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February 2016

Montebello Unified Empowers Communities Promotes Diversity through Education

glc photo

An expert in history and Latin-American studies galvanized participants at Montebello Unified School District’s second annual Global Learning Conference on February 20 to look past barriers that may prevent people from learning from each other.

“We are all teachers and learners,” California State University, Los Angeles professor Enrique Ochoa told an auditorium filled with students and adults during the program’s keynote address. “All too often we are separated in artificial ways – by our job title, our role in schools, by grade level, by our age and our roles in the family – when really we all need to be talking and learning from each other, as equals.”

Ochoa’s talk headlined the District’s innovative conference, designed to encourage the exploration of identity and diversity in the classroom and throughout the community. About 175 students and more than 175 administrators, teachers, staff and parents attended the Montebello High School event.

Presentations by professors and MUSD teachers in six sessions addressed identity in the classroom, student diversity through poetry, the unconstitutional deportation of Mexican Americans in the 1930s, Armenians in America, gender identity and sexuality, and how to pay for college as an undocumented student.

Ochoa, a professor of history and Latin-American Studies, sits on the District’s Ethnic Studies Committee, which is crafting an ethnic studies graduation requirement that will go into effect in 2016-17.

His address focused on how divisions within communities can influence education. At the core of education, he said, is self-discovery, community exploration, human connection and the ability to deep relationships through overcoming obstacles.

The conference, themed “Empowering Communities through Knowledge,” featured presentations by four MUSD teachers, among others. Dr. Carlos Avila of Schurr High School spoke about exploring identity in the American classroom. Dr. Edith Chen of California State University, Northridge discussed learning about student diversity through poetry.

Bell Gardens Elementary School teacher Leslie Hiatt teamed with Dr. Christine Valenciana, professor of elementary and bilingual education at California State University, Fullerton, to discuss the unconstitutional deportation of Mexican-Americans in the 1930s. They also spoke about a law inspired by Hiaitt’s class that requires a history of the deportation to be included in California textbooks.

Bell Gardens High School teachers Anne Cherchian and Elizabeth Kocharian talked about the Armenian community in America and Montebello. Sebastián Ochoa-Kaup of California State University, San Francisco led a workshop on understanding gender identities and sexuality.

Pedro Antonio Trujillo of Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights of Los Angeles, presented a workshop on how to pay for college as an undocumented student. Calvin Terrell of the National Teen Leadership Program inspired students to be warriors of change.

“I am so thrilled to continue strengthening this significant and pioneering movement within our District,” Superintendent Susanna Contreras Smith said. “By showcasing the unique fabric and history of Montebello Unified at this conference and throughout the school year, we are reminded to honor our past and our differences while promoting respect, education and community.”

MUSD, Teachers Association Team Up to Launch Parent-Teacher Workshop Series

Dice clattered on the cafeteria tables at Bell Gardens Elementary School as parents and students matched the numbers to corresponding characters and story plot lines. The parents created their own story from the details. The activity was featured in the first Montebello Unified Parent-Teacher Connection workshop held in December as part of a series of five workshops held throughout the school year.

Montebello Unified teachers, along with Gabriela Gonzalez, David Keys and Janice Shah who also coordinated and presented at the workshops, created resources and toolkits for parents to use at home while enhancing their understanding of the new rigorous California state standards.

“The practitioner-led workshops will guide parents through highly effective strategies and resources that they can use at home to support classroom learning,” presenter and first- and second-grade Montebello Gardens Elementary teacher Gabriela Gonzalez said

Parents have the opportunity to ask questions about activities and strategies presented at the workshops.

“We want to build strong ties with parents so that they feel comfortable asking their teachers questions both during and outside of the workshops,” Montebello District Parental Involvement Specialist Katie Navarro said. “This lets them become more familiar with activities while creating more parent involvement and support, which ultimately means a stronger educational foundation.”

Upcoming workshops will feature topics on math and literacy under the new state standards, including highly effective strategies, resources and activities that parents can learn and take home to practice at home with their children.

“The dedication of our teachers to create and lead workshops specifically for parents is an example of the strong community support within our District,” Superintendent of Schools Susanna Contreras Smith said. “I’m grateful to them and to our parents for investing in our students daily and through such innovative ways.”

The next workshop will be held on Wednesday, February 3 at Montebello Gardens Elementary from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

MUSD Superintendent’s Pathway Week to Kick Off February 9 at East Los Angeles College

2016 pathways flyer
As Montebello Unified forges ahead with its goal to enroll at least half of its students in cutting-edge pathways, the District will kick off its Superintendent’s Pathway Week beginning Tuesday, February 9. The inaugural event, hosted in partnership with East Los Angeles College (ELAC), launches the District’s week-long focus on college and career readiness.

Pathways Week also features the District’s sixth annual Pathways Choice Fair to be held at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA). The fair showcases MUSD’s 11 pathways that combine rigorous instruction with real-world practice -- ranging from engineering and environmental awareness to health sciences and culinary and creative arts.

MUSD Superintendent Susanna Contreras Smith and ELAC President Marvin Martinez will be featured speakers at the Feb. 9 event at ELAC’s Ingalls Auditorium. The educational leaders will be followed by pathway students who will give testimonials describing their experiences and the benefits of the program.

“Together with our educational, community and industry partners, we continue to target more students – consistently illustrating the impact and success of college and career programs at Montebello Unified,” Contreras Smith said. “I am very grateful to ELAC, Cal State LA and our devoted partners for their generous contributions this week and throughout the school year.”

Throughout the week, students – from kindergarten to high school seniors – will participate in grade-appropriate activities and lessons that encourage pathway awareness and college and career readiness.  Representatives from CSULA and ELAC will also set up information tables for students at the fair.

On Feb. 9, students will engage in pertinent lessons at their schools that prompt contemplation and consideration of college and career options. On Wednesday, February 10, students will wear gear from their favorite college; eighth-graders will wear pathways T-shirts at the Choice Fair at CSULA. On Thursday, February 11, students are encouraged to dress in the attire of their future careers.

For Pathway Innovation Day, to be held Friday, February 12, kindergartners and fifth-graders will decorate the doors of their classrooms with the theme “College and Career Readiness.” Students in grades six through 12 will design pathway T-shirts, posters and personal business cards.

“This event not only highlights our pathways, which offer early college credit, industry certification, internship and employment opportunities while satisfying college-admission requirements, it also exposes all students to college and career options within our District and beyond,” MUSD Director of Secondary Education Ayele Dodoo said.

Currently, there are 11 pathways at four MUSD high schools organized around eight industry sectors:


The Applied Technology Center (ATC):
            Architecture, Construction and Engineering (ACE)
            Culinary, Hospitality Education Fundamentals (CHEF)
            Health Sciences and Medical Technology
            Public and Legal Services (PALS)

Bell Gardens High School (BGHS):
            Culinary Hospitality Opportunities Pathway (CHOP)
            Globally Responsible Environmental Education Network (GREEN)
            Innovation, Child Development, Academia, Resources for 
            Family education (iCARE)

Montebello High School:
            Creative Arts Technology Schools (CATS)
            Development Resourceful Individuals who Value Education Now

Schurr High School:
            Engineering and Design
            Global Business and Logistics (GBL)


Each pathway delivers a comprehensive program of academic and technical resources that meet A-G requirements while providing rigorous academics, real-world technical skills, work-based learning and personalized support.

Pathways were implemented at MUSD in 2009 with a grant from the James Irvine Foundation through ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career Linked Learning.