Skip to main content

June 2014

MUSD's Head Start Program to Receive Nearly $500,000 in Extra Federal Funding for 3 Additional Classes

The Head Start Program at the Montebello Unified School District recently received good news from the Office of Head Start, at the Administration for Children and Families under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For the next school year, MUSD will be receiving nearly $500,000 in federal funds to expand its Head Start program.

In addition to the second installment of its five-year federal grant to fund and administer the MUSD Head Start Program, the additional operating funds will be awarded to the District for the 2014-15 school year to add three classes to the program.

The added funds, which amount to $481,943, will be utilized to include three additional Head Start classes to the District's program, which currently runs 39 classes, and will offer enrollment to an additional 54 students. Now, 756 children will receive services in 42 classes at 11 elementary school sites in Bell Gardens, East Los Angeles, Montebello, Pico Rivera and Monterey Park. The second installment of the grant totals to about $7.4 million for the upcoming school year.

"We are very appreciative for the new infusion of funding for our Head Start program," said Aida Ramos, Assistant Director of Head Start/Early Learning. "Being among one of the first districts in Los Angeles County to receive federal funds to start this program last year, it is thrilling and rewarding to be able to grow our program to benefit more of our students."

After receiving the initial grant of $7.2 million last year, MUSD has had the opportunity to work directly with the Office of Head Start instead of the Los Angeles County Office of Education to provide comprehensive developmental services for low-income children who are pre-elementary school age. The shift to the federal level was based on new federal regulations and required MUSD to undergo a rigorous and competitive application process to qualify.

"We commend the Head Start team for their vision and effort in developing and sustaining the Head Start program at MUSD," said Superintendent of Education Susanna Contreras Smith. "In supporting the social, emotional, linguistic, physical and intellectual growth of our community's preschoolers, we are also emphasizing active learning and effective academic practices that will carry throughout their lives."

The Head Start program at MUSD is offered to low-income families who are recipients of CalWorks or meet federal low-income guidelines. Students must live in the MUSD attendance area and be four years old by Sept. 1 in order to qualify. However, some children who are three years old by Sept. 1 may also be considered.

In addition to the classroom experience, Head Start students also benefit from medical, dental and nutrition services. Families are also assisted with social services and mental health issues, as needed.


MUSD Partners with Nonprofit to Give Backpacks and School Supplies to Elementary Students

backpack giveaway

Students at Winter Gardens Elementary School became the first in the Montebello Unified School District to benefit from a backpack giveaway program sponsored by the District’s Police Department and the Friends of Safe Schools USA (FOSSUSA). 
The process began in April, when FOSSUSA representatives visited several of MUSD’s most underprivileged schools. After the visits, schools submitted applications for consideration in the giveaway program. Ultimately, Winter Gardens Elementary School was selected as the winning school.

Students at Winter Gardens were asked to compete in an art contest with the theme of school spirit. The winners of the art contest were invited to a special recognition ceremony with their families and members of the MUSD Police Department. Dozens of backpacks, filled with school supplies, were handed out to 24 of the most deserving students.

"Such a large number of students participated in the art contest to win the backpacks," said Helen Meltzer, Winter Gardens principal.  "We would like to thank everyone involved for their generous donations and for making this a special event for our students."

The backpacks and supplies were donated by Life Insurance Company of the Southwest. George Munoz, the company’s spokesperson, said he was thankful for the opportunity to partner with the MUSD Police Department and FOSSUSA. Company officials, he added, look forward to providing these much needed supplies to students throughout MUSD.

"The school police department continually works to build strong relationships with students, their families and the community," said MUSD Police Chief Linh Dinh. "Providing a safe learning environment allows students to focus on their studies and the backpacks and school supplies are tools for their success."

FOSSUA is a non-profit organization that supports the efforts of safety and education in helping to raise healthy and happy children across the United States. Providing school supplies to underrepresented or underprivileged school district is one of the many charity projects undertaken by FOSSUSA.

"We are especially grateful for FOSSUSA and the MUSD PD for working to make this generous donation possible," said Superintendent of Schools Cleve Pell. "Since the need is so great, the backpack donation program will continue in the fall when a new round of applications will be accepted."


MUSD CHEF Pathway Culminates Year with 'Great Outdoors' Event

A Fusion of White House Initiatives, Event Encourages Healthier & Active Lives for MUSD Families


Students of the Culinary Hospitality Educational Fundamentals (CHEF) pathway at Montebello's Applied Technology Center (ATC) culminated their year-long exploration of cooking, event planning and life-impacting experiences by hosting the Great Outdoors Community Event, a community-wide healthy eating and healthy activity fair at ATC on Saturday, June 21.

As part of the pathway's English and event management curriculum, CHEF students planned and participated in several events this year that provided students with hands-on, real-world exposure to life in the culinary and event management industry. The event offered students, parents and community members a chance to learn more about local groups, organizations, and community resources that serve to promote a healthy lifestyle to members of the Montebello Unified School District.

