Author Archives: Lucia Sullivan

A Message from the Principal

by Lucia Sullivan on 06/02/2020

Dear Canyon Community,
Please read to the bottom even if you skim through sections. Thank you!

The State of the World
Let me start by saying that race matters.  I am profoundly saddened by the police brutality that killed George Floyd.  This along with the recent deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others, on top of the racial disparities evident in the COVID-19 crisis, and now the economic crisis that has further widened inequalities…  I am stunned by the breathtaking actions of casual white supremacy we are now seeing on a regular basis, like Amy Cooper calling the police on a bird watcher who asked her to leash her dog in a bird-watching area.

The legitimate protests across our region and the country call for a commitment by our school districts and our communities that we will continue to advance our efforts to dismantle a culture of systemic racism and white supremacy, bring meaningful cultural understanding and respect for diversity, including most importantly racial diversity, into each of our classrooms.

Race does matter; this message must not only be included in lessons, but in the forefront of all educational decision making.  Further, we must challenge ourselves to hold courageous conversations about race amongst each other and with the children we care for, the children who will soon be empowered as our next generation of leaders and innovators.

Now is the opportunity to collectively educate and support students in reaching their highest potential to be culturally competent, embrace and value diversity, and demonstrate respect, support and appreciation of all differences in and beyond our classrooms and communities.  As Beverly Daniel Tatum suggests, “Silence will not protect you or them. Avoiding the topic is not a solution.”

Below are a number of resources we encourage you to review for conversations with your families. Below the links I will post an email from Jamie Barrett Riley, Canyon Alum and soon-to-be Canyon school parent.  She is a preschool teacher; her resources are targeted to young children.
How to talk to your children about protests and racism – By Sandee LaMotte, CNN National Museum of African American History and Culture – Talking About Race’Raising White Kids’ Author On How White Parents Can Talk About Race Heard – NPR’s All Things ConsideredResources for Engaging in Anti-Racism WorkAn Antiracist Reading List – Ibram X. Kendi on books to help America transcend its racist heritage

From Jamie:
As an early childhood educator and a parent, I’ve been thinking a lot the past few days about resources for parents of very young children (and other adults with young children in their lives) who may be struggling to envision how to talk with young kids about race and social justice. To that end, here are some pieces that I find useful and informative.  (Please know, this barely scratches the surface — there is a LOT of material out there, and a great many people doing powerful work on these important topics. I encourage you to explore on your own.)

If you’re looking for a starting point, maybe you will find one here:
A very helpful article from a clinical psychologist with specific language suggestions for talking with children about racism, police brutality and protests. (I suggest reading both the Toddler and Preschool sections — don’t worry, they are short!)

Kindergartners narrate the book I wish I had read at this morning’s Zoom preschool circle: “I Walk With Vanessa”
Book lists and resources from activist & community organizer Rebekah Gienapp: 5 myths white parents must let go of
15 books to help kids understand that Black Lives Matter
Growing Kid Activists 101: 19 ways parents & educators can introduce children to social justice
Another resource from EmbraceRace: 7 Ways to Highlight Resistance Efforts When Discussing Oppression with Children
10 tips for teaching and talking with kids about race
Something Happened in Our Town, written by three child psychologists, is a picture book about the police shooting of a Black man. The authors led a webinar for EmbraceRace on talking to young children about racial injustice.
Social Justice resources from the Children’s Community School: “They’re Not Too Young to Talk About Race”
What Do We Do All Day:Children’s books about protests and civil disobedience
Books about global social justice
#OwnVoices Picture books by Black authors
Picture Books that Nurture Empathy
Picture Books that Nurture Kindness
Talking to Children About Racial Bias from the American Academy of Pediatrics

Edmentum Assessments
I know the K12 kids are confused! We did explain this to them in March, but of course they do not remember.  The 345 kids are familiar with this tool, but haven’t done them at home…

This is a “responsive” assessment.  It is targeted to grade level standards and sub-strands.  When kids answer wrong it gets easier and easier in order to find what the child knows solidly.  When kids get several answers in a row correct, it gets harder and harder to identify their proficiency level (which may be several years ahead of their current grade)– It will also try new standards at the harder level.  It will get harder until it reaches a ceiling. When it gets “too hard”, kids should just guess (which I assume means that they will answer wrong and then it will reset to their actual performance level).
Kids need to understand that this assessment is just noodling around to see what they do and do not yet know.  Remind them if the questions seem hard that they must be getting questions that are many grades ahead.  You do NOT need to explain questions or help.  Just guess and move on.

