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Montebello Unified Welcomes Students to 2016-17 School Year with New Technology, Athletic Fields
With overflowing backpacks filled with pencils, notebooks and binders, Montebello Unified, the third-largest district in Los Angeles County, kicked off another great school year on Aug. 18, welcoming back 53,000 students from transitional kindergarten to adult school.
Welcome back for an exciting 2016-17 school year!
On behalf of our team here at Montebello Unified, we are excited to welcome you back for the 2016-17 school year! I hope everyone enjoyed their summer break and are ready to embark on the wonderful educational opportunities we have planned.
Susanna Contreras Smith
Potrero Heights Elementary Named to 2015 California Honor Roll
Potrero Heights Elementary Principal Lili Atoyan and Angelica Paz, a teacher on special assignment, hold a banner the school received in recognition of its Honor Roll distinction.
Potrero Heights Elementary has been named a 2015 California Honor Roll campus for demonstrating consistently high levels of academic achievement, improvement in achievement over time and closing achievement gaps.
The Honor Roll is presented by the Educational Results Partnership and the Campaign for Business and Education Excellence (CBEE), groups which campaign for cooperation between educators and businesses to improve student achievement in public schools.
Potrero Heights Elementary Principal Lili Atoyan attributed her school’s listing on the Honor Roll to its strong California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) English language arts and math scores taken in spring 2015, adding that her teachers collaborate to build a rigorous curriculum that prepares all students for college and careers.
“I’m very proud of our teaching and support staff,” Atoyan said. “They have the students’ best interest in mind and they work very hard to help foster learning in all of our students. Our staff and teachers are dedicated, committed professionals.”
Using the test scores they received in summer 2015, Potrero Heights teachers developed a plan to help students meet California’s new English language arts standards. Teachers who cover fourth to fifth grade at Potrero Heights use strategies from Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) to emphasize organization, notetaking and strong writing skills, while teachers in other grade levels utilize thinking maps and strategies that focus on vocabulary development to enhance student writing.
During the 2015-16 school year, teachers submitted students’ writing samples each month to Atoyan, who selected a few examples and honored the outstanding writers at an assembly.
Reviewing every Potrero Heights student’s writing required a lot of reading, but Atoyan said it’s very rewarding to see the growth and mastery students attain over time.
Potrero Heights Elementary also works hard to create a college-going culture so students know going to college is important, expected and possible.
“They know that everything they learn now is building a foundation for getting into and preparing for college,” Atoyan said.
The Educational Results Partnership is a national alliance of businesses and educators dedicated to improving educational productivity, and the CBEE comprises a group of California business leaders committed to improving public schools, closing the achievement gap and ensuring college readiness and success.
Potrero Heights previously made the Honor Roll in 2009 and 2010.
“The District is committed to providing all students with the highest quality education, and we are already seeing higher levels of student achievement throughout our classrooms,” Superintendent Susanna Contreras Smith said. “I look forward to seeing many more Montebello Unified schools being named Honor Roll recipients because of our hardworking teachers and students.”
Eastmont Student Wins $5,000 Scholarship Through Los Angeles Sparks Essay Writing Contest
Rosario Meneses, a seventh-grader at Eastmont Intermediate School, was handed a huge $5,000 check at center court during halftime of a Los Angeles Sparks game on July 10 for winning the team’s 2016 #WeAreGirls essay writing contest.
In her essay, Rosario shared that joining the school’s cheerleading squad encouraged her to be more outgoing to support her team. She also said being in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) college preparatory program helped her become more organized.
Rosario, who maintained a GPA above 3.5 last year, said she hopes to attend UCLA or Harvard University, keeping her grades up by always completing her homework before cheerleading practice.
“I think AVID is fun because it’s like a game and a challenge for me,” Rosario said. “My mom and teachers have shown me that going to college will help me get a better job, so I want to work as hard as I can now to get there some day.”
In the fall, she plans to start a community service club with her friends.
Rosario’s teacher, Monique Lopez, advised her to enter the contest because of how hard she works at school, cheerleading and helping her mother donate clothes and food to the poor.Lopez developed a close relationship with the Meneses family through teaching Rosario and her brother.
“They are truly a deserving family and I think this scholarship is the work of a higher power,” Lopez said. “I think her dad was looking out for her.”
Lopez drove Rosario and her family to the Staples Center on the night of the award ceremony and stood by while the seventh-grader received her award.
“I was almost in tears,” Lopez said. “I was so proud. I had never seen her smile so big. She really was the center of attention in this big stadium, which was almost full. I just thought to myself this is just the beginning for her because she’s going to go on to college.”
Eastmont Intermediate School principal Cecilia Ramirez believes that promoting opportunities for students to communicate through writing is integral to ensuring college and career readiness.
“We are so proud that Rosario took the initiative to submit her essay and that the Los Angeles Sparks recognized her great effort,” Ramirez said. “She has inspired our entire school community!”
Rosario plans to save most of the $5,000 for college but may use some before then for school supplies and books.
“The District cares deeply about seeing every student succeed and it’s wonderful to have organizations like the Los Angeles Sparks that take a special interest in supporting young girls,” Superintendent Susanna Contreras Smith said. “I join the entire Montebello Unified family in congratulating Rosario and her family on this achievement.”
Bell Gardens High School teacher Elizabeth Lowe has been named one of just five California winners of the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Teacher Advocacy Award, an honor that recognizes exceptional AVID educators and comes with a $10,000 prize for expanding the program at her school.
Lowe was honored in front of 3,000 educators on July 12 at the Sacramento Summer Institute, where winners were celebrated for showing leadership in supporting AVID’s mission to help all students become ready for college. AVID is a nonprofit, college-readiness system that works to increase the number of students who enroll in four-year colleges.
“To be recognized for this award, and stand alongside the most exceptional leaders of the AVID program, speaks to the work that we’ve done as a District in preparing students for college,” said Lowe, who teaches 11th- and 12-grade geoscience at BGHS. “It was very special to go to Sacramento and speak with people like former Sen. Gary K. Hart, who is one of the judges of this award and reminded us that aiding students is always the ultimate goal.”
Lowe coordinates the AVID program for Bell Gardens High, overseeing 650 students, seven teachers and all course sections that make up the curriculum. Many of her contributions happen behind the scenes as she supports the system’s educators and ensures there are no barriers when it comes to student success.
The Teacher Advocacy Award was established in 2013 by an anonymous donor who wanted to give back to educators in California, especially those who work with the AVID program. All recipients of the honor are nominated by colleagues and are given two years to use the funds for use in advancing their school’s AVID program.
Among Lowe’s early ideas for the money are new signs at the school promoting college and a mural to symbolize that Bell Gardens High is a burgeoning college-preparatory campus.
Lowe’s teaching and guidance practices have been recognized throughout the District, with Superintendent Susanna Contreras Smith commending Lowe’s dedication to always helping students achieve their higher education goals.
“From classroom walk-throughs, teaching parents to understand transcripts and working with administrators on new advanced placement classes, Elizabeth has helped change the trajectory of BGHS and our District,” Contreras Smith said. “Her tireless work has helped build a strong college-readiness system which continues to impact the lives of our students within the AVID program and beyond.”
Bell Gardens High geoscience teacher Elizabeth Lowe, left, accepts her certificate for the Teacher Advocacy Award from AVID’s California Division Assistant Director Gail Shenkman at the Sacramento Summer Institute on July 12. Lowe is one of five California AVID educators awarded $10,000 for AVID implementation and growth at their schools.