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October 2013

MUSD Earns Two Golden Earns Two Golden Bell Awards for Excellent Academic Support Programs

Two of Montebello Unified’s educational programs are being recognized with the state’s leading educational honor – the Golden Bell Award. The District has been selected because of its excellent Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program at Bell Gardens High School, and its Project Safety Net program. The District is one of just 59 recipients across California to be awarded the distinction.

The Golden Bell Award, now in its 34th year, is sponsored by the California School Boards Association and recognizes public school programs that are innovative and sustainable, make a difference for students, and focus on meeting the needs of all students.

The District will receive its award at a CSBA recognition ceremony in December.

The District’s AVID program began in 1998 at Bell Gardens High School, which for the past 10 years has served as a National Demonstration School for its success. Just 120 of the 5,000 AVID schools nationwide have earned this distinction to serve as models to other schools wishing to implement the AVID program. AVID assists students in the academic middle through college counseling, tutoring and by teaching good study and organizational habits.

According to the District’s most recent data, in 2012, 100 percent of BGHS students enrolled in AVID graduated from high school, 90 percent completed college requirements, and 85 percent were accepted into four-year universities. These accomplishments were achieved despite the fact that 92 percent of BGHS students qualify for free- and reduced lunches and that just 27 percent of parents in the community earned a high school diploma.

“There are numerous programs geared toward advancing high-achieving students, as well as interventions addressing those who are struggling in their academics, but we also wanted to ensure that we were providing support to students in the middle who have the ability to achieve at a higher level. We are extremely proud of the results, our students and our staff,” MUSD Superintendent Susanna Contreras Smith said.

The District’s second Golden Bell award highlights MUSD’s Project Safety Net, which was created in 2002 to promote a safe learning environment where all children, including the District’s most at-risk youth, could grow and thrive. Since that time, MUSD has developed extensive community partnerships and garnered $13 million in funding to create policies and programs that provide universal, targeted and intensive support and treatment for students, including mental health services, alcohol, tobacco and drug use prevention programs, and anti-bullying programs. Through this initiative, MUSD has also increased its emergency preparedness and the number of MUSD school safety officers.

Project Safety Net has produced positive results for the District and its students. For example, fighting on school property has decreased by 31 percent, the number of students who reported being a victim of bullying decreased by 27 percent, and the number of students who reported using alcohol decreased by 69 percent. In addition, MUSD increased the number of students receiving school mental health services by 77 percent and increased its emergency preparedness by 68 percent.

“MUSD is constantly coming up with innovative ways to support the needs of all of our students,” said MUSD Superintendent Cleve Pell. “We know that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach and our results are proof that our efforts are helping us move toward our goal to ensure every student graduates fully prepared to enter colleges and a competitive workforce.”

Initial Recommendations for the Golden Bell awards were made by experts from school districts and county offices of education that made up the 11-member judging panel that reviewed the written entries for the awards. On-site validators then assessed the programs in action. This year’s awards are given to school districts and county offices of education that are helping students achieve through after-school programs, mentoring, instructional interventions, scheduling changes, use of data and other innovations.

Montebello Unified School Participate in Great California Shakeout Disaster Drill

Students recently ducked, covered, and held in place under desks and on school playgrounds throughout Montebello Unified to prepare for a real-life disaster.

On Oct. 17, the District joined schools, organizations, businesses and families statewide in the Great California ShakeOut, a statewide earthquake drill that is designed to help them practice how to stay safe during a disaster.

The MUSD Police Department, administrators, staff and teachers all participated in the drills at each MUSD school, including a special simulation at La Merced Elementary, featuring a scenario in which a nearby dam was compromised and began flooding due to a major earthquake. As part of the scenario, two classrooms of students were transported via bus to nearby Schurr High School to seek higher ground. There, the Montebello Unified Police Department had set up a triage area to treat the injured.

“Our emergency preparedness activities don’t just happen once a year,” said MUSD Police Chief Linh Dinh. “It’s important that this is an ongoing process in which we continually ensure that we’re as prepared as possible for when a disaster does occur.”

For the last six years, everyone in Montebello Unified’s emergency operations team and emergency school site leaders has undergone extensive training. The District also has regular emergency operations center meetings for district-level responders, including the District’s police officers, administrators and maintenance team.

“Ultimately, it is our job and responsibility to keep our children safe when they’re on our school campuses,” said MUSD Superintendent Cleve Pell. “This drill was a great opportunity to make sure our staff, as well as our students, know exactly what to do during an earthquake.”


