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OUSD Newsletter, 3/24/2019
OUSD Newsletter, 3/24/2019
Linda Jordan
Monday, April 22, 2019
Ojai Unified School District News update your preferences
Please visit The Ojai Unified School District website here for updates, including information  on scheduled Board and Special Meetings.  

Partnerships in Education:  Empowerment Workshops


Workshop Founder and Director, Tobi Jo Greene, bottom row second from right, pictured with previous MJHS Girls Empowerment Workshop participants  

Since 2006, Ojai Unified School District has partnered with The Empowerment Workshops to provide students an opportunity to learn about such important topics as Self Worth & Respect, Media Literacy & Social Media, Communications Skills and more.  Founder and Director Tobi Jo Greene shares that “The Empowerment Workshops’ mission is to EDUCATE, EMPOWER and INSPIRE teens by raising awareness, developing communication skills, and cultivating self respect”

Ms. Greene’s work experience over the past 20 years has been related to the empowerment of individuals of all ages, including the development and implementation of  environmental education programs.

“Research has shown that teens who receive comprehensive education, such as that offered in our programs, are equipped with the tools they need to make informed decisions.  This in turn encourages them to establish self respect, and they are less likely to be a part of bullying, or engage in risky situations or other challenges common to young people,” said Ms. Greene.  “These workshops give students an overview on multiple topics, allowing students to make informed decisions on issues regarding their bodies and their wellbeing, including feeling empowered to set healthy boundaries.”

“Simply put, the empowerment program provides an outlet for our participants to talk about the difficulties of being a teenager,” added Jeanine Murphy, LMFT, OUSD Mental Health Clinician and Empowerment Workshop Board Member. “In a group setting with safe parameters,  our workshop participants learn to talk about the difficult pieces of their lives”.   Ms. Murphy noted these same students benefit from realizing they’re not alone in their concerns, and feel more comfortable sharing in a forum that provides safety and accuracy of information as they navigate choices unique to the adolescent years.

Ms. Greene added that all empowerment classes maintain respect for individuality and personal rights, and allows for open discussion without judgment.  "This is vital for participants to feel safe in their discussions. We believe that everyone has something important to share"

Spring Empowerment Workshops begin at Matilija Wednesday, April 10th and run for 8 consecutive weeks.  Girls Empowerment Workshops will be held on Wednesdays beginning 4/10, from 1:30-3:00. Boys Empowerment Workshops will be held on Mondays beginning 4/15 from 2:30-4:00.

For more information on the Empowerment Workshops, please visit

For information on Matilija Junior High, please contact Principal Ramirez at

After-School Dance Program for K-8 Students


In the Spring of 2016, Ojai Dance, OUSD’s K-8 Grade Dance program, opened its doors to all Elementary- and Middle School-aged students at OUSD.  Begun as a result of collaboration between Mira Monte School Principal Katherine White, and TK/Kindergarten teacher Stephanie Hull, and funded through Mira Monte PTO, the dance program was quickly able to find space, equipment and funding.

“The Mira Monte PTO funded the installation of a new sprung dance floor in a classroom that had previously been used by a dance program years ago,” said Ms. Hull.  “Fortunately, mirrors had previously been installed, and the Nordhoff Dance program recently donated their ballet barre”. The program has been very popular, noted Ms. Hull.  “We’ve grown from 24 students in the Spring of 2016 to 84 students in our current term”

“Art programs have the potential to benefit students across all disciplines,” noted Ms. Hull.  In fact, research indicates performing arts’ presence in a school setting can help improve a participating student's concentration, develop decision-making and critical thinking skills, enhance communication and listening skills, and encourages focus and discipline.  

Ms. Hull added that as the dance program  is now available to all students in the district, “...teaching these workshops has been a great joy because the opportunity is inclusive,” said Ms. Hull.  “I get to see kids from all over the valley, and friendships are being formed among the students that allows them to stay connected in later grades.  My hope is that these same students find the opportunity to continue their love of learning through movement”

After-school dance classes are offered at Mira Monte Elementary School on Mondays from 3:00-5:00; Tuesdays from 2:00-7:00 (multiple classes), and Wednesday from 5:00-7:30.  Since this program is sponsored by the Mira Monte PTO, Mira Monte students have first priority for enrollment.

Ms. Hull added that the OUSD dance community has been supportive.   “I have two aides that are graduates of the Nordhoff Dance class, which affords teaching and mentoring opportunities to both the younger and older students.”

“Our students work very hard, and always look forward to our twice-yearly shows, held in December and May at Matilija Auditorium,” said Ms. Hull.   Each session is 16 weeks, and is $85/student, (or about $4/class). The students also receive a costume for the session-end performance. “The Mira Monte PTO  provides scholarships, if necessary,” said Ms. Hull. For more information on Mira Monte School, including the after-school dance class, please contact Principal White at  

Democracy in Action at  Government Center 


Topa Topa Student Kira Fink as Judge and Pablo Espana as Jury Foreman at the  Ventura County Government Center Mock Trial Experience  

Topa Topa Elementary Sixth Graders recently visited the Ventura County Government Center for their annual field trip. “As our students learn about American ideals of Democracy, we believe it’s important to show them democracy in action,” said Ms. Sarah Ferranti, Topa Topa 6th Grade Teacher. “Prior to attending the tour, our students study democracy from its beginnings in Ancient Greece,” said Ms. Ferranti. “We also viewed a video provided by the Courthouse, to help the student understand the different responsibilities in the courtroom”

During the tour, Topa Topa students were able to attend preliminary hearings and speak with attorneys.  “They even had the opportunity to ask the Bailiff questions, and participate in a mock trial,” said Ms. Ferranti.  During the mock trial portion of the field trip, students took on the roles of Public Defender, District Attorney, Judge, and Jury Foreperson.

