Saluting the Future: Royal High’s Air Force Jr. ROTC Program Takes Flight

 

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On a certain Tuesday just before Spring Break, Andrew Hazuka started his day at Royal High School a little differently.

With his straight-off-the-hanger light blue dress shirt and navy blue slacks, complete with patches, insignias and polished shoes, Andrew proudly wore his uniform for the first time.

“They (the students) clapped when I came into class,” he said with a smile.

Royal’s Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (Jr. ROTC) program launched in August, and since then, Col. Mark Hustedt, the lead instructor, has battled patiently for the uniforms.

On this day, he danced with excitement as he entered his third period class, known as Bravo Flight, and saw his 25 smartly dressed students.

“Your uniforms make you look legitimate and, as we say, in regulation,” he told the class.

The students’ delight in wearing their uniforms is just one more indication to how popular this program has become at Royal.

After three years of planning, the U.S. Air Force gave its blessing for the Jr. ROTC at Royal to start this year. About 30 students had signed up for the program at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year. Within a few weeks, Royal’s Jr. ROTC swelled to about 130 students. If the program reaches and maintains at least 150 students, the Air Force will provide another teacher, Hustedt said. (Right now, Husted and one other teacher manage the five ROTC classes.)

The program’s mission is to “educate and train high school cadets in citizenship, promote community service, instill responsibility, character and self-discipline, and provide instruction in air and space fundamentals.” It’s one of 66 in the state and the second in Ventura County. (Oxnard High School has the other Air Force Jr. ROTC program.)

Deborah Salgado, director of secondary education for the Simi Valley Unified School District, applied to the Air Force for the program when she was principal at Royal.

“The Jr. ROTC fits in very nicely with the Ronald Reagan Citizen Scholar Institute that we are developing,” she said. “It’s a highly-visible, well-respected program. It opens doors for our students. It’s a college-prep program and participation in Jr. ROTC helps some students acquire scholarships. And student leadership is a big part of this program.”

Laurie Herman’s daughter, Alexa, is in the Bravo Flight class. She said that after watching her ninth-grader these past months, Herman loves this program because of what it teaches.

“It bonds them in a certain way that’s really positive,” she said. “These students have goals and dreams.”

Eleventh-grader Jasmin Grewal serves as cadet second lieutenant for Bravo Flight. She joined the Jr. ROTC because she wants to pursue a military career and is working toward her acceptance in the Air Force or Naval Academy after high school.

On uniform day, Jasmin readily helps her fellow female cadets on the details of wearing the uniform correctly.

“Your name tags need to be centered between the button and the shirt seam,” she said as she helped pin a tag in place.

The other cadets said wearing the uniforms for the first time that day made them stand out, but no one teased them in a bad way over it.

“Someone told me, ‘Don’t let anyone tell you differently. You look fabulous!’ And that helped a lot,” said Cadet Hayley Richardson.

“One of my friends said they wanted to join ROTC so they could wear the uniform,” Cadet Maria Lanuza said. “You feel better about yourself when you’re wearing it.”

 

Alumni Report: Royal Grad Finds True Calling in Telling Stories

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Emilie Mateu on the NBC set of the 2014 Winter Olympics In Sochi. Mateu is a 2009 graduate of Royal High School in Simi Valley. She also attended Sinaloa Middle School and Wood Ranch Elementary School.

She knew she loved to write and tell stories, but Emilie Mateu did not know that she was destined for a life of journalism while she attended Royal High School.

Still, Mateu, 23, credits the lessons learned there in leadership and academic excellence to guiding her into a prestigious university where a love of journalism was born and a satisfying career in broadcast journalism at NBC Sports was discovered.

“Somehow I got lucky,” Mateu said.

Emilie Mateu stands with Kerri Walsh Jennings, the three-time gold medalist in Women's Beach Volleyball. This picture was taken during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Emilie Mateu stands with Kerri Walsh Jennings, the three-time gold medalist in Women’s Beach Volleyball. This picture was taken during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

Mateu and her family moved to Simi Valley when she was in the sixth grade. She attended Wood Ranch Elementary School, Sinaloa Middle School and Royal, where she graduated from in 2009.

When she went on to the University of Southern California, Mateu said she quickly knew that she was equal to, if not above, her peers in terms of her academic preparedness for this elite university.

“Looking back I don’t think I could have had a better group of teachers,” she said. “I was taking really hard classes at Royal. I had an AP (Advanced Placement) teacher who would stay after school and give free tutoring. Mr. Dennert used to hold after-school tutoring sessions on the weekend, all things that were above and beyond what was expected of a teacher.”

Besides loading up with AP classes, Mateu became involved in student government and leadership activities at Royal. She also ran cross country track.

“I had a great great experience throughout the school system,” she said. “But the coaches and the teachers I had there at Royal were wonderful. It was a great experience.”

With the beautiful country of Monaco behind her, Emilie Mateu sits in the NBC studio during the Monaco Grand Prix races in 2014.
With the beautiful country of Monaco behind her, Emilie Mateu sits in the NBC studio during the Monaco Grand Prix races in 2014.

