Category Archives: Sinaloa Middle School

Three Simi Valley Schools Receive Top State Recognition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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Hillside Middle School: New Programs Come Together in Harmony

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School’s been in session more than a month, and students at Hillside Middle School are settled into classes. But things aren’t looking, or feeling, exactly the same as they did last year around the campus.

Music, always a prominent part of Hillside’s culture, has expanded to include the sounds of piano keys and string instruments. PE uniforms now include leotards as dance has been instituted at the school. The technology courses have grown to offer web design, programming and digital photography. Drama class brings with it the promise of a refurbished stage for future performances.

And then there are the students, more of them, drawn to the new programs and promise of preferred enrollment at Santa Susana High School, Simi’s well-known arts and technology magnet school. Altogether, the school’s enrollment has increased to 805 students this year. That’s 108 students more than last year, 20 of whom transferred into the district from other districts and others who have returned to Simi Valley Unified from private schools and home-schools.

It’s not just the classes that are new to Hillside. Principal Jerry Block left the ocean breezes of Malibu High School to usher in Hillside’s STEAM program. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art and math and helps define the school’s expanded focus.

It was the lure of the new programs that tempted Block to Simi Valley, he said.

“I’ve always believed in authentic hands-on education for kids,” he said. “I think kids learn best when they are passionate about their classes and can apply what they know. I knew Simi was looking at doing some innovative things, and this is closer to home for me.”

The programs at Hillside were inspired by the successful programs found at Santa Susana High School. With this partnership in place, students at Hillside will have preferred enrollment at Santa Susana High School. Staff at both campuses collaborate to ensure that the middle schoolers are well-prepared for the unique offerings at the high school.

Dr. Jason Peplinski, assistant superintendent of educational services, said that similar partnerships are being developed between Valley View Middle School/Simi Valley High School and Sinaloa Middle School/Royal High School in the near future.

“There are already developing partnerships with the STEM initiative between Valley View and Simi Valley High,” he said. Simi Valley High School has the Medical Health Careers Academy along with other specialized courses in health, science and technology.

At Royal High School, the Jr. ROTC, Ronald Reagan Citizen Scholar Institute and the newly formed International Baccalaureate programs all have the potential to form a middle school partnership with Sinaloa Middle School.

Hillside’s program changes answered the greater demand from parents for middle school opportunities, and Block said that this year’s changes are just the start. Other opportunities being developed include three-day science camps, a robotics club and expanded science courses. He said all of this has generated a lot of enthusiasm among students and staff.

“Staff keeps coming up with great ideas,” Block said. “They’re very anxious to see the programs grow.”

 

 

CHAMPS: Sinaloa’s Unique Approach to First Week Back

 

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Many things were the same at Sinaloa Middle School’s first day last Tuesday.

Parents navigated a crowded parking lot when dropping their kids off at school.

Teachers welcomed in new students to their classrooms.

And lessons were taught.

But not quite the same lessons as other schools dive into on the first day. At Sinaloa, for the second year, CHAMPS was the curriculum for the first day, and the rest of that week, for students.

“I wanted every kid to go home with the same first day of school experience,” said Assistant Principal Shanda Weaver.

CHAMPS is an educational program that teaches students how to be successful in school. The acronym CHAMPS stands for: Conversation, Help, Activity, Movement, Participation and Success.

CHAMPS is used in in all three Simi Valley middle schools, but how Sinaloa implements it is different. During the school’s first week–four days–the teachers teach CHAMPS. Each period, every grade receives the same lesson based on the CHAMPS curriculum. Students learned about study skills, school rules and what resources are available to help them with academics and other issues. All of this is done through guided exercises and games.

One example is the ice-breaker where students drew a colored stick from a bag and answer a specific question. Purple asks about your passions. Green is for your best character trait. Orange is your best book and so on.

Students were also taught the Sinaloa SABER Code. SABER stands for: Start each day with a positive attitude, Achieve, Believe, Endure, Respect and Succeed. And then there was THINK before you speak, where students are encouraged to build others up with their words, which should be Truthful, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary and Kind.

 

At the end of each day, an all-school rally was held where fun team-building games and events where hosted. On the first day, students and staff divided into teams and representatives came to the stage where they held a race to see who could empty a box of tissues, with only one hand, first. Then Principal Diana Janke was “anointed” as a champ herself, with a bucket of water.

Principal Diana Janke gets a little wet as her staff celebrate her coaching style.

Principal Diana Janke gets a little wet as her staff celebrate her coaching style.

Janke said that every year, almost two-thirds of her students are new to Sinaloa, which has 6th, 7th and 8th grades. She said that while teachers last year weren’t so sure about the change in what they normally handle during the first week, that she believes having the students really understand what’s expected of them, and also understanding the structure of the school, helped.

“It did make a difference,” she said. “Our suspension rates were down, a lot.”

She’s not sure if there is a direct measurable connection between using CHAMPS and the suspension rates, but she believes the students felt more focused and connected to their school.

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.