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OUSD Newsletter 3/10/2019
OUSD Newsletter 3/10/2019
Linda Jordan
Monday, March 11, 2019
Please visit The Ojai Unified School District website here for updates, including information  on scheduled Board and Special Meetings.  



Nordhoff Dance: Learning Through Movement

Dance Number, "Money", choreographed by Kirsten Hoj and performed by Nordhoff's "Introduction to Dance" Ensemble


Each fall and spring, Nordhoff dance students offer a dance workshop for students in Kindergarten through 8th grade. The workshop will be held on March 16th, and provides an opportunity for children to visit  Nordhoff and learn dances choreographed by our own high school dance students.

“At Nordhoff, we understand that  dance, and all performing arts, are an essential element in education,” said Dave Monson, Nordhoff High School Principal.  “The dance program at Nordhoff has been a long-standing opportunity for our students - both boys and girls - to experience learning through movement.”  

Since its beginning in 2004 by previous Dance Program Director Kim Hoj, the Nordhoff dance program has continued to grow over the years, and “... has created an inclusive environment where all students are welcome--regardless of dance experience and abilities,” said Mr. Monson.   “NHS Dance represents one of the strengths of this campus: programs for a diverse group of students, who come to us from all walks of life”. The dance program allows students to showcase their creativity as well as take ownership over their learning through their own choreography.  “Additionally, as performances are staged and our performers grow more confident, students are able to challenge themselves, as individuals and performers,” said Mr. Monson. “Through Nordhoff’s Dance workshops, students also have the opportunity to teach younger students, as well as represent their school and community proudly.”  


(l) "Mr. New York", Choreographed by Lissie Fout and Stella Moore.  Performed by Nordhoff Dance Technique students Kaelyn Brown, Kelsie Hoj, Roni Kern,  Ily Litonjua, Mackie Moore, Christina Sharpe, and Mason Velasquez. (r) "Sexism in the City", choreographed by Julia Etchart and Mo Hill.  Performed by Natasha Arce, Alyssa Howe, Katie Koester, Sage Lang, Mariela Lara, Riley Leis, Erin Snett and Chanae Turk

The Ojai community has been enthusiastically receptive to Nordhoff Dance Program's creative work to bring dance to the children of Ojai. Attendance at Nordhoff’s Fall and Spring Dance concerts has grown quickly since the program began in the 2004-05 school year. Nordhoff dance students perform to sold-out, standing room only concerts. Dance concerts showcase a wide variety of work including professional and student choreography.

Brittney Nevison, Nordhoff’s current Dance Program Director,   received her degree in Performing Arts and Dance through California State University of Channel Islands and has most recently received her Teaching Credential in Physical Education through University of LaVerne.  Ms. Nevison’s credits include BET's the Monique Show, Glamour Magazine, Madonna's Material Girl Fashion Line Launch, Colbie Caillat, and more.  


"Money"  Choreographed  by Kirsten Hoj and performed by Nordhoff Introduction to Dance Ensemble

“The Nordhoff Dance program is grateful for  funding from the the City of Ojai Arts Commission, Ojai Education Foundation, Rotary Club of Ojai, Ojai Rotary West, Ojai Optimist Club and the Nordhoff Parent Association,’ said Ms. Nevison.  “We also regularly receive sponsorships from numerous businesses and individuals who believe in ensuring quality experiences for our Nordhoff dance students.”

To enroll your student in the dance workshop, please visit the website here or download and complete  a registration form found here.  For general Dance Program information, please contact Ms. Nevison at



Matilija:   Art + Film Workshop


Matilija Students learn the art of film-making


Through a generous grant from the Ojai Woman's Fund, Ojai Studio Artist Vera Long has launched a mixed media & stop motion animation workshop series at Matilija Junior High School.  The 16-week class meets twice a week, after school for 2 hours. During this time,, up to 30 students are using Macs,  Dragonframe stop motion software, clay, pastels, wire armature, and a large variety of supplied art materials to create hand-made short-stop motion films.  “We ambitiously hope to enter some of these films in the upcoming Ojai Film Society youth filmmakers competition,” said Ms. Long.  “And later in the Ojai Film Festival and Santa Barbara Film festivals young filmmakers' divisions”.

