Superintendent Weekly Update

The Week That Was...

by Craig Conte on January 12, 2018

It’s a new year and I wanted to know what was going to be cooking in 2018.  So I went to one of the best and closest sources of cooking information-our school kitchens.  If you stroll into the kitchen at La Tercera in the morning you will find Colleen Heaney not only busily prepping the fresh food for lunch, but also using her math and writing skills in menu planning, ordering and doing inventory.  Running a kitchen serving hundreds of students requires more than just a talented pot stirrer!

Collen started working in the Old Adobe District 13 years ago as a campus aide at Sonoma Mountain.  She then added campus aide duties to her resume before she started working in the kitchen with Sonoma Mountain’s legendary Gloria Robinson.   Colleen says a favorite lunch to prepare is her famous healthy chicken noodle soup and she credits former Superintendent Cindy Pilar with starting the current practice of serving fresh fruits and vegetables  in all of our kitchens. Colleen’s husband is a newly retired elementary teacher of 30 years and her three children all attended Miwok Valley and La Tercera.  She maintains she has no plans to retire anytime soon--we will all keep our fingers crossed that’s true!

We are lucky to have individual foodservice at all of our schools.  The dedicated kitchen staff of Evelia Martin at Loma Vista, Nicole Ruys at Old Adobe, Rebecca Raiewski at Sonoma Mountain and Sylvia Astorga at Miwok Valley all make our student’s cafeteria experience homey, healthy and delicious!


Professional Development Days

Teachers worked together for 2 days on Monday, January 8th and Tuesday, January 9th.  We expanded our development in the areas of math, writing and science.  Many thanks to the professional development administrative team of Gina Silveira and Lisa Baughn for their organization and facilitation of the day at Sonoma Mountain and to Jorge Arvizu for his work organizing the day at Loma Vista.  Many thanks to our talented teaching team for the ongoing efforts to improve our teaching practice!


Superintendent Weekly Update

The Week That Was...

by Craig Conte on December 22, 2017

This past week has been a whirlwind of productions, shows and concerts.  Our students and staff have been able to showcase their blossoming performing arts talents while we all practice our skills as avid and polite listeners in the audience.

 The week started with band and choir performances at Sonoma Mountain under the direction of Brandon Day and Joan Bunn.  Both these music teachers do a fantastic job with students and the performances were entertaining and delightful!  Loma Vista had three nights of performances starting Monday with the TK, Kindergarten and 1st grade student choirs  and ended with the band and marimba groups on Wednesday.  The multipurpose room was packed with parents all three nights.   The stage looked great, the voices were angelic and the marimba and band groups had the room jumping!  Congratulations to the music instructors, Brandon Day, Tobias Roberson and Luna Collins for the wonderful shows.   Principal Jorge Arvizu and his whole school staff also did a ton of work over the three days of concerts and deserve at least two weeks off!


I was lucky enough to be invited on the Old Adobe Elementary sixth grade field trip to see Aladdin at the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco on Wednesday.  The kids did a great job as audience members and loved watching the show.  The sixth grade teachers, Tracy McClure and Carol Henderson, do a tremendous amount of prep work for the annual trip and it is something that the students will remember forever. In our group picture, after the matinee performance, we were even photobombed by the star of the show, Aladdin!

Speaking of shows, the fifth grade teaching team of Heidi Doughty and Nina Friedman always produce a show-stopper play or two every year.  This year the fifth grade students performed the very complicated musical, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  The musical required elaborate sets and costumes, scene changes, and stage sound mixing and lighting.  The kids did a great job as performers, set and costume makers, stage hands and lighting and sound techs.  After seeing a professional production the day before, I was really amazed at the very high quality of the Miwok Valley production.  Well-done everyone!


Finally, I want to wish everyone the happiest of holidays during this Winter Break.  May you and your family  celebrate good health, happiness and contentment and the joy of each other’s company!

Happy Holidays!


Superintendent Weekly Update

The Week That Was...

by Craig Conte on December 15, 2017

Some creatures have a way of working themselves into your heart.  In this case you could even say they worm their way in!  Yes, these 5th Miwok students love worms!  The students from Ms. Friedman's and Ms. Doughty’s class have been raising red worms.  Several times a week they collect the leftover fruit and vegetables in the cafeteria and add them to the class compost bins.  They also throw in shredded paper scraps to keep the compost from getting too wet.  The students say that raising worms on leftover food is one way to help reduce global warming.  They told me that leftover food is turned into rich soil by the worms instead of going into landfills where it rots and produces global warming gases like methane.  It was amazing to see how many worms the 5th graders have growing in their worm bins.  After hearing about all the good things worms contribute to the Earth,  I can see why they love these little squiggly planet-savers so much!




