CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR VENTURA COUNTY TEACHER OF THE YEAR!

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In a surprise ceremony today at Mountain View Elementary School in Simi Valley, teacher Jamie Reese was awarded the Ventura County Teacher of the Year by Ventura County Superintendent of Schools Stan Mantooth from the Ventura County Office of Education, and Simi Valley Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Jason Peplinski.

Ms. Reese teaches a Special Day Class for K-3 grade at Mountain View Elementary School, where she’s been since 2009. Her peers, and her principal, Jennifer Goldman, nominated her for her commitment to her students and their families, and for her unending support of her fellow teachers and staff. She is known around the District for her high level of technology knowledge and willingness to help and train other teachers and staff. She helped her co-workers at Mountain View Elementary create and maintain individual websites to better the flow of communication between the classrooms and families. She has mentored new teachers through the county’s programs, produces a districtwide monthly newsletter and is a Google Certified Educator, to name just a few of her efforts.

“As a site-based administrator, there is a part of me that wants to keep her right here on campus all of the time; however, that would be a tremendous disservice to the profession,” Ms. Goldman said. “Ms. Reese possesses unlimited potential to impact countless students by sharing her vision with teachers across the country.”

Students are the highest priority for Ms. Reese. She wrote, “When I think about my views on teaching, I keep coming back to the students. I believe that teaching should be student-centered, but what does that actually look like in a classroom…. I believe that by making my classroom more student centered, I am able to more frequently highlight the strengths of my students and as a direct result of that, students are excited about school and their self-esteem goes up.”

In the nomination application, one of Ms. Reese’s students said, “She makes me happy. She does things to make me laugh. She turns me into a burrito when I am mad. I can talk to her when something is bothering me. She teaches very good. She reads mindset stories to teach me not to give up.”

“We are incredibly proud of Ms. Reese and her commitment to her students, families and co-workers,” Dr. Peplinski said. “This is an amazing honor for her to receive. We are lucky to have such highly skilled and committed teachers, like Ms. Reese, in our classrooms. Her enthusiasm is contagious and she serves as a great model for other educators everywhere.”

Ms. Reese will go on to compete at the state level in 2017 for Teacher of the Year. This program has been in place since 1973 and this is the first SVUSD winner since 1977.

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.”

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s kind of wonderful,” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOARD REPORT: New Interim Superintendent Named-Special Meeting Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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!