Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Fine Fine School

Former principal Carmen Jorgenson reading
from A Fine, Fine School by Sharon Creech.

Death of Past Alvarado Principal

Jim Blood
Jim Blood former principal of Alvarado Elementary died at the age of 89 on March 30, 2014. He lived in Fremont since 1957. He taught in New Haven School District for 30 years. He retired from the district in 1980 where he was the principal from the 1960's to his retirement. Joan Logue, who worked with him, described him as a caring person who loved to visit with students and parents. He was married for 67 years and spent some of his retirement volunteering at various homeless shelters.

Monday, February 10, 2014

On Fire with Chromebrooks

Second grade students now have their Chromebooks. Teacher Maureen Tecson wanted to see if the students would be able to understand after she taught them how to use it...and they did. They used their How-to-writing and created a slide show using Google Presentation. They learned how to change fonts, choose a theme, change background colors, and choose transitions. Then they emailed her their work. These students are only 7 years old. There is fun and learning. Awesome teacher. Awesome students.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Family Literacy Night

Alvarado PTC hosts students, family, and teachers enjoying an evening of reading in a variety of formats. Exciting to be also using the new Chromebooks bought with funds from the district's Race to the Top grant.

Our New Chromebooks

 Photo's courtesy of Maureen Leus Tecson

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Pie in the Face for Jog-A-Thon

As a reward for meeting the goals of the fund raiser, students enjoy watching Marcus Lam, Principal, and Clinton Puckett, Vice Principal, get a pie in the face. The students actually exceeded their goal of $25,000. Make sure you watch the video all the way to the end as it really gets wild at the end. This video was prepared by the students in Mr. Guernseys 5th grade class.

Sadness At AE and All of New Haven

Sara Anderson and son William

Teachers at Alvarado were deeply saddened at the news of the death of 36 year old Sara Anderson on Oct 3rd, 2013. Sara was a well liked and respected primary teacher. She had taught at Searles and Hillview Crest. Her death was caused by a sudden brain aneurysm. Her only child, William, was only 7 weeks old at the time of her death. New Haven teachers are known for the hours spent in collaboration by grade level, since Mrs. Anderson had been in the district for 9 years, the faculties at every school are in mourning.  She leaves behind her firefighter husband, Edwin, and her infant son.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

New Leadership

Chief Academic Officer Dr. Arlando Smith and Chief Business Officer Akur Varadarajan were appointed Aug. 23, 2013, to serve as co-interim superintendents of the New Haven Unified School District

Dr. Arlando Smith
Dr. Smith, who became Chief Academic Officer in June 2012, is a former assistant professor of educational leadership and administration at San Jose State University, and also served as an adjunct professor of educational leadership and leadership development at St. Mary’s College. He previously taught at both John F. Kennedy University and the University of California, Santa Cruz, as well as at the New Teacher Center at UC-Santa Cruz and at Cal State-Fullerton. He earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Organizational Management at the University of La Verne in 2005.

Dr. Smith spent seven years as principal of Gunderson High School in San Jose and two years as principal of Graham Middle School in Mountain View before being named coordinator of academic improvement for the Gilroy Unified School District. He has served as a school reform facilitator for both West Ed and for the Stanford School Redesign Network.

Mr. Varadarajan became Chief Business Officer in April 2010 after three years as Assistant Superintendent of Business Services for the Salinas City Elementary School District.

A native of India, Mr. Varadarajan was educated at the University of Madras, with a masters degree in commerce. He started his career in New York City, working first for the Department of Finance and the Office of Management and Budget and later for the Board of Education. He came to the Bay Area in March 1997, joining the San Francisco Unified School District, where he spent seven years, the last three as Director of Purchasing. In September 2004, he joined the Ravenswood City School District as the Chief Business and Operating Officer.

Retired Alvarado Teachers Celebrate

In October 2013 nine former Alvarado teachers met to enjoy lunch and each other's company. The occasion was Liz McGuire's return to the bay area for a short visit. It was good to see old friends and catch up on everyone's lives.

 Margo Zanzinger, Bernadette Muhlstein, Paul Brewer, Liz McGuire, Nancy Bordenave,
Middle row:  Mary O'Connor, Rita Deselle,
First Row: Sharen Valles, Marty Brown

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Race to the Top

The New Haven Logo is about providing equity for students of all cultures, races, faiths, languages, and goals. According to local Union City historian, Timothy Swenson, this logo was designed in 1977 by an Alvarado student, Thomas Schumann. Thomas was paid $50 for this design. The video below shows how equity is defined in the goals of the Race to the Top grant.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Union City Education

Lisa Duncanson

Stephen Polizer
Lisa and Stephen discuss Race to the Top.
Race to the Top is a Federal Grant for 29 Million.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Moving On: End of School Year

Kari McVeigh

On June 5th, 2013 the New Haven School District superintendent, Kari McVeigh, resigned by taking early retirement. New Haven has begun hunting for a new superintendent. Miss McVeigh resigned after a dispute with the school board over their role regarding management decisions in the district. The final straw seemed to be the school board's failure to support McVeigh's recommendation for the principal of  Ceasar Chavez Middle School. This is a particularly difficult time to find a well qualified new superintendent due to the upcoming district changes regarding technology and curriculum. 