Dare Promotion

Sonoma Mountain 6th graders finished up their course work with DARE Officer Rivera and were feted with a promotional ceremony.  Many parents attended as the students received both a DARE shirt and were handed  a course certificate from Police Chief Savano.  Several 6th graders read their DARE essays and afterwards cookies were eaten by the promoted students.

Hour of Code

La Tercera had over 50 students and parents attend a two-hour evening session of computer coding.  The event was planned and hosted by the 1st grade teaching team of Cynthia Schulz and Shelly Vollert along with 2nd grade teacher Sue Paley.  The students had fun coding their own games such as “Send Your Homework to Mars” among other inspired themes.

Parent Connections

Loma Vista staff hosted a night of parent connections.  LVIA staff members presented informational and interactive sessions with parents and guardians.  Parents had opportunities to engage in small group  panel discussions  about brain research on dual language, math conceptual understanding and the latest technology in primary-age  literacy instruction.


Superintendent Weekly Update

The Week That Was...

by Craig Conte on November 03

Sarah Goodin has to be one of the most upbeat and cheerful teachers I’ve ever met.  This Sonoma Mountain Transitional Kindergarten teacher is in her 3rd year with the district and she’s already moved schools and grade levels three times!  When she was at Miwok teaching Kindergarten she unpacked her whole classroom twice.  When she was at Old Adobe she taught a 1st/2nd combination class in the old, I mean ancient, Kids’ Care portable.  Now, she is teaching the brand new TK and sharing the classroom space with Kids’ Care!  Does all this moving, shaking and sharing get her down?  Heck no!  She just celebrated the 50 days of school with her kids and everybody dressed up in their 50’s gear!  She says she’s already planning an 80 days of school theme party.  I can hardly wait to see the clothes and hairstyles in that one!




Congratulations La Tercera and Old Adobe!

Both of these schools were recently awarded stupendously major grants.  La Tercera just received a Major Impact Grant from the Petaluma Educational Foundation to  fund a school-wide book series reading program. The grant will provide funding for  book series purchases for every classroom, campus book boxes (think bus-stops for books) and for the teachers: the Lucy Caulkins Units of Study for Reading.  The whole school worked very hard to develop the grant ideas behind the super-skilled grant writing of Kristy Corbett. The grant will be awarded from the PEF at a school assembly on November 17th.IMG_3113.JPG

Old Adobe received a huge announcement with their selection as a recipient of an Emeril Lagasse Foundation Grant.  This $500,000 grant is for the further development of their school garden (think small farm) and the construction and staffing of a teaching kitchen.  This is an exciting potential addition to the garden and ecology focus of the school.  Beth Stoep and Jacqueline Holley along with the rest of the Old Adobe staff have been busy developing the grant proposal and working on the many logistical details still in progress.

Parent-Teacher Conferences

School conferences start next week on Tuesday 11/7, but teachers already have been hard at work preparing for them the last couple of weeks.  Report cards have been prepared, schedules worked out and student data and evidence of learning collected and organized.  It’s a tremendous amount of work preparing for school conferences which have been a public school tradition for decades.  In spite of emerging online and text-messaging communication methods, the general meeting is still the most common—and for some parents, the only—contact with teachers during the year, and more school and district leaders are looking for ways to boost its impact.  Academic parent-teacher teams are one way educators are starting to reimagine the autumn classic, the parent-teacher conference.  The APTT model has spread to 250 schools in 16 states in the past five years. Georgia and four other states—Arizona, Florida, Montana, and Wisconsin—have launched grants for schools to train school staff members to create the teams.  Click the link to learn more!

School Assemblies

School assemblies are a lot like field trips. They are a learning opportunity to see something different, new and exciting.  In this case, a two person play “Sword and the Stone” presented by the Traveling Lantern Troupe.  This assembly was at Loma Vista Dual Immersion and was a treat for all grade levels.  I watched the TK and Kinder classes follow the storyline as  the actors did quick costume and set changes in rapid fire succession.  The assemblies at our schools are often sponsored and paid for by our parent organizations.  Thanks to all who make these assemblies possible!



Superintendent Weekly Update

The Week That Was...

by Craig Conte on December 01, 2017

Sue Paley brought her 3rd grade class out to the La Tercera Children's’ STEM Garden on this sunny Friday to plant winter vegetables.  Having a hands-on understanding of the seasonal climate that affects plants and animals is important in understanding how organisms adapt to their habitats.  These students are getting to experience first-hand the coarse and hardy textures in the foliage of kale and cabbage plants.  Understanding the cool climate adaptations of plants is enhanced by the tactile feel of their stems and leaves and the touch of the damp, cold ground in which they are soon to be planted.


