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Sense of community characterizes 2012 for CUSD

If there is any theme to the events that marked the past year in the Claremont Unified School District, it is this: people coming together to accomplish big things.

 

Support of administrator

A primary example of this trend is the community’s widespread support of former Sumner Elementary School Principal Frank D’Emilio in the face of his May 3, 2012 dismissal from the district by the CUSD board.

Earlier in the year, Mr. D’Emilio had failed to report inappropriate behavior between 2 children as a possible instance of child abuse to the Department of Children and Family Services, despite the urging of one of the students’ parents. He later obfuscated about his non-reporting decision, leading the parent and at least one coworker to believe he had contacted authorities.

In a written defense, Mr. D’Emilio explained he hadn’t viewed the circumstance as abuse, given the young ages of the students involved, but apologized for his lack of forthrightness. He tendered his resignation as principal, but asked to be allowed to teach in the district. When the board refused his resignation, instead terminating his employment, the community was and galvanized.

A standing-room-only crowd packed into the May 18 school board meeting to show support for Mr. D’Emilio, who is widely beloved for his 25 years as a CUSD principal and teacher. The support went viral with the creation of a Facebook group, “We Stand With Frank D’Emilio.” It quickly garnered 1500 members. At a special meeting held on May 30, the board met to discuss the issue. After 2-hours of closed-session deliberation, the board announced, to resounding applause, that they had voted to reinstate Mr. D’Emilio’s CUSD employment. 

“The board believes you have much to offer to our future students,” CUSD board president Jeff Stark told Mr. D’Emilio, who is now a teacher at Vista Del Valle Elementary School. 

 

The world’s a stage

The Claremont High School Theater Department has long been one of the top thespian programs in the state, featuring more than 450 active members and garnering honors at the local, state and national levels. Its decades-old headquarters, however, known for its dilapidation, has been anything but state-of-the-art.

That will change this spring with the opening of the newly renovated and expanded Don F. Fruechte Theatre for the Performing Arts, one of the most ambitious construction projects undertaken at Claremont High School in recent years. Named for CHS’s founding theater director (who was on-hand, complete with ceremonial gold shovel, for the project’s June groundbreaking) the new theater will include the addition of a 1600-square-foot lobby, 3500 square feet of classroom space and an updated wiring system.

Bringing the project, which was funded in part by a $1.5 million matching Career and Technical Educational grant from the State Allocation Board, to fruition has been a community affair. CHS boosters raised a remarkable $400,000 before the CUSD school board voted for the district to pitch in with a $1.5 million bridge loan. Boosters are now sponsoring an effort to fill the theater with flip-up, upholstered seats to lend a more professional air to theater productions.

For information on becoming a sponsor, with a brass plate acknowledging your donation, contact Bridget Healy, co-chair of the Theatre Renovation Committee, at 624-3131.

Upcoming productions likely to be held in the new digs by the CHS Theatre Department, under the direction of 2012 Teacher of the Year Krista Elhai, include: You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown (April 19 and 20), The Women of Lockerbie (May 2 and 11) and an adaptation of Euripides’ Medea,  (May 3 and 10).

 

Foundation donation enriches CUSD

Music and art programs have been cut in many school districts and cash-strapped schools are having a hard time buying the equipment and software necessary to keep up with technology innovations. The Claremont Educational Foundation (CEF) has never been more important.

Members of the nonprofit organization, which was founded in 1991, work tirelessly to raise awareness and funds to promote quality public education in CUSD. Its greatest focus is helping to bankroll art and music instruction in Claremont elementary schools and funding technology at El Roble Intermediate and Claremont High and San Antonio High Schools.

CEF also helps fund the SLICE summer enrichment program and provides grants to graduating seniors who have distinguished themselves in the areas of instrumental music and community outreach.

At the October 18 school board meeting, Ken Corhan, the new president of CEF, presented the district with an impressive $210,000 check for the 2012-2013 school year. This kind of support brings to life the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

 

Always supporting students

Longtime CHS administrator Ronald L. Meyer died on October 2, 2012 at the age of 81. Mr. Meyer began his teaching career in the Bonita and Pomona School districts before finding his home in the Claremont Unified School District in 1969. He rose in the administrative ranks to the position of assistant principal at CHS and was summer school principal at the high school for many years.

Mr. Meyer, a theater aficionado, would also serve as producer for the Claremont High School Theater Department’s annual summer productions. Even when he retired from CHS, Mr. Meyer maintained his interest in Wolfpack activities, especially the school’s theater program, and was active in efforts to raise money for the Claremont High School Theater renovation project.