The Race to the Top Grant and Common Core Curriculum changes are both going to begin to be implemented in the new school year. This means changes in teacher's lesson plans and instruction. This means new trainings for all new school personnel.

At the end of this year students enjoy a fun day outdoors to celebrate moving on to new teachers and classes, new friends, and a new start of another school year.  Alvarado will be losing two outstanding teachers. Carolyn Labrie, a long time second grade teacher, and Sonia Wong, a teacher who has taught second, fourth, and fifth grade will be leaving. Mrs. Labrie is retiring. Miss Wong is making a career change. We wish them well and are grateful for all their hard work at Alvarado. 

Parents paint nails for kids and staff.

Clinton Pucket, Marcus Lam, Joe Fritgerald
Dave Trier, and Keith Guernsey had their 
nails painted.

Photos by Maureen Tecson

Friday, June 7, 2013

2013 Teacher Dance

Outstanding choreography by Maureen Tecson.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

AE Teacher of the Year

Nominations are made yearly by students, principals, teachers and administrators for the State Teacher of the Year awards. The staff at AE votes for the teacher they recognize has the ability to inspire children from all backgrounds and abilities and those that have the respect of colleagues, students, and parents. Each school nominates a teacher and then the district people choose one out of that group to represent the entire district. That person then goes to an Alameda County selection contest and one is chosen to represent the county. Out of all the winners of the county contests one person is chosen to be the State of California's teacher of the year. Out of the 50 states then one person is chosen to be the United States teacher of the year. This year Shauna Heaton a Special Day kindergarten teacher was chosen as Alvarado's teacher of the year. Shauna has one of the most comprehensive web sites I have ever seen for her parents. Nicolasa Gonzales was chosen as Alvarado's Classified person of the year.

Catherine Schoon, a longtime kindergarten teacher at Pioneer Elementary School, has been selected as the New Haven Unified School District’s Teacher of the Year. Robin Hernandez of the Educational Services Center was chosen as New Haven's classified Employee of the Year. For many years Robin has been the contact person for teachers to arrange and coordinate subs when teachers had to be absent.

School Libraries Are BACK

On Febuary 12th the school libraries went somewhat back to normal at Alvarado Elementary and in New Haven School District. Each school will have a full time librarian, but their job description has changed. Their official description was Library Media Specialist. Now they are called Library Media Technicians. The change of title is due to the Race to the Top grant. When the district applied for the grant, their intention was to have a full time Media Technician assigned at each school. However, the district did not get the full amount of money for which they applied. To make up for the gap the district changed the job title and description of the librarians and added to their duties.

Now librarians will not only teach most classes at every school, but almost all librarians will also be on the advisory technology committee of New Haven. Librarians are assigned or volunteer for technology committees to chart the technology course for the district. This alone is a very big commitment. They will also barcode all the books and textbooks and do all their own cataloging of books in their library. This adds considerably to the burden of elementary school librarians. In the past they taught classes and purchased books, but the district office had a library technician who did the barcoding and cataloging for all the elementary schools. New Haven no longer has a district library technician.

Librarians will continue to purchase books if funds are available for their own libraries. They will also be responsible for billing students for lost books, including textbooks, and weeding (deleting obsolete books), maintaining the high quality of books expected in a school library, and maintaining the physical surroundings parents and teachers desire for a pleasant learning environment for students. As of now, at some schools, some librarians will also be teaching physical education, while a colleague teaches some media classes. It is hoped at Alvarado the prep classes will be held for a grade level all at the same period for each of the preps, PE, music, science, and media. This way grade levels will be able to have professional collaboration time while their children are at their prep.

Paula Figdor is back at Pioneer as librarian. Ron Bragg is the Library Media Technician at Emanuele. Carolyn Vranjas is back at Kitayama, and Carol Engberg is now at Searles. Alvarado now has Donna Leaf as Library Media Technician. Hillview Crest does not have a permanently assigned Library Media Technician. The former librarian at Alvarado, Alisha Valine, is assigned to Ceasar Chavez. The staff and students thank Mrs. Valine for all her hard work at Alvarado.

Alisha Valine at Halloween

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Congratulations Tracie

It's been a big year of honors for Alvarado's principal, Tracie Noriega. She was honored by the Union City Human Relations Commission on Oct 24 with a 2012 Make a Difference in the Community Award for her commitment to the youth. She is the Athletic Director for the Christian Youth Organization and Principal of Alvarado Elementary School. Her accomplishments include Girls Basketball Coordinator for St. Anne CYO since 1997, Southern Alameda County CYO Girls Sports League Secretary since 2009, plus teacher and administrator for the New Haven Unified School District since 1996.

A lovely thank you to Mrs. Noriega from the students, staff, and teachers at each grade level.

On Jan 7th, 2012 Tracie announced to the staff that she will be leaving Alvarado on Jan. 28th.  According to Kari McVeigh, Tracie will be the Assessment Coordinator for New Haven School District's new grant program, Race to the Top, pending Board of Education approval.

