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OUSD Newsletter, 6/16/2019
OUSD Newsletter, 6/16/2019
Linda Jordan
Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Please visit The Ojai Unified School District website here for updates, including information  on scheduled Board and Special Meetings.  For additional stories, and updates, follow us on Facebook by clicking here.

Summer Series on Growth and Innovation 

OUSD stakeholders and community members are invited to join Dr. Tiffany Morse, OUSD School Board Members, Staff and community members on June 30th from 3 - 5 p.m. for the first in a series of three discussion entitled "Summer Series on Growth and Innovation in Ojai Public Schools.”  Click below image for more information, or to reserve your spot.  



VC Innovates 2019 Pathfinder Award Winners

OUSD School Board Member Jane Weil, Matilija's Amber Monarrez, Nordhoff’s Naiyma Houston,  incoming Superintendent  Dr.Tiffany Morse, and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Sherrill Knox


Ojai Unified School District is proud to share we have two CTE Pathfinder Award Winners; Nordhoff High School’s Naiyma Houston and Matilija Junior High’s Amber Monarrez.  

Awards were presented to this year’s most innovative educators, business and community partners for their support of Career and Technical Education.  All of the honorees played a pivotal role in bringing career and technical education opportunities to the students of Ventura County.  Congratulations Ms. Houston and Ms. Monarrez!




OUSD Student, Employee and Retiree Awards

School Board Student Representatives

Sofia Moreno Boyd-Barrett, Gray D'Angelo, Arley Sakai, Stella Moore


Ventura County Office of Education nominees for recognition by The California Department of Education

Marisol Ramirez - Paraeducator and Instructional Assistant Award Karl Rimpa - Maintenance, Operations and Facilities Award Kathleen Tarrats - Office and Technical Award  

OUSD Retirees

Congratulations, and thank you for your years of service!

James Mauch – 35 years of Service; Kathy McAlpine – 33 years of Service; Sandra Hansen – 25 years of Service; Rosemary Lowry – 26 years of Service; Janet Beilke – 19 years of Service

OUSD Celebrates Social Emotional Learning, Cultural Literacy Initiatives

Dr. Sherrill Knox presents the District Plan for Cultural Literacy and Anti-Bias Education. To view the discussion, click on above image  

After months of planning and inviting community input, on April 17th OUSD launched its Cultural Literacy Initiative, including supporting curriculum and events, to the School Board and community.  The Cultural Literacy program begins at the Kindergarten/Transitional Kindergarten level using Social and Emotional Learning curriculum that is age-appropriate and helps students develop tools to solve conflicts as they arise.  “From there, we provide anti-bias lessons that are structured and developmentally appropriate for each grade level,” said Dr. Sherrill Knox, Assistant Superintendent of Education Services. “Our aim in implementing these lesson plans and special events across all grade levels is to add that competency of knowing about one another’s cultures, and be culturally-responsive and empathetic."  This includes a Civil Rights Assembly which was held at all Elementary School Sites, and will continue to be part of OUSD’s ongoing curriculum.

Other in-programming efforts, which will be repeated annually, include but are not limited to: “Hate Symbols Assembly” held at Matilija Middle School and led by the Anti-Defamation League and “See Something, Say Something Week” anti-bias/anti-bullying focus, culminating in a visit from a Holocaust Survivor; as well as a Disability Awareness Workshop.

Additional changes at OUSD include the transition of Matilija Junior High to a true Middle School format.  As a result, this Fall, Matilija will welcome incoming sixth and seventh graders.  Although the reconfiguration of our schools from K-6th and 7th -8th grades to a true Middle School configuration may seem like a fast-moving project, it has been a topic of discussion and study in our District for more than four years, noted Dr. Knox.

