Saturday, August 29, 2009

Alvarado: 2007-2009 New Leadership & A New President

With some incoming students and staff from the Cabello closure, we now were a school of approximately 950 students. The former principal of Cabello, Tracie Noriega was our principal and Cheri Benafield was back as assistant principal for 2007-2008 and 2008-2009. Mrs. Noriega brought with her a group of supportive parents who started the Parent Teacher Club at Alvarado. We had not had a parent club for 18 years.

The kindergarten teachers and students now had all day kindergarten. Kindergarten students had previously been half day. This program was hugely successful with parents and was continued the following years.

Traci brought five teachers from Cabello to Alvarado. Two of those teachers Kimberly Pratt and Alisha Valine were connected to a NOAA science grant. Ms. Pratt wrote a B-WET grant "Bringing Science to Life for Students, Teachers and the Community" to provide watershed experiences for students, staff development for teachers and community awareness of our local neighborhood. In addition to classroom instruction on pollution awareness, tide pool organisms, research reporting, and marine mammals, whale-watching cruises were added as part of the curriculum. Science scores have gone up for students working with this grant. (Whale Watching with 5th Graders. Tri-City Voice. March 27, 2007)

Although our Superintendent, Dr. Jaurequi signed an extended contract until 2012, in the summer of 2008 she announced she was leaving New Haven. August 31, 2008 was her last day and Dave Pava, a long time New Haven principal, was Interim Superintendent.

Kari McVeigh

On December 1, 2008 Kari McVeigh came aboard as Superintendent of New Haven Unified School District. She also inherited a declining budget. In the summer of 2009 the California State Legislature made drastic cuts to the education budget. According to the TCV, McVeigh said the strategic plan, no matter how well crafted, is subject to change, but she would leave it in place with few changes. (Dynamism comes to New Haven. Tri-City Voice. Feb. 11, 2009) Since New Haven has great cultural and ethnic diversity, academic equity is an issue Ms. McVeigh plans to address. Not long after Kari McVeigh joined New Haven, Glynn Thompson, Chief Academic Officer, left the district. In June Wendy Gudalewicz was appointed by the Board of Education to serve as Chief Academic Officer of the New Haven Unified School District.

Wendy Gudalewicz

I cannot say anything about new leadership without mentioning our new President of the United States, Barack Obama. This election greatly affected the students. All students did not agree but all had an opinion. In my 17 years at this school, this was the first time the students became fully engaged in extensive conversations about elections and democracy because they were genuinely interested. "Just in Time Learning" took place for many students. Many but not all of our students were extremely excited about a person of color being inaugurated in 2009. It instilled in students the belief that all things really are possible in America.

2005-2008 Two Schools Close

Carmen Jorgenson continued as principal when Alvarado jumped into the "800 Club" in 2005-06, when the school had a 42-point gain from the previous year. (Rick La Plant. Elementary schools retain membership in '800 club. Tri-City Voice. Sept. 11, 2007.) This was a year of massive stress for the staff as it was well known that due to budget problems one elementary school in our area was going to be closed. We did not want it to be Alvarado. Carmen told us that she thought test scores might be a factor in the decision as to which school was closed. Therefore it was up to us to get the scores up. The scores for Alvarado went up and we were saved. Keep in mind that for many years Carmen had been a reading specialist, so teachers received any help they needed.

On September 19, 2006 the school board voted to close Cabello and Barnard White Middle School at the end of the school year. In 2006 - 2007 Carmen Jorgenson was still principle at AE. Now Wei Stevens was assistant principle. Mrs. Stevens was dedicated, supportive, and great with discipline. She and Carmen made a good consistent team. Using many different forems, Cabello parents and staff were made to understand that the district could not afford to keep that school open. However, it never really closed. It reopened as the Cabello Student Services Center which included a parent and a special education center as one of several programs at the "new" school. Not surprisingly, this caused some disgruntled feelings among some of the former staff and parents. At the end of 2007, Carmen retired as principal. The staff was sad to see her go but they understood the toll of being a principal.

Alvarado Now

Keith Guernsey Demos Document Camera

August 2008

Friday, August 28, 2009

2006-2010 New Literacy: Writers Workshop

All schools in New Haven have had various literacy programs aimed at increasing student success in reading and writing. We had Terry Johnson Strategies, California Literature Project, Rebecca Sitton Spelling, and McCracken Spelling Through Phonics. There have probably been others I am unable to recall. Most recently we had CELL and ExCeLL with two literacy coaches. While performing duties as literacy coaches, the teachers were also full time classroom teachers. According to the action plan of the Strategic Plan (1.11) New Haven was to develop a model for literacy instruction. The new literacy model adapted was Writers Workshop. However, according to Sally Kaneko this was not new for New Haven. It was used in the 1980s by teachers working on Developmentally Appropriate Practices (DAP). It was also research based but came out of the University of California.

In 2006 Cheri Benafield was named Literacy Specialist for the district. Glynn Thompson and Benafield's main thrust was to help the district reach a goal that 85 percent of all students will be proficient on state assessments by 2010. At that time the current achievement level was about 50 percent. (Rick La Plant. Promotions and changes in New Haven Unified. Tri-City Voice. Aug. 8. 2006)

The District began piloting Writing Workshop in some classrooms midway through the 2006-07 school year. According to Glynn Thompson, at that time, Chief Academic Officer of New Haven School District, "Writing is the highest and most rigorous competency in literacy". Writing Workshop is the foundational piece to the district's literacy plan. (Rick La Plant. New Haven Community Forum summary. Tri-City Voice. Oct 24, 2007.)

