Hart District Schools Rank Among the Best Nationally
The Washington Post and U.S. News have ranked schools in the Hart School District in the top tier in the nation for 2014. There are more than 30,000 public high schools in the nation. U.S. News evaluated schools on overall student performance on state-mandated assessments, as well as how effectively schools educate their African-American, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students, in addition to a review of AP programs as a benchmark of being prepared for college-level work. Congratulations to silver medal winners: West Ranch ranked 842 and 171 in California; Hart ranked 921 and 189 in California; Saugus ranked 928 and 193 in California; Valencia ranked 1,270 and 244 in California and Canyon ranked 1,494 and 333 in California. Academy of the Canyons and Learning Post received Bronze awards in the alternative school category. The Washington Post High School Challenge ranked four Hart District Schools in the top 1,900 recognized. The index formula looked at AP tests and graduation rates. Schools recognized include Hart ranked 947, West Ranch 974, Valencia 1,537 and Saugus 1,584. Washington Post ranks in California: Hart, 127; West Ranch, 129; Valencia, 214 and Saugus, 221. “I am really proud of the efforts of staff at all our schools, and these recognitions are truly indicative of all the good things happening across the District,” Superintendent Rob Challinor said. “I am really pleased that these highly-regarded reports recognize schools in our District among the best in the state and nation.”
Hart District ROP Honors Top Students
Regional Occupation Program (ROP) outstanding student awards were held last month, honoring the best of more than 2,000 ROP students enrolled in Hart School District ROP classes this year. These outstanding students were selected as medal winners in six different career clusters. ROP teachers select one student each semester as their “Outstanding Student” for that class. In April those students went through an interview process and presented a class project. Students are interviewed by a panel of business leaders after completing an essay and application. The top 18 students and their families attended the awards ceremony held at Rio Norte Junior High School. Bronze, silver and gold medals were awarded to the students by their ROP teachers. The top six gold medal winners competed for the Hart District ROP Outstanding Student of the Year. This year, presenting along with Dave LeBarron, director of curriculum and assessment, was Laurene Weste, mayor of City of Santa Clarita. The honor of top outstanding student went to Joseph Castanon, a junior at Saugus High School. Castanon was in Summer O’Brien’s fall fashion merchandising class. O’Brien commented, “Joe is a very creative and passionate student. His ability to be a trendsetter and fashion forecaster is current with today’s top fashion designers.” Joe is currently in the ROP entrepreneurship class, also taught by O’Brien. He has helped his classmates compete at the recent Oakland Trade Show. This class is a student-led business class where students hold company positions and run a virtual business. Castanon, who is the vice president of marketing, is using his marketing skills to help run this company. The team won several awards at the recent Oakland Trade Show. Together with his love for fashion design and business knowledge Joe is on his way to becoming a successful business owner and young entrepreneur. The Hart School District ROP integrates rigorous academic classroom instruction with relevant, work-based experiences that prepare students for college and careers. Visit www.hartrop.com for more information and class offerings. (Photos: left, gold medalists; right, top winner Castanon with Saugus principal Bill Bolde.)
WiSH Education Foundation – Providing for “WiSHlists”
The WiSH Education Foundation is growing as it wraps up its second academic year of fundraising for student programs in the Hart School District. To date, WiSH has donated more than $82,000 in materials to the schools in the Hart District, including science equipment, hard copy books, literacy software, and donations to athletics, special education and performing arts. More than $8,000 has been donated to specific programs through WiSH’s fundraising partners, such as Cobblestone Cottage, The Signal and Jersey Mike’s. What makes WiSH so important and unique for Hart District schools and the greater community is that the goal is to fund “WiSHlists” of school administrators and staff, so the funding gets directly to students to make their learning experience the best it can be. “Great schools mean a healthy community and strong real estate values,” Amy Daniels, executive director of WiSH, said. In February, WiSH began a new grant program to reach out to potential funders. Daniels said they are taking those WiSHlists and finding appropriate grant opportunities in the hopes that they can begin to say “yes” to every teacher who needs funding. Although the funding focus this year is “literacy,” WiSH continues to raise capital for all areas where there is need. WiSH is also making a concerted effort to benefit Career Technical Education. “Not every student chooses to move on to college and those students also deserve to be prepared upon graduation,” Daniels said. To that end, WiSH has reached out to every school for lists of what they need for career tech and are dedicated to benefitting all of the nearly 23,000 students in the Hart School District. Please consider supporting WiSH in the coming months by buying a ticket (only $8!) to the Lancaster Jethawks game on August 30th. One lucky WiSH supporter will get the thrill of throwing out the first pitch, based on a drawing for $2 per entry, with no limit to number of entries. Tickets and first pitch entries can be purchased online at www.WiSHscv.org. The following week, WiSH is the beneficiary of the 5th Annual Sierra Pelona Harvest Festival at Reyes Winery in Agua Dulce on September 6th. The festival features unlimited food, wine, spirits and grape stomping amid the vines from 4-8 pm. Tickets are $75 for general admission and VIP tickets are $90 and include a special area for VIP ticket holders, open buffet, exclusive wines and early admission at 3 pm. Event sponsors and vendors are being sought for this event. Additional information is on the website. The WiSH Education Foundation was created in 2011 to supplement state funding and is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Amy Daniels can be reached at WiSH@hartdistrict.org.
