Category Archives: Royal High School

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.”

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.”

 

Board Report: Some Management Changes Announced

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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.

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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Tracking Success at Royal High School’s Stadium

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Royal High School’s stadium proudly welcomes home games for the rest of the year with the opening of the new track and field.

Under construction for about six months–about two months longer than first scheduled to accommodate some project additions–the new synthetic turf field and new track were celebrated at a ribbon cutting ceremony Monday night by students, staff and parents. The ceremony was part of the Future Highlander Night that the school hosts every spring to introduce prospective students to the school’s athletic programs and honor the school’s senior athletes who have signed their Letters of Intent for college.

The $2 million project originally included only the replacement of the field’s turf and the resurfacing of the track. But because the project went out to competitive bid and came in with a price tag less than expected (about $1.85 million), the Simi Valley Unified School District School Board approved the addition of replacing the entire track as well, said Bond Manager Anthony Joseph.

Principal Keith Derrick, Director of Secondary Education Deborah Salgado and Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Dan Houghton all helped cut the ribbon for the new track on Monday. Salgado and Houghton were both former Royal principals.

Principal Keith Derrick, Director of Secondary Education Deborah Salgado and Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Dan Houghton all helped cut the ribbon for the new track on Monday. Salgado and Houghton were both former Royal principals.

“I think we saved several hundred thousand dollars by this bidding process,” Joseph said. “We just would not have had the money without this starting point.”

Competitive bids for the original project from five bidders ranged from $1.85 to $2.5 million, Joseph said.

The project’s money came from the Measure C4 Bond, which was passed by voters in 2004 and paid for facility and technology upgrades throughout the SVUSD. With most of the bond’s $145 million spent, this is likely the last large-scale project to be done on one site, though there are several remaining projects at various school sites scheduled for the near future.

The new Royal track under the rising moon Monday night.

The new Royal track under the rising moon Monday night.

Since the bond’s passage, every SVUSD campus has received facility improvements and technology upgrades. Bigger projects include the Performing Arts Building at Santa Susana High School, the stadiums at both Simi Valley and Royal high schools, extensive infrastructure improvements to utilities at all campuses, WiFi at every campus, the launch of the first phase of the District’s technology plan, which includes iPad and ChromeBook pilot programs, computer labs at all schools, new roofs, new air conditioning and heating units in aging campuses and much more.

“We’d like to thank all of you, as a community, for passing the bond that allowed us to do this project,” said Royal Principal Keith Derrick.

The Royal field project encountered delays from the addition of the new track and the discovery that the stadium’s lighting system needed to be relaid under the track and field, said Joseph, which pushed the completion date out about two months.

Back in October when the finishing touches were being done to the new Royal field.

Back in October when the finishing touches were being done to the new Royal field.

But on Monday, with the bright green turf and red track shining proudly under the setting sun, only praise could be heard for the project’s success.

“I firmly believe that our students deserve not only the best in instruction, but also in facilities,” said District Superintendent Jason Peplinski at Monday’s ceremony. “And we now have a field…that is worthy of our students’ talents and efforts.”

BOARD REPORT: New Superintendent Named; Trustees Sworn In

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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.

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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.

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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.

Giving Up Is Not An Option: Program Confronts Suicide With Students

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In Simi Valley this year alone about 50 teens will try to take their own life.

Two will succeed.

That’s a statistic that no one wants to experience in reality.

We know that our teens today face many formidable challenges and even the most stable family can find itself with a child who suffers so much they consider the ultimate action–taking their own life.

That’s why the Simi Valley Police Department and Student Support Services in the Simi Valley Unified School District have organized Suicide Prevention assemblies for all middle and high schools in the District.

The assemblies began last month at Valley View Middle School and continued this week at Hillside Middle School. Next week is Sinaloa Middle School’s turn and all of the high schools will have their assemblies scheduled after the Winter Break.

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Det. Dan Swanson of the SVPD investigates homicides. At Hillside on Thursday, Swanson delivered the same powerful message of turning despair into hope as class after class came to the cafeteria to hear his presentation.

“Let’s be blunt,” he told Chris Kuske’s and Matt Kingsbury’s 8th graders. “If you kill yourself, you just die. The consequence is that you will leave a blast radius in your family and friends and community and you won’t even know.”

The fix, he said, it to talk about your problems, even those too big to see an end to.

“Nobody ever fixes a problem in a secret society,” he said.

His message was aimed at kids who might have or might be considering suicide, as well as their friends who may know about someone who is thinking about suicide, or who show any of the warning signs.

When it came to the potential for someone to take their own life, he urged friends to not worry about breaking confidences or making someone mad. The bigger issue is to get help, and fast.

“Better a mad friend than a dead friend,” he said. “Don’t ever worry about giving up a friendship; worry about saving a life. Life comes first.”

Everyone has value, Swanson said, no matter what they’ve heard. People can be mean and life is difficult, but these are not excuses to give up trying, especially when it comes to getting help.

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“Getting help is brave,” he said.

Swanson also talked about self-harming–cutting and other behaviors. He showed graphic pictures of someone’s arm and another person’s thigh that were both permanently scarred by cutting.

“It fixes absolutely nothing,” he said. “Remember that you control your pain. Transferring it to another part of your body is not helping it.”

Students were encouraged to stay behind after each session and talk with a counselor or Swanson if they wished. Principal Jerry Block also had counselors in the school’s library during lunch on the days of the presentation so that students who were hesitant to approach counselors in front of their friends would have a more private option.

Block said about five students came the first day. And each session saw a handful of students stay behind to speak to someone.

Many of the kids were crying as they listened to Swanson speak. Some held hands with friends. All seemed to take the message seriously.

Swanson provided each student with a card to keep in a pocket or wallet. On it were many area resources that any student can reach out to get help, whether they know someone who us suffering or if they are suffering themselves.

“There are people out there who care,” he said. “Don’t you dare give up on yourself!”

Help.

 

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