The participating students are learning portrait drawing from observation, color theory, expressive hand drawn animation techniques in vivid ink, to sculpt moveable clay figures, engineering wire puppet armature, storyboarding for film, miniature set and prop building, lighting techniques, sound design and editing.  All of these techniques are personalized to the individual student to deliver their story with impact, by animating their own hand-crafted art. The workshop supports the students in developing and honing their own personal vision, creating their own visual communication language and crafting their own microcosmic worlds through myriad skill building and creative personal & professional development exercises.  Each student has been supplied with a take-home sketchbook journal and drawing kit for further art making.

“We look forward to sharing more about what these developing Visionary Pioneers of the Imagination create,” said Ms. Long.  To see an example of a short stop motion film that the workshop teacher, Vera Long, had the incredible honor to work on several years ago in an Ojai film studio, please visit  "The Rifle's Spiral" by local Emmy award winning Director Jamie Caliri.

For more information about Matilija Junior High, please contact Principal Javier Ramirez at


Topa Topa:  STEAM Room Affords Students New Art Experiences

Topa Topa Students displaying their "Fictional Marine Creature" art projects

Topa Topa is celebrating the one year anniversary of its Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) Room.    “Through the efforts of our parents and the community, we were able to conceptualize, design and build a creative space for our students and teachers,”  said Alyssa Duclos, co-coordinator of the Topa Topa Arts Program. “The STEAM room was launched over Winter Break, 2018 and it is now the most used space in our school.”

“The STEAM space offers Topa Topa 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 shows students that art can be found and made in many forms"

Examples of recent art projects include Mr. Ando’s 6th graders clay sculptures of fictional creatures, based on marine life curriculum presented in class prior to their Catalina island Marine Institute (CIMI) trip this year.  In creating their designs, students learned the process of working with clay, from forming to firing and glazing. Additional projects include Mrs Hill’s fifth graders’ Winter Wonderland houses, Ms Dvortcsak’s fourth graders’ portrait drawings, and Ms Anderson’s third graders practicing color theory by mixing their own colors and painting the color wheel.  Ms Oakland’s first graders used real plants to create fun and unique animals and people, and Ms. O’Gorman’s second graders painted with watercolors then added salt to change texture, and learned how additives can change the final product.

”Our Topa students also learn about famous artists and different styles of art as well as important basic art concepts in fun ways,” said Ms. Bagley. “Mrs Bujold’s first graders created their own Frankenstein monster based on Picasso’s cubism”.   The Topa Topa Arts Program has been thriving in its new "home", noted Topa Topa Principal Dawn Damianos, stating that "The benefit of Arts in the classroom can help our students recognize new skills in themselves and others. For this, and so many other reasons, we are extremely thankful for the hard work the Topa Topa PTA invested in creating a STEAM  room for our students."

 For more information on Topa Topa School and its programs, please contact Ms. Damianos at


Performing Arts: Ukeleles at Ojai Unified

Students perform at Mira Monte’s Ukulele Concert, December 2018


Ojai Unified School District students have been enjoying a new way to learn music. “In 2018, OUSD purchased ukeleles for every 5th grade student in the district to give them access to music education,” said Mira Monte Principal and OUSD Performing Arts Coordinator, Katherine White.  "This new performing arts initiative reinforces and builds upon the music education the students received the previous year in each OUSD 4th grade classroom," noted Ms. White. “Our Kindergarten through 3rd grade students throughout the school district are offered Education Through Music instruction, which is funded by Ojai Music Festival's Bravo program.  Fourth graders are learning basic music theory in General Music class and also learning to play a percussion instrument called a ‘boomwacker’.  Students in grade 6 are learning to play band instruments, strings, and/or sing in choir. “

Fifth grade students at all elementary schools receive a minimum of  30-minute lessons each week with Music Teacher, Mr. Ribiat. Additionally, “OUSD’s 6th grade Band and String Teacher and Matilija’s Music Teacher, Mr. Fredrickson, has invited all elementary ukulele students to participate in Matilija’s upcoming Ukulele Festival,”  said Ms. White.   “We are pleased that our students have the opportunity to learn through collaboration and that music classes are made so readily available to all of our students,"  Ms. White noted. "Studies indicate that music education enhances students’ language skills and other developmental markers." 