As the Sixth Grade Configuration committee reviewed the potential for reconfiguration. it discovered decades of research by educators around the question: How do we best educate the 11-14 age group?  “That question was the foundation of a lot our committee meetings” said Dr. Knox. “We were able to discern from reviewing this research that much of what 11-14 year-olds need is Social Emotional Learning (SEL) components balanced with their academic learning needs”. In other words, junior high schools tend to be more subject-oriented, while middle schools tend to be more student-oriented. The middle school format has a true emphasis on educating the “whole child’, noted Dr. Knox. “I am excited about our addition of SEL curriculum in Tk-8th grades,” said Dr. Knox. “Our School Board adopted 2nd Step curriculum (view here) for 6th-8th grades, and we are hoping to launch Toolbox for Tk-5th next week. Finally, we are sending two staff members from each site to a 3-day Restorative Justice training next week, as we look forward to implementing that piece fully in the 2019-2020 school year” 

For more information on Cultural Literacy or Social Emotional Learning initiatives at OUSD, please contact Dr. Sherril Knox at

Nordhoff: Celebrating Academic, Athletic & Artistic Achievement, Together

Nordhoff's 2019 graduating class. Click image to view Senior Class video

“It’s been a truly remarkable year at Nordhoff,” said Dave Monson, Nordhoff High School Principal “As we review student and staff efforts, it’s clear that our student-athletes, -scholars and -artists continue to challenge themselves with even greater accomplishments year-over-year”  


This year, Nordhoff celebrated its first ever CIF Championship for Softball, in addition to honoring CIF finalists for Girls' Volleyball, CIF individual finalists in Track and Swim Team, CIF individual qualifications in Tennis, Wrestling and Golf, and several teams earning a spot in CIF playoffs.  


This year’s graduating class earned a record-breaking amount of scholarships, over $275,000, thanks in great part to NHS College and Career Center’s Sarah Escobar, AVID teacher Bronwen Cull-Michels and our generous and supportive community.  Additionally, through a partnership with parent volunteers, and with Assistant Principal Jaime Rooney’s coordination, we were able to host our first-ever on-campus College Fair, featuring representatives from 32 colleges and universities, three branches of the military and four trade schools.  Additionally, Nordhoff is proud to announce Naiyma Houston, Health Science Academy and Biology Teacher, as a VC Innovates County CTE Pathfinder Award Winner this year. 


“We are extremely fortunate to have dedicated actors, musicians, artists, sculptors, and technicians that represent our school and teachers in events that invite and engage our community,” said Mr. Monson.  This year, thanks to the tutelage of Drama Teacher John Hoj, Nordhoff Student-Artists performed in such productions as; “Xenophobia: Tales from the Twilight Zone” and “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui”, the community-organized and produced Spring Musical, and Dance Teacher Brittney Nevison’s student-choreographed and performed Fall and Spring Dance Concerts.   Throughout the year, Music Teacher Bill Wagner’s students provide stellar performances  through Marching Band, Gold and Blue Choir and Symphony.  Additionally, community-led events such as The Nordhoff Parent Association’s Arts Gala, The City of Ojai’s Art in the Park and Ojai Day, and Ojai Film Society's "Young Filmmakers Competition", afford our fine, ceramic and video art students, led by Kate Thomas, Gray Duncan and Jake Hansen an opportunity to showcase their talents to a very discerning arts community in downtown Ojai.

“Nordhoff Staff and Administration look forward to our new Greater Good Leadership Program, new construction that will modernize our campus and make it more engaging for students and guests, and another great year of Ranger accomplishments,” said Mr. Monson. 

  For more information on Nordhoff High School, please contact Principal Monson at

Chaparral: Equipping For the Future

     Congratulations to CHS and ACE graduates!  Click above image to view year-end video  

“This year, Chaparral welcomed two new teachers, and both have added a great deal to our campus,” said Becky Beckett, Chaparral Principal.  Paul Harkins teaches English, and he has been thoughtful and creative about developing a program that is relevant and engaging for students, noted Ms. Beckett.   Mr. Harkin has taught in Belgium, spends his summers in France, and can be heard at Ojai Coffee Roasters playing his guitar on many Sundays.

Amanda Graves currently teaches Hospitality at Chaparral, although she has taught English in the past, and has experience in the Film world, having worked with the Santa Barbara Film Festival, shared Ms. Beckett.  Under Ms. Graves guidance, students have earned their Food Handlers' and Customer Service Gold certifications. 

“Additionally, this year we celebrated  20 Chaparral graduates and 11 Adult Continuing Education graduates,” noted Ms. Beckett. “As we close a year of accomplishments, we look forward to a new year full of possibilities” 

For more information on Chaparral High School or OUSD Adult Continuing Education, please contact Principal Beckett at

Matilija:  Welcomes Two Incoming Classes  

“We’re excited to welcome two incoming classes - sixth and seventh graders - this Fall,” said Javier Ramirez, Matilija Middle School Principal. “One of the highlights of this year has been the visits I made to the 5th and 6th grade classes at all Elementary schools.  I had an opportunity to officially welcome each class, each student, to Matilija Middle School, and I was pleased to see how excited they were to come to join us in the new academic year”

“Our school Staff and District IT and Maintenance crews have worked tirelessly to ensure our facilities will be ready for our incoming students,” added Mr. Ramirez. There are roughly 160 incoming 6th grade students that will be added to the Matilija Middle School community, and to ensure the transition is smooth, Matilija has hired 9 new teachers. Additionally, the District’s  IT team has been working very hard on porting increased access to technologies at the school, including the installation of 7 Smart TVs, and three new Chromebook carts, as  a result of the generous support of The Ojai Education Foundation and Rotary of Ojai. "We're proud of our exceptional teaching and classified staff here at Matilija, including Amber Monarrez  who received the County CTE Pathfinder Award this year, as well as our Teacher of the year, Kyle Rehder, and our Classified Employee of the Year, Chantal Selleslags," said Mr. Ramirez.  "We look forward to welcoming two new classes to our Matilija Eagles family in the new academic year." 

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

 Meiners Oaks Elementary: Celebrating The Outdoor Classroom

Ms. Mendoza's 6th grade class heading to the OVLC Meadows Preserve

“At Meiners Oaks Elementary, we’ve grown our Outdoor Classroom curriculum in 2018/19 school year," shared Theresa Dutter, Meiners Oaks Elementary Principal.  "We're extremely proud of our students' innate curiosity of the world around them, and our ability to provide on-going opportunities to teach Environmental Sciences, sustainability, and a healthy lifestyle through our curriculum and partnerships” 

Students at Meiners Oaks Elementary have the unique ability, with a functioning garden on-site, and being situated right next to a protected meadow, to enjoy outdoor learning opportunities regularly . "With the help of our dedicated PTA volunteers and The Ojai Education Foundation, we've acquired "Part of Nature" backpacks, stocked with all a student needs for educational hikes in the Meadow," said Leadership Teacher, Janis Duncan. Each pack contains binoculars, bird chart, animal tracks charts, a bird list from the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, pencil, field guide, and compasses. Opportunities for experiential learning in the garden include a recent visit by students to harvest mulberries and make mulberry jam and mulberry "tacos". The garden is resourced, and educational curriculum provided, by a partnership with Food For Thought Ojai. 

Recently, Principal Dutter was chosen as the ACSA, North Ventura Charter, Elementary Principal of the Year.  Congratulations, Ms. Dutter!

For more information on Meiners Oaks Elementary School, please contact Principal Dutter at

Mira Monte: Celebrating Character and Community

"Character and Community  are celebrated regularly at Mira Monte School, and truly define our school's culture,' said Principal Katherine White.  "Each month, we learn about specific character traits, such as gratitude and kindness, and honor the students who exhibit those traits at our monthly assembly.  To underscore the importance of these attributes, each Character Trait Winner is also invited to lunch with the principal at a local restaurant. Our May Character Trait winners enjoyed a wonderful lunch at The Farmer and The Cook" 

Community is celebrated through Mira Monte's many events, such as Food Truck Friday, and an annual Bike-to-Beach ride.  "This year 54 students, 5 staff members, and 20 parent volunteers joined us on our bike-to-beach event," noted Ms. White.  Finally, Mira Monte's annual Family Campout event is a favorite with all students and parents.  "Family Campout provides our community an opportunity to overnight on-campus - in RV or tent - and includes a movie under the stars, popcorn, hot cocoa and a t-shirt, with a pancake breakfast the following morning," said Ms. White.  