This is not a state test.  We use this to gather data to help inform our planning and teaching. These assessments are not used to “judge” the kids– this online tool will identify strengths and weaknesses and target interventions to any instructional gaps.  It also gives teachers valuable information about what kids have already mastered and what they still need to be taught.  For us, it gives us a snapshot of things the kids knew in June 2020.

If your child does not complete the assessment that is okay.  It just means we don’t get any data on your child’s performance.  Having the data allows us to measure the impacts of this unanticipated school closure and better plan for next year.  The assessments Judy typically does are 1:1 and face to face and thus not possible this spring.

The Edmentum assessments are usually around 37-45 questions and often take about an hour per section (but can take longer depending on the child’s tenacity and patience). Many kids race through quickly.  That does not typically yield as helpful data.  They can do it in chunks.  It is not intended to torture anyone.  If your child is getting hard questions it is important for you to let them know they are doing work way above grade level.  You can say something like, “Whoa that’s a crazy high school level question! Give it a shot, but don’t stress. You are not in highschool yet!” They can try to work out the hard problems or they can just guess.  But PLEASE, do not help them.  We know you have all mastered elementary school.  If your child can not handle this assessment this June, so be it.  To be honest, the teachers did not want to give it either– but I would really like some data points so I have some idea on a macro level of what the kids know and are able to do at the end of this year.  On a micro level it can help us identify kids who may be in need of additional support next fall or who need to be given more challenging options.

Tonight’s Town Hall
I really hope to see many of you tonight so I can share with you what I currently know about the path to reopening schools in the fall.  Let me be clear: YOU WILL NOT LEAVE THIS ZOOM WITH MUCH CLEAR INFORMATION ABOUT THE FALL.  You will understand many of the variables and the pathways toward decisions.  You will understand opportunities for you to be involved in the process. You will leave with a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities that we face as a school community.  You will be able to ask questions in an open dialogue after the presentation.  I will attempt to record and share the meeting for those of you who will be giving baths and rocking babies and can not make it.  You are also welcome to mute, turn off video and just have it on in the background like the radio…

Please know that in a time of such grief and despair, I take great comfort in knowing that you and your children are out there making your small corners of the world a more safe, healthy, peaceful and “just” place.

Update from the Principal

May 30, 2020

Dear Canyon Community,

We are approaching the conclusion of the historic 19-20 school year.  Remember in the start of the year when we thought the PSPS power shut downs were our biggest problem? Whew!  I continue to be impressed by the grace and fortitude our entire community has demonstrated in the face of all of this upheaval and complexity.  

Thank you to the graduation committee: Maggie Harper, Darin Chin, Heather Cantero, Alice Lancefield, Jamie Riley, Kelley Westling, Sonya Wilson, Denise Schwab, Lola Leeds, Esperanza Surls, Gloria Faircloth and I am sure more people that I am forgetting!!

Thank you to Sonya and Maggie for arranging the Drive By Celebration on June 7th.

Teachers will be in touch about end of year information.  They have all been working on end of year performances which will be available to stream next Thursday.  

Town Hall Meeting:

I’d like to have a Virtual Town Hall Meeting on Tuesday night so that I can explain what I know about the process toward reopening in the fall.  I plan to present an overview and then take questions. Contact the school if you need the link.

Picking up from school:

We have received the chrome books for the K12 class! We just need to install site licenses and we will be able to arrange for pick up for K12 families.  I was able to get most of the books from Great Good Place for Books.  I will send a separate email re: your child’s book selection (so you know if your book has arrived).  I know many of you have items you’d like to come to get.  I will send an email as soon as books and chrome books are ready.  When you would like to go get your child’s belongings, please call the school in the morning to arrange a time with Ramona.  You may also email her.  She is there most mornings.

Volunteer Opportunity:

Do you live with a group of people who would be able to move furniture out of a classroom?  We need to get the furniture moved into the Multipurpose room, as we do every summer, so we can wax the floors.  In the past we have had a lot of volunteers at one time but that obviously can’t work this year.  Please let me know if your household may have enough big people to move a classroom’s worth of furniture and we can arrange for a day for that to happen.  THANK YOU!

