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WC Beat Vol. III

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Tribute to Principal Gordon Pfitzer

On Monday, September 26th, Merced Elementary lost their beloved leader Mr. Gordon Pfitzer. “When an unfamiliar voice came on over the PA to announce an unscheduled recess, and an emergency meeting, my heart just stopped,” recounts teacher Anna Montane-Munoz. “As we walked to the media center, someone pointed out that Gordon was not on campus. Then we saw familiar district faces and we became anxious. After hearing the news, the staff was devastated for his family; we knew how much he loved his wife and son. We were distraught for our school. He was Merced.”


Administrators and TOSAs (Teacher on Special Assignment) covered classes as Merced teachers were given the sad news. “It made all the difference in the world to have everyone’s support. There was no way I would have been able to face my students after hearing that news,” shared site TOSA, Jeanette Thomas. Thomas continued, “We felt taken care of. Seeing my friends and counterparts from the other schools really comforted me. Those familiar faces who I knew also felt the loss made me feel loved. We just knew we weren’t going to be left alone.”


Mr. Pfitzer’s humility, his eagerness to make everyone feel important, was the message that everyone shared as an estimated 1,000 people gathered at Merced for a candlelight vigil in his honor. Even students now in college, came to share their condolences. A moment that stood out for many was when the school custodian, Elidia Hudson shared how Mr. Pfitzer made everyone feel like they were as important as the next. Hudson shared, “He retitled me Day Plant Manager.” One student shared about his experience when he was sent to the principal’s office, “He never got mad at me. He talked to me.”

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The loss of Mr. Pfitzer was not simply contained at Merced. District administrators had worked closely with him since he joined WCUSD in 2005. Director of Elementary Education, Cheryl Lesikar, shared “Gordon was an administrator that put his students, teachers, and parents at the forefront of every decision. Every child on his campus was as important as the next and he knew them by name. The administrative team will all miss his sense of humor.”


This week the staff and students at Merced planted a tree in a ceremony to honor their late principal. Staff and students shared stories of how much fun it was to have Mr. Pfitzer as their principal. How many principals chase pigs, kiss cows, and dance the “Whip/Nae Nae”?

 

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There are some constants in life that everyone comes to depend on, and rarely do people know how good they have it until it is gone. That was not the case at Merced Elementary; teachers, staff, students and parents knew exactly what they had in Principal, Gordon Pfitzer. They had a leader that was special. 
 

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Students speak out on Measure ES


Ask a student about their thoughts on Measure ES and you may get a quizzical look in return. Ask them what they would like to see improved about their school – you’ll need to be prepared for an earful. West Covina High School senior and ASB president, Krystal Beltran complained, “We are learning about renewable energy and alternate energy sources, and we have fluorescent light in our classrooms. It’s like our standards are changing about what we need to learn, but we are sitting in the same chairs and desks that some of our grandparents sat in.”  That may sound like hyperbolic language, but it isn’t too far off. Most of the furniture, and many of the buildings have not been replaced in almost 60 years.


In a recent WCHS Newsbytes article, editorial writer Elijah Leon shared his feelings about the measure, “I personally feel that Measure ES is a great step in the right direction–I really do–but personally I’m tired of going to other schools to watch performances, plays, and other sports. It would be nice to have a nice theatre built at school so plays would no longer have to be held in the cafeteria and it can feel like it is 100 percent WCHS. When there are plays here, they are held in the cafeteria on a small stage where the audience is sitting on uncomfortable plastic chairs. It would also be great to have a pool on campus, because I believe that we really need one. Our team goes to Edgewood and our swimming events are held at Edgewood High which is a huge inconvenience. There is room for a pool at our school, and it would benefit the student body and our swimming teams. It would be nice if some funds would go towards more facilities that would improve our campus.”

 

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Elijah, like many other students, would like to see the finalized plans the district has for the money raised through Measure ES. However, earmarking funds for specific campuses and new buildings cannot be done until the measure passes. If Measure ES passes, the district will be tasked with establishing an oversight committee that will be comprised of teachers, administrators, parents, and community members. The overall needs assessment will be shared with the committee, and there, the decisions of what will be upgraded and what will be built will be determined.