Civil War Day Brings History Lesson to Life for Placerita Students
Eighth grade history students at Placerita Junior High School wrapped up their unit on the Civil War with a lesson that came to life earlier this month. The re-enactors represented the 5th NYVI, Co. Civil War unit. They introduced students to military equipment, drills, camp life, uniform differences and women’s roles. The day before the culminating event, about 100 students attended an after school showing of the movie Lincoln. Hosted by the 8th grade history teachers, the “Zouave soldiers” explained the history of their unique uniform style and how they played an important role in the Civil War. There was a Confederate soldier who shared his story of hardship and explained the Confederate leadership during the Civil War and justified the South’s reasons for fighting. The re-enactment also included a portion on women’s roles during the Civil War, describing how volunteer organizations helped during this time of conflict. Included in the day was a special presentation at lunch time sharing the story of Pauline Cushman, a Civil War female spy. The students were offered extra credit for attending the lunch time portion of the event.
City of Santa Clarita Honors Teen Heroes
Thirteen Hart District students selected by school administrators for overcoming obstacles in their lives were honored as heroes at a special recognition ceremony sponsored by the City of Santa Clarita earlier this month. Throughout the year, their stories were shared in The Signal in an effort to encourage their progress and inspire other youth to make positive choices. At the event, three of the heroes spoke about how they overcame various obstacles including being raised without a father, depression and addiction. The students were recognized by California State Senator Steve Knight and presented with commendations from the City, Congressman Buck McKeon, Assemblyman Scott Wilk, and L.A. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich. They also received gift cards donated by local businesses. SCV Teen Hero Honorees for 2014 are: Samer Ameeri, Bowman High School; Randy Cardenas, Bowman High School; Edward Castillo, Hart High School; Jose D. Espinoza, Arroyo Seco Junior High School; Jeremy Guizar, Arroyo Seco Junior High School; Brianna Jimenez, Sequoia Charter School; Nicole Kovach, West Ranch High School; Michael Levin, Academy of the Canyons; Wendy Silva, Golden Valley High School; Jade Tellers, Saugus High School; Sage Walsh, Canyon High School and Jordyn Weber, Bowman High School. (Hero speakers, left to right, Jordyn Weber, Bowman High School; Michael Levin, AOC and Jade Tellers, Saugus High School.)
AOC Student Connor Lewis Admitted to City Of Hope Summer Academy
Connor Lewis, a sophomore at Academy of the Canyons, was recently admitted to the prestigious City of Hope Summer Student Academy. This ten-week summer program gives college and high school students the opportunity to actively participate in cutting edge biomedical research conducted by City of Hope researchers and doctors. More than 1,300 college and high school students applied from around the country, with 160 students making it into the first round. These 160 students then competed for the 50 open research internship positions. Lewis was accepted into Dr. Yanhong Shi’s laboratory in the department of neurosciences. Lewis will assist Dr. Shi and her team to reprogram human adult skin cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). They will then turn these stem cells into brain cells in order to develop a cellular model for Alzheimer’s disease. Since iPSCs can be derived directly from adult tissues, they not only bypass the controversial need for embryos, but also allow for direct research on human cells, as opposed to animal based research. City of Hope’s Summer Student Academy interns receive a $4,000 stipend for their work.
Bowman Students Provide Plush Toys to Hospitalized Children
The Teddies for Toddler project was for Bowman High School’s student community volunteers class. This fundraiser was put together for all the children who are battling cancer at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. The students were to raise money for new stuffed animals or go out on their own to raise funds to bring one in. The stuffed animals had to be brand new, due to the children’s weakened immune systems. With that being said, Bowman High School raised enough money for 25 bears in just two weeks. Because of their selflessness and generosity, 25 children will now have brand new stuffed animals to comfort them while they are battling their illness at the local hospital.
