District receives donation from CEF, moves toward new Service Center

Thursday’s school board meeting started with great news in the form of an oversized check.

Richard Chute, president of the Claremont Educational Foundation, used the prop to inform meeting attendees of the sizeable donation the nonprofit is giving to Claremont schools this year: $201,000.

The money will be used to fund technology and art and music education at local elementary schools as well as technology at El Roble Intermediate and Claremont and San Antonio High Schools.

Mr. Chute was quick to point out that the school board’s thanks were owed to last year’s CEF president Ken Corhan rather than to him, as the money was raised on Mr. Corhan’s watch. Mr. Chute was joined by Mr. Corhan and representatives like CEF secretary Nancy Treser Osgood—a candidate in the upcoming November 5 school board election—in heading to the front of the board room to acknowledge the board’s gratitude.

“It’s always a pleasure to have you here, check in hand or not,” joked board president Mary Caenepeel.

The Claremont Unified School District Board of Education next issued kudos to groups and individuals in the district who have been acknowledged by Sustainable Claremont for “exemplary work” in the area of sustainability. These include Oakmont Elementary School, whose Biomes Project includes the on-campus recreation of distinct California ecosystems such as desert, grassland and forest and the teaching of an associated curriculum. Sustainable Claremont also applauded Scripps College professor Nancy Neiman Auerbach, who oversees San Antonio High School’s Food Justice Program, as well as Sumner Elementary School for the success of their Earth Day commemoration last April.

Ron Mittino, Sustainable Claremont’s representatives to local schools, was pleased to present a special reward to Sumner School. While, as he noted, the organization’s $200 check was somewhat smaller than the one presented earlier by CEF, it will serve Sumner’s garden program well. 

Gardens also featured in the report by the board’s student representative from Claremont High School Alexa Ramirez. Alexa was pleased to note that Vista del Valle Elementary School’s pumpkin sale, featuring gourds harvested from the Vista garden, yielded nearly $400. The money will be used for Vista’s environmentally minded Green Team.

Next up were reports from the school site councils of Sycamore and Condit Elementary Schools, each of which presented their school’s Single Plan for Student Achievement (SPSA). An SPSA tracks a school’s progress towards goals set the previous year and outline its latest priorities.

Both teams expressed pride in their school’s achievements. Principal Amy Stanger of Sycamore Elementary School noted that Sycamore students are not only improving in their math performance. The range of student scores is also narrowing, she said, meaning there are less students performing at a below-proficiency level.

Sixth graders are showing 85 percent proficiency in language arts, meaning the school is sending students off to El Roble and beyond well-prepared for success. Sycamore is continuing its extra work with students facing challenging, including upping interventions for English learners from twice a week to four times a week.

Greater access to technology is paying great dividends, Ms. Stanger emphasized. Some 64 percent of students have a weekly opportunity to use iPads. While the devices offer plenty of opportunity for play, the kids are instead using them for innovative learning opportunities. Some students, for example, created a video to go along with a unit on wolves.

Condit principal Christine Malally and her team also had significant achievements to talk about, including an increase in the school’s Academic Performance Index score. Ms. Malally was also able to share how the school was successfully intervening with at-risk students. A cohort of students who were kindergarteners in 2007 was identified at being vulnerable to under-performing in the area of language arts. Thanks to Condit’s support staff, each of those students, now 6th graders, are proficient in reading.

In less heartwarming news, Condit’s school site council reported while their intervention programs for K-2 students is thriving, they are unable to undertake a similar campaign for struggling 3rd through 6th graders due to a lack of support staff.

Near the meeting’s conclusion, Lisa Shoemaker, assistant superintendent of business services, presented a timeline of the imminent relocation of CUSD’s Service Center to the southwest corner of the District Office parking lot. After the board voted to undertake a formal bid for the placement of a pre-fabricated building and all of the associated site improvements, she would expect the bidding process to begin in November. By December, she projected the district would bring the winning bidder to the board. And after a 5-month construction period, Service Center personnel will likely move to new quarters in late May.

—Sarah Torribio



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