The Site Council meets the first Thursday of the month in the Library at 3:30pm unless noted otherwise.
By Theresa Harrington Brandt, MDUSD Public Information Officer
The International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Ygnacio Valley High School in Concord provides a world-class education to juniors and seniors who want to challenge themselves by thinking critically and deeply about what they're learning, while exploring a range of subjects through a curriculum that prepares them well for college.
It is open to any student who attends Ygnacio Valley HS, including those who transfer to YVHS from other schools. Parents and guardians of 8th-graders throughout the District are invited to an Information Night about the YVHS IB program from 6-7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5th at Oak Grove Middle School, 2050 Minert Road in Concord, to find out about its unparalleled advantages as they consider the best path for their student's education.
YVHS offers the only IB College Preparatory Program in Contra Costa County, which has significant advantages over the Advanced Placement (AP) programs offered at other high schools. Students earn college credit by taking “IB Exams” that include projects – and they also get the same bump in their Grade Point Average as they would with AP courses.
The school provides the internationally recognized IB Diploma Programme – which includes core required courses and six subject areas - as well as the option for students to take selected IB courses if they are enrolled in other programs at the school such as career pathways. It emphasizes "learner profile" traits that are stressed in all IB programs throughout the world, including the Sequoia Elementary program in MDUSD. These traits include: inquiry, critical thinking, and communications skills; self-confidence, global mindfulness, and caring among students. Monte Gardens Elementary and Oak Grove Middle School are also piloting the curriculum as "candidate" IB schools.
Program Specialist Carissa Weintraub, who helped launch the program at the school, said the program not only helps students get into college, but it also prepares them to excel in their postsecondary education by giving them a taste of college-level work while they’re still in high school. She said the program hopes to expand to the point that every YVHS student takes at least one IB course before graduation and all teachers at the school are trained in IB teaching strategies that could benefit every student no matter what class they are taking. She encourages students from outside the YVHS attendance area to transfer to the school as freshmen and apply to the IB program early to ensure they are on track to complete it.
Students in the program said they appreciate the academic rigor of the courses and the guidance they get from their teachers, as well as the personal choices they get to make about the projects they pursue. For example, in the IB Visual Arts class, students compare and contrast the work of other artists, and also prepare their own art exhibitions while exploring concepts that interest them. Claire McKnight, an 18-year-old senior in her second year of the IB Diploma Programme, selected the theme "birds of prey in the natural world." She has sketched an eagle skeleton focused on line and texture using cross hatching and is comparing the work of Audubon artist John James with the work of Japanese artist Kawanabe Kyosai, looking at their cultural differences.
Luis Trinidad, a 17-year-old senior who transferred from Mt. Diablo HS, said he is taking IB courses part-time. "It challenges you more academically," he said. "You're with students who want to learn, who have the same mindset as you, to strengthen themselves academically." He is exploring the theme "invention and fantasy" in the art class and has sketched a hen wearing a hat riding a broom, a penguin on a hoverboard, a cat flying with a jet pack, and a UFO in the sky above a landscape. He is comparing the art of 17th Century artist Cornelis de Visscher with the more recent work of Luis Chan, noting how they both used their imaginations to distort reality.
And Josue Ramos, a 16-year-old junior who is taking IB courses part-time while also enrolled in the engineering pathway, said he enjoys the IB Psychology class and English and History classes because teachers connect what they are learning with their day-to-day lives. For example, he is learning how emotions can affect decision-making in his IB Psychology class.
Teacher William Kong said the curriculum is different from an AP course, which is geared toward passing the AP test. In IB, he said, students complete projects and they must reflect on and explain what they have learned. Their tests are graded by IB teachers throughout the world, who all use the same rubric. Last year, Kong said he graded tests from students from the Middle East. He said his goal is to "get kids to college and hope they come back to make the world a better place," based on a curriculum that "develops our kids into much more global thinkers." More information is here.
This week's MDUSD Friday Letter highlights:
- The International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Ygnacio Valley HS and an 8th grade parent information night on Tuesday,
- District news including Board Briefs and upcoming events including the Adult Education Arts & Crafts Sale on Saturday and the School Community Arts Survey is due Monday,
- School news: MDUSD Adult Special Education students participate in the BRIDGE - Department of Rehabilitation "We Can Work" Program;
- Student news: a former Concord HS student who died will be honored in the Rose Parade for his organ donation;
- Staff news: Ygnacio Valley HS engineering teacher Joseph Alvarico was inducted as a 2024 California Teacher of the Year at the California Department of Education;
- Community news: Light Up the Night Holiday event in Pleasant Hill on Saturday will feature the College Park HS Choir;
- And more!