In Writing Workshop, a research-based approach from Columbia University, the teaching of writing happens daily and the focus is on authentic writing. The writing process is emphasized, published pieces are celebrated, and rubrics are used to promote consistency across grade levels, within each school and throughout the District.

Implemented in New Haven kindergarten, first- and second-grade classrooms in 2007-08, Writing Workshop was expanded to grades 3-5 in 2008-09. Alvarado became a full Title I school in 2007-2008. Due to the funding of being a full Title I school, Alvarado has been fortunate to have two full time Writing Workshop literacy coaches, Rachel Saucedo, and Colleen Paltrineri. Ms. Saucedo was a former classroom and ESL teacher and Mrs. Paltrineri was a former classroom teacher. They received extensive training within the district and at the Columbia University training center.

Staff meetings were now only twice a month and there were no more Wednesday mornings for trainings. Two full time literacy coaches who could go into the classrooms on a daily basis to teach Writers Workshop lessons to students was the most practical method for obtaining training for teachers. Teachers watch, learn, and then try the techniques on their own.

2004-2009 Memories, Photos, & Otis Amey

La Verne Sheu Chen
Some things that come to mind include Creanna and Lavontae discussing heaven and hell as 1st graders (It was pretty awesome.), Coach Simmons trying to teach kinders how to put on their flags for football, Keith Guernsey teaching the beginner's choir how to do the robot, happy hour at TGIF's on paydays, and crying in front of the 5th grade class when Faith played and sang a song on the piano for me on my last day at AES. Sigh... miss you guys!

Anna Calubiran
Besides our one in a million staff, one of my favorite things about being a teacher is that every new school year is a rebirth, a chance for all
of us (teachers and kids) to refocus, resolve and reinvent ourselves. It's so exciting to get to know each person and build a team.

Maureen Leus Tecson

Today just reminded me of what a great staff we have! So glad to be at aes...

Carmen Jorgenson Principal
Wei Stevens Assistant Principal
Click to picture to enlarge.

In 2005 Otis Amey visits Alvarado. At the time Fred Otis Amey was a wide receiver with the San Francisco 49ers. He was born in Union City and attended and played football at James Logan High School. His mother, Wynelle Amey, was a teacher's aide at Alvarado. She and coach Mark Simmons arranged the visit. As of 2009 Otis is in the Canadian Football League with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He was willing to spend some his time talking to the students about the importance of education and hard work. He was fantastic. The students had so much fun learning more about football and hearing him tell about his life. Otis Amey was a huge inspiration.

Otis Amey & Coach Mark Simmons

Otis shows the students how to throw a football.

Teachers and Otis
Click on the photos to enlarge.

2004-2008 New Buzz Words

Except for literacy coaches and PLC, most of the new buzz words came directly as a result of the strategic plan spearheaded by Dr. Jaurequi. Previously we had literacy coaches with CELL and ExLL and had PLC with Power Standards. Most of the staff did not fully understand the implications of strategic planning. After awhile we figured out the buzz words, were Strategic Plan, Action Plan, Writers Workshop, Literacy Coaches for Writers Workshop, Professional Learning Community commonly referred to as PLC, NWEA computer testing and Data Director.

Strategic Plan

The school board adopted a 5 year strategic plan for budgeting and decision making and published it in PDF format as Creating the Future. The plan included a mission statement and a set of objectives. The planners agreed on five strategies to meet their goals and subsequent action plans to meet the goals. Community members, teachers, principals were to meet at each school to devise action plans which would lead to the achievement of the goals.
OBJECTIVES of the Strategic Plan
• By 2010, at least 85 percent of all students will be proficient on the California state assessment and the achievement gap for all subgroups will be narrowed.
• All students will develop and consistently demonstrate the character attributes of a productive, responsible and successful citizen.
• Every student will meet graduation requirements or achieve their Individualized Education Plan (IEP) goals.

During the summer of 2008 members of the Alvarado staff, teachers and principals, parents, and students met with Glynn Thomson, Chief Academic Officer, to develop the strategic plan for Alvarado. During the following year members of the staff and students met to develop an action plan for Alvarado. The plan had to follow the guidelines of the original district strategic plan and Alvarado's own strategic plan. There were hundreds of hours spent on this after school and during the summer.

The district strategy that had most direct effect on instruction for Alvarado teachers and students was Strategy I.
We will assure effective implementation of the standards-based curriculum throughout the system and use assessment data to drive research-based instructional practices to ensure academic proficiency.
1.8 Implement the consistent use of the top 10 research-based instructional strategies as described in Classroom Instruction That Works by Robert Marzano, to improve student achievement and close the achievement gap.
1.11 Develop a model of literary instruction. (Writers Workshop)
1.12 Deliver and support New Haven’s model of literacy instruction.(Literacy Coaches)
1.18 Implement a system on ongoing collaboration between staff members that includes articulation of the K-5 curriculum. (PLC - Professional Learning Communities)
1.17 Integrate technology into the curriculum to improve/enhance instructional practices.
(NWEA Computer Testing and Data Director)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Staff photos or memories

Karen Saucedo Principal
Carmen Jorgenson Assistant Principal
Click on the photo to enlarge.

Carmen Jorgenson Principal
Cheri Benafield Assistant Principal
Click on the picture to enlarge.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

June 2004 Memories

ManYee Desandies Remembers Al Rivera
As I was walking towards his room, I saw all these teachers emerging from their rooms from the grass area and from the black top area, and it was like a migration... everyone coming out of their rooms and walking toward Al's room.
I remember being touched by the scene. Nobody talked. It was very quiet.
Al was sitting in his wheelchair by the open back of the U-Haul.
Almost all the teachers came out.
We all filed into his room wordlessly, grabbed a box, and took it to the U-Haul for Brian (Al's son) and one of his friends to load into the depths of the truck.
Most people made several trips, but because there were so many people, it got done fairly fast.
And when people walked past Al, they would quietly acknowledge him with a touch or a hug, like paying tribute to him.
He was a true icon of the Alvarado Family.

