Eagle Rock/Highland Park CoS News

April 2023

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Words from Eagle Rock/Highland Park Community of Schools Administrator (ERHP CoSA) Tony Cortez

Spring is here, and our Community of Schools is on the move. I would like to recognize our amazing schools leaders. During the week of April 3rd, we celebrated Assistant Principals Week. Most were off enjoying their spring break; however, some continued to work supporting our schools during our spring Acceleration Days. Their work in supporting our schools is valuable, and for we salute the following for their work, commitment, and dedication to our students:

Aldama ES: AP Mark De Los Reyes

Annadale ES: APEIS Catarina Bott

Arroyo Seco ES: APEIS Lynn Ellias

Buchanan ES: APEIS Susan Morris

Burbank MS: AP Megan Gastelum, AP Marilena Franco

Bushnell Way ES: APEIS Natasha Burgos

Dahlia Heights ES: APEIS Natasha Burgos

Delevan Drive ES: APIES Desiree Palacios

Eagle Rock HS: AP Jennifer Tsui, AP Tang Ngay, AP Christina Cisneros, APSCS Teresit Leonido Peregrin

Eagle Rock ES: AP Sum Shum, APEIS Gracia Martinez

Franklin HS: AP Sybil Jatta, AP Heather Sandoval, AP Carmen Juarez

Garvanza ES: APEIS David Hicks

Meridian EEC: APEIS Raphael Lieberman

Monte Vista ES: APEIS Nancy Castro

Monte Vista EEC: APEIS Mark De Los Reyes

Mt. Washington ES: AP Nancy Castro

Riordan PC: APEIS Catarina Botts

Rockdale ES: AP Raphael Lieberman

San Pascual STEAM Magnet: APEIS Raphael Lieberman

Toland Way ES: AP Danielle Rodriguez

Yorkdale ES: APEIS Susan Morris

Follow your child’s school's calendars and web pages as many of our schools are hosting many parent and community events from rejuvenating gardens to Math and Science Nights. In addition to school events, schools will have information around spring testing at their sites.

Here are some important dates for April:

Student-Free Day: April 24

Earth Day; April 22

College Signing Week: April 24-28

Denim Day: April 26

Special Education Corner: "Celebrating Autism Awareness Month in April," Written by Region East Special Education Specialist Ana Ortega

World Autism Awareness Day, April 2nd, and Autism Awareness Month are events that are celebrated globally. About 1 in 44 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network in 2018. In support and recognition of students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the Division of Special Education promotes awareness of ASD during the month of April and provides an opportunity for educators, students, and parents to learn more about autism. Ultimately, the goal of Autism Awareness Month is not just education about the differences of people with autism but understanding and respecting those differences by including students with ASD to receive greater support from their school communities.

In December 2022, Toland Way Elementary School (ES) led the way in awareness and inclusivity with its acknowledgement of “National Special Education Day,” in which students with special needs collaborated with their peers in General Education, through the creation of various arts and crafts projects including posters such as the picture below illustrates, “We Work and Play Together.” This Art Gallery Event was organized by Assistant Principal (AP) Danielle Rodriguez. It showcased that creating a climate of joy, care, and inclusivity renders the benefits of higher student engagement and more satisfying and diverse friendships for students with disabilities while the students without disabilities benefit from reduced fear of differences and greater self-concept. This wonderful event was attended by various members of the school and district community to support the collaborative work of all the students.

During the month of April, Toland Way ES is continuing the Special Education Awareness through the acknowledgement of the Autism Awareness Month in April. Students in all classrooms will be given the opportunity to experience the school theme of “Social Stories about Autism Awareness," as out of classroom members, including Principal Elliott Cruzata and AP Danielle Rodriguez, will read to each class to not only build their awareness but expand their hearts in accepting others’ differences.

Delevan Drive ES is also embracing our students with disabilities by acknowledging diversity and exemplifying a high degree of empathy. Students at Delevan ES show empathy and compassion towards each other, but these actions extend to caring acts of service. Friends at Delevan ES “buddy up,” with students with special needs who may be have had rough moments. Friends are often seen walking peers with special needs to class, offering support to the calming corner, or a exchanging simple greetings and smiles. In April, Delevan ES will celebrate Autism Awareness Month by having students with special needs come together with their peers to create visual representations of autism awareness through empathy and compassion, a concept that all students at Delevan practice daily. Principal Dr. Denise Pratt and AP Desiree Palacios will also part take in their own visual representations of empathy and compassion to join students in the celebration of autism awareness.

For further autism resources please visit the LAUSD Division of Special Education website at: Division of Special Education

ERHP CoS School Highlight: Cesar Chavez Day of Service at Toland Way ES

On Saturday, March 25th, the Toland Way ES Community welcomed LAUSD Board President Jackie Goldberg (Board District 5 Representative) to its California Native Green Space Planting Day and opening celebration. Ms. Goldberg was appreciative that our local public schools are taking a proactive approach to creating outdoor instruction spaces and bringing nature into our campuses. She generously provided gardening gloves for each volunteer while LAUSD Region East loaned gardening tools for this day of planting.

David Newsom, Director of The Wild Yards Project and a visionary of the school’s new nature area, has been partnering with Toland Way ES for the past year with the goal of creating not only an outdoor greenspace but a place that reflects the natural environment of the Tongva People who originally inhabited this area. Mr. Newsom says, “This is just the beginning for this school which deserves a cooler, greener, and more resilient campus.” He adds, “These kinds of spaces will generate an understanding of natural systems through environmental stewardship.”

Mr. Newsom worked closely with Toland Way ES Principal Elliott Cruzata in making this a community endeavor by seeking input from the families and the staff. The Native Green Space Project is partially funded by Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council.

