MUHSD Matters

Spring 2021 Edition

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[Kaitlyn Stevens celebrates her graduation from Merced Adult School with family.]


District Vision

Every student will walk off the graduation stage with a diploma in one hand and a CTE certification/proficiency in the other along with college credit on their transcript.

District Mission

Every staff member, every day, will support all students to acquire the skills necessary to develop and follow their post-secondary dreams.


Superintendent - Alan Peterson

Deputy Superintendent - Ralph Calderon

Assistant Superintendent (Educational Services) - Constantino Aguilar

Assistant Superintendent (Business & Student Services) - Scott Weimer

Board of Trustees

Tiffany Pickle - President

Erin Hamm - Vice President

Richard Lopez - Clerk

John Sweigard - Member

Julio Valadez - Member


In This Issue...

...and much more!


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Since we’ve come back from Spring Break, we’ve had wave after wave of good news and it's something I can definitely get used to. I’ve been able to attend end-of-the-year lunches with Seniors again, and every time I visit a site, the experience feels more and more normal. Next week, we put a bow on the school year with in-person graduations. You gotta love that! I am incredibly grateful that we were able to give our Seniors a strong finish to a very challenging year.

Planning for next year is well on its way. In recent conversations with staff, it’s become clear that things will not simply snap back to where we were pre-pandemic. Pre-pandemic, we were firing on all cylinders. Our graduation rate and College and Career Indicator (CCI) were off the charts (not just in comparison with other school districts like ours, but compared to ALL school districts). MUHSD was setting the bar high. Next school year, there’s going to be a natural period of adjustment, which will include re-orienting our students so that they learn how to “do school” again, and that'll take some time. After the past year we've had, it'll be necessary to begin our new year with a strong focus on classroom management and instructional units based on UDL principles.

More importantly, though, is the building of relationships. The resocialization issue will be paramount for all of us. You will be getting 9th graders who have been out of school for a year and a half. Go slow to go fast. Taking the first couple weeks to focus on the social-emotional well being of all is going to be incredibly important. Getting to know the students at your respective sites and doing what it takes to differentiate teaching and learning opportunities and personalizing their experience on campus is everyone's responsibility and should be the top priority. I want to thank DTA leadership and Andrew Bowman for their outstanding report on “Lessons from the Pandemic.” It will be out soon. The District and DTA are very much “on the same page.”

On a very different note, most of our sites are landlocked, meaning there is little room for expansion. No site knows this more than Merced High School. Our M and O staff and Transportation departments are in need of upgraded facilities. We have been looking at various options to solve these problems. In addition, having a central kitchen for our Nutrition Services department would make them more efficient. Recently we were informed that the District Office doesn't fit into the future plans at Castle anymore (we lease the building from the county) so we began looking for a place that would become the new home for most district operations. As luck would have it, a developer was building a facility that would meet these needs in the Atwater business park near the Target/Walmart SuperCenter. The Board approved the purchase of these properties at this week's Special Board Meeting. It is very possible that M and O, Transportation and Nutrition Services could have a new home by the first of the year. You can expect more information on this front in the coming year.

I want to congratulate our 2020-21 Employees of the Year. Golden Valley High Cafeteria Supervisor Rosemary Cota, Livingston High Special Education Teacher, Crystal Sousa and Director of Student Services, Cristi Johnson. They are outstanding employees and people and have more than earned the recognition for their efforts over the past year. We are lucky to have them in the district.

Our county officially moved to the orange tier on Tuesday. Over the past couple months we've been very proactive in providing opportunities for students and staff to get the vaccine and have facilitated many successful clinics at different sites. We will continue to provide opportunities over the summer. One of the great benefits of becoming fully vaccinated is that if you are considered a close contact to someone who tested positive, you will NOT have to quarantine.

We are all ready for a well-earned summer break. This has been one heck of a year! Once again, on behalf of The Board of Trustees and myself, thank you to each and every one of you for doing your level best in the most challenging year of our lives.

Enjoy the remaining days left of the school year everyone, and have a great summer! #WEAREMUHSD




Getting To Know...

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Jennifer Euker, Buhach Colony High Principal

Number of years with MUHSD:

I have been at MUHSD for over 13 years. I was also a student at MHS as were my two children.

Number of years in education:

This is my 34th year in education. I started at Weaver Elementary as a 1st grade teacher. I was also Principal of Wilson Middle school in Chowchilla for five years.