For more information on the Ukelele program, please contact Principal White at


San Antonio Elementary Gets a Greenhouse

FFTO and San Antonio Parent Volunteers assembled the new greenhouse over Presidents' Week

San Antonio students returned from Presidents' Week break to find a newly-assembled 6x8 greenhouse added to their school garden.  A team of Food for Thought Ojai staff and board members tackled the project with technical assistance and base preparation from Severo Lara and Jim Churchill. The build team included Christina Esp, Theresa Bulla-Richards, David Sinclair, Shannon Hull, Lori Hamor and Karen Nedivi.

Donated in 2018 through Donors Choose Grant, the greenhouse  " just one more way to extend  learning opportunities for our students,” said Principal Robin Monson.  “It’s a fantastic addition to our school garden. Educators will be integrating new greenhouse activities, which will provide plant starts for school garden beds, with an option of possibly selling starts to the community as a fundraiser.”

Food for Thought Ojai's Karen Nedivi staffs the San Antonio garden every Monday, teaching curriculum, leading Garden Club activities and tending fruit trees.   To learn more about San Antonio School, please email Principal Monson at For information on Food For Thought Ojai, please visit their website here


Meiners Oaks Elementary:  The Outdoor Classroom


Meiners Oaks students creating terrariums for Life Science class

“At Meiners Oaks Elementary, we are building curriculums around the concept of the Outdoor Classroom,” said Principal Theresa Dutter.  “To continue to grow this initiative, we have several projects we are launching this year, including Phase 3 of our Schoolyard Habitat Garden, a Carton-to-Garden Contest, and a new Fruit Tree Orchard”  Ms. Dutter shared that the grounds of Meiners Oaks Elementary School lends itself easily to the concept of the Outdoor Classroom. “Our school is a short walk to Poco Farms, one of our educational partners, and to The Meadows, part of the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy,” said Ms. Dutter.  “It’s a logical progression for us to extend those learning opportunities onto our school grounds”.

The first project the school will be focusing on this year, The Schoolyard Habitat Gardens, includes a Monarch Garden, a Chumash Garden, and a Native Garden.  “All gardens are doing very well thanks to the recent rains,” said Ms. Dutter. “We have completed Phase 1 and 2 of this project, and now will focus on the perimeter of the field to make a pathway of native plants along the meadow preserve fence line.”  Teacher Janis Duncan, the Meiners Oaks School Green Team Coordinator, is a critical part of the Green School efforts.

Ms. Duncan meets regularly with Leadership students to create student-generated projects and to maintain current Green School efforts such as the trash sort, which directs  94% of the school lunch waste away from the county landfill. The school is working with Michael Glen at School Yard Habitat Gardens and California Fish and Wildlife, which provided a $5,000 grant to fund the Meiners Oaks’ gardens.

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


OUSD Initiatives: Professional Learning Communities

As a result of a new California State Low-Performing Students Block Grant, Ojai Unified School District has received a $227,000 grant to support an enhanced learning initiative.  The funding is specifically directed at lifting learning and test scores in under-performing students who don't already fall into categories of student groups that have additional funding streams.  Primarily the money can be spent to provide targeted instruction to the students for whom it was intended as well as Professional Development for teachers. OUSD is in the process of developing Professional Learning Communities (PLC).   According to OUSD Assistant Superintendent Dr. Sherrill Knox, a fifth grade pilot began last year in the area of math. The 5th grade collaborative team used formative assessments in math to drive  data-driven instructional changes under the model of a PLC. While one year of results cannot be determinative, Dr. Knox was pleased that the biggest gains last year in math were among the 5th graders where the PLC model was utilized.

The Low-Performing Student Block Grant funds will be used to hire three Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSA). The TOSAs will provide direct instruction to the students targeted in the grant in grades 3-8. Additionally, they will contribute to the professional development of 3-8th grade teachers by continuing to develop formative assessments that will be used in Collaborative Teams through the PLC.  All of these variables will positively impact instruction for the students receiving the targeted instruction as well as all of the students in grades 3-8, noted Dr. Knox.

In the Professional Learning Community, collaborative teams of teachers will meet regularly to discuss best practices in teaching, learning and assessment for Grades 3 through 8.  To view the presentation of California's low-performing student block grant to the OUSD School Board, please view the video here   To learn more about  Professional Learning Communities, view Learning by Doing, by Richard DuFour, et al  here,  For information regarding OUSD's communications program, please email