Edgewood High School senior, Ethan Vuong, also thinks Measure ES is a good idea, “It would be great if we upgrade facilities, and have seating with shade. The pool and track facilities need to be upgraded. We would all benefit from less concrete, and an increase in green spaces. Fellow Edgewood senior, Francisco Gutierrez adds, “Many of my friends want a theatre because it will benefit so many other programs. All sports surfaces are in very poor condition. We could also use better security and surveillance equipment to prevent vandalism, like what happened to the Edgewood Lion.”

 

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Elementary history comes alive with new framework


Quick. Tell us everything you know about the history of West Covina (birds chirping). Right? Did you know that the state standards indicate that every third grader should be learning about the history of their home city? How do teachers even begin? Sure, there’s Google. But, how do you begin the discussion of Web site reliability with eight year olds?  Thanks to the good folks at CSU Dominguez Hills History Project, teachers from West Covina Unified have been attending workshops that introduce new and engaging ways to teach the new History/Social Studies standards.


Twenty-three district elementary teachers attended summer workshops to pour over the new History Framework that was approved this past July. With the full implementation not expected until January, West Covina teachers are getting a head start.

History content as we know it isn’t changing, what the framework does is change the HOW we teach. That is where the big shift exists. It is now inquiry-based learning where children are encouraged to discover and think like a historian.


The Project has opened up the opportunity to team our elementary teachers with local museums. Third grade teachers were welcomed to Hurst Ranch to discover more about the historical importance of the local community. They were greeted by Donna Melone, secretary of the historical foundation and children’s educational committee at Hurst Ranch. The teachers were thrilled to find out that they would also be led around the ranch by Audra Simmons, a descendant of the Hurst family who grew up on the family farm.

Third grade teacher, Donna Souza of Vine Elementary shared, “My kids have been so excited about learning the new curriculum. We did an artifact gallery walk and each group of kids predicted what they thought the artifacts were and what they were made of. They learned a lot from the activity; it was so hands on.”


Fourth grade teachers, not to be left out, are working with the folks at the Homestead Museum in the City of Industry. The museum will be sending a historian to walk teachers through the important history of West Covina and the entire San Gabriel Valley where they will be focusing on the Rancho period of California 1784 – 1846. She continued, “Working with Dr. Lisa Hutton (CSU Dominguez Hills) has been an absolutely wonderful experience,” exclaimed fourth grade Merced teacher Becky Unver. “Her insight into the needs of teachers and students has helped my grade level team improve our teaching practices and engage more students in the difficult subject of history.”


Leading the charge and facilitating these new relationships is district History TOSA, Cindy Mata-Ayala, who knows the importance of starting inquiry-based learning in the elementary grades. “As a high-school History teacher, I was aware of the struggle that students had in working with primary and secondary sources. I recognized the need to expose students to these rich historical documents earlier on in their education. The relationship we are forging with these community museums and universities has given us a wealth of information and the support we need.”


History is important, relevant, and interesting. Thankfully the new framework brings this to the forefront.

 

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District students part of National Champion baseball team


Derrick Curiel, (Merced Elementary) and Joseph Moreno (Monte Vista Elementary) are fifth graders who are part of Wilson Team MVP Club Baseball and are nationally ranked number one in the nation. This summer, the boys and their team qualified for the national tournament held at the Walt Disney Resort in Orlando, Florida. There were more than 40 teams from around the country who qualified, but in the end, Team MVP was the last team standing.


“This team is a pretty big deal,” exclaimed Joseph’s proud father, Jose Moreno. “They have won Nationals three years in a row.”

Derrick’s mother, Linda Curiel, adds, “Their games are televised nationally, and for the parents, it’s great when you hear baseball legends like former Dodger player, Steve Sax, do the play-by-play for the game. You get the sense that we are a part of something special.”


Joseph remembers feeling nervous and excited when he first participated in the tournament as an eight year old. Now, three years, three tournaments later, and three world championships later, “We are used to it. We know we are good, and we have a lot of fun.” 

Derrick is confident that he’ll never forget sitting at third base with the game tied in the bottom of the ninth. When his teammate laid the perfect bunt, he came in to score the winning run and Team MVP were champions once again.


The team is now part of the 11U division, and they are eager to live up to their number one ranking.


Their WCUSD family will be rooting for them!

 

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