You can read it here.
To remember the courageous, historic, and nation-changing “walk” of Ruby Bridges in November of 1960, and to promote healthy living, Silverwood Elementary held its first Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day on Friday, Nov. 17th. Silverwood was one of several District schools to participate in the national event, which is regularly held on Nov. 14th to commemorate the anniversary of the day 6-year-old Ruby Bridges became the first African American child to integrate schools when she walked into the formerly whites-only William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana. Schoolchildren around the country celebrate her accomplishment by walking to their own schools, reading books about Ruby Bridges and talking about ongoing efforts to fight racism and discrimination.
Organized by teachers Chiara Falcone and Shelly Harrison, Silverwood students who walked to school received Ruby Bridges flags, bracelets, stickers and backpacks. The idea for the walk-to-school event was generated by the Silverwood School Site Council when goals were being developed for the school's Single Plan for Student Achievement, said Principal Bruce Burns. The walk was held on Friday because the PTA had previously scheduled a Turkey Trot fundraiser on Dec. 14th. "The School Site Council provided funding for Silverwood to purchase a few dozen Ruby Bridges books for teachers and students to read and learn about Ruby's amazing and courageous story," Mr. Burns said, adding that teacher Terri Huston also developed "an incredible online resource for all staff, students, and parents, which includes virtual books and videos about Ruby Bridges."
Isabel Becerra and her 3rd grade daughter Joslyn were among the parents and students who participated in the walk. Joslyn said she enjoyed walking and she appreciated Ruby Bridges' courage. "She was brave in walking to the school when the white people were yelling at her," Joslyn said.
Ms. Falcone, who teaches 4th grade, said the school wanted to honor Ruby Bridges, who was a "courageous world-changer with integrity." Nicole Mora and her husband participated in the walk with their kindergarten twins. "It was great to see all the people doing this," she said. "The kids were excited. I think it's a great message."
Escorted by the Concord Police who blocked some roads from cars for the event, Mr. Burns estimated that about 200 students and 100 parents walked to school in recognition of and to celebrate the bravery and determination Ruby Bridges showed us more than 60 years ago. "I'm thrilled with the turnout, the excitement and the positive feedback," he said, adding that the school plans to continue this tradition next year.
Other District schools that participated in Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day included Fair Oaks Elementary, Gregory Gardens Elementary, Monte Gardens Elementary, Walnut Acres Elementary, Valle Verde Elementary, and Valley View MS.
This week's MDUSD Friday Letter highlights:
- Ruby Bridges Walk to School events at Silverwood Elementary and other schools,
- District news including our Homeless Outreach Program for Education (HOPE) holiday drive,
- School news including Mt. Diablo Adult Education's COVID/flu Vaccine Clinic was a success and Diwali celebrations at 4 elementary schools,
- Student news featuring College Now and Ygnacio Valley HS Education Academy students rated "exceptional" for Project Citizen presentations and High School string musicians perform in MDUSD Orchestra Festival,
- Alumni news about a College Park HS alum and water polo Olympian inducted into the Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame,
- Staff news including Food Services Director participates in APEC roundtable hosted by Canadian Prime Minister and social media shout-outs for our wonderful custodians, plus
- Community news highlighting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts in Pleasant Hill and "Giving Tuesday" campaigns to benefit MDUSD students
- And more!
You can read it here.
MDUSD, in partnership with Diablo Valley College (DVC), is offering students additional opportunities to earn early college credit this spring. The classes will be offered at Mt. Diablo High School, Ygnacio Valley High School, and Concord High School, but they are open to all high school students in the district.
The classes are below:
PH 130 -- Intro to Community & Public Health at Mt. Diablo High School
ECE 124 -- Child Development & Psychology at Ygnacio Valley High School
ArtDM 214 -- Intro to Graphic Design at Concord High School
CONST 114 -- Print Reading at Concord High School
MDUSD is holding workshops from November 27 to December 14 at Mt. Diablo High School, Ygnacio Valley High School and Concord High School to support students with enrolling at DVC and registering for the classes. There is a QR code on the attached flyer to sign up for these sessions.