Click on the image to enlarge for easy reading.

2004-2005 The Dream Team

Carmen Jorgenson Cheri Benafield

After two years as assistant principal, Carmen Jorgenson moved up to principal. Cheri Benafield became our assistant principal. Carmen had been a teacher and reading specialist in New Haven for many years. There wasn't much she didn't know about literacy. Cheri had been our reading specialist the previous year. This was Cheri's first year as an assistant principal, but she was ready, willing, and eager to learn. She had a great mentor in Carmen. Between the two of them, they knew everything about teaching kids to read. Since the strategic plan's focus was on literacy, we were in luck.

They complemented each other so well. They worked like a well oiled machine. Also, they agreed on disciplinary procedures. They always told it like it was, were totally honest with the staff, and always had our back. We knew from the beginning we could count on them. They shared everything with each other. Often they would come in together and work on weekends. They trusted and respected the staff to do what they needed to do to get the job done. Schools rarely get people at the top who are so totally in sync. It didn't take long for us to figure out we had hit the jackpot. Soon they became known as The Dream Team.

2003-2005 Who's In and Who's Out

Dr. Patricia Jaurequi said, "I have had my eye on the prize of being a superintendent for 15 years."according to an interview recorded by the Tri City Voice on December 20th 2005. She officially came to the district on October 25th, 2004 after the previous superintendent, Ruth Mckenna, was 'forced' out of her last year. The union had a vote of no confidence. Ms. Mckenna had a contentious term due to her plans to close and raze the continuation high school, to implement reconfiguration and redistricting, and to convert James Logan High School into an college preparatory school. While the interviewing process was proceeding, assistant superintendent Susan Speakman was the Interim Superintendent expressing absolutely no interest in becoming superintendent.

Dr. Patricia Jaurequi

Dr. Jaurequi had experience with many district office positions such as curriculum and instruction, finance, facilities, business, personnel, staff development and professional learning. Unfortunately, she inherited a district with declining enrollment and No Child Left Behind, therefore, she had to deal with declining budgets which meant increasing class sizes, laying off teachers, closing schools, and finding ways to get those scores up by the year 2014, so every single student "performs on grade level" in every single subject.

Community good will had been stretched to the limit due to Jaurequi's predecessor. In 2005 the first strike in the school district's history was looming due to health care concerns and the burden put on teachers and staff to work on the Strategic Plan. The union adopted a work-to-rule policy on March 17 under which teachers would work only the hours for which they are paid. This prompted some educators to stop assigning homework which also riled up the community. At the last minute the strike was averted.

At Alvarado we also had some changes. Karen Saucedo, at the first staff meeting of 2004 told us she was leaving to become the Director of Special Education at the district office. It was a surprise, but her assistant principal, Carmen Jorgenson was going to be the principal. Cheri Benafield, our former reading specialist, was selected to be the assistant principal. Carmen had been the assistant principal the previous two years, so we tried to take it in stride. In 2003 Carmen was awarded Adminstrator of the Year. Plus we knew Karen had had a really tough year in 2003-2004, so we hoped for the best for her. Karen had faced the death of her best friend, her mother-in-law, and a deadly disease, cancer, for one of our beloved long time teachers, Al Rivera.

The staff was extremely saddened by Al's illness. He had been at Alvarado for 29 years. He was a stickler for detail. He was the only teacher who could and would read the prep schedule before school started and figure out the mistakes. A valuable skill for a school with four prep classes, music, PE, Science, and Media/Library. Al was a fan of the PBS's Reading Rainbow. His students watched the shows, and he made tapes. He left about 100 tapes which were placed in the challenge center. After he passed away, the challenge center was renamed the Al Rivera Challenge Center. Al made me laugh by giving me cartoons about librarians. He also knew I loved Cheez-its. Every once in a while at lunch time he would give me a small bag of Cheez-its. His wife, Bobbi, who also was a teacher, substituted for him for almost the entire year. On the last day of school, his son and daughter brought a U-Haul to clean out his room. Nancy Mumm, the school secretary, made an announcement on the PA system that if anyone had some time to spare, Al and Bobbi could use some help moving his stuff out. That's when we realized he was not coming back. Most of us trooped down to his room to help. Bobbi asked us if we wanted anything of Al's. I took Al's hockey stick. I kept it in my room until I retired, then I took it home. When I look at it, I am reminded of the heart and soul of a teacher.

Friday, August 21, 2009

2002 No Child Left Behind

No Child Left Behind is Federal Legislation aimed at standards-based education reform. Here is a simplified list of requirements for meeting the governments standards so that schools can receive federal funding.

Annual testing. By the 2005-06 school year, states must begin testing students in grades 3-8 annually in reading and mathematics. By 2007-08, they must also test students in science at least once.

Academic progress. States must bring all students up to the "proficient" level on state tests by the 2013-14 school year.

Report cards. Starting with the 2002-03 school year, states must furnish annual report cards showing a range of information, including student-achievement data broken down by subgroup.

Teacher qualifications. By the end of the 2005-06 school year, every teacher in core content areas working in a public school must be "highly qualified" in each subject he or she teaches.

Reading First. The act creates a new competitive-grant program called Reading First, funded at $1.02 billion in 2004, to help states and districts set up "scientific, research-based" reading programs for children in grades K-3 (with priority given to high-poverty areas).