Activism Opportunity:

Rena would like to organize a caravan to attend the Justice for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor event sponsored by the anti police-terror project.  Contact her if you are interested.  That protest is Sunday (tomorrow!) at 2 pm in Oakland  (socially distanced because everyone stays in their cars).

Community Connectedness:

Heather cantero expressed an interest in caravaning with others for the drive by Parade.  Contact her if you are interested.


8th Grade Drive-by Celebration, 

Sunday, June 7th drive-by between 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm. 

(see email for locations) 

Honk, Beep, Yell, Wave, Clap & Cheer the Canyon School 8th Grade Graduates of 2020! 

(Just stay socially distant 🙂


Please join us as we celebrate Ruby, Madison, Owen, and Sebastian’s big day. We will be driving by three locations where the graduates will be stationed to receive your well wishes.

Drive-by between 4:00 – 5:00 pm 

to show your love and support!

Actual Graduation will be Thursday, June 11th at 7 PM via Zoom, ALL are encouraged to attend!  We will send out a link that week or you can email Lucia or Ramona (if you don’t get it that week).

A Message from the Principal

by Lucia Sullivan on 05/19/2020

Dear Canyon Community,

I want to thank you for your partnership during this very challenging time.  We have three 1/2 more weeks left in the 2019-2020 school year.  The kids have done a fabulous job!  This is the homestretch.

I am working on getting additional computers for K12.  I have ordered some as part of a larger order managed by the Contra Costa County Office of Education which were back ordered, but should be coming shortly.  I am also accessing channels through the CA Dept of education to get chrome books and wifi hotspots.  I will contact people about distribution as soon as I receive equipment.  If you are planning to leave Canyon school at the end of the year, please contact me about returning your equipment.

Survey Data
Twenty three families participated in the Mid-May Distance Learning Feedback survey.  I made a screencastify to show the data.  watch the video here

Personal Items
We will be creating a schedule for students/families to come gather any personal items from the building.  Information will be forthcoming.

Board Subcommittees
The Canyon School Board will be starting subcommittee working groups to help research and plan the next phases.  There will be three distinct groups.  Would you like to help out?  Please let me know which subcommittee you’d like to work with.
1. safety/operations (recommendations for cleaning protocols, social distancing, addressing CDC guidelines for safe return)
2. curriculum/planning (look into resources available, scheduling, gathering and utilizing volunteers, online materials, workload)
3. finance/fundraising (analyze and interpret information coming from the state about budget forecasts and/or strategize about fundraising for the school through CEF/CATSS)

Sex Ed
Great news! We will be providing puberty education (grades 5 and 6) and sex ed (grades 7 and 8) through a local service provider:   CATSS has graciously offered to cover the costs.  Thank you CATSS!

36 Families have responded to the opportunity to request a book.  Kathleen, from Great good Place for Books plans to go in and grab titles on Wednesday.  If you have not already done so, PLEASE fill out your child’s request.  We are purchasing one book for each child.  

Special Education, learning and mental health concerns
Parents have expressed concerns about their children’s work, learning and mental health during the pandemic shutdown.  Concerns about the mental health impacts of isolation and disconnection are well documented. I also recognize that parents are frustrated by trying to teach their children.  I completely understand!  My children don’t like getting academic help from me either, and I am a professional educator.  This is an extremely challenging situation! For those of you struggling to work with your kids at home, I empathize.  I know it is causing some of you to worry. We are not able to conduct any sort of special education testing under the current quarantine situation.  I am so sorry as I recognize this causes concern for some.

Principal’s “coffee”
I would like to host some informal meetings to allow parents the opportunity to check in, ask questions and just generally be in community.  I will try the first one Thursday morning at 9 am for anyone who would like to chat at that time. I’ll plan another one in the evening next week.

Spring Events
We will be having spring performances online.  Details will be forthcoming.  We will be hosting an online graduation on June 11th at 7 pm.  Plans for fifth and second grade moving on ceremonies are in the works. We would love for you all to be a part of that! Right now the 8th graders should be heading off to Costa Rica to do Outward Bound! If you have an idea for how we can provide them with a compensatory experience or a virtual welcome back tunnel, please let me know!