MUSD & Community Partners to Host Kick-Off for 5th Annual 'War on Hunger' Food Drive

The Montebello Unified School District and its partners are once again bringing the community together to assist local families in need through its 5th Annual War on Hunger Food Drive, which will begin with the District’s Kick-Off Event at 9 a.m. on October 16.
The “War on Hunger 2013” Food Drive will take place October 16 through November 8.  On average, more than fifty thousand pounds of food were donated in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 to needy families as a result of the food drive.
To commence the month of giving, a kick-off event will be held with speakers and MUSD students showing their support of the project. Throughout the month and at all MUSD school sites, students and staff will be able to donate non-perishable food items or donate funds to help local hungry families. During the kick-off event, food will also be distributed to local families identified by MUSD school sites.
Between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. on October 16, there will also be a “drive-thru” donation center in the Montebello Intermediate parking lot at the corner of Vail Avenue and Whittier Boulevard, where the public is invited to drop off non-perishable food items.

Montebello Unified’s partners are Camino Federal Credit Union, Heart of Compassion Distribution, Park Avenue Christian Church, the Office of Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, the Montebello Council Parent Teacher Association, the City of Montebello, the City of Bell Gardens, the Bicycle Club, South Coast Press and American Reclamation.
Please note: All those attending the “Kickoff” are asked to bring a non-perishable food item (canned goods, bagged rice or beans, etc.) to donate.

Community Volunteers Come Together for Schurr High School Improvements

Students, staff and employees from radio station Power 106, Robert Wayne Footwear and Timberland, an outerwear company, came together on Saturday, October 12, to help make improvements at Schurr High School, including the painting of a kiosk used to sell tickets for campus events.

Volunteers from Schurr High School and the area business community came together on October 12 to show their Spartan pride by making minor improvements to beautify the campus.
The effort was made possible because of Schurr’s sponsors – radio station Power 106, which contributed about 50 volunteers, and Robert Wayne Footwear and Timberland outerwear, which each provided materials and lunch for the volunteers. The two businesses also provided the prep work for the project, including power washing of the Schurr High amphitheater and additional painting.
Volunteers spent their Saturday painting a campus kiosk used to sell student event tickets, large concrete planters used for student seating and gathering, basketball backboards and the football stadium press box.
“Maintaining our campuses is so important to our District because we want to facilitate positive learning environments where our students can continue to grow,” said MUSD Superintendent Cleve Pell. “This was a great way for the MUSD community to come together to make some minor improvements that has enhanced Schurr High School.”
Schurr High Principal Stacey Honda also thanked the school’s Director of Activities and Finance Peter Murashige for helping to make the clean-up happen.
“We’re just very appreciative that the community wants to come out and help our school,” Honda said. “For us, we like to take ownership of the way our school looks. I thank everyone involved because they’re making a big difference here at Schurr.”


Raising Awareness for Childhood Cancer

Vail High Students Rally to Find a Cure in Honor of Fallen 5-year-old

In April, Vail High School ASB Adviser Gloria Olivares lost her 5-year-old granddaughter Sarah Gomez to Leukemia.

Since then, Vail High School students have rallied their support behind her and the fight to find a cure for all those children still battling the disease.

In honor of little Sarah, and in commemoration of September being Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, students on September 25 took part in the school’s quarterly blood drive and a new tradition – hosting a fresh lemonade stand just as Sarah did before she passed.

“We held a lemonade stand for my granddaughter before she passed away because she wanted to raise money to buy toys for the kids at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC),” said Olivares, an active volunteer at the hospital. “It’s emotional for me to see my students do this because we are a continuation school and they do get labeled a certain way, but they are so compassionate and giving. It’s an honor to be a teacher here.”

More than 50 students took part in the most recent blood drive and the school raised $100 by selling fresh-squeezed lemonade and other refreshments. The proceeds from the Lemonade Stand are benefitting cancer research at CHOC.

In addition, students are wearing yellow all month in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

According to the American Childhood Cancer organization, cancer is the leading cause of disease-related death in children and approximately 13,400 children between the ages of birth and 19 are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States.

“Vail High School serves as a wonderful example of the difference our students can make in this world,” MUSD Superintendent Susanna Contreras Smith said. “I encourage all of our schools and our community to get involved and support this very worthy cause.”

Vail High plans to continue the tradition of hosting its Lemonade Stand in honor of Sarah during its quarterly blood drives. Last year, the American Red Cross honored Vail High School for being the highest donating school in California.

The school’s next Blood Drive and Lemonade Stand event is in November.

For more information, or to donate to Vail High’s efforts with Childhood Cancer research, contact Gloria Olivares at Vail High at 323-728-1940, Extension 4844 or at (562) 332-3332.

Blood Drive