At USC, she quickly found journalism to be a natural fit for her talents. In her junior year, she applied for an internship to work at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. The NBC producer she worked with there hired her after graduation and now Mateu lives in New York City and works in the Connecticut office of NBC Sports & Olympics. Her main job is to help develop the long-form documentaries and features on the athletes at the Olympics, those behind-the-scenes profiles aired throughout the games on interesting athletes.

“I do all behind-the-scenes. I’m a part of the production group that is putting everything together, going on shoots, organizing footage,” she said.

But in between the Olympics, which happen every two years, Mateu works on other major sports events.

“They have us rotating around on other sports, helping on other parts of the company. I was working on Formula 1 car racing for a while and the Tour de France this summer,” she said.

Earlier this month found Mateu in Glendale, Arizona, where she helped develop stories for Cris Collinsworth’s game coverage.

Emilie Mateu stands with Al Roker and Meredith Vieira of the Today Show. She met them both while interning at NBC during her junior year at USC.
Emilie Mateu stands with Al Roker and Meredith Vieira of the Today Show. She met them both while interning at NBC during her junior year at USC.

“This was my first Super Bowl experience. It was crazy. I clocked over 120 hours that week, which is insanity,” she said. “It was just really exciting to be there. You see the (empty) field and it’s hard to connect that this is where the Super Bowl will be. A lot of these people have been doing these for so long. I’m still pretty young in the industry. It’s all still pretty new to me. We were all proud of the work we did.”

Mateu’s parents, Julie and Mickey, still live in Simi. Her younger sister, Sophie, (also a Royal grad) attends Brown University and is studying abroad this year in South Africa.

About her experience in Simi Valley’s schools, Mateu said she only has the highest praise to offer. When asked what she might advise other students as they work their way through school, she said to actively try hard and be nice.

“Try harder to be nice to other kids and try harder to do as well as you can in class,” she said. “A lot of work can seem totally unnecessary (like when do I ever use calculus in my daily life?!), but it totally influenced my work ethic, which applies to every aspect of my life. And being nice may seem like a silly thing to suggest, but it seriously has such an impact on other people and yourself. Overall, it’s difficult to feel like what you do in high school and at a young age matters, and I probably tried ‘too hard’ at times, but it’s all of the little things that add up to determine what college you’ll get into, what kind of friends you’ll make and what kind of person you become. Nice, hard-working people are ultimately the ones that succeed. Trying hard always pays off in one way or another.”

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Pioneering the New Advanced Placement Capstone Program

Education and learn concept: pixelated words knowledge is power

Simi Valley High School was selected to be one of about 400 schools across the country to trial the new Advanced Placement (AP) Capstone program.

The program “provides students with an opportunity to engage in rigorous scholarly practice of the core academic skills necessary for successful college completion,” according to the College Board, which manages all AP programs. https://lp.collegeboard.org/ap-capstone

Students taking AP classes earn college credit by passing nationally standardized tests in each of the AP classes they take. Students also receive 5, 4, 3 or 2 points associated with their Grade Point Average (GPA) for an A, B, C or D versus the 4, 3, 2, 1 GPA scale when taking a regular course. Because of this, many students taking multiple AP courses graduate with GPAs above 4.0.

Nationally, there are 37 AP classes offered across the major academic disciplines. Simi Valley High School offers 18 different AP classes, which is consistent with AP offerings at other high schools in the area. For a complete list of SVHS’ AP offerings, go to http://www.svhs.simi.k12.ca.us/APandHonors.

AP Capstone

In its pilot stage, AP Capstone has two purposes. First, it offers students interested in learning more about AP courses the chance to learn the skills and academic regimen required to take almost any rigorous academic course successfully. Second, it allows students who have taken several AP courses the ability to demonstrate their readiness for completing high-level college work by writing an advanced research paper.

Two courses make up AP Capstone: AP Seminar and AP Research. AP Seminar is designed to “complement and enhance the in-depth, discipline-specific study experienced in other AP courses,” according to the College Board. It focuses on independent research, detailed analysis of specific issues, collaborative teamwork and developing communication skills. Students will investigate real-world issues from different points of view, gather and analyze information from various sources to develop credible and valid evidence-based arguments.

In AP Research, students refine the skills learned in AP Seminar by conducting independent research in an area of the students’ own interest and by writing a 5,000-word research paper. Students who take three AP courses receive a certificate of completion for AP Capstone, and students who take more than three AP courses receive an AP Capstone diploma.

The Benefits

There are four major benefits for AP Capstone. First, students who have never taken an AP course will be well prepared to take additional AP classes by successfully completing AP Seminar. The primary difference between AP classes and regular classes is not the difficulty of the material, but the skills and discipline needed to cover the increased amount of material in an AP class. By completing the AP Seminar class, students should be ready to take AP level courses.

Second, students successfully completing three or more AP courses will prove their ability to do high-level college work to their prospective colleges. Also, because the AP Research report results in a 5,000 word mini-thesis, these students will have a tangible result that can help them get into a top-level school, a graduate program or land their first post-college job.