His dedication to the students and programs of CUSD will not be forgotten, friends shared. 

 

After school program takes honors

For whom does the bell toll? It rings for Claremont After-School Programs.

The California School Boards Association honored the local nonprofit with the prestigious Golden Bell Award on December 1, honoring a program that is “innovative and sustainable, makes a demonstrated difference for students, and focuses on the needs of all students.”

It is an apt description for CLASP, which provides academic and emotional support for some 150 of the city’s most vulnerable elementary school students. Participants head to CLASP 3 days a week for the 2-hour program, which includes homework assistance, mentoring, a healthy snack and recreation.

What keeps CLASP going is community involvement, including the efforts of volunteer tutors and the donors who provide 20 percent of funding for the program. In a welcome development, The Claremont Club stepped in this year to provide a new site for the kids of CLASP, offering space for tutoring and the use of the club’s facilities.

“It has a lot of activities,” Vista Elementary School 5th grader Roman Martinez enthused of The Claremont Club. “I like the hula hooping and the exercise machines.”

 

Saving grace

When it became known that longtime CHS English and creative writing teacher Ruth Bobo was struggling to stay in her home due to high medical bills, the CHS community sprang into action.

One of Mrs. Bobo’s students, Arin Allen (Class of ’92), was inspired to spearhead the Save Mrs. Bobo campaign, with the goal of raising $72,000. That figure would help keep the teacher who has touched so many lives in her Claremont home for 5 more years.

Mrs. Bobo, 75, faces sight-loss, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and gastro-intestinal difficulties. As a result, she requires 24-hour in-home care, at $4800 per month, which is not covered by Medicare. Between her arthritis and Parkinson’s, Mrs. Bobo is unable to write and faces serious mobility issues, so “the thought of moving is horrendous,” she said.

As of November 30, 2012, 67 people had donated money to the Mrs. Bobo Fund, for a total of $8122.25. Many more people have sent cards, gifts and flowers to Mrs. Bobo, which she says has acted to brighten her life considerably.

Explaining what prompted him to help his favorite high school teacher, Mr. Allen spoke with passion. “There are certain people in our lives who we can’t refuse. When you have a mentor, an elder who’s invested in you, you can’t say no. Your heart wouldn’t let you.” 

The campaign continues, with Mr. Allen and Mrs. Bobo’s friends and family urging CHS alumni and community members to donate time or money—every bit helps—to the Save Mrs. Bobo campaign. You can send written warm wishes to Mrs. Bobo, as well as contributions via check or money order, to: Ruth Bobo, care of the Ruth M. Bobo Fund, 580 W. 10th St., Claremont, CA, 91711.

For more information on how you can help, visit www.ruthmbobofund.com or email Arin Allen at arin.allen@gmail.com.

 

Oakmont, take a bow

Some of the best news announced by CUSD this year was a whopping 86-point gain by Oakmont Elementary School in its Academic Performance Index score for the 2010-2011 school year.

First developed in 1999 as part of California’s Public Schools Accountability Act, an API score is a single number that measures a school’s performance and improvement. At 859 points, Oakmont’s API score surpassed the state’s goal that all California schools maintain at least an 800 API. It also demonstrated a learning leap that is one of the largest made by schools in the Inland Valley and surrounding regions.

Oakmont’s improvement was particularly heartening because the school was in its second year of Program Improvement. With one more year of significant improvement, Oakmont will leave behind its on-watch status, which brings with it the threat of drastic interventions.  

The students of Oakmont celebrated this outstanding achievement with a November 9 Celebration of Success that included face-painting, inflatable Sumo wrestling suits, a rock-climbing wall, cotton candy, live music and a giant slide. Would you like to see the campus getting down to celebrate their scores going up? Footage from the celebration can be seen on the Oakmont School website at http://oakmont.cusd.claremont.edu/.

Stacey Stewart, now in her second year as principal of Oakmont, attributes the gain to “the laser-like focus on instruction that our teachers had, the dedication that both teachers and students showed, and our commitment as a team to make sure we improve our instruction and practices school-wide.” 

Can Oakmont keep it up, growing scores on state testing and achieving their goal of further improving student behavior and morale?

“Absolutely,” Ms. Stewart said. “We’re continuing to use best practices—to revisit the instructional strategies used inside and outside the classroom and tweak them as needed.”

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com

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