This week's MDUSD Friday Letter highlights:
- Ygnacio Valley HS dedicates two benches in honor of six alumni who died in the Vietnam War,
- District news including no school Friday, November is California Runaway and Homeless Youth Prevention Month, Board approves arts plan and 2024-25 calendar, Tech teachers learn how to better engage students with Promethean panels, and Strandwood Elementary creates sand art for Diwali Indian holiday,
- School news featuring Northgate HS opens a new Wellness Center to help relieve stress and anxiety on campus,
- Student news spotlighting MDHS football running back Herschel Turner breaking a record as the team heads into the NCS playoffs on Friday,
- Staff recognition for CA Teacher of the Year Joseph Alvarico includes "rock star" profile on KTVU, kudos from the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco and a radio interview in the Philippines,
- Community news about Free Dental Care available in Walnut Creek on Dental Outreach Day - Nov. 18th,
- And more!
You can read it here.
Now that nearly every teacher in the District has received a high-tech "Promethean ActivPanel" to use in their classrooms, tech teachers from each site known as "Tech Integration Leaders," or TILS, are getting in-depth training on how to use all of the special features of the panels that they can share with others at their schools to better engage students in their learning.
On Nov. 7, about 45 tech leaders spent the day learning how to split their screens to show the work of several students at once, make a wolf appear to be in the room with them, create animations to liven up science lessons, and more! In between watching lessons, they got a chance to collaborate with each other and try out what they learned. Erin Vallejo, MDUSD's Educational Technology Coordinator, said the District wants to be sure teachers are using technology to supplement their curriculum, not just because it's fun. The District has hired two Promethean trainers to work with teachers all year to help them use the panels to their potential. "They were excited to know they could do much more than what they thought," said Promethean trainer Chantel Caldwell, explaining that the first hurdle is getting teachers to understand that these panels are much more than just TV screens or computer monitors.
Sequoia Elementary teacher Mona Ricard was awed by the lesson that showed them how to go online to search for a 3D wolf, then "place" it in the room with them. "That was the 'wow' factor," she said, adding that she also appreciated "flip charts" that could be downloaded and layered on the screen, with teachers able to show math questions, then the answers to their students. "It's already set up so you don't have to reinvent the wheel," she said, adding that she also appreciated lessons on Newton's Laws, computer coding, weather and NASA images with astronauts. "It's not just a toy," she said. "It's useful to integrate and make lessons more engaging." She also learned how to record video on her phone, then show it on her screen. "There's a lot it can do," she said. "It's not just an overhead (projector)."
Westwood Elementary teacher Marie La Rosa said has found that students are more involved in their learning when they are standing at the Promethean panel showing their work. "The thing I got most excited about was being able to have four different screens at the same time, so you could have students each solve a math problem their own way and talk about what they did." Vallejo said as teachers master how to use the panels, they can shift their focus from the hardware to the software that will enhance their curriculum instruction.
During an early Veterans Day Celebration on Thursday, Nov. 9th, Ygnacio Valley HS dedicated two memorial benches in honor of six alumni who died in the Vietnam War.
The alumni honored were:
Randall Bingham Choate (July 25, 1949 - August 3, 1968)
James Kevin Koehler (May 2, 1947 - June 11, 1967)
Daniel Lee McKechnie (November 24, 1947 – November 25, 1968)
Willard Edward Nelson (Oct. 16, 1948 - Jan. 30, 1968)
Ronnie Cardoza Pimentel (January 17, 1948 – September 1, 1968)
John Charles Sterling (June 15, 1949 – December 15, 1968).
Aluma Heidi Coffman Shearer (class of 1972) coordinated the dedication with Principal Jonathan Pike, who is an Army veteran and CA National Guard member. Details about Pike's military service are in a Friday Letter Staff Profile here.
Shearer read brief comments about each of the alumni and told current students they should enjoy their time in high school, which she considers the best years of her life.
Pike said after the ceremony that he wanted to honor Ygnacio Valley alumni who have served, similar to himself. "These ones didn't come home and they need to be recognized and not forgotten," he said. Since he has become principal, Pike said he has enjoyed connecting with alumni, who have been active in beautification projects at the school. "The Ygnacio Valley alumni have a lot of affinity with the school to come back, and I want to honor them," he said.
Dan Hartwig, the brother of James Kevin Koehler, told students that James died not long after his 20th birthday, just a few years after he had graduated from high school. Hartwig said afterward that he appreciated the memorial. "I think it's wonderful that Ygnacio Valley High School and the Mt. Diablo school district and Mr. Pike and Heidi have contributed not only these benches, but all the class benches," he said. "It's a tough time of year for my family thinking about how we haven't had James in our life for more than 50 years. But this is an honor and we're very proud." Below are photos and information about the alumni who were honored.