What made you seek a career in education?

My grandparents and parents were educators. Both of my children are is in my blood to serve others and to work with children of all ages.

What keeps you motivated to do your job to the best of your ability?

My family is made of hard workers with a relentless work ethic. Every morning I strive to be better than the day before for the people I serve.

Short-term goals?

To provide seniors with a graduation and some "positive" memories of 2021.

Long-term goals?

To improve the culture and climate on the BCHS campus and teach teamwork

What's the best piece of advice that someone has ever given to you?

The best advice I received was "Bloom where you are planted". It reminds me to be grateful and shine no matter what obstacles may arise.

What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of?

I have always considered my greatest accomplishment to be my children. They are hardworking adults who love their children/spouses and who give back everyday.

What did you learn about yourself and your staff over the past year?

I learned that the BCHS staff pulls together to support students and they are resilient. They are also kind and caring.

What's something that people might be surprised to find out about you?

You might be surprised to know that every time I am playing Yahtzee and someone gets a yahtzee...........I do the yahtzee dance and a cartwheel!


MUHSD Holds Student Vaccination Clinics

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Following the announcement that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was safe for people ages 16 and up, MUHSD began holding student vaccination clinics on its campuses. The clinics are a partnership with the Merced County Department of Public Health and Castle Family Health Centers. MUHSD school nurses and HR support are helping staff the events.

The district decided to hold the clinics for students to make it easier for them to receive the vaccine. District officials say the more students who are vaccinated, the easier it will be to keep kids in class.

"If you are identified as a close contact during our contact tracing when we do have a positive case, you won't be required to quarantine if you are fully vaccinated. You can stay at school," said MUHSD Director of Student Services Cristi Johnson.

Parents and family members of students are also invited to get the shot if haven't already. Director Johnson says that the district is doing its part to help the community get back to how it was pre-COVID.

"The more people who are vaccinated, the faster we can move from the state's red tier to the less-restrictive orange tier," said Johnson. "And then the quicker we reach herd immunity, the quicker we can get back to living life as normal."


Take the Shot

MUHSD partnered with Merced County Office of Education on its "Take The Shot" campaign which is aimed at encouraging students and the community to get the COVID-19 vaccine when the opportunity arises. You can view one of the TV ads below.
Take the Shot 30sec AD1


Students Return To Traditional Schedule

Upon returning from Spring Break, MUHSD students who chose to return to in-person learning began doing so on the traditional, 5-day-a-week schedule. Prior to that, they were on a hybrid A/B model where they alternated days that they were on campus. The change was made following updated guidance by the CDC and the California Department of Education regarding distance requirements in classrooms.

Seniors actually started the week before Spring Break with 9th, 10th and 11th graders joining them April 12. At that point, the A/B model was completely phased out. Families continue to have the option of keeping their students on 100% Distance Learning for the remainder of the school year. COVID-19 prevention protocols will remain in place at all MUHSD sites and staff will work to ensure that safety measures are followed.


2020-21 Employees of the Year

In a year that saw plenty of switching gears, many employees stepped up to help make the transitions smoother for their sites and the district as a whole. Please join us in congratulating three of those individuals who were selected as Employees of the Year for the 2020-21 school year:

  • Classified Employee of the Year - Rosemary Cota, GVHS Cafeteria Supervisor
  • Administrator of the Year - Cristi Johnson, MUHSD Director of Student Services
  • Certificated Employee of the Year - Crystal Sousa, LHS Special Education Teacher
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MUHSD, UC Merced Announce MAAP Program

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At a press conference held in the El Capitan High gymnasium, Merced Unified High School District Superintendent Alan Peterson and UC Merced Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz, Ph.D. announced the Merced Automatic Admission Program (MAAP). Students enrolled in the program who complete specific requirements at the time of graduation will be guaranteed admission to UC Merced.

"This may be the best news our district has ever received with regard to the fundamental education and future opportunities for our students," said Superintendent Peterson. “MAAP gives our students a competitive advantage like never before and enables us to keep more of our university-bound students close to home.”

Among the criteria, MAAP will allow students with a weighted GPA of 3.5 with no grade lower than a “C” to be automatically admitted to UC Merced through a streamlined admissions process. In addition, UC Merced is able to offer generous financial aid packages for those who qualify. The program is set to commence with the Fall 2022 application cycle.