The fair, which incorporated the White House's Great Outdoors Month and First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move!" initiative to promote physical activity in youngsters, also sought to bring community awareness to the long-term benefits of healthy lifestyle and food choices.

"Students have read Michael Pollan's 'In Defense of Food' this year, which argues for a healthier eating style, stressing eating real and not processed food, smaller portions and an emphasis on more fruits and vegetables, especially leafy ones," said ATC teacher Ryan Rice. "In educating students on how making conscious, informed food choices about quantities and types of food we consume impact our own and our families’ health, we hope students can then teach their loved ones how to live healthier, more active lives as well."

In addition to the informational booths, students also led activities and demonstrations promoting health, including dancing and Zumba. Exhibitors include Heart of Compassion, Flame Broiler, Anthony Antonucci,

Herbs of Mexico, American Cancer Society and the CHEF Pathway. Partners also include Flame Broiler, Montebello Parks and Recreation Department, and Chipotle.

"When students are healthy and practicing an active way of life, academic performance improves," said MUSD Superintendent of Education Susanna Contreras Smith. "This event gives our students and their families direct access to community resources that will improve their well-being today and in the future. We are very proud of our students for bringing the community together in the name of health."

MUSD Celebrates Graduates with Commencement Ceremonies Nearly 2,000 MUSD Graduates Received their High School Diploma

mhs grads 2014

After a year of classes, exams, college applications, afterschool commitments and senior festivities, 1,972 graduates from Montebello Unified's three comprehensive high schools bid their final farewell to high school days. Graduates from Bell Gardens, Montebello and Schurr high schools lined up on Thursday, June 19 to celebrate commencement in front of parents, friends, family, teachers and school officials.

Holding its ceremony at the East Los Angeles College-Weingard Stadium, Bell Gardens High School graduated 643 students. Noel Esparza Duran, the class valedictorian, who graduated with a 4.37 GPA is attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the fall. He is planning to major in aerospace engineering.

Elena Chavez, salutatorian at Bell Gardens High with a graduating GPA of 4.33, is attending University of Colorado at Boulder, and will be majoring in environmental engineering. She is a scholarship recipient in the amount of $180,000, awarded from the Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps program.

Montebello High School graduated 672 seniors at Heaman Field. Valedictorian Taylor Marie Chavez, who graduated with a 4.46 GPA, is attending Stanford in the fall. Salutatorian Harutan Davtyan will be attending the University of California, Los Angeles in the fall and graduated with a 4.29 GPA.

This year's commencement at Schurr High School included 663 graduates. Wendy Trieu, valedictorian, is graduating with a 4.41 GPA and will be attending MIT. Jimmy Chen, attending Yale University, is this year's salutatorian. He graduated with a 4.43 GPA.

"Commencement is such a milestone and we are so proud of the accomplishments our students have achieved to get here," said MUSD Superintendent of Schools Cleve Pell. "We are committed to ensuring our students are college and career-ready. I trust that each graduate will make Montebello Unified proud."

MUSD College Preparedness Program Sees Nearly All Participants Head to College

In a time of graduations and congratulations, College Bound Today (CBT), a college preparedness program within Montebello Unified, has something special to celebrate as well: 120 of its 121 graduates are headed to college in the fall. Of those students, 108 will be attending a four-year institution.

The partnership -- founded by Dan Clement, a retired litigator, and Todd Clark, a former educator, together with MUSD officials -- is unique and specific to Montebello Unified. It operates collaboratively by incorporating high school principals and staff, community members and volunteers, as well as students and parents in the ultimate goal of getting all students participating accepted into college.

CBT, entirely free for students, works with principals and personnel from all four MUSD high schools to recruit 10th-grade students who have a GPA of at least 3.0. Many students enrolled in the program are first generation college goers who come from low income families.

Once enrolled in the five-semester program, a student is assigned to a team with nine other student peers and three volunteer mentors, many of whom work as teachers, attorneys, doctors, engineers, bankers or business owners in their day job. The teams meet at school sites on Saturday mornings, four times each semester throughout the school year. Many of these mentors are bilingual and are able communicate with parents whose English is limited.

Involving parents is a major component of CBT and begins with two events: a meeting at the high school campus and a field trip to California State University, Los Angeles for an informational session and tour, both alongside their students. For many parents and their students, this experience is their first real introduction to collegiate life. Additionally, parents can attend a panel discussion, featuring parents of past CBT graduates, where they can learn about their students' upcoming transition.

"The goal here is to not only educate the students on the advantages and opportunities of post-secondary education, but to also educate their parents on how they can best assist their student in the transition from high school to college," said Clement, CBT co-founder. "By bringing their families into the fold, students have a higher chance of gaining admission to college."