The Future
I know you are all wondering about next year.  The Canyon School Board and I are closely monitoring all of the information coming from the state and local Health Department. As soon as we have a better idea, I will share that information with you.

I miss you all terribly and welcome the thought of seeing you all in person sometime soon.  If there are other topics you are wondering about, please let me know!

A Message from the Principal

by Lucia Sullivan on 05/08/2020

Dear Community,

I hope this message finds you well during these unsettling times. I take comfort in the high level of engagement that we have managed between students and the school despite the challenges of distance learning. The teachers are navigating myriad challenges in developing new resources for the students, checking in with students and families who are struggling, and continuously refining practices to better meet the needs of learners. We have unique challenges as well given that teachers are working with multiple grades and students may have been working at their own pace within a grade. Distance learning is not ideal. However, I am eager to hear how things are going for your family, so we can continue to improve our model. A survey was emailed to you.

I am in the process of evaluating Learning Management Systems that should help provide a more streamlined digital experience for students in the event that we need to have robust online resources in the fall. I will keep you updated on this process.

There is a school board meeting scheduled for next Tuesday at 7 pm via zoom. Ramona sent out an agenda today. I will be discussing all of these topics in further detail at that time.

Spring Traditions: Performances & Graduation
Teachers are working on ways to create an engaging “step up” experience for kids who will be moving into a new class in the fall. At the same time, classes are working on ways to celebrate “moving on” and online versions of spring performances. Stay tuned for more information. Graduation will be held as a livestream on Thursday, June 11th at 7 PM. Please plan on attending! If you have photos of the current 8th graders that would be useful for a slide show please send them to Gina Gaiser.

As of now, public health guidelines will permit camp to move forward as planned. Camp will follow the current guidelines for childcare (masks, social distance cohorts of 1:10). Camille and Colette will be in touch with families that are registered for camp. Colette Blair sent out an email to enrolled families today. If you have camp questions please email:

Reopening Plans
Health Department phases, can’t plan more than 4 weeks at a time. As some restrictions are eased the health department works on a four week cycle to assess the impact on public health. At this time the health department will not speculate about future months. At the school level, we are planning for physical distancing and attempting to prepare ourselves for a variety of potential scenarios in the fall.

I am attaching a document from the state so you will have an understanding of the catastrophic economic forecasts. At this point, my sincere hope is that there will be federal stimulus money for state and local governments. As we enter fire season, it is daunting to imagine any municipality or local agency managing these budget projections as they will impact all public services. We have furloughed all of hourly staff. If there is not a significant change to the budget it would be nearly impossible to bring any of this staff back. Last month we shared dire budget projections. This month they have gotten considerably worse. This problem is not unique to us. State and local governments across the country are facing dramatic contractions in their revenue streams.

Covid 19 Testing
Testing is currently available in three Contra Costa locations.
My understanding is that it is free and available to anyone. Just call and make an appointment.

Meals are available at several locations in the Acalanes high school district.

Misty’s cookbook
Several families have expressed an interest in getting a copy of Misty’s cookbook. She is happy to produce more copies. Please email her at:

Parent volunteers
We had community members facilitating book groups this spring. One thing we can all think about, is new ways to engage our community. How can we come together to support our kids? Would parents be willing to record themselves reading aloud to kids? What else can we do in a physically distant context to maintain our community?

I know many parents are feeling anxious about their children’s mental health during this challenging time.
Anxiety resources:


A Message from the Principal

by Lucia Sullivan on 04/20/2020

Dear Community,
It is hard to believe that we are entering the sixth week of Sheltering in Place and our fifth week of distance learning.  I miss all of you! It was a delight to see some of your faces over zoom this past week. I’d like to share with you discussion items from last week’s board meeting and share reflections on this process with you.

Board Meeting Discussions:
First of all thank you to Molly, Lisa and Cassie for attending our zoom public meeting.  In preparation for budget season, most of our discussion vetered on Monica’s CBO report. We unfortunately had to furlough most of our hourly staff, as we rely on CEF contributions to fund their positions.  We are all hopeful that the stimulus package Unemployment benefits will be a successful short term substitute.