“We were established not just in the Valley but for the Valley, and we will hold true to that promise,” said Chancellor Munoz. “We want every family in Merced County to know that a University of California education is right here close to home, and that you have the possibility to go from kindergarten to Ph.D. within minutes of your home, if you put in the work."

The MAAP program further solidifies MUHSD's commitment to prepare students for the next step in their lives. MUHSD already partners with Merced College on the Dual Enrollment program, which allows students to earn college credit while in high school.

"The joining of three institutions that work together to ensure that our students have a number of dynamic postsecondary opportunities is very special for our community," said Superintendent Peterson. “In turn, our hope is that many of our best and brightest will choose to serve our local communities as they begin their careers.”

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New LCAP Presented

Following several meetings with all of its stakeholder groups, the new LCAP for the next three years was presented at a community forum. The LCAP will now be presented to the Board of Trustees at the Board meeting in June. There will also be an open forum at the meeting in which stakeholders can provide feedback.

If you weren't able to make it to the LCAP forum, the meeting in its entirety can be viewed below.

LCAP Meeting - Community Forum 2


A Heroic Show of Support

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Wednesdays have a whole new meaning at Golden Valley High. Every week, staff members wear their Wonder Woman apparel to show support for Megan Cope, an Associate Principal who is in the fight of her life.

Megan was diagnosed with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, or PSC, a rare liver disease. After a surgery that removed much of her liver, she is currently on the waitlist for a transplant. The entire ordeal has taken a toll on Megan's energy levels, however, she was able to return to work a couple of weeks ago.

"She's only able to work a few hours each day, but it's great having her back on campus," said Ashley Faraone, a counselor at GV and Megan's best friend. "The staff have been great, bringing her care packages and offering her words of encouragement."

It was Ashley and Administrative Assistant Melina Oliveros who came up with the idea for a very visible display of support. "Wonder Woman Wednesday" had a nice ring to it. Soon shirts were ordered and masks were made (by Ashley's mom) with the Wonder Woman and Team Cope logos.

"When she was in Student Support, Megan was known for her toughness and had already taken on the Wonder Woman moniker so it just made sense," said Ashley.

The staff at GV hope that their efforts help spread awareness of the disease and potentially aid in the search for a donor. In the meantime, Megan will continue to display that toughness she's become known for. And on her difficult days, Megan can take comfort in knowing that her co-workers are there for her.

"Our team has been fortunate enough to work together for a while, so we're all really close," said Ashley. "However long her road to recovery is, Megan knows she can count on us every step of the way."


Battle of the Books Returns

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Following a one-year hiatus due to COVID, the Battle of the Books returned in a virtual format. Given the guidelines and restrictions, organizers decided to revamp the event to make it fair for all who wished to participate.

For starters, all of the books featured had been used in previous competitions. There were also no teams comprised of teachers this year, and students from different schools were allowed to be on the same team. Our Teacher-Librarians said that, while there were significant changes due to COVID, the main objective was to make it fun for the students.

"Of course we missed the energy of having 200 kids in one place doing something they love, but under the circumstances, I think it went very well," said El Capitan High Librarian Mr. Doyle. "I think we achieved all of our goals for the event. That being said, I'm really looking forward to having a full, in-person contest next January 28th here at El Cap."

The winning team, ECHS WOW: Women of Words (pictured below), was comprised of six students from El Capitan High and one from Merced High.

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2021 MUHSD Battle of the Books winning team: ECHS WOW: Women of Words

Left to right: Luke Almeda, Katherine Saelee, Maryssa Hartman, Kyra Johnson, Hannah Sanchez, Mr. Doyle, Montserrat Mendoza-Guizar, and Olivia Bruner (from MHS)


Tune In To "MUHSD Live!"

MUHSD Live! 5/18/21
MUHSD Live! is a weekly talk show that airs on the district's Facebook page and YouTube Channel live every Tuesday at 3pm. To see previous episodes, checkout the playlist on the district's YouTube channel.


Understanding How The Brain Works

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A new class at Yosemite High is helping students understand why they may be experiencing depression and anxiety. The course, which is taught by Mr. Thao and Ms. Barajas (aka Miss V), has been in the works for a couple of years at YHS.

"This class was actually the idea of some students," said Mr. Thao. "They were part of a program aimed at increasing awareness about mental health and thought that what they were learning was something that should have its own pathway."

So they began doing the legwork, and with Miss V's help, created a teen mental health class with an English component which is taught by Mr. Brown. Soon after, a second mental health class with a focus on science would follow. That class, entitled "Science of the Brain", is wrapping up its first year and Mr. Thao could not be more thrilled with the results.

"I've seen a big change in my students since the beginning of the school year," said Mr. Thao. "I've had students tell me that they feel a lot better having been in this class."

The lessons explore how the brain works and how it reacts to stress. Students learn that a lot of what they may be feeling is caused by things that are outside of their control such as genetics and their environment.

"Once they learn that it's not their fault, students begin to open up and ask questions," said Mr. Thao. "I see it in their eyes and I love when that happens."

When COVID guidelines have eased, Mr. Thao hopes to expand the class to include guests from outside agencies that work in the mental health field. He would like to see this class offered at all sites in the district and thinks it would be beneficial to both students and staff.

"After talking to so many students about what they're going through and how they're coping, it's really opened my eyes," said Mr. Thao. "In a way, they're actually teaching me."


Focusing on mental health

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Sites have been holding mental wellness events on campus to draw attention to the importance of mental health and help break the stigma attached to the topic. Local agencies have been invited to have booths with information for students and staff about services offered.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and along with the events, sites have posted flyers with good mental health tips on social media as well as links to workshops on ParentSquare. Site counselors say that having good mental health is just as important as good physical health.

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A Literary Labor of Love

The Golden Valley High Library has undergone a major change in the way books are being displayed in a effort to increase student engagement. We talked to GVHS Librarian Mrs. Woodall (pictured above on the right with Library Media Technician Mrs. Bristow) about the library's recent facelift.
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[Golden Valley High Libray Media Technician Mrs. Bristow (left) and Librarian Mrs. Woodall]

Tell us about the changes that have occurred in your library.

The GVHS Library now has a genrefied fiction section. Before this change all of our fiction books were arranged in a fiction section alphabetically by author last name. Now they are organized in 12 categories with color coded labels.

How much work went into this?
To change the organization of the fiction section of a library is no small undertaking. First, I had to determine what categories we would have after running a genre report from our library program and order different color spine labels in the right quantities. Then Fallon Bristow, GVHS's Library Media Technician, and I touched every single book.

Some books had a genre established from the genre report, but many did not. Also, many books defy single genres. In those cases we used our professional judgment to pick the best home for it.

After determining the genre/category, we placed the genre's corresponding spine label sticker on its spine and stacked the books in alphabetical order on separate tables until the shelves were clear. As we re-shelved them, we had to scan the books into lists so that they would be tagged with the correct sublocation in the library catalog. Going through thousands of books took weeks. It was a labor of love.

We have to thank the various librarians who shared their processes on their blogs for guiding us. We must also thank Mrs. Edwards, the librarian at Livingston High School, and Mrs. Pedrozo, the librarian at Merced High who collaborated with us on the plans. Lastly, we thank Christian Belton for his assistance in the library in making this project a reality.

Is this something that other school libraries are doing?

I follow various other teacher librarians on social media to get ideas for our library at GV. Many librarians who had genrefied their libraries have been outspoken about all the benefits. Truly, I had wanted to make this change in the past, but was frequently daunted by an undertaking of this magnitude.

During my career as a librarian, I noted that many students asked me "Where are the mystery books?" or "Where are the romance books?" Students want to browse by genre. They want the independence of finding a book that interests them.

Then, with all students on distance learning until March 15, we suddenly had a stretch of time where we could complete this project. It was time to change for the benefit of our community of readers. I had the support of the administration team at GVHS and I work with an amazing library media tech.

When students returned in March, the newly organized library was ready for them. I reveled in showing kids around the new sections. It seems that students take more time in the stacks to find a book that speaks to them. In addition to the new organization, I have followed the lead of bookstores in setting some of the books forward facing and using shelf talkers to persuade readers to check out the books.

How does this new system help you?

This new organization makes the work of reader advisory more efficient. When I talk with a student to try to piece together what sort of book they are looking for, I can take their answers and go directly to the section and scan the spines to find books that might work. I also have been observing which sections get the most visitors. This data will help me make decisions next year when I purchase new titles for the library.

I look forward to next year when more students are on campus and in the library. I hope that this new organization helps more students connect with reading. Both Livingston High School and Merced High School are also working to genrefy this libraries at this time.


Art Perseveres at El Capitan High

The challenge of creating art during distance learning was something the students at El Capitan High met head-on this school year. And while it wasn't the most ideal situation, they churned out some fantastic works of art.