Throughout the course of the program, students travel to 10 other colleges and universities throughout Southern California; obtain mentor support with the college and financial aid application process, which includes creating a customized list of colleges for each student and assistance with drafting personal statements; participate in peer learning; and receive 30-hours of SAT prep.

"For many of these students and their families, CBT is a crucial step in the process of moving from high school to college as it caters specifically to the Montebello Unified community," said MUSD Superintendent of Schools Cleve Pell. "We work hard to ensure that as a District, we implement effective and innovative partnerships that educate and enrich the lives of our all of our students; CBT couldn't be a more fitting example."

Since its inception, CBT has graduated 384 students, with all but three going on to college. The goal, says co-founder Dan Clement, is to increase the number of students involved, especially those coming from low-income families, and to get more participants straight into a 4-year university.

"One of the elements that makes CBT so unique is how effective and cohesive this program truly is for our students -- virtually all CBT participants apply, get accepted and attend college," said MUSD Superintendent of Education Susanna Contreras-Smith. "We applaud and sincerely thank each one of the CBT co-founders, all of the volunteer mentors and MUSD staff involved, and the families and parents of our CBT graduates for their commitment to our students as they pursue their academic potential."

Zeyla Zazueta, a Schurr High School alumna and the first CBT student to graduate from college, says the program contributed greatly to helping her achieve her educational dreams. She recently graduated from Mount St. Mary's College in Los Angeles in three years, and will attend USC in the fall to pursue a masters degree in social work.

"The College Bound Program at Schurr High School was a great help getting me to where I am right now," Zazueta said. "I can't believe how much I have accomplished."

Montebello Unified Students Harvest and Sell School Garden Produce at 2nd Farmers Market & Car Show of the Year

farmers marketAs part of the Montebello Unified School District's effort to educate and promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle within the school community, MUSD garden club students gathered at the second Farmers Market on Saturday, June 14 to sell organic produce to their families, neighbors, friends, fellow students and those who are interested in purchasing affordable, local and organic fruits, vegetables and herbs.

More than 500 students from across MUSD, who are active garden club members at 10 schools, worked with their advisers this season to sell their harvests at the event held at Bell Gardens Intermediate School (BGI). The Farmers Market also featured a car show held in collaboration with the Originals Car Club of East Los Angeles, which showcased beautiful vintage cars from the 1930s to the 1970s.

Students in the club are equipped with knowledge regarding nutritional food choices, water conservation, at-home gardening tips and are taught about ingredients and how to read food labels. Additionally, students are able to take home whatever they plant and harvest during the school year.

Students sold tomatoes, celery, sugar peas, onions and a variety leafy greens, fruits and herbs, as well as organic cleaning supplies. Other student organizations from across the District brought items and wares to sell as well. Profits from sales at the Farmers Market went directly back into the individual clubs.

Participating schools included Garfield, Wilcox, Bell Gardens, Cesar Chavez, Suva, Winter Gardens elementary schools, and Bell Gardens, Suva, Macy intermediate schools and Bell Gardens High School.

"We strive to provide rigorous academic instruction coupled with educational opportunities that support long-term well-being and growth," said MUSD Superintendent of Schools Cleve Pell. "The MUSD Farmers Market is an on-going reminder that our students are actively working in their best interest and with the whole of the community in mind, as well."

The District is also collaborating with program directors and advisers, as well as Nutrition Services, to possibly incorporate garden club items in school cafeterias.

The event also featured free health and wellness services by Family Health Care Centers of Greater Los Angeles, compost recycling demonstrations were conducted by Athens Services and planting demonstrations were provided by Home Depot. Entertainment was provided by the BGI Generation Dance Team.

Montebello Unified Celebrates 15 Years of AVID Success

Event Showcases Skills and Support Program Developed to Close the Achievement Gap


With the theme of "Fulfilling College Dreams," the Montebello Unified School District's Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program showcased its 15 years of success in Montebello with a special event on Monday, June 9.

The event featured a special guest appearance by Dr. Arturo Delgado, Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools, as well as a gallery walk exhibition of students' work. Administrators, teachers, AVID coordinators and students attended the two-hour event, held at the Montebello Teachers Association Conference Center in Montebello.

The MUSD AVID program targets students in the academic middle who have the personal drive to achieve their dream of going to college, but are falling short in reaching their potential. By taking an AVID course, students learn organizational and study skills, get academic help from peers and college tutors and participate in enrichment and motivational activities that keep college an attainable goal. The curriculum is based on rigorous standards developed by middle and high school teachers in collaboration with college professors.

"This program really highlights the creative and effective ways in which MUSD remains committed to raising student achievement," said Susanna Contreras Smith, Superintendent of Education. "We truly appreciate and thank each administrator and teacher involved in this program, and congratulate each AVID student for their academic success this year."

AVID's mission is to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society. AVID is at work in over 4,000 schools in 45 states and 15 countries.

Montebello Unified School District/East Los Angeles College Initiative Receives $6 Million in California Career Pathways Grant Fund

In a first of its kind effort in the Montebello community, the Montebello Unified School District, in partnership with East Los Angeles College, has been awarded a $6 million grant in order to coordinate regional resources to develop educational pipelines in high-skilled industries that will allow students to excel, while boosting the regional economy.

MUSD has been a strong proponent and practitioner of Linked Learning, which connects strong academics with real-world experience in a wide range of fields, including engineering, culinary arts and health sciences.  Pathways that link learning with student interests and career preparation lead to higher graduation rates, increased college enrollments, and higher earning potential.

The grant is part of a statewide effort to support Linked Learning. Assembly Bill 86, which was signed by Governor Edmund G. Brown last year, invested $250 million into the California Career Pathways Trust (CCPT), which funds the building of systemic partnerships between K-12 schools, community colleges and regional employers, while integrating rigorous academics with engagement in real-world professions.

"As a District, we have developed many meaningful and collaborative partnerships with local businesses, community leaders, stakeholders and colleges to provide work-based learning opportunities for our students that foster long-term and high-quality education," said Susanna Contreras Smith, Superintendent of Education. "This grant allows us to deepen these alliances, while forging new ones, as we strive to prepare each student for the next step in their academic and  professional lives."      
The grant, which is a joint effort with East Los Angeles College (ELAC), a long-time MUSD partner, will achieve three overarching outcomes for MUSD: institutionalize work-based learning through the support of workforce investment boards, local advisory boards and deputy sector navigators; create a seamless transition for students to participate in dual enrollment and articulation programs to enhance college success; and strengthen the regional economy by focusing on pathways that contribute to the health of the local economy.

"ELAC is dedicated to working with MUSD to continue building partnerships that have and continue to benefit students," said ELAC President Marvin Martinez.  "With this grant, we look forward to strengthening those partnerships and building additional ones both locally and regionally."

"Education and employers must work together," said Paul De La Cerda, ELAC’s Dean of Economic & Workforce Development and Career Technical Education.  "Our work will continue to ensure that young people are well prepared for college and careers in high-demand and high-wage fields and our programs align with workforce needs, which is critical for student success and economic growth."

The targeted pathways that will be funded by the CCPT are those aligned with high-need, high-growth or emerging regional economic sectors.  Utilizing a labor market analysis, student career interest, and local employer skill requirements, the chosen MUSD and ELAC pathways that will be supported by the grant include: Architecture, Construction and Engineering; Engineering & Design; GREEN (environmental science and conservation pathway); DRIVEN (alternative energy and transportation technology pathway); iCARE (education, child development and family services pathway); and Health Sciences.

"MUSD has already shown itself to be a regional leader in developing and sustaining relevant pathways for our students, engaging them in instruction that provides hands-on, real-world experience," said Ayele Dodoo, MUSD's Director of Curriculum & Instruction. "Our success, from student achievement to collaboration with local community colleges and regional businesses, will only become stronger moving forward."

MUSD Kicks off New Science Standards with 'Space Day'

STEM Space Day1

Event to Highlight District's Focus on STEM and Next Generation Science Standards


Interactive flight simulators! , a hover craft, space suits and a replica of an F-117 Stealth Fighter were among the thrilling exhibits and demonstrations made available to students at the "Space Day" kick-off event at Bell Gardens Elementary on Friday, June 6. The event was put on by the Montebello Unified School District in collaboration with Ivor Dawson and the "Traveling Space Museum."

"Space Day" is part of MUSD's effort to effectively implement incoming state standards and practices, including the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and a District-wide interdisciplinary approach to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). After the kick-off at BGE, the event is taking place at Wilcox Elementary School on Monday, June 9 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will move to Rosewood Park School on Friday, June 13.

"As a District in a primarily Latino-based community, we are truly working to get our young students excited about STEM and the advantages these disciplines have for them in the long-term," said Arturo Navar, Bell Gardens Elementary Science Teacher on Special Assignment. "By exposing them to the work of older students, we provide a direct link to ideas, projects and opportunities they too can experience."

Beyond the high tech and out-of-this-world attractions provided by the museum, elementary students were also able to interact with MUSD high school science and engineering students who brought in various STEM-related projects to showcase at the event.

As a follow-up to the event, MUSD will host a summer institute in July, where science teachers throughout the District will be attend seminars and workshops that lay out the NGSS and how to best incorporate them into the classroom.

"It is unique events like this one that illustrate our commitment to education inside and outside the classroom," said MUSD Superintendent of Schools, Cleve Pell. "Hands-on, memorable experiences coupled with informative and collaborative events educate and energize all of our students on their road to postsecondary education and careers."