"Community and Character are certainly exhibited by our own Marisol Ramirez, who was selected as the Ventura County Office of Education’s nominee to the California Department of Education's Classified Employee of the Year, as Paraeducator and Instructional Assistant," said Ms. White. "Ms. Ramirez' outreach to our Hispanic population has fostered greater participation at Mira Monte, with many of these families taking pride in helping to install and maintain our school's Garden of Knowledge, as well as participating in school beautification projects" 

 Additionally, Ms. Ramirez organized parent volunteers to create a spectacular Dia de Los Muertos display as a cultural education opportunity for all students. Some students were so moved by what they learned that parents reported their children created their own displays at home to honor departed loved ones, added Ms. White.   "We're thankful for staff and parents like Ms. Ramirez who go the extra mile to foster community and character at Mira Monte, and we look forward to welcoming more students and families in the new academic year."

 This year, Principal White was named an Ojai Living Treasure by the Rotary Club of Ojai.  Congratulations, Ms. White!

For more information about Mira Monte Elementary, please contact Principal White at

San Antonio: Celebrating Traditions

San Antonio students perform the traditional Maypole Dance. Click image to see video

Year-end celebrations filled the San Antonio campus, and the hearts of parents, staff and students last week.  “As a treasured San Antonio tradition, our 5th  and 6th grade promoting classes performed The Maypole Dance,” said San Antonio Principal, Robin Monson.  “Additionally, we celebrated the end of a very full academic year with three promotion ceremonies, and each class premiering their own end-of-the-year production.  It’s a privilege to see students working together collaboratively with a creative end-result”.

  • San Antonio year-end celebrations included:
  • Kindergarten memorized lines and sang songs for their Garden Program
  • 1st grade designed props and costumes to perform  the musical Goldilock and Three Bears
  • 2nd grade wrote their own variations of traditional fairy tales and performed using puppets and puppet theaters
  • 3rd grade wrote social skits that modeled being good friends, making good choices and helping others
  • 4rd grade designs scenery and costumes for their presentation of A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • 5th grade designed scenery and costumes to perform their musical Going to Mars
  • 6th grade designed scenery and costumes to perform the Musical Theseus and the Minotaur
For more information on San Antonio School, please contact Principal Monson at

Topa Topa: Celebrating Experiential Learning

Topa Topa students sharing STEAM room projects

"At Topa Topa, we love to give our students opportunities to  learn through experiential opportunities,” said Dawn Damianos, Topa Topa Principal. “Our Community Science Night and STEAM Room are popular activities/places for our students to have those opportunities”

“Topa Topa’s STEAM space offers art students the opportunity to experiment with many different kinds of materials and mediums to create one-of-a-kind art,” said Veronica Bagley, Topa Topa Arts’ co-coordinator.  “Using materials beyond the traditional paper and paint medium shows students that art can be found and made in many forms" This year, Science Night, an inclusive, school-wide and family-oriented event introduced hands-on experiences, that were fun and memorable for students and families alike. “With the help of local organizations, and parent involvement, we were able to provide eight 45-minute workshops from which our families and students could choose,” said Ms. Emily O’Gorman, Topa Topa teacher and Science Night coordinator.   “The Topa Topa PTA ordered Food Trucks for dinner, and they provided an army of volunteers,. It really was a community-attended and -supported event”

“We are proud of the accomplishments of our Topa Topa staff, teachers and students and look forward to another great year ahead,” said Ms. Damianos.

For more information on Topa Topa Elementary, please contact Principal Damianos at

Para información  en español sobre comidas gratuitas para niños este verano, haga clic aquí.

 "OUSD Nutrition Services is excited to announce our second year of offering a free Summer nutrition program for all Ojai children between the ages of 1 - 18," shared Julie Chessen, Director of Nutrition Services. Summer can be a difficult time for children who rely on free and reduced-fee school meals. "We are committed to providing healthy nutritional option to the children of Ojai Valley, and are confident this free service will help to provider a wider array of those option for local families."

OUSD's free lunch program will run from Monday, June 17th to  Thursday July 18th, 12:00-1:30, Monday through Thursday at Roth Apartment Complex, 290 E. El Roblar Drive. (except Thursday, July 4th).  There is no income limit, application or ID required for kids to be served. Anyone age 18 or younger is eligible, as long as the meals are consumed on site. All children in attendance will receive a meal at no charge consisting of a healthy entrée, a vegetable serving, a fruit serving, and milk. 

For more information, please contact OUSD Nutrition Services Director Julie Chessen at

Click on image, below, to view OUSD Calendar for the 2019/20 Academic Year


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