View’s campus, the first thing noticed is that the children wear uniforms. White and navy polo shirts and navy bottoms dominate the landscape. It’s the only school in the Simi Valley Unified School District that requires its students to wear uniforms, a change instituted under Principal Anthony Karch two years ago.
“The idea came partly from a parent, who is also a teacher here, who previously worked at a district with uniforms. It also came from a sense that our students needed to get a little more serious about the business of school,” Principal Karch said.
Park View is a Title I school, which is a Federal designation identifying a school with a high percentage of students coming from low-income families. Because poverty can be a barrier to a child’s education, the school receives extra funding for its students, which translates into added services and resources to help the children learn and succeed.
Principal Karch said that in the first year of the uniform policy, which 90 percent of the parents voted to implement, there were no significant changes in attendance or discipline issues fielded by the Principal Karch. But this year, the changes have been dramatic, and Principal Karch said he believes that uniforms are a big part of the improvements.
“Two years ago, we had 85 incidents of students coming to see me for discipline issues. This year we dropped to 55. That’s a 35 percent drop. And this year, our attendance has been phenomenal! We’re number 6 out of 21 elementary schools for good attendance,” he said.
“You can never say that the uniforms is the sole reason for the improvements; there are other factors. But it helps. And it’s just a nicer look. I love it. Today we had Principal’s Day, and one of the students thanked us in his letter for the uniforms. He said, ‘It’s so much easier for me to dress in the morning.'”
Park View also has a deep connection with the arts. Students in grades 1 to 6 who are at grade level or above in their school work can become part of the drama program. Two plays are produced annually by the students. Kindergarteners take dance classes and all of the students enjoy the school’s art program, Artist in the Classroom, where working artists come and work with the kids.
With almost 300 students, Park View is a smaller school compared to others in the district. Principal Karch said most of those attending, about 70 percent, come from the surrounding neighborhood. But there is room for more students, especially in kindergarten, which is an all-day program. While there are more students already enrolled in kindergarten for next year, Principal Karch hopes to bring in even more.
Applications are still being accepted for kindergarten and you don’t have to live in Park View’s neighborhood to attend. Classes will end on Friday, but the school’s office will remain open until June 26. For more information, call the school at 805-520-6755 or stop by the campus at 1500 Alexander Street.
Preserved History Lives at Madera Elementary
It started with an idea to “capture” an electrical charge.
Benjamin Franklin, and his son, William, waited for a rainy day and after tying a key to the end of a kite string, found out what a shocking event really means.
“It almost killed me,” Franklin said. “I’m glad I’m alive.”
Franklin shared his story with schoolmates from Madera Elementary School last Thursday, as part of the school’s second annual Wax Museum event. Played by fifth-grader Zachary, Franklin sat in the play yard, armed with a posterboard outlining his life story and a “press” button. Passing students would press the button, Franklin would stand and history would be shared.
Altogether, more than 90 fifth-grade students participated in the event. Teachers Michelle Nicolas, Susan Cadwell and Rosalie Cruzan spent the last couple of weeks helping their students select a person who was important in American History. Student were offered some choices, but we free to select their own subjects. From there, they researched and wrote about their subject and developed the costumes and props used for the event. Most of the work was done at home, Nicolas said.
“They did a great job!” she said.
Throughout the morning, students from other grades visited the wax museum and learned about as many historical characters as possible.
Rebecca Rojas’ fourth-graders came armed with notebooks and pencils. They will share the notes on the people they met when they go back class later in the day.
“I wanted them to meet as many people as possible,” she said.
Some of the figures included Betsey Ross, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Molly Pitcher, John Lennon, Robert E. Lee, Ronald Reagan, Molly Brown, Walt Disney, Florence Nightingale and Pocahontas.
Principal Michael Hall looked proudly around the play yard at the kids.
“Of all the things we do, this is my favorite,” he said.
New Positions Announced
The Simi Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees met in a special session on Tuesday, May 20 to discuss appointments of several administrative positions throughout the District. Coming out of closed session, Board President Rob Collins confirmed the hiring of Jerry Block, the current principal of Malibu High School (which is actually a grade 6 to 12 school) as the new principal of Hillside Middle School.
On Wednesday, Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Dan Houghton announced some of the changes in administrative leadership at some of the District’s campuses. The following is the current list of administrative assignments:
As the 2013-2014 school year nears its end, it is normal to welcome personnel changes throughout the Simi Valley Unified School District. This year, we proudly announce the appointments of the following administrators for the 2014-2015 school year.
- Cheri Toyen, the coordinator for the Tobacco Use Prevention Education (TUPE) program, will become a counselor at Hillside Middle School.
- Kate Snowden, currently the principal of Simi Elementary School, will replace Laura Tyre as the principal of Wood Ranch Elementary School. Laura Tyre is retiring.
- Michael Hall, currently the principal of Madera Elementary School, will replace Terry Webb as the principal of Valley View Middle School. Terry Webb is retiring.
- Debora Palmer, currently the principal of Justin Elementary School, will replace Michael Hall as the principal of Madera Elementary School.
- Anthony Karch, currently the principal of Park View Elementary School, will replace Dr. Sherrill Knox as the principal of White Oak Elementary School. Dr. Knox has accepted a position with the Ojai Unified School District.
- Laura Wellington, currently the principal of Hillside Middle School, will become principal at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School.
- Jerry Block has been hired from outside the SVUSD to become principal at Hillside Middle School.
- Theresa Garner, currently the principal at Crestview Elementary School, has accepted a position with the Moorpark Unified School District.
- Principals at Crestview, Justin and Park View elementary schools are still to be determined. Announcements will be made as soon as the decisions are final.
Jerry Block has served as the principal for Malibu High School, which includes grades 6 through 12, since 2012. A former assistant principal at Oak Park High School, Mr. Block is a Newbury Park resident. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and Linguistics from University of California-Los Angeles in 1998, his single-subject credentials in Spanish from California State University-Northridge in 2001, and then his Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in 2004, also from CSUN.
We wish to congratulate all of our new positions, thank those who are leaving for their many years of excellent service to our students, and welcome our newest member to the district.