(Sort of) Last WEEK’S


Student Council

Student Councils at our schools often plan wacky days to boost school spirit. I walked into the La Tercera Science Lab and was confronted by this astronaut celebrating crazy hat day.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen an astronaut hat before--It was out of this world

Making Up for Lost Time

This is my first newsletter in a few weeks.  I don’t know about everyone else, but this time of year time just flies by for me!  I wanted to backtrack a bit and congratulate Sonoma Mountain on a fantastic celebration of Veteran’s Day.  This is the 2nd year that the school has done a school-wide celebration with a Coast Guard color guard and lots of  veterans in attendance.  The MPR was packed and the band and chorus beautifully performed several patriotic songs.  It was great!  Many thanks to Michele Miller, 2nd grade teacher and the rest of the Sonoma Mountain staff and community for creating such a wonderful event.

Well, hopefully I’m back on schedule and you’ll hear from me each Friday.  Now if I can just get those Christmas cards out before Valentine’s Day!



Superintendent Weekly Update

The Week That Was...

by Craig Conte on October 27

I’m going to officially timestamp myself as an oldtimer, but I can still remember the “Movin’ on Up” theme song from the 1975-85 sitcom, The Jeffersons.  I like to think those song lyrics aptly describe how our eastside district promotes the many talented employees in our schools.  Employees like conscientious Julia Lappin who has moved from an Instructional Assistant position to the Science Facilitator position at Miwok Valley or hard-working Eric Chrisco promoted from a custodian position to the maintenance department.  Recently included in the list of “Movin” on Up” is the dedicated Denise Irving moving into the Payroll position and the talented Lisa Baughn moving into the Curriculum office. I appreciate that our district is small enough to recognise the special skills of our dedicated staff, but also big enough that we have room for people to grow and advance in their career.


Well we're movin' on up (movin on up)

To the east side (movin on up)

To a deluxe apartment in the sky.

Movin' on up (movin on up)

To the east side (movin on up)

We finally got a piece of the pie.




This Halloween season is in full force.  Old Adobe Charter builds an incredibly spooky haunted house that is Universal Studios worthy--thanks to the talented team of Trisha and Chris Cavallero who have have been setting it up for many years at the school.  Loma Vista Dual Immersion Academy hosts a school-wide Dia de Muertos festival with lots of music and La Tercera has a Harvest Festival that is guaranteed to put even the living dead in a good mood.

No, you can believe your eyes!  This happy group of teachers are working after-school on….report cards!  For the past few years the Old Adobe District has scheduled report card support days for teachers to work on their Common Core-based report cards.  We switched to these CCSS report cards in 2014-15 and they take a lot more work to measure student mastery over a wide range of learning standards.  But, you put a bunch of teachers in a room with free caffeinated beverages, snacks and candy and things may get a bit zany.  Thanks to Technology Director, Larry Black and Curriculum Director, Gina Silveira for facilitating the afternoon sessions.

La Tercera is finishing a school wide mural panel project with artist Janet Self and retired La Tercera teacher, Kristen Hughes.  Each of the panels were produced by students in the different grade levels.  The bright and sunny murals blend science and community and will hang in different parts of the campus.  Be sure to check them out when you visit La Tercera.


Super Updates

Why Understanding These Four Types of Mistakes Can Help Us Learn

by Eduardo Briceño

This article was first published in the Mindset Works newsletter.

We can deepen our own and our students’ understanding of mistakes, which are not all created equal, and are not always desirable. After all, our ability to manage and learn from mistakes is not fixed. We can improve it.

Here are two quotes about mistakes that I like and use, but that can also lead to confusion if we don’t further clarify what we mean:

“A life spent making mistakes is not only most honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing” – George Bernard Shaw

“It is well to cultivate a friendly feeling towards error, to treat it as a companion inseparable from our lives, as something having a purpose which it truly has.” – Maria Montessori

These constructive quotes communicate that mistakes are desirable, which is a positive message and part of what we want students to learn. An appreciation of mistakes helps us overcome our fear of making them, enabling us to take risks. But we also want students to understand what kinds of mistakes are most useful and how to most learn from them.

Types of mistakes

The stretch mistakes

Stretch mistakes happen when we’re working to expand our current abilities. We’re not trying to make these mistakes in that we’re not trying to do something incorrectly, but instead, we’re trying to do something that is beyond what we already can do without help, so we’re bound to make some errors.

Stretch mistakes are positive. If we never made stretch mistakes, it would mean that we never truly challenged ourselves to learn new knowledge or skills.