Third, AP Capstone students will learn what it means to think critically. The AP Seminar course is essentially a college-level course in critical thinking. The course has five units:

  • Question and Explore
  • Understand and Analyze Arguments
  • Evaluate Multiple Perspectives
  • Synthesize Ideas
  • Team, Transform, and Transmit

As students go through the units, they complete what the College Board considers to be a QUEST associated with learning how to think critically. Usually they do this by choosing their own topics, which leads to the final benefit.

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, the most motivated students will have the opportunity to explore topics they are most interested in and to take responsibility for a project from inception to completion. This helps to build self-confidence in their abilities as well as a real satisfaction in doing a job well done. This shouldn’t be underestimated. Students often say that they feel regimented in courses they’ve been forced to study, and that the material boring or irrelevant to their lives. AP Capstone will let them choose areas that interest them, which should lead to increased satisfaction in high school.

Who Is It For?

AP Capstone is great for:

  • College bound students interested in taking their first AP Class;
  • College bound students who plan a comprehensive AP program; and
  • Students in career pathways interested in doing their own in-depth career-related research.

Finally, AP Capstone has one unintended benefit. It fits beautifully into the increasing focus on Career Technical Education (CTE), which has gone way beyond its former focus on technical and trade-oriented careers. CTE today encompasses 15 different major career areas and, quite literally, hundreds of separate career pathways. The overwhelming majority of these pathways leads directly to college, not into a technical or trade training program. For more information on CTE, see our career website: SVHSPathways.com.

When Does It Start?

AP Capstone will start next fall with at least two sections. It will be taught by Loren Dacanay, who currently teaches Chemistry, and Stephen Caswell, who currently teaches Intro to Business, Business Law, Computer Applications and the freshman MAP class. The program is ideal for students interested in any academic discipline or career pathways.

-Our sincere thanks go to Stephen Caswell who wrote this article for us on AP Capstone. 

Hour of Code: Raising the Bar on 21st Century Skills

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Samantha Finch, an eighth grader at Hillside, makes Elsa skate in Disney’s coding game. The coding assignment is part of her math homework.

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.

Code-Org-Screenshot-Frozen-Anna

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.

Dad John Brinkman helps his son Theodore (in orange) and Josh Abugow, work their way through an Angry Birds coding game. Brinkman is a computer programmer. The boys are second graders at Wood Ranch Elementary, which held its Hour of Code on Dec. 8.
Dad John Brinkman helps his son Theodore (in orange) and Josh Abugow, work their way through an Angry Birds coding game. Brinkman is a computer programmer. The boys are second graders at Wood Ranch Elementary, which held its Hour of Code on Dec. 8.

“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.

Santa Susana High School to Lead the Way in California

 

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Congratulations go out to Santa Susana High School, which was named a Demonstration Site by the California Department of Education (CDE) this month.

As one of eight Demonstration Site schools in California focused on the Arts, Media and Entertainment (AME) industry for Career Technical Education, Santa Susana High School is eligible for up to $15,000 from the state to provide two demonstration days a year to visiting administrators interested in the AME programs. Santa Susana’s staff could also be called on to present information about its programs at regional and state conferences and support other schools interested in pursuing similar programs. These programs include the Design, Visual and Media Arts Pathway; Performing Arts Pathway; and Productions and Managerial Arts Pathways.

All of this establishes Santa Susana High School, a magnet school with an emphasis in the arts, academics and technology, as a state leader in Career Technical Education programs, which the CDE has given greater attention and more resources to in recent years.

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“After visiting your site it was evident that you have model programs in the Design, Visual and Media Arts Pathway, Performing Arts Pathway, as well as the Production and Managerial Arts Pathway,” wrote Jack Mitchell, a consultant with the CDE, in his notification letter to Principal Wendy Mayea.

Santa Susana High School’s innovative programs were developed from research-based models specific to high schools. The three smaller schools within Santa Susana–Academics, Technical Arts and Performing Arts–provide students with focused and unique learning opportunities culminating in program certifications.

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 on this page. We usually post District news one to three times a week. Any questions? Contact Jake Finch at jake.finch@simivalleyusd.org. Also follow us on Facebook by “liking” our page!

BOARD REPORT: Regular Board Meeting June 24, 2014

Education. School, teaching and educational concept blackboard.

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.

More New Positions Announced

Group student with notebook isolated.

The Simi Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees met in a special session on Tuesday, May 27 to discuss appointments of several additional administrative positions throughout the District. Coming out of closed session, Board President Rob Collins confirmed the following new hires. They will be formally confirmed at the June 3 Regular Board Meeting. 

  • Ron Todo, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services
  • Dr. Jason Peplinski, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services
  • Deborah Salgado, Director of Secondary Education
  • Kathy Roth, Director of Elementary Education
  • Keith Derrick, Principal of Royal High School
  • Jamie Snodgrass (Teacher on Special Assignment), Erin Taggart (teacher from Crestview Elementary) and Nora Kuntz (Dean of Students at Hillside Middle School) have all been named as elementary principals, but which school that are each assigned to has not yet been decided.

Mr. Derrick comes from the San Marino Unified School District where he serves as the principal of San Marino High School.

Congratulations!