Toland Way ES families and staff, community members, and a Cal State Poly Landscape Engineering team were at the school early Saturday morning to help plant the California native space. Mr. Newsom gave instructions on how to “make a home” for each plant by digging down deep through the mulch to the rich soil. Groups of volunteers got together and went to work, digging and planting until all of the plants had a home. In a few hours, the results were beautiful. Mr. Newsom delivered a closing speech to the volunteers stating, “The installation of this curriculum-based garden will be the first step in creating a campus that is more biodiverse, more compassionate, and one that leads from a strong sense of place and purpose.”

This was a team effort! This California Native Green Space has now become a part of the community!

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Getting to Know School Mental Health Interim Administrative Coordinator Maria A. Chua

For this issue, I thought it would be helpful for the community and me to get to know School Mental Health Interim Administrative Coordinator Maria A. Chua. Ms. Chua works with the Region East School Mental Health Team. Through the interview, I learned that Ms. Chua has an expansive work history (Fun fact: She is also a second-generation LAUSD employee!) and has a passion to serve students and families in the area of mental health. -Region East Community Representative So Noh.

How long have you been working at LAUSD, and what is your LAUSD Background prior to being the School Mental Health Interim Administrative Coordinator?

I was hired in December 1999, so this is my 24th school year.

I served as a Psychiatric Social Worker (PSW) in School Mental Health from December 1999 until June 2014. I worked at the Alternative Education and Work Center (currently known as the Accelerated College and Career Transition Program), from 1999 until 2011, as a PSW and Program Facilitator for that program. Our target population at that time was students ages 16-18 who had been out of school for at least one month and were working towards their GED or high school diploma. Many were the first in their families to earn their diplomas and continue on to college. I also worked in the Educationally Related Mental Health Services (ERMHS) program currently known as ERICS (Educationally Related Intensive Counseling ) as a PSW and provided intensive mental health services for students designated on their IEPs (Individualized Education Program) to include these services. I was also a Mental Health Consultant (in former Local District 4 and then ISIC).

My Administrator roles included being a Coordinator for Division of Student Health and Human Service, a School Mental Health Field Coordinator for Local District Central, and now I am currently Interim Administrative Coordinator, School Mental Health.

Where did you work prior to working at LAUSD?

Prior to LAUSD, I worked as a Psychiatric Social Worker (PSW) in the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH) in a child and adolescent program and a PSW in a County-contracted DMH agency working with adults who have chronic mental illness. I was also a Youth organizer in San Francisco and an Administrator of an AIDS Prevention Program in San Jose during the early 1990s.

Please describe the work you do as an Administrative Coordinator, School Mental Health.

I lead an incredible group of administrators who run the following School Mental Health programs: Clinics and Wellness Centers, Early Education (including Kinder Readiness, Trauma Resilience Early Informed Education), Special Education (Educationally Related Intensive Counseling Services), and Hiring and Training, Crisis Counseling, and Support. Through the leadership of our phenomenal Director Lakisha Johnson and alongside the fantastic Administrative Coordinator Elena Jimenez, we support the largest group of school social workers in the nation. Other programs under School Mental Health are our school-based program, Black Student Achievement Program (BSAP), Coordinated Early Intervention Services, and Crisis Counseling and Intervention Services.

Where did you grow up, and what schools (what high school, college, and grad school) did you attend?

I grew up in the South Bay with a big extended family on my mom’s side. Most of my family lives in Carson, Gardena and Torrance. I do not have family members from my dad’s side in Los Angeles. My dad became a teacher in 1965 for LAUSD, and his first job was teaching third grade at Century Park Elementary School (ES) when Superintendent Michelle King was a kindergartener there. He also taught at Denker Avenue ES and became a Pupil Student and Attendance (PSA) Counselor in 1971. His first schools as a PSA were at Castelar ES and Belmont HS. I am a proud second-generation LAUSD employee! I went to UC Santa Cruz where I earned my BA in Community Studies and to UCLA for my MSW (Master of Social Welfare).

Why did you want to go into the work of mental health at LAUSD?

My passion has always been advocating for and providing adolescent health services. When I realized that I could work full-time directly serving students and families and being part of the support that assisted students to graduate and succeed beyond what they initially may have thought they could not do (be the first in their family to walk the graduation stage, attend college, etc.), I applied as soon as I became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (which is one of two ways to be hired as a PSW in LAUSD).

What do you want to tell families whose children may be struggling with mental health?

First and foremost is that they are not alone. There are many resources and supports for families in LAUSD and beyond. School Mental Health (SMH) as well as our partner community agencies provide culturally sensitive and inclusive services that support our families both directly in our schools as well as our Wellness Centers and School Mental Health Clinics. Here are a few resources that I recommend:

The last resource is the Parent/Caregiver Road Map for Social Emotional Well-being and Academic Success.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I am a mom of two teenage daughters. My family and I spend a lot of time cooking together. I am also active (running races and being outside). Also, I have been practicing Hung Gar Kung Fu as long as I have been a district employee. Family is the most important part of my life, and spending time together is very important to me especially with the awareness that my eldest is hopefully starting college this fall.

Save the Date!

Region East School Mental Health Parent Workshop: Supporting Students with Depression, Friday, April 21st, at 9 a.m., on Zoom
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Save the Date!

Region East STEAM Fest + Family Resource Fair, Saturday, May 6th, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Roybal Learning Center


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Region East Parent and Family Workshops and Events Flyers Folder

Link to Parent and Family Workshops and Events Flyers 2022-2023

Enlace para los volantes sobre talleres y eventos para padres y familias 2022-2023


Please also check out the ERHP CoS website, and follow the ERHP CoS social media accounts links below: