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OUSD Newsletter 2/24/2019
OUSD Newsletter 2/24/2019
Linda Jordan
Monday, March 11, 2019

Ojai Unified School District News update your preferences here
Please visit The Ojai Unified School District website here for updates, including information on scheduled Board and Special Meetings. and upcoming opportunities to serve on committees.  


Partnerships in Learning: Food For Thought Ojai


Lead FFTO Environmental Educator Greta Strautman leads Topa Topa Garden Club students through simple snack preparation 

Food for Thought Ojai (FFTO) was organized by a group of parents, educators and growers who first came together in the spring of 2002 to improve nutrition awareness for students at Ojai Unified School District.  FFTO has worked with OUSD staff to develop five interrelated program components with associated curricula that integrate California State Academic Standards. These programs are: 1) nutrition education, 2) garden-based learning, 3) agricultural literacy through farm field trips, 4) advocating for fresh,local, seasonal produce in all school meals and 5) environmental awareness, also known as green and healthy schools. 

This fifth and newest component, also known as the “5Rs” (reduce, reuse, recycle, rot and rethink) focuses on minimizing the ecological footprint of the district by minimizing landfill waste through helping teachers with trash audits, and promoting efforts to conserve energy, water, paper and other resources. One example of the benefit to our stakeholders is the elimination  of 5-compartment lunchtime styrofoam food trays in favor of a compostable option. 

“Due to FFTO’s ongoing fundraising for compostable food trays, we’ve been able to remove the 5-compartment styrofoam trays previously utilized in our elementary cafeterias,” noted Lori Hamor, FFTO Executive Director.  “Over the course of the last four years, this shift to a more sustainable model has effectively removed over 270,000 of these trays from landfill.” Ms. Hamor noted that in addition to providing classroom garden curriculum for grades K, 1, 2 and 4, “FFTO hosts a garden club once a week at every OUSD elementary school, with a variety of activities and usually a simple snack prepared from the gardens that students can sample.” Ms. Hamor stated that students seem to be willing to try new produce options, and are more open to things like Kale, Persimmons, and Broccoli. 

With the help of its committed staff, board, volunteers and donors, the partnership of FFTO and OUSD continues to raise awareness of the importance of healthy childhood nutritional practices, and the integral role of agriculture in our community, encouraging students to reconnect to the land. For more information on the educational partnership between Food for Thought Ojai and Ojai Unified School District, please visit the OUSD Community page here.


Topa Topa: Good Deeds and Kindness


Topa Topa School is Filling Buckets

Topa Topa Teachers are reading “How Full is Your Bucket?” to their students this month. “The book’s premise is that each of us has an invisible bucket that can be filled by drops with good deeds and kindness,” said Dawn Damianos, Topa Topa Principal.  “The book also points out that we can lose drops when we are having a bad day.”

In addition to reading the book to their students, Topa Topa staff has an opportunity to observe the students’ good deeds and acts of kindness, and then add “drops” to a bucket residing in the school office.  The student’s name and what they did to fill someone’s bucket is indicated on the note, and there is a weekly drawing for prizes.

“We are happy to report that Topa Topa’s ‘bucket’ is filled daily,” said Ms. Damianos. “Our students and staff have embraced this new initiative and we are excited to continue modules that benefit social emotional learning to enhance our school culture.” For questions about Topa Topa Elementary, please contact Principal Damianos at


Mira Monte: Restorative Practices


“At Mira Monte, we are beginning to explore the ongoing practice of restorative justice as a pathway to conflict resolution,” said Katherine White, Mira Monte Principal.  To that end, last December, Teachers began reading “Better than Carrots or Sticks: Restorative Practices for Positive Classroom Management”, a short book designed to help teachers implement these processes in the classroom.  

“In the spirit of collaboration, teams of teachers are leading discussions about what they have learned, agreed with, disagreed with, and plan to implement in their classrooms,” noted Ms. White. “Our collective goal is to be able to improve our procedures and expectations for student behavior through positive interpersonal skills, using non-confrontational approaches with even the most challenging students.”   According to Ms. White, the implementation of conflict-resolution strategies prioritizes relationships among the students, and encourages mutual understanding through social-emotional learning practices. 

“The principle idea behind restorative practices is that everyone makes mistakes, and that mistakes are opportunities to learn. When a student misbehaves, we consider that the student has made a mistake,  and we give them a chance to make a correction,” said Ms. White, emphasizing. “This is the beginning of what we hope will become an ongoing process, encouraging our students to learn an important life skill of conflict resolution that will enhance their experiences in high school, college and/or career and family relationships.” 

For more information on Mira Monte School, please email Principal White at


Nordhoff:  “Say Something” Week


Click the above image to view a video about Sandy Hook Promise "Say Something" Week.  

Beginning Monday, February 25th, Nordhoff will participate in National “Say Something” week, sponsored by Sandy Hook Promise. Established after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the Sandy Hook Promise is focused on empowering students to ‘say something’ when they know a student may be in danger of hurting themselves or others.  “Research indicates that in at least 70% of suicides and school shootings, warning signs were apparent to others--particularly the students’ peers,” said Dave Monson, Nordhoff High School Principal.