Marcus Lam will be the new interim principal at AE. The Superintendent also announced that Lisa Metzinger, principal of Kitayama Elementary, will oversee grant programs at all schools.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Safety at AE and New Haven Schools

On Monday, Dec 17, 2012, New Haven spokesperson, Rick LaPlante, released a statement regarding student safety at all their schools. An online brochure on Helping your Child to Cope was revealed to help parents talk to their children after a school emergency. This is a response to a deadly incident in Connecticut during which 26 children and teachers were killed by an intruder in an elementary school.

Every parent as they watch their child leave for school in morning assumes they will be safe. New Haven has various drills in place for fire, earthquake, and intruders. Fire laws actually state how many fire drills a school must have during the school year. In California fire drills are to be conducted and recorded at least once a month for elementary and intermediate and twice a year for, secondary. All students, staff, and volunteer parents are required to leave the facility during the drill. Each class has an assigned spot where they are required to stand with their teacher until the emergency is over.

Different states have different natural disaster drills depending on the types of natural disasters occurring in the state. Kansas and Texas have tornado drills. California has Drop or Duck and Cover drills for earthquakes with reminders not to be by a window. Students are taught to cover their neck and close their eyes. After the shaking subsides then everyone goes outside in an orderly fashion. In California these are twice a year. In some schools there is an earthquake emergency supply of water in each room. 

A Code Red is initiated over the PA system when there is a possibility of violence on the campus. This is a Lock Down. Teachers lock the doors. No one is allowed in or out until given the all clear signal. In a dangerous situation sometimes students are locked down for a very long time. Teachers keep students away from windows and sometimes cover the windows. Specific staff members are assigned to check the bathrooms and bring everyone inside. I can remember a student who had to urinate, but there was no bathroom available. So the teacher found a private space and the child went in the waste paper basket. None of the other students even noticed.

During a non emergency situation, students sometimes need to go to the bathroom. This can also be a safety hazard as during class time, bathrooms are sometimes unsupervised. As a precaution teachers usually send young children two at a time to use the bathroom. The safety hazard can actually be an older student not necessarily an adult.

For all these situations, teachers have an emergency back pack with first aide supplies and Emergency cards for each child. Only parents, guardians, or adults listed on the emergency card are allowed to pick up their students. Parents should always be sure their emergency card is up to date.

Principals and staff are looking at ways to improve school safety. Some schools have safety gates on the fences surrounding the school. New Haven is in the process of adding more safety gates as soon as possible. Some schools have volunteer or visitor badges which indicate the individual checked in at the front office. Alvarado has a visitor sign in sheet, but I believe not badges. Some schools require the door to each classroom is locked after students are inside except during passing time. This seems like prison to me but maybe in some neighborhoods a necessity. At elementary schools there are so many resource personnel, parent volunteers, and even school board members visiting classrooms, this may affect the ability of schools to function well. Doors should be able to be locked from the inside with a key or code. At this time this is not possible for Alvarado. If a Code Red signal is given, the teacher has to go outside to lock the door. Parents should attend the school site council meetings to voice their concerns.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

RACE to the TOP Grant

New Haven’s School District will receive a federal Race to the Top grant of more than $29 million over the next four-and-a-half years, to personalize student learning, improve student achievement and educator effectiveness, close achievement gaps, and prepare all students to succeed in college and careers.

According to Rick LaPlante, Director of Parent and Community Relations, New Haven plans to hire literacy, assessment and math coaches for all schools to provide in-classroom coaching in personalized learning for literacy, math and use of assessments. Summer teacher institutes will be expanded for reading, literacy and mathematics. Smaller class sizes for high school English Learners will be created. The district will purchase more K-8 library books and classroom libraries of non-fiction books and is thinking about expanding the positions of library media teachers. A full time librarian in every school is important to improving student achievement.

New Haven also plans to purchase mini-computer tablets for every 6-12 grade student and for every two K-5 students, as well as tablets, laptops and document cameras for all teachers. Additional IT technicians, a data specialist and technology trainers will be hired. All of the new technology will be phased in with strong teacher professional development to ensure usage.

The New Haven Unified School District was 2nd in the nation of 16 finalists for this grant. The focus of this grant is to take full advantage of 21st century tools to prepare students for college and careers. It is interesting to note that the American Association of School Librarians entitled their standards as 21st Century Learning Standards.

This grant lasts for 4 and 1/2 years. The real question is sustainability. Once the grant is gone can New Haven sustain the personnel, equipment, print resources, and drive to keep this effort moving forward. Now that New Haven has the Grant, the education sharks (businesses), such as the Wireless Generation, will move in and try to sell the district testing and resources they may not need. Whoever is watching the $$$ is going to have to fight to maintain the district's integrity. However, I am not going to say give the money back. New Haven and all schools are in dire need of financial support. Districts have to do what they need to do and worry about sustainability later. Certainly when the money is gone, New Haven may need to get other grants to keep afloat unless the state of California is more forthcoming with money.

There is no question fulfilling the goals of this grant is going to be similar to Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. The  superintendent down to the principals, teachers, and resource staff are going to have to hang on for their life. Hopefully it will be fun and rewarding for the staff and especially the students.