Funding changes. Through an alteration in the Title I funding formula, the No Child Left Behind Act is expected to better target resources to school districts with high concentrations of poor children.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Librarians

New Haven has been one of very few school districts in California which supported and insisted on school libraries in all their schools including elementary schools. Melinda Steffans was the Alvarado Elementary librarian during the 1980's, then came Rhonda Neagle, Sharon Chambers, and in 2010 Alisha Valine. During much of this time the superintendent, Guy Emmanual, was an avid supporter of school libraries. Subsequent superintendents did not provide that support. School libraries must also have good technology support.

Here are the New Haven elementary superlibrarians from 2000 to 2009.

AE Graphic Novel Collection

New Haven District Librarians

New Haven Librarians 1991-2009

2000 - 2002 Power Standards

Karen Saucedo Principal
Holly Scroggins Assistant Principal
Click on the photo to enlarge.

Power Standards are a systematic method for prioritizing what students should know. The term “Power Standards” was coined by Dr. Douglas Reeves of the Center of Performance Assessment an international organization dedicated to improving student achievement. According to Dr. Robert Marzano (2001) the biggest impediment to implementing standards is the sheer number of standards.

Focusing on learning in a collaborative culture teachers were asked to meet with their grade levels and specialists with their colleagues to develop Power Standards. This collaborative culture was known as Professional Learning Communities or PLC. Teachers were required to meet at least two afternoons a week. Unlike some schools, Alvarado teachers always had a collaborative staff. Most grade levels had worked together for years, so required PLC meetings were unnecessary, but at these meetings there was a certain required protocal. Alvarado teachers spent many hours in PLC meetings and professional development days compiling their power standards. The media specialists also met to develop power standards.

Power Standards were to lead to the in-depth instruction of essential concepts. Reeves and Marzano discovered that 16 to 20 power standards per year for reading, writing, and speaking were the most effective. Power Standards are the subset of all the standards prioritized. All teachers must teach these and all students must learn these before leaving that grade level.

By Dr. Reeves definition, Power Standards are those standards that once mastered give the students the ability to use reasoning and thinking skills to learn and understand other curriculum objectives. However, Alvarado's individualized grade level power standards designed by the classroom teachers were never quite fully utilized in the classroom probably because in 2002 No Child Left Behind became the law and changed the focus of those in charge of education. NCLB changed what schools had to do to keep receiving federal funding, thus changing the landscape of education in the future. There was much to do to comply with NCLB.

However, Marzano's book is one of the action plans in the 5 year Strategic Plan, so the influence of Power Standards (as of this date 2009) still affect classroom instruction. In his book are ten instructional strategies that are most likely to improve student achievement across all content areas and across all grade levels, basically Power Standards. It's under the first strategy:
1.8 Implement the consistent use of the top 10 research-based instructional strategies as described in "Classroom Instruction That Works’’ by Robert Marzano, to improve student achievement and close the achievement gap.

2000 - 2003 New Principal & NCLB

In 2000 - 2001 Mike Guevara was principal and Susan Fivelstad was assistant principal. Susan had previously been our reading specialist. The following year Mike was assigned to go to the the newly built Delaine Eastin Elementary school. Susan retired. In Sept of 2001 Karen Saucedo joined us as our principal. Holly Scroggins who had taken Susan's place as the reading specialist was selected to be the new assistant principal. Cheri Benafield was now the reading specialist. Karen and Holly had many years of experience in education. Holly had been a classroom teacher, a science specialist, and a reading specialist at AE. Karen was a professional educator through and through. Coming from a middle school environment to elementary was a change. She was totally dedicated, had definite ideas of how things should be run, and was a whiz with the budget. She was woman with heart, grit, and was surprisingly a little shy. Holly and Karen made a good team as they were both well organized and hard workers. They were the Dynamic Duo.

On Jan 8, 2002 George Bush signed the No Child Left Behind bill which soon became known as "nicklebee". The Act requires states to develop assessments in basic skills to be given to all students in certain grades, if those states are to receive federal funding for schools. Sounds simple, but the people at the district office and principals now had to figure out the necessary processes to meet the challenge.

2002-2003 Staff
Karen Saucedo principal
Holly Scroggins assistant principal
Click on the photo to enlarge

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

1997-1998 Changes at the Helm

In November of 1997 Julia Strong-Yoho retired for health reasons. We could see it coming but it was still a shock as she had been our guide and supporter for so long. The assistant principal Michael Guevara became our principal. Susan Fivelstad, the Reading Specialist, became our Assistant Principal for the rest of the year. Susan was the district Team Leader of the Cal State Multiple Subject Program. The Multiple Subject Program helped to train 30 student teachers a year under the direction of Dr. Vickie Mui.

Mike was very different from Julia. Although they had one thing in common, both could be very charming. Julia had many years as a teacher and educator before becoming a principal. She had been in the district and worked with Mr. Emanuele so long she knew where all the bodies were buried, so to speak. Mike had about two years as a teacher before becoming an administrator, but he was very well liked by the assistant superintendent Ruth McKenna. Julia was very independent, confident, and never played favorites among the staff. She liked to have time to think about her decisions before she made them. Mike made quick decisions, was a fiery guy, and was quick to make friends with some of the staff. He also was a great party giver and made incredible salsa. It was an adjustment for us. The follow year Debbie Knoth became our assistant principal and helped guide us though the changes.

Debbie and I were roommates at a Road Ahead conference. I asked her why she wanted to be a principal. She said, "I want to make a difference for kids. As a teacher, I can only make a difference for 30 kids. As a principal, I can make a difference for hundreds of kids." In 1999 she became the principal of Searles Elementary School.