Valencia Art Teacher Renews National Board Certification
Cindy Betzer Pharis, a teacher of AP studio art, painting and drawing studio, and ceramics at Valencia High School has renewed her National Board Certification through a rigorous, performance-based, peer review process. Like board certification in professions such as medicine and architecture, national board certification is the highest mark of accomplishment in teaching. “Renewing the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards credential has been helpful in reflecting on teaching practices in art, specifically assessment processes,” Betzer Pharis said. “I also feel it has helped to differentiate the varied learning styles of students and to be more rigorous in formative assessment practice.” She has spent this last semester helping to write the new exam for the National Board in EAYA/Art (Early Adolescence through Young Adulthood-Art) and said that has been an exciting growth process. The mission of the National Board is to advance student learning and achievement by establishing the definitive standards and systems for certifying accomplished educators, providing programs and advocating policies that support excellence in teaching and leading, and engaging National Board Certified Teachers and leaders in that process. Under the direction of Betzer Pharis, National Art Honor Society students made portraits of retiring principal, Dr. Paul Priesz. (Photos left to right, Betzer Harris with student Dylan Ryndak, and portraits of Dr. Priesz by Sharon Lee, Yoojin Oh and Crisanta Chen-Kempton.)
Career Presentations Spark the Interest of Rancho Pico Students
This school year Rancho Pico Junior High School started a career exploration program utilizing various parents and friends of students who came to talk about their career paths and all that it takes to pursue that career. Counselors started off with professional news anchor, Chris Schauble, encouraging students to pursue internships in the field they are interested in and the importance of being flexible. Next, professional musicians and known actors shared the ups and downs of that field, as well. Dentists, a marketing person from Disney, a car designer from Honda, a local cardiologist who had an inspirational story, and an amazing professional magician who wowed the students with his illusions and tricks, all relating to math and science, were some of the other careers that have been explored. A game developer from Insomniac Games was planned as the next speaker. Students are alerted to the planned presenters and can sign up to attend the advisory and brunch time presentations so they do not miss any class time. Both 7th and 8th graders are welcome to attend and the school is planning on two to three presentations each month. This has been an eye-opening and thought provoking experience for all the students who attended these presentations. Rancho Pico hopes to continue these presentations and open up the world of many possibilities for our students. (Photos: left, Bryan Herta, race car driver; right, Jason Pope, Auto Design Sculptor)
Valencia Drafting Students Take Top Awards
Valencia High School architectural drafting class students were the big winners of an architectural drafting competition coordinated by the Building Industry Association. Students from Valencia High School won five of the six awards at a recent awards ceremony. The students competed with other schools throughout the Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley, and Ventura County Chapters. The winning project, which the students worked on for most of the semester, was creating a set of architectural plans for a 2600 square foot home. Winners in the creative category: 1st place, Christopher Miller and 2nd place, Anthony Sanchez. For the technical category: 1st place, Robert McCain; 2nd place, Anthony Sanchez and 3rd place, Christian Howard.
Women in History Come to Life for Saugus Students
Saugus High School students filed into the gym to see six backdrops as varied as an open road to an old-fashioned hospital to Sesame Street. Six women patiently sat before them, each of them dressed in various period costumes. For the seventh year, Saugus High School teachers, students and former students have embodied the personas of courageous, gutsy women to present to classes as part of the Women in History program. This year the honored women were: American TV producer Joan Ganz Cooney of Sesame Street fame played by Career Transitions Advisor Louise Willard; screen siren and inventor Heddy Lamarr portrayed by teacher Jill Spradling; modern nursing founder Florence Nightingale enacted by Saugus student Sarah Farnell; children’s poet “Mary Had a Little Lamb” fame Sarah Josepha Hale portrayed by Saugus graduate Chelsea Miller; author and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston enacted by Saugus student Jessica Bustios and the first woman to drive across the United States, Alice Huyler Ramsey, portrayed by teacher Jodi Guerrero. Many of the “actors” have participated for more than this year. What keeps them coming back? “It’s really fun. I’ve acted for the past three years,” Jessica Bustios gushed. She hopes to participate every year she is in high school and revealed that she loves the vintage costumes as much as embodying the role. English teacher Analia Paniagua, who takes her classes to view the performance, said, “I think it’s important for young people to view history beyond the textbooks and especially for young women to see how much struggle has gone into gaining the rights so many take for granted.” Louise Willard does it all: coordinates these performances, paints all the sets, recruits the volunteer actors (herself among them) and acts as a liaison to American Association of University Women, financial supporter of the program, which is performed from elementary through high school level. Saugus is the only high school in Santa Clarita that hosts this assembly. When asked about her motivation to put this together each year, Willard said, “I’ve been doing this since my son Frank was four and now he is 21, and he had the benefit of seeing this program every year from elementary school through high school. I love bringing this to Saugus so students can learn about different women in history.” English teacher Jodi Guerrero said, “So much vibrant and memorable learning happens beyond the classroom. We are competing for student’s attention with iPods, Twitter and Instagram; the onus is on us to bring the engaging lessons from history alive. I didn’t even know who the first woman was to drive across the United States until I researched not only my character, but also period slang from 100 years ago to make her seem authentic and relevant to 21st Century teens — truly a worthy challenge.”