To show off their work, the El Capitan High Art Department put together this collection done by Fine Art and Computer Graphics students, from all levels, throughout this very unusual school year. Enjoy!

Art Montage 2021


District Roll Call

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Atwater High

Buhach Colony High

El Capitan High

Golden Valley High

Livingston High

Merced High

Yosemite High


Sequoia High's New CTE Program

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Only one year in, Sequoia High's new CTE classes are already working together on a big project. Mr. Zamudio's Construction Trades students and Mr. Smith's Ag Horticulture students are joining forces to build a shade house next to the campus garden. It's one of the ways that the instructors are teaching soft skills along with the hands-on learning taking place.

"I really push the soft skills," said Mr. Zamudio. "When you're out on the jobsite, you've got to be able to work well with others and communicate to do the job correctly and safely."

Both Mr. Zamudio and Mr. Smith enjoy providing students their first exposure to their own chosen field of expertise. It's especially rewarding when a student takes to a certain aspect of it.

"They love welding," said Mr. Smith. "Even though we're just doing basic stuff, they find it fascinating and want to do it all the time."

Sometimes a little push is required to get their students to try something new, but they do it knowing that this experience is it going to open up a world of opportunities for their students.

"We're fully aware that college isn't for everyone, and CTE courses like ours are geared towards those students who want to learn how to work with their hands so that they can jump into a career right after high school," said Mr. Zamudio.

You can also make a good living working with your hands. Mr. Zamudio likes to tell his students that "If you learn a trade, you're gonna get paid."

"There are a lot of good-paying jobs in this field that don't require a college degree," said Mr. Smith. "A lot of our kids respond to that.

Both instructors also stress the importance of developing good habits like getting up early, dressing appropriately and being on time. It's tips like these that will help any student in the long run, collegebound or not.

"It takes more than just learning a trade to be successful," said Mr. Zamudio.


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This year, Summer School is going to have more offerings than ever before! Credit recovery will be the priority, but there will also be opportunities for enrichment. Check out the FAQ sheets and contact your counselor to get signed up!


GVHS Student-Athletes and Coaches Recognized

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Golden Valley High seniors Jaret Mello and Jayden Gong (pictured above) were awarded the prestigious Dale Lacky Scholarship. Recipients of the award have demonstrated excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the their community during their four years of high school.

Jadyn is a three-sport athlete at Golden Valley, (soccer, track and volleyball) has a 4.19 GPA and will attend UC Merced to play soccer. Jaret was also a three-sport athlete (football, wrestling and baseball), has a 4.02 GPA and plans on attending Merced College.

Golden Valley High wrestling coach Chopper Mello and track/cross-county coach Jacqueline Wooding (pictured below) were also honored by the CIF-SJS, both receiving the 2020-21 Sac-Joaquin Model Coach Award. This recognition is given to coaches who are positive role models within their schools and the community.

Congratulations to all!

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Check out the "MUHSD Minute"!

MUHSD Minute 5-21-21
Every week, the MUHSD Communications Department posts a weekly wrap-up of all things MUHSD to its social media pages. To see previous editions of the MUHSD Minute, check out the playlist on the district's YouTube page.


Atwater Softball's Talented Trio

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To say that this year's Atwater High softball team was talented would be a huge understatement. Teammates Kendal Flatt, Marley Gonzalez and Shelli Faulk all held signing ceremonies this year and committed to play ball at the next level. Head Coach Jenna Boesch said that having multiple athletes from the same team sign to play at a four-year is a rare occurrence.

"To have that much talent on one team and all get along is unreal," said Boesch. "We were very fortunate to have this group of girls."

Boesch wishes that the girls could have played a full season and would have loved to have seen what heights they would have taken the team. Ultimately, she's happy they got the opportunity to play. And despite the uncertainty that surrounded most of the school year and not knowing whether they would get to play or not, Boesch says the girls handled themselves with dignity.

"To say they weren't frustrated would be a lie, but what athlete wasn't?" said Boesch. "It is hard to understand that, what should be the best part of their high school experience, is now the most stressful because they didn't want to mess up their chance of having any type of season. Everyone was on pins and needles all season."

Boesch is going to miss her standout players but believes that the leadership they displayed and the example that they set will be felt for years to come.

"They eat, sleep and breathe softball," said Boesh. "They made sure to show the underclassmen that if you put in the work the game is fun. I couldn't have asked for a better group to lead our team."


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