Important changes were also made at the district office. In 1998 Guy Emanuele retired as superintendent and named Ruth Ann McKenna as his successor. The school board agreed with his choice. She previously left New Haven School district for a three-year stint as chief deputy superintendent with the California Department of Education under the then Superintendent of Public Instruction, Delaine Eastin. Ms. McKenna spent 13 years with New Haven as a high school teacher and associate superintendent who engineered the success of Marching On, a musical sensation produced by the music teachers in New Haven.

Ruth Ann McKenna

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Amazing Art of WOW

Through the 1990's Cathy Hampton and ManYee Desandies continued to develop their internet portal for students. It was kid friendly. Cathy's daughter Julianne Hampton made the above as the initial drawing for the web page. The clouds were added for grade levels and specialized subjects on the hill. They were so kind to put a portal for the media center on the hill. All this was on their own time. They still taught their classes, but at home worked on technology for the students.

Ace was developed as a subject portal.

Samples of Covers of Mrs. Desandies Web Books

Mrs Desandies used the technology in her classroom constantly. Kids loved being in her class even those who at first were not that happy with being in school. Over the years her students made hundreds of books about the subjects they were studying. All were made with kids doing the work. As the 90's progressed many of the books were made on and for the web. Students were encouraged to go online and read the stories from their class and all the other classes she taught.

1997 - 1999 Moving on and Moving Down

The first full year of class size reduction in K-3 was 1997. Each teacher had 20 students. It was a dream come true. Prep teachers still had 30 kids. The triad teachers were happy to have their own classes. All the classrooms were occupied. We still had about 450 students. We just had many more teachers. However, our student population was soon to go up.

In 1997 the Synergy Media Retrieval System was installed in the hub room and each classroom. We had instant broadcast video in each room including the office for about six years, then it started falling apart. When the district lost the only two people who knew how to make it work school wide, Jay Hendee and the technician, Richard, that was the death knell. By 2009 Synergy was no longer was viable. The technology had changed 500% during that time span. It was old equipment that had not been updated.

After much debate with parents and students, in 1998 5th grade moved down from the middle school. It was quite a switch for them and us. Now we were a K-5 school with about 650 students and five more teachers. More portables were moved out to the grass area. Prep teachers did the “wheel” as an elective for the 5th graders. The media specialist started the AE television broadcast with each 5th grade class. The wheel only lasted one year. The system was too complicated for elementary students and their teachers to handle. It just didn’t work.

In 1998 began the Cell and Excell literacy training program for teachers. Laurie Koehler was the ExLL coach and Bee Medders was the CELL coach. ExLL was for 4th and 5th grade. CELL was for k-3. CELL stands for California Early Literacy Learning. The focus is on teaching reading and writing including content reading for the 4th and 5th grades. Teachers spent a lot of time on this training much of it during staff meetings. Much of their focus was on using read alouds in the classroom everyday and twice a day if possible. The buzz word now was "coaching" instead of trainers. The coaches went into classrooms and worked with teachers and students.

Leonore Sanchez

Jill Baer

We also had some office changes. In 1996 Nancy Mumm replaced Barbara Finnigan as a clerk III. Barbara went to the district office to work with Kathy Moniz. In 1998 Mike recruited Jill Baer from the district office to come to Alvarado when Leonore Sanchez retired. Leonore came to AE from Hillview Crest in 1984 with principal Hector Carabello. Jill worked with Mike at the district office and liked his jolly sense of humor.

Monday, August 17, 2009

1995 - 1996 A California Distinguished School & Class Size Reduction: the Triad Experience

In 1995 Alvarado became a California Distinguished School.

The Class Size Reduction program, was established in California in 1996 to improve education, especially in reading and mathematics, of children in kindergarten and grades one through three. At that time class sizes in grades k-3 were about 29 to 30 students. Students in those grades with class size reduction could have no more than 20 students. Smaller classes did not actually begin until the fall of 1997, but in the meantime Alvarado had to prepare to assimilate and train about 20 new teachers on our campus. Thus began the Triads.

In order to assimilate the new teachers coming in due to class size reduction, the district had to come up with a way to familiarize the new staff with the experienced teachers, the curriculum, and the students. We had about 20 new teachers coming in. They were fully qualified and had student teaching experience, but most were very inexperienced. A system was devised known as the triads. The triad was one new teacher with two experienced staff members. Half the time they worked in one room and half the time in another. There were a many unique personalities involved in this mix. Occasionally some of the mix exploded in anger or tears. Some of the new teachers did not fully understand their professional responsibilities, so it was up the mentor teacher to get them up to speed. The triads were complicated, but it got the job done.

Julia Strong-Yoho Principal
Michael Guevara Assistant Principal
Click on the photo to enlarge.

1993-1999: Grants! Grants! Grants!

This photo of Liz Marotta-Jordan was taken in 1996 when we went to Seattle for the Road Ahead Grant. We were there for two weeks of training during the summer. We were learning all we could in the daytime and playing with our computers half of the night. We went out for dinner and told the waitress while Liz was gone that it was her birthday. That is why Liz has that expression on her face. She was embarrassed because it was not her birthday. She was our team leader and took the fun in stride.

The years 1993-1999 were years of intense change. Teachers had a basic understanding of how to use the computers, but few computers in their classroom. In 1996 Cathaleen Hampton became the technology facilitator. We still had Wednesday mornings for training, but we needed computers. Around the middle of the decade a technology bond was passed to provide computers for the classrooms and a lab.

1993 Hewlett Packard Grant. We received about 20 Macintosh computers for the grant writers classrooms and the media center. We divided the computers up between us. Cathy Hampton, ManYee Desandies, Sharon Chambers wrote this grant. This was the foreshadowing of a long partnership of grant writing together.

Acceptance of the NFIE grant 1995-1997
Marilyn Johnson from NFIE
Jay Hendee and Belen Magers
Liz Marotta-Jordan

1995 - 1997 The Road Ahead Grant: Power Thinking in Science Through Technology
Funded by Microsoft and the National Foundation for the Improvement of Education. The participating teachers were Liz Jordan, kindergarten teacher; Sharon Chambers, media specialist; Mike Guevara, Vice Principal; Cathaleen Hampton, Computer Academy; Linda Harris, Partner from the Union City Library; Dr. Roger Hoyer, assistant superintendent; Belen Magers, teaching administrator; and Bernadette Muhlstein, science teacher.

This total value of this grant over the two year period was probably $350,000. It was an "in kind" grant. The grantees, Microsoft and NFIE provided training for the team and required a partnership between the district, the Union City library and the team. The district provided the computers in the lab, in the media center, and in classrooms. By the end of grant we had traveled for conferences or training to Seattle, Washington DC, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Burlington, Vermont.

The basic premise was to train teachers how to use the technology and build a Science Discovery Museum in a vacant classroom. Here students would record, analyze, and report on data from student-initiated experiments or from virtual field trips. Classes would visit once a week. An after school computer academy would produce publications to share information. By 1997 we had to complete the project.

The team went to Seattle for two weeks for 2 summers to get technology training along with 22 other schools. We saw what other schools were doing and learned web authoring, hyperstudio, video conferencing, internet as a tool, and practical strategies for continued grant writing. All expenses including substitute time were paid by the grantees. We did have to go to some conferences during school time. Microsoft filled our cafeteria with software. It was a huge amount of software. Most not usable for normal educational purposes, but good to use for experimental purposes.

The teacher training was highly successful. Teachers went from not a clue how to use their computers to embracing all we could teach them. We had and hour and a half of training every Wednesday morning for two years, plus after school users groups. However, by 1997 due to class size reduction we no longer had a place for the Discovery Center. There were no empty classrooms. We tried to set up the lab in the science room, but it just did not work. However, the afterschool Computer Academy was very successful. Cathy Hampton and Manyee Desandies did an amazing job. Although not officially part of the team, Manyee worked with us all the way even going to Seattle with us. Also our partnership with the Union City library was successful. The Union City Library received three computers from the district for their participation in the grant.

We learned a few things from this grant. One, you need a strong team leader who has a lot of time to devote to the grant. We had that in Liz Jordan. She was working half time which allowed her to spend the necessary time on the paperwork. Two, training for the trainers is key to success. Three, sustainability is not easy to accomplish in schools. Circumstances and support people change every year. Four, we learned how to present as a team at conferences with a little flair by adding props, photos, music, and power point. Five, use what you have when writing grants. The district was already prepared to stock the classrooms with computers and make a computer lab (technology bond), so basically the "in kind" part didn't really require extra financial input from the district. Guy Emanuele and Roger Hoyer at the district office did have to schmooze with the NFIE people and sign some paperwork, but it was fine with them. They were great at that.

1999 The Change of Course Grant: National Foundation for the Improvement of Education. Integrating Technology & the Curriculum through Peer Coaching.
Cathaleen Hampton was the team leader while also a full time teacher. The team members were Manyee Desandies, Sharon Chambers, and Debbie Knoth. This was basically a staff development grant. We went to Washington DC for training. NFIE also spent a lot of time reviewing the grant writing process.

1999 Open Gateways Grant, Sun Microsystems, Integrating Technology & the Curriculum through peer coaching. We received 30 Sun computers for the media center. The Sun people were supposed to train us. Unfortunately the trainers did not know how to use the system set up for schools. It ended with Sun cutbacks to personnel and little training for us. However, for 5 years these computers were used for internet access, so having the lab ended up being a very valuable asset for students to use during their media/library time.

1995-1996 Staff
Julia Strong-Yoho principal
Mike Guevara assistant principal
Click on the photo to enlarge

Sunday, August 16, 2009

1990's Memories & Photos

Sukhy Pannu Gill
When I was hired by Julia in the fall of 93...I had been sent two free tickets to see the Marching On show. I came from Sacramento with my best friend and was ssssoooooooooooooo impressed with what the music teachers from all the schools had produced. I couldn't wait to be a part of this my first memories.

Tammy Kafin
My first memory is the kindness the other 3rd grade teachers showed in welcoming me (and saved me a few times!) ManYee and Al especially. They took good care of me for many years.

Betty Silva
I remembered when Sharon Chambers talked me into dressing up as Clifford the Big Red Dog. ( Still not sure how you did that.) The plan was to go to the classrooms and promote reading week, but I was to get back to the media center before the recess bell rang and the kids came out to play. Well that plan fell a little short, and there I was in a HOT dog suit and surrounded by students who thought I was Clifford. Pulling my tail and trying to drag me all around. I was not able to see, because of the head of the dog. Vision was limited.. Like I said, still not sure how you talked me into that one. But it's a fond memory none the less.

Sharon Chambers
I forgot about that. I wore that suit also Betty. Yes it was soooo hot, so thanks getting me out of wearing it again.

Liz Jordan
Creating the science lab and the girls computer club through the Road Ahead grant were amazing times at Alvarado. Also the training (a 2 year training in Marin County) and work that Sally (Kaneko), Bee (Legaspi Medders) and I did with ECR (Early Childhood Resources) was wonderful because of the changes that were made within the whole district.(Cathy MacNamara from Cabello was also involved) We began DAP (Developmentally Appropriate Practices) workshops that were monthly and voluntary, but most teachers in k-2 attended regularly and contributed lesson ideas each month. This was in the late 1980 & early 90’s. These are some of my most memorable times at Alvarado. We had amazing staff members. I loved being a part of these exciting times in education

Julia Strong-Yoho Principal
Barbara Debarger Assistant Principal
Click on the pictures to enlarge.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

1990's: The Dot Com Revolution

The 1990's began the dot com revolution in Silicon Valley and in education. New Haven needed people with computer experience in education and business. When Rhonda Neagle left to become the media specialist at James Logan High School, Donna Uyemoto, the personnel director at New Haven, knew Alvarado needed someone to teach the teachers how to use the computers. Sharon Chambers remembers, "In August 1990, Jay Hendee, the district librarian, and Julia Strong looked at my portfolio, interviewed me, and hired me. I was thrilled, but terrified. A teacher told me, Rhonda Neagle, had big shoes. Good Luck trying to fill them. I was now the student's media teacher, manager of a very old 16000 volume library collection, and the technology facilitator."

"Fortunately for me the staff at Alvarado was amazingly supportive. The following year each teacher got their own computer for their classroom. It was on a cart. On Wednesday mornings we had training time until 10 am. No students came to school until 10:30 on Wednesdays. A set of classes were designated for each month in individual rooms for topics such as work processing, Kid Pix, and CD roms etc. Teachers rolled their cart to these rooms for instruction. I recruited teachers with computer experience to teach these classes. Marty Brown, ManYee Desandies, Cathy Hampton, Debbie Fryman all taught many classes. These teachers took charge and designed their own class work. After class each teacher rolled their cart back to their own class. This worked well because teachers had a choice as to what class they wanted. The other reason this worked was the AE staff was basically a really nice group of people. We also had technology training at staff meetings and I had a drop in after school users group where teachers could get help on anything related to technology."

We also had tremendous support from the district for technology. We had district meetings led by visionaries Jay Hendee and Roger Hoyer. These two were some of the first to realize the significance of the use of technology in education. Jay Hendee was the Head Librarian and Roger Hoyer was the director of Educational Technology. The librarian at James Login High School, Rhonda Neagle, also shared their vision. They went to conferences all over the United States to see how we could implement programs in New Haven. They were supported in this endeavor by our Superintendent, Guy Emmanual. The district meetings with teachers were not top down meetings. These were meetings in which everyone could discuss how to use programs and how best to teach the teachers and students to use the programs. As teachers our voices were heard. New Haven developed a reputation among California school districts as one of the leaders in educational technology. Due to the fact that all the district librarians were onboard with the vision, each school had a representative who would move students and teachers forward into the unknown but exciting future of educational technology. We had no idea how technology would look in twenty years, but we were game to do our best to learn how to use it with staff and students. You have to remember in 1990 most teachers did not even know how to use a computer, did not have one in their classroom, and some thought they were just a passing fancy. By 2011 technology went further than any of us could have ever imagined.

In 1995 some teachers were invited to a Summer Institute at Logan on using the internet. Liz Jordan and I developed Kids and Creeks an ecological website. Cathy Hampton and Manyee Desandies began to develop WOW. WOW or Wildcats on the Web was designed to be used by K-5 students. It was the first comprehensive internet website for students in New Haven. Now this website is no longer viable as the software used to develop it is no long available. Things change quickly in the technology world. The links cannot be revised and some of the sites have been cannibalized. However, if you look at WOW you can still see some of the ideas that were used. In 1999 a link for the media center was added.

Early 1990's: The Staff and BTSA

Alvarado was a k-4 school with about 400 students. Julia Strong-Yoho was the principal and Tess Melendez was the assistant principal. Tess was in the process of getting her doctorate, so after two years at AE she left to go to a principalship in another district. In 1993 Barbara Debarger replaced her as the new AP. Marge Slakey was the Resource Specialist. Bernadette Muhlestein was the Science Specialist. Susan Fivelstad was the Reading Specialist. Sharon Chambers was the Media Specialist. Mark Simmons was the P.E. teacher. Laurel Tanner was the music teacher. Barbara Murkland was the school psychologist. Bernadette Hawkins and Constance Reed were special education teachers. Constance was also a footbag or hacky sack champion. She would demonstrate her skills and try to teach the students how to do it. The students loved it. Sally Kaneko, a first grade teacher, was our expert on Early Childhood Development. She and partner, Bee Legaspi Medders, who joined her in 1991, went to Marin county for training.

There are two photos for some of the 1990's because we had a huge staff which included all the support staff such as aides, the school secretary, and custodian. In later years the classified staff members were not included in the photographs. Lenore Sanchez remained as the school secretary. Barbara Finnigan was a clerk III. Manual Perez was the long time school custodian. Grace Paniaquia worked part time in the health room.

BTSA stands for Beginning Teachers Support Association. BTSA has been instrumental in bringing in many great new teachers into Alvarado and the New Haven School District. These teachers student teach in our schools and learn from master teachers. Cathleen Hampton has been an active leader in BTSA since the inception and a long time master teacher. As of 2011 Mrs Hampton remains as the BTSA coordinator. According to Ms. Hampton, the first year of BTSA was 1993. It evolved out of the California New Teacher Project which Annette Iwamoto and Virginia Swihart (Lynne's Thomson's mom) were instrumental in developing it at the state level. All of it came from the fact that teachers were leaving the profession very quickly because of lack of support. The statistics were 50% left within the first 5 years. New Haven was one of the first BTSA projects in the state (I think there were only 10), so we were an original! For the next 20 years the BTSA program provided training after school for all new teachers in the district. This was a required training and very extensive which also involved some classroom visits by the project coordinator.

1992-1993 Staff
Julia Strong-Yoho Principal
Barbara Debarger Assistant Principal
Click on picture to enlarge.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Early 1990's Memories & Photos, AIDS Crises

Nancy Bordenave a kindergarten teacher:
We usually had 32-33 students in our class, but we had each other ( our partner teacher in the morning or afternoon) and a daily teacher aide and parent volunteers several days a week. Our students all spoke English, and we weren't teaching reading--just reading readiness. But we did have a sea of little faces to nurture and teach.

We had a terrible year during the construction of our new classrooms: dust, jackhammers, heavy equipment all day long, and half our playground fenced off. And no bathrooms,which meant we needed to walk the class to the "big kids' bathroom" and stand in line and try not to disturb the second grade classes near the bathrooms.

But the new classrooms are absolutely worth it! They're huge and cozy at the same time. We felt like the luckiest teachers to be at Alvarado Kdg.
I always felt the "Alvarado spirit" of pride and support for each other and inspiration from the ideas and hard work of all the faculty and staff. I loved being a part of our school.

Alvarado Staff 1992-1993
Julia Strong-Yoho Principal
Click on the images to enlarge

The AIDS Crises

From about 1985 to the 1990's the world was turned upside down from the AIDS crises and even schools were affected. Various famous individuals such as the movie star, Rock Hudson and nationally known tennis player, Arthur Ashe,  were infected with this disease and died. In the late 1980's a young student, not at AE, Ryan White, gained national attention from being infected with AIDS. He passed away in 1990. It was everywhere in newspapers, on TV and the radio. There was general panic thoughout the population of the United States. Young Ryan's house was almost burned down because people were so fearful of their own children contacting this disease. Teachers were not supposed to discuss AIDS with students. If a student asked about AIDS, we were supposed to tell them to go home and ask their parents. This was probably based on the initial idea that AIDS was only a sexually transmitted disease, a school hot potato.

We were told that we may have students who were HIV positive.  We were not told who the students were as this was confidential information. But we knew it was possible because we knew we had students who had been identified as crack babies and children of IV drug users, another source for the HIV virus. The administrators, school psychologist, resource teacher, and probably the child's classroom teacher knew the identity of those students, but others, such as prep teachers, aides, and certainly other parents or volunteers had no idea who had it and who did not. We were not allowed to discuss this issue with other teachers. We were also told that some students just entering the US through a third world country may carry a particularly dangerous version of Hepatitis B. Every school in New Haven School District had a workshop on the disposal of contaminated blood. Students frequently get bloody noses or are injured in some small way. This is quite common. All teachers were issued a fanny pack containing a plastic blood bag and rubber gloves for the disposal of band-aids and blood containing material. The fanny packs were to be worn when we were on a bus or yard duty. We had a blood bucket in the office to put any contaminated materials. We were told the Hepatitis virus could be activitated from dried blood as old as six months. If the blood becomes wet the virus would come alive. We were told to assume that all blood was contaminated. As teachers many were not sure we really believed the Hepatitis B story. I think most of us thought it really was because of AIDs as they later found out that people could get AIDS from blood transfusions. 

Late 1980's

Hector Caraballo retired and Julia Strong (Yoho) became the principal of Alvarado Elementary in 1989. Hector had been a strong principal who basically made most of the decisions. Julia had long experience in education. It was a change for the staff when Julia asked for input. The staff was used to Hector making the decisions without much input. Around 1985 Rhonda Neagle became the media specialist/librarian. Nancy Mumm was a volunteer parent and a noon supervisor. Betty Silva became aide in 1986. At that time there were 4 other aides. They were Diane Angelo, Irene Galvan, Elenore Yip, and Jackie Lomax.

Rhonda Neagle was hired by Hector Caraballo as the media specialist in 1987. According to Rhonda, Roger Hoyer, the technology director at the district office, and Guy decided to move the district in the direction of the dot com revolution and worked hard to make it happen from the mid-1980s on. Part of Rhonda's job was to help them do this. Teachers did not have computers in their room. The school had a few Commodore Pets and a few Apple IIgs in the staff room.

Rhonda recalls, "I first met Stephen Politzer at AE. He was a Curriculum Leader then (I think that's what they were called) and he taught me how to use the Commodore Pets that I had in the media center (two or three of them). He and I also ran the site Technology Team. The software titles that were available for the Macs were few and far between. I do remember Dazzle Draw and all of the MECC stuff though like Oregon Trail. Those were fun times."

Julia Strong-Yoho Principal
Tess Melendez Assistant Principal
Click on the photo to enlarge.

Early 1980's

Staff Photo 1980-1981
Hector Caraballo, Principal
Click on the photo to enlarge

Hector Caraballo was principal at Alvarado for much of the decade. Leonore Sanchez was the long time school secretary. In the middle 80's the office and the staff room were completely remodeled. Melinda Stephen was the librarian/media specialist prep teacher for the first part of the decade.

Liz Jordan joined the staff in 1984 as a science prep teacher. Liz recalls, "the Science preps began the year that I began in the district. There were 5 full time k-4 science teachers: Holly Scroggins, Linda Carey, Fenna Gatty, Mary Rodriques and me (I was at Alvarado and Decoto the first year). Steve Politzer and Steve Zapiain were part time science teachers that first year. Only Holly had formal science training, and Holly was the only one not hired back after the first year. Hector hired her to be a classroom teacher when he found out that she was not being rehired as a science teacher. The five full time science teachers created the entire k-4 science program that first year, working every weekend, attending workshops and creating hands-on lessons for every grade level. It was invigorating and very intense. Sometimes we did not have our own classrooms and had all of our materials in shopping carts, going from classroom to classroom each period!"

Staff Photo 1983-1984
Hector Caraballo, Principal
Click on the photo to enlarge

Staff photos or memories 1985-1986

Staff Photo 1985-1986
Hector Caraballo, Principal
Click on the photo to enlarge

Staff Photo 1984-1985
Hector Caraballo, Principal
Click on the picture to enlarge