“The ‘Say Something’ campaign does more than act as a warning system.  It encourages positive school climate, helping students to understand about harmful issues, such as; vaping of nicotine and marijuana, as well as acts of intolerance and exclusion,” noted  Mr. Monson. “With help from Ms. Cull-Michel’s student-led Leadership class, we have a week filled with opportunities for students to embrace change and foster a more positive campus culture.”

“Say Something” week begins with an all-school assembly to discuss what can be done to address threats to self and others.  Students will have an opportunity to share their thoughts by completing a voluntary “culture” survey, receiving citizenship points as an added incentive. Other activities throughout the week include selfies and pledge sheet, the dangers of vaping will be presented in all classes.   The final day of “Say Something” week Nordhoff will host a Holocaust Survivor who will speak to all students as an extension of their Social Studies classes that day. For more information about the Sandy Hook Promise, please click here   For questions about “Say Something” week at Nordhoff, please email Principal Monson



Nordhoff: International Travel for Service

(l)2018-19 L.I.V.E. Club Members, Top Row: Faith Green-Roy, Mayra Murillo, Lexi Stone, Christina Sharpe, Emily Ehrlich, Isabella Gomez. Bottom Row: Lesly Bernabe, Arley Sakai, Clarissa Perez.  (r) 2017-18 L.I.V.E. Club Members on their way to work on a Bribri Village water project


“L.I.V.E. is a student-run club with a  mission to develop global citizenship and understanding in Nordhoff students through international service projects,”noted Club Advisor, and Nordhoff Social Studies Teacher, Gabrielle Taylor.   “L.I.V.E. facilitates cross cultural exchange and empowers students to become leaders through the process of planning, budgeting, community outreach, and international travel.” 

Established in 2017, L.I.V.E. consists of a small group of Nordhoff students who are passionate about exploring new cultures and serving others around the world. Team members take an active role in planning, budgeting, and deciding on travel destinations and types of service. "This club is an amazing opportunity to grow into a better person. Not only do we get to travel, but we also get to immerse ourselves into different cultures and learn new things about ourselves.” said Lexi Stone, returning member & club officer, class of 2019. 

In the 2017-2018 school year, club members raised over $15,000 and sent seven Nordhoff students and two teachers - Ms. Taylor and Ms. Calkins - to stay with an indigenous Bribri village in Costa Rica.   “The team stayed with a Bribri host family and worked alongside the community's water board on their ongoing clean water projects,” said Ms. Taylor. “L.I.V.E. club members dug trenches and installed pipelines in order to bring clean, potable water to two homes in the village, as well as to the local medical clinic.“ 

This summer, the  L.I.V.E. team will travel to a mountainous region in northern Thailand.  “Our team will stay for several days at the Children's Home that serves as an educational center, and serves the region’s youth who would not otherwise be able to attend school,” said Ms. Taylor.  “While there, we will learn about the issues facing these groups in Thailand and assist the facility in their ongoing improvement projects” For more information on L.I.V.E. Club, or to support their upcoming project, please click here  For more information on Nordhoff High Schools’ Clubs, please visit the NHS ASB website here


Matilija: Environmental Studies

Matilija Environmental Studies students planting “Oak Circles”; complementary native plants grown around Oak trees. 

“Matilija’s Environmental Studies class is in its first year,” said Teacher Steve Gard.  “Appropriately, the year has been full has been full of ‘firsts’”  Since September, Environmental Studies students have created “Oak Circles”, constructed new garden beds and effected its first Trash Audit,an analysis of an organization’s waste stream.  Trash Audits can identify what types of recyclable materials and waste a facility generates and how much of each category is recoverable for recycling or reuse. 

 As part of OUSD’s long-term educational partnership with Food For Thought Ojai,  Lori Hamor of FFTO led  Matilija’s ES students through the audit process. “Our initial data suggests we are sending nearly 400 pounds of waste, weekly, to our landfills,” said Mr. Gard.  “Approximately 275 pounds of compost & recycling end up in the trash as well.” Mr. Gard said, stating that ES students pointed out immediately that better signage & containers could decrease Matilija’s waste very quickly. “We will continue to gather data weekly, and throughout the year, to test methods designed to help students readily deposit waste, compost & recycle in the appropriate containers.” said Mr. Gard.  

Matilija’s trash audit will also aid in increasing compost, which is a staple of the Environmental Sciences curriculum. “If we can repurpose even half of the estimated 15,000 pounds that Matilija sends to the landfill as compost, all garden beds will be replenished & every plant on campus will be amply fed,” noted Mr. Gard.  Nordhoff High School’s Environmental Field Studies class has been conducting trash audits for 5 years, noted Ms. Hamor.

For more information, a class visit or a tour of our program & grounds, please contact Steve Gard at Matilija: 805-640-4355 ext. 1610 or

For information regarding OUSD's communications program, please email