West Ranch Students Win Internet Stock Market Competition
Students in economics and introduction to business courses and the Stock Market Club at West Ranch High School have been participating in a Virtual Internet Stock Market Competition for several years. The competition, held nationwide, holds sessions for participation twice a year during both semesters at school. In the Stock Market Competition, students start with a virtual cash account of $100,000 and strive to create the best-performing portfolio using a live trading simulation with the stock exchanges. This past year, under the direction of teacher Linda Cox, students took top placements in the Southern California category for the 15- and 10-week competition. Students won and placed competing against more than 2,000 teams in the region. Winners include: spring 2014, 10-week competition: 1st place, Gloria Zavala & Ghabriella Wright; 2nd place, Ryan Woodhouse and 3rd place, Mitch Nordskog, Marc Oh and Collin Escobar. Fall 2013, 10-week competition: 1st place, Natriya Chunapongse, Jenny Lee and Tyler Szeto. Fall 2013, 15-week competition: 1st place, Zachary Sage, Michael McHugh and Eliseo Jamorabon; 2nd place, Tyler Hanson and Troy Gahry and 3rd place, EJ DellaRipa and Alex Rassool. In building a portfolio, students research and evaluate stocks and make decisions based on what they’ve learned. Teams trade common stocks from the NYSE, Nasdaq and AMEX exchanges; earn interest on cash balances; pay interest if buying on margin and pay a commission on all trades. To determine why certain stocks perform the way they do, discussions of the global economy are included. “The Stock Market Competition is engaging, and the learning is a natural part of the experience,” Cox said. “The hands-on process and life-long skills of learning about the stock market and investing are rewarding and fun!”
La Mesa Students Walk and Run for a Great Cause
The spirit at La Mesa Junior High School from both staff and students is out of this world! La Mesa was over 400 strong at the recent Assistance League Operation School Bell 5K walk / run. There was an incredible energy felt by everyone. La Mesa principal Michele Krantz thanked the staff that pumped up the event at school and to those that came out to run or cheer. “I also want to give a huge thank you to our PE department for inspiring fitness and community service amongst our kids,” Krantz said. Operation School Bell® is Assistance League Santa Clarita’s signature program. It is focused on providing new school clothing and shoes to children in elementary and junior high schools in the William S. Hart, Castaic Union, Newhall, Saugus, and Sulphur Springs School Districts. Eligible children are identified by school personnel and, with their parents, are invited to shop for appropriate school clothing at a local department store, where Assistance League volunteers and Assisteens® are available to provide help and guidance. Assistance League volunteers believe strongly that children perform better in school when they enjoy a positive self-image. Operation School Bell helps prepare students for school and gives them a positive starting point for learning and academic success. Since, 1991, Assistance League Santa Clarita has served over 20,000 students in the Santa Clarita Valley. Assistance League also coordinates Project Prom for Hart District students. Project Prom is dedicated to providing high school girls and boys who require assistance to attend their prom with self-confidence and in style with dresses, tuxedos, shoes, accessories, floral, and prom bids. Partnering with the Hart School District, girls and boys are identified by school personnel to participate in the program; and they are invited to visit a boutique that is set up and staffed by Assistance League and district volunteers, where donated dresses, tuxedos, shoes, and accessories are available for selection. Since 2010 over 500 girls and boys have participated in Project Prom. The Hart School District is grateful for Assistance League programs that have a positive impact on all local children.
Saugus AP students Watch Macbeth Lesson Come to Life
The actor thrust the dagger into the tree stump so hard it wavered back and forth. The audience was stunned to silence as the spotlight glowed off the metal blade. Teacher Jodi Guerrero and her students were watching Macbeth live at A Noise Within Theater in Pasadena and the Saugus High AP Literature students were stunned to silence. Student Sarah Dulac noted, “At first, I was skeptical about the ability of an acted out version to clear up any confusion from reading the piece, but it did just that. What made it especially easy to follow was the directorial decision to have Macbeth’s victims hang ominously, yet silently, around the stage as a constant reminder of his deeds.” This is the fourth year that the theater has awarded tickets for all the AP Literature classes at Saugus High and bus scholarships for transportation. Their generous donation allows students – many of whom have never seen a play live – to see the Bard’s words leap off the page. “It is one of the highlights of our program,” Guerrero said. “I keep applying for the scholarship because students are so enthused with the performances and A Noise Within Theater always has captivating, memorable actors and innovative philosophies about set and costume design. It helps students to realize how much really goes into bringing a play to life. Reading in class can be flat – but it is hard to not respond to a sword fight or a man losing his mind seeing ghosts of men he has ambitiously murdered.”