Sometimes when we’re stuck making and repeating the same stretch mistake, the issue may be that we’re mindlessly going through the motions, rather than truly focusing on improving our abilities. Other times the root cause may be that our approach to learning is ineffective and we should try a different strategy to learn that new skill. Or it may be that what we’re trying is too far beyond what we already know, and we’re not yet ready to master that level of challenge. It is not a problem to test our boundaries and rate of growth, exploring how far and quickly we can progress. But if we feel stuck, one thing we can do is adjust the task, decreasing the level of challenge but still keeping it beyond what we already know. Our zone of proximal development (ZPD) is the zone slightly beyond what we already can do without help, which is a fruitful level of challenge for learning.

We want to make stretch mistakes! We want to do so not by trying to do things incorrectly, but by trying to do things that are challenging. When we make stretch mistakes we want to reflect, identify what we can learn, and then adjust our approach to practice, until we master the new level of ability. Then we want to identify a new area of challenge and continue stretching ourselves.

Read more ...

September 22, 2017

What kinds of homework seem to be most effective?

This is where things get really interesting. Because homework should be about learning, right? To understand what kinds of homework best help kids learn, we really need to talk about memory and the brain.

Let’s start with something called the spacing effect. Say a child has to do a vocabulary worksheet. The next week, it’s a new worksheet with different words and so on. Well, research shows that the brain is better at remembering when we repeat with consistency, not when we study in long, isolated chunks of time. Do a little bit of vocabulary each night, repeating the same words night after night.

Similarly, a professor of psychology at Washington University in St. Louis, Henry “Roddy” Roediger III, recommends that teachers give students plenty of little quizzes, which he says strengthen the brain’s ability to remember. Don’t fret. They can be low-stakes or no-stakes, says Roediger: It’s the steady recall and repetition that matter. He also recommends, as homework, that students try testing themselves instead of simply re-reading the text or class notes.

There’s also something known as interleaving. This is big in the debate over math homework. Many of us — myself included — learned math by focusing on one concept at a time, doing a worksheet to practice that concept, then moving on.

Well, there’s evidence that students learn more when homework requires them to choose among multiple strategies — new and old — when solving problems. In other words, kids learn when they have to draw not just from what they learned in class that day but that week, that month, that year.

One last note: Experts agree that homework should generally be about reinforcing what students learned in class (this is especially true in math). Sometimes it can — and should — be used to introduce new material, but here’s where so many horror stories begin.

Tom Loveless, a former teacher, offers this advice: “I don’t think teachers should ever send brand-new material that puts the parent in the position of a teacher. That’s a disaster. My own personal philosophy was: Homework is best if it’s material that requires more practice but they’ve already received initial instruction.”

Or, in the words of the National PTA: “Homework that cannot be done without help is not good homework.”

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

August 16, 2017

The first day of school.  Nervous butterflies in the stomach.  New shoes on the feet.  Wondering about the new teacher and the other students we would meet.  Appologies to Dr. Suess, but the first days of school are always an exciting time for students and their families.  Today, I visited all of our five schools and saw many smiling and happy big and little people!  Our amazingly enthusiatic staff members were making sure that all students and parents felt welcome, safe and part of the Old Adobe family!  Thanks to all for a great 1st day with many more (179) great learning days ahead!

March 3, 2017

This week we wrapped up our first registration window and enrollment numbers were astounding. Over 280 Kindergarteners are already registered for 2017-2018!! Our office teams have done an exceptional job welcoming families, answering questions, following up on paperwork, and supporting this process. Our principals have led many a tour and have been singing the praises of their schools- and families like what they see. Registration, of course, continues all the way through the start of the school year so we don’t know for sure where the numbers will land, but it looks likely that we will have over 300 Kindergarteners and another full six classes of Transitional Kindergarten. This is a real tribute to all of the hard work in Old Adobe Union. Enjoy the weekend.

Tech Tips

Ed Tech Tip- Music

Music, please! For many different reasons it feels like we should strike up the band at the start of the school year, but in reality many of our students miss the music filled time of their summer. While music is a part of our program in Old Adobe Union, it is not the popular music or favorite music that students often listen to during the summer. Technology has completely changed the music landscape and opened up fun learning opportunities. The ideas that follow are not an exhaustive list, but hopefully can open the door to some new family activities that can make language and learning come alive through music.

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Ed Tech Tip - Library

 This past month I have had the pleasure of listening to a number of outstanding audiobooks while driving to and from work. The amazing thing is that I have not purchased any of them. Our library systems have been fairly aggressive at leveraging technology to get books in our hands using 21st Century technology. There are a few ways to use these services, but I recommend the following:

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