“The students were also allowed to sit in on a preliminary hearing, and hear a Sheriff’s officer testify about the DNA findings of a recent arrest,” said Ms. Ferranti.  Of course, the cases reviewed were age-appropriate, as “...prior to each school group arriving, the tour guide determines with the judge which hearing would be best for each group to  attend,” said Ms. Ferranti, adding “This has been a tradition at Topa Topa Elementary for 12 years. The students always share that the Courtroom field trip is one of their favorite of the entire year” For more information on Topa Topa School, please contact Principal Damianos a


Horticulture Class Looks to Farmers Market Option



Chaparral High School has a new greenhouse to complement its growing towers, raised beds and worm bins 

Chaparral’s Horticulture students now have access to a new greenhouse, to add to the other resources already being utilized by the class,  including three growing towers, six raised beds, and worm bins

With the new greenhouse, the students will be able to grow 30 - 50 heads of lettuce every week, and are also creating an herb garden.  “Now that these fundamental pieces are in place, Chaparral’s staff and students are reviewing options for the produce we will be growing,” said Becky Beckett, Chaparral Principal.  Current ideas include a school-based farmers market, choosing a non-profit to donate the fresh produce, and growing specific items for Ojai Unified School District kitchens. The options are not mutually exclusive, noted Ms. Beckett.

“Chaparral’s Horticulture students have been maintaining a worm compost system for several years, and have collected worm castings to enrich the soil in the raised beds,” said Ms. Beckett.  The class currently meets in the afternoon, after Chaparral's regular class hours. For more information on Chaparral High School, please contact Principal Beckett at  

Pi Day at San Antonio School

San Antonio Students enjoying Pi Day  

San Antonio School’s  upper grade students spent March 14th - also known as 3.14 or “Pi Day” - learning about the irrational, non-repeating number, represented by the Greek letter “π”.

“Students learned that pi, approximately equal to 3.14159, is a mathematical constant used as the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter,” said Robin Monson, San Antonio School Principal. “The students used pi to calculate the relationship between the circumference and diameter of circles”

“The highlight of Pi Day is our Pi Bee,” said Ms. Monson.  “Students spent time memorizing the digits of Pi, and had an opportunity to recite them.  Our Pi Bee winner, Charlotte Sittig, was able to recite Pi to 123 digits was able to recite Pi to 123 digits!”  Students also told "punny" Pi jokes to each other, received Pi tattoos on their hands and, of course, enjoyed sampling the non-math version of pie, donated by San Antonio parents.  Pi Day is one of our favorite math days of the year!

For more information on San Antonio School, please contact Principal Monson at  

New Advisory Period Supports Social Emotional Learning

“Second Step” curriculum  is a research-based program rooted in social-emotional learning (SEL). To learn more, click above image  

Beginning in Fall of 2019, Matilija Middle School will implement a new advisory period, designed to give students an opportunity to participate in Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum.

This advisory period will allow students to  participate daily in a smaller group setting, and  remain with the same advisory teacher through the school year, affording that teacher an opportunity to act as a mentor and advocate for the student.

“Our 7th and 8th grade teachers have been piloting the program in preparation for next year’s move to a true Middle School configuration,”  said Ms. Carol Paquette, Matilija Junior High Assistant Principal. “After reviewing 7 possible programs, Second Step Middle School Program was selected for the pilot”   Second Step is a social-emotional learning (SEL) program that facilitates the building of a culture of connectedness and empowers students with skills to succeed in academics and in life, noted Ms. Paquette.

“We want our students  to be successful in school, and that means going beyond the basics,”  noted Mr. Javier Ramirez, Matilija Junior High Principal. “Excelling in academic classes is important, but students also need to know how to learn, make good decisions, handle strong emotions, and get along with others.”

Ms. Paquette noted that what the teachers in the pilot program found most impressive about Second Step was the robust curriculum, which touches on the following topics:

*Mindsets and Goals: Students learn about ways to grow their brains and get smarter, along with research-based strategies for achieving goals and handling difficult situations.

*Values and Friendships: Students learn to identify their personal values and use those values to make good decisions and build strong, positive relationships.

*Thoughts, Emotions, and Decisions: Students learn the positive role emotions play in their lives, how to handle unhelpful thoughts and strong emotions, and specific strategies for calming down.

*Serious Peer Conflicts: Students learn how to identify and avoid serious conflicts, resolve conflicts that can't be avoided, think about other people's perspectives, and help stop bullying and harassment at school.

“The steps we are taking as we move to a true Middle School configuration are designed around a student-oriented approach to curriculum choices,”  said Dr. Sherrill Knox, OUSD Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services.  “This is in line with what educators have known for some time, and research bears out, that 11-14 year olds learn best when there is an emphasis on educating the “whole child.”

In the 2019/20 Academic year, Matilija Middle School advisory periods will be four times per week, after 4th period and before lunch.

For more information on Matilija Middle School, please contact Principal Ramirez at

Learn more about Second Step here

Also see OUSD Middle School Reconfiguration