Hart Students Enthralled with Story of WWII Veteran
“Once upon a time, in a small town in the center of a wonderful country, there was a small boy, and it was me,” a World War II Veteran told a group of Hart High School students recently. “Now I’m an old man,” Hal Wilder, 92, said. In between that time and now there are many amazing stories. Cowboy, college boy and soldier boy were a few of the labels Wilder used to describe his past, and now Veteran, father and grandfather. He talked about driving a team of horses pulling a wagon, as they laid a new fence line five miles long. He drove a 1937 Ford V8 convertible, flew B-17s and B-24s and now drives a Mustang! Now, he enjoys sailing, and teaching basic sailing on the Pacific Ocean. “It has been quite a life, quite a story, filled with many unexpected turns, and a lot of luck,” Wilder said. This is a very small snapshot of Hal Wilder’s life. Hal now lives in the Saticoy/Santa Paula area where he still teaches basic sailing courses and participates in the Santa Paula open house monthly. Hart High School was lucky enough to have Wilder come and speak to students about his life and times. He fielded questions about growing up in the Midwest, his time as a co-pilot in WW2 on B-17 and B-24 runs, he talked about seeing tracer fire within inches of his plane and shared how he saw his fellow airman shot out of the sky just feet from his plane. Wilder will speak at the Old Town Newhall Library on May 31st at 10:30 am. He will talk about his life times, and he will highlight passages from his book Grandfather Stories and answer questions.
Placerita Student Qualifies for State Geography Bee
Placerita Junior High School 7th grader Debleena Chatterjee qualified for the 2014 California State Geographic Bee, sponsored by Google and Plum Creek. Chatterjee won the Geography Bee held at Placerita; and then she took a qualifying test, which was submitted to the National Geographic Society. The National Geographic Society invited students with the top 100 scores in each state to compete at the state level. In April, Chatterjee, along with her teacher Mallory Howe, went to Fresno for the California National Geographic Bee. While giving her best effort, Chatterjee didn’t qualify in the top 10 in the state to move on to National finals held in Washington DC in May. As a 7th grader now, she has her sights set on trying again next year!
Rio Norte Equestrian Team Scores Well in Show
The Rio Norte Equestrian Team competed at their fourth and final show held at the Hansen Dam Equestrian Center last month. Competing against more than 50 high school and junior high teams, Rio Norte riders Olivia Manasse, Morgan Gammon, Jean Lee, Brayden Arnold and Gillian Rideaux received the overall champion freshman high point school award for Rio Norte Junior High School. Manasse received the overall champion freshman jumper award, the overall reserve champion freshman individual rider high point award, and the overall reserve champion freshman individual rider high point trainer award, for her trainer, Kelly White. Gammon received the award of overall champion freshman equitation award. The Rio Norte Equestrian Team trains at different facilities in the Santa Clarita Valley throughout the year. (Photos: left, Morgan Gammon; right, Olivia Manasse.)
Bowman High School Holds Annual Artist & Poet Festival
Bowman High School students shared a Day of the Artist and Poet Festival with Bowman staff and parents, presenting poetry and playing music for the guests. The event is a tradition at Bowman High School that had its modest beginnings in the classroom of poetry teacher, Mr. Richard Weekley in 1993; and it has grown over 22 years to be a campus-wide celebration of the arts. The Day of the Artist and Poet is a campus-wide collaboration of all the fine arts programs at Bowman High School. Beginning with an “Art Walk” friends and family alike were able to enjoy an outdoor exhibition of student sculpture, painting and sketches. The art displayed was extensive, demonstrating the talents of the Art Department’s students in a wide range of subjects. The art program worked hard to put together the display. Art Teacher Mary Gaskin commented, “What a wonderful way to showcase the year’s culmination of classroom work. It is especially gratifying to know the arts can and do make a difference in our students life.” Bowman students published its annual Literary Magazine, The Catalyst of Creation, under the direction of teacher Michael Mansfield. The book can be purchased at Bowman High School for $5 or online at www.bowmanpoetry.com. The proceeds from the book go toward publication costs.
Contact for more information: Gail Pinsker, Public Relations Officer,
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William S. Hart Union School District website: www.hartdistrict.org