I sent Monica’s detailed overview last week. The budget development preparation begins with looking at the forecast for the next two years.  Right now the budget forecast is quite grim. It is hard to imagine that states and schools will not receive additional aid in the coming months.  Unfortunately, we must build a budget with the information currently available. Right now we are expecting a zero Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) from the state.  Should we be faced with the worst possible scenario, we will freeze salaries, ask CATSS to fund Spanish, run our academic program with the leanest possible staff, reduce hours for administration, etc.  CEf has assured us that it can give us the $98,682 we will need to close out this year. And we will still need CEF contributions of $90,648 and $97,009 in the two years moving forward. Hopefully there will be additional funding for schools allocated for next year.

Distance Learning:
Some of the challenges faced in the first 4 weeks include: technological glitches, tech for K12 given that kids are all using different devices, optimizing curriculum for distance learning, managing workload, managing screen time, wifi access and determining the right balance of work and play.
The greatest success if that kids are showing up to online meetings, participating and completing work.

I summarized survey data in the screencast sent last week, but simply put, this transition is easiest for kids in 678 who are most accustomed to working independently and using online tools.  Parents in 345 are varied in their wishes, but most reported the workload was more than they could manage. Parents in K12 want either no tech or all tech:) We are working to meet everyone’s needs.  We will offer another survey in the next week or so as we continue to refine our distance learning program.

Action steps as a result of feedback:
I am working on getting more chromebooks for K12 families who are now realizing they need a device for their child to access resources.Teachers are working to shift academic demands to fewer hours sitting in front of a computer and decreasing the workload to make it more manageable for kids and their adults.We are also leveraging more organic opportunities for kids in older grades to focus their attention on a choice-based passion project.

What about graduation and moving on ceremonies?
As a staff we have begun to talk about ways to make a meaningful online experience for kids and their families.  This is a work in process, but we have many ideas.
What about State Testing?
The State of California has suspended all testing for this school year.  There will be no state testing.
What about the plays?
The teachers have many creative ideas for ways that children could produce the plays remotely and film them.  We are working on this and one way or another there will be spring performances!
What about Costa Rica?
This is so disappointing!  I really don’t yet know at this point what can be done.
What about camp and the summer?
At this point, I have not yet heard anything about summer.  I am proceeding as if there can be Canyon Camp this summer. As soon as I know anything I will let you know.
What about next year?
It sounds as if there will be some physical distancing measures in place until we have a vaccine.  We do not yet know what this will look like in the fall. I imagine that given our small size we may be in a good position compared to larger schools, but I am speculating.
What if my kid just can’t deal?
We get it!  Please just let your child’s teacher know.  I know many of you have needed mental health days.  We completely understand! I know many of you have reported that it was too much work and too much stress.  We have attempted to reduce the stress. But if the workload is still too much for your child, please just let your child’s teacher know.

Finally, State Senator Steve Glazer has been hosting town hall meetings via teleconference.  Last week he hosted Denise Pope of Palo Alto based Project Success. She talks reassuringly about the value of chores and how much learning happens during playtime, downtime and family time.
If you or your family are struggling, please let me know so I can connect you with any available resources. 

A Message from the Principal

by Lucia Sullivan on 04/15/2020

Dear Canyon Community,

I hope you are all doing okay. This is the start of our fifth week sheltering in place. I truly hope you are all safe and well. I hope your children are settling into their new routines and distance learning.

A word about distance learning. To be clear, this is not home schooling or correspondence class or an independent study plan. This is an attempt to create normalized routines, maintain community and an opportunity for learning for your children. I say an opportunity, because given the stress, trauma and grief kids and families are feeling right now, it is unclear who is learning or even, given the circumstances, what learning looks like right now. We know some kids (and adults) adopt a worker bee mentality in a crisis. For those people, creating a sense of order out of chaos (organizing closets, taking on projects, learning new skills) provides a feeling of control and reduces anxiety. Other people are not wired that way. They may retreat into themselves or they may seek social connection. They may sleep. A lot. Some people seek escape; for kids this might manifest as hours and hours of video games. Families are not monolithic. You may all be reacting in different ways.

We are providing education; we want kids to know that their community is there for them and that the adults in their lives show up, even when things are very hard and uncomfortable. And we want you to know that it is okay if kids choose not to do all their work.

School is a fundamentally social experience. What makes it powerful and important is that it brings swaths of people together across all manner of society and at school they form a common community. Each family has its own values, beliefs and priorities that drive decision making. At school, kids are exposed to myriad ways of thinking and approaching problem solving and they are part of another intimate community with a shared culture distinct from their family of origin.

So much of their learning on a given day is based on their observations of others. They watch how others complete tasks and emulate those behaviors. They act in certain ways because they know kids or adults are seeing them. They live out the identities they have created for themselves at school. They collaborate and engage in power struggles. They negotiate and come to agreements. They compromise.

In the absence of those opportunities, they have academic tasks. Those tasks may or not be meaningful or engaging depending on their energy level, their predisposed interest, perceived challenge and whether or not they are hungry or thirsty or hot or cold. They also have to bring focus and attention. It is completely expected that in a traumatic situation (and regardless of your personal situation at home, it is one) people react in different ways. Lack of ability to focus is a well documented reaction. These realities contribute to the challenges of this distance learning experience.

That is why we are not “grading” students at this time. We will provide feedback. We will notice and record what they accomplish. But there is not going to be any negative feedback from the school. Teachers do have “incomplete work” lists as this is a function of google classroom. It is not intended to haunt or torment kids.

Now that we are all at home together around the clock, what our children are observing is us and we are observing them. What I would hope that children experience in this very hard time is complete love and acceptance. Imagine if you were quarantined with your boss right now and they kept telling you your work wasn’t good enough or that you needed to do more? If your kids learn nothing else in this time I hope it is that we love them regardless of what they accomplish, that we notice what makes them happy and we seek to help them get more of that, that we recognize their limits and their boundaries and we do not push them at such a vulnerable time. Try to do less and let that be okay.

It is wonderful to hear from so many of you. I know how hard, exhausting and frustrating this time period is. Wishing you the best under very challenging circumstances,


A Message from the Principal

by Lucia Sullivan on 09/24/2019

Dear Canyon Community,

We are always busy here at Canyon School.  It sounds like the 345 camping trip was a fabulous success.  The 678 group departs tomorrow for Calaveras Big Trees Park. It should be wonderful! This Sunday is our walkathon, which is a huge fundraiser for CATSS and always a wonderful time.  If you have never been, it is a delightful day with a party-like atmosphere. There is music and sunshine and lots of adults enjoying the opportunity to catch up while flocks of children run past, or walk holding hands and singing… At noon everyone takes a break and enjoys the taco truck and then the whole thing continues for two more hours.  Adults can chat with each other or walk with the kids and get in a little quality time. It is a delightful day! So please come! PLEASE remember to have all walkers bring a reusable water bottle (preferable with their name on it). We want to cut down on our single use waste and would prefer not to use disposable cups. The greenest way would be for each kid to bring a water bottle that could be housed at the water station.

For those of you who received the “reverse 911” or “robocall” from an unfamiliar phone number, I have resolved that issue.  It turns out that the calls appear from a random number and caller ID picks up whoever that random number belonged to last. I have changed the settings (technical genius!) and now you should receive the calls from…. Canyon School!  So I imagine that will be clarifying. At this point, despite the red flag warning over the next two days, we have not heard any chatter about PG&E shutting down power in our area. If we do, we will keep you posted.

We have heard that there will be a power shut off in Canyon on Saturday, October 5th for routine maintenance.

Camille and I have been working on getting afterschool enrichment up and running.  Wolfpack will be back with archery, there will be an afterschool art class and our very own James McNeil will be offering a middle school class to teach kids to use tools and do simple repairs. Stay tuned for details and sign up information. In the past, coordinating enrichment has been a parent volunteer role.  I would love it if someone would like to take it off my plate. Please let me know if you are interested!

I have been working on trying to explore transportation options for students getting to school from outside of Canyon.  This would be beneficial for our community in many ways. It would reduce the carbon footprint and related traffic of so many cars coming to Canyon.  It would make parents’ lives easier. I also believe it would improve our attendance AND make the school more accessible to potential students who do not have the capacity to be driven here every day.

So far I have learned that student transport is expensive and complicated.  I had lengthy discussions with First Student, the bus service that serves LaMorinda; their service is around $900 and that is with 60% of it being subsidized by local taxes.  I am currently working with another transport company that was going to try and run a route and see if it would be feasible. I should have some information back from them later this week. Stay tuned!

I want to clarify the billing process for lunch.  In the mornings, the teachers ask students who will be getting school lunch and students indicate the desire to have school lunch at that time.  That record is what Misty uses to determine the quantity of food that she should prepare for the meal. That record is used to indicate a child has signed up for lunch, much like if you ordered food on an app and then went and picked it up.  We always try to accommodate our community and make our systems responsive. If a child goes home sick and doesn’t eat the lunch they requested, we would take it off the register and not charge them. If a child forgets to order lunch, we can always feed another person.  If you do not want your child to order lunch, that is a conversation you need to have with your child. We will not refuse a child lunch if they ask for it.

There has been some communication about the lunch cards in the past.  The lunch card is a record of the lunches you have paid for. When your child gets lunch they put their lunch card in the box and Ramona cross checks that with the orders.  If your child does not have a lunch card, we write their name down and attempt to alert you that your child needs a lunch card. The lunch card is not the ultimate authority, it is a second piece of information.  Kids who are servers grab their lunches from the kitchen and often forget to put their lunch cards in the box. Kids forget to put their card in the box. The card is a record of what you have paid. The lunch count is the order for the meal.

Our lunch program is very special.  How many kids get a freshly cooked meal at school with real dishes and flatware? We encourage you to come and join us for lunch.  Our lunch program often loses money because of the costs of ingredients; the more people who buy lunch, the better it is for the lunch program and the school.

Our auditor takes lunch debt very seriously.  If you followed any of the national news stories about lunch debt, some districts handle it in ways I find to be shameful and horrific.  Kids are given “alternate meals”, publicly shamed or their families threatened over nine dollars. We are never going to do any of those things.  If your child wants lunch, we will feed them. If you are in arrears, we will alert you and encourage you to pay off the debt. If you do not want your child to order lunch, please make sure your child understands this.  


A Message from the Principal

by Lucia Sullivan on 09/12/2019

Dear Canyon Community,

I have a few important topics I plan to address at Back to School Night. In the interest of ensuring everyone gets the information, I will also include them in this email. It is long but all important information.

Potential PG&E Power shut offs:
PG&E has told municipalities that it will cut power in the event of a high fire risk. If they do so, it may take 72 hours to turn the power back on. The Canyon School Board met Tuesday night. Among the discussion topics was what to do in the event that PG&E shuts off the power due to high fire risk. I have been communicating with area Superintendents to better understand their plans in the event this was to occur. Here is what you need to know now: If PG&E cuts power to the school for high fire risk, we will immediately contact you through our OneCallNow reverse 911 phone system and alert you to the situation. I conducted a “test” call from OneCallNow this afternoon as a reminder about Back to School Night. Did you receive it? If not, let Ramona know. If power were to be cut during the school day, we would continue the remainder of the school day but we would not reopen the school until the power had been reliably restored.

We understand an unexpected school closure will be a challenge for many parents. We hope it doesn’t happen! The safety of the students and staff is paramount. If PG&E cuts power for high fire risk and we do not yet have a generator, we do not feel it would be safe or appropriate to hold school.

We are in the process of examining our electrical needs and exploring the possibility of getting a generator, but in the meantime, the above is the plan. When we begin talking about the 20-21 calendar, we will also consider building in extra days at the end of the year in case they become necessary due to weather-related school closure. This is a common practice in areas with snow. The calendar is typically built with 5 extra days in June. At some point in the spring the Board would determine the “actual” last day of school based on how many were used. If there were no school closures the school year would end 5 days early.

We had our first fire drill last week and the kids were great. We will do other drills as well. We do NOT conduct active shooter drills, as many people find this traumatizing– instead we will conduct a wild animal drill (what would you do if a Coyote got into the school?). This will accomplish the same outcome but not offer a horrific violent image to young children. With 678 we can discuss varied scenarios and plans of action. There are always additional safety issues to consider. If you would like to be part of an emergency preparedness committee, please let me know. I would love a small cadre of parents and community members to think through ways we can prepare for any potential crisis.

Math Placements for grades 3-8:
We strive to offer a rigorous and highly differentiated math program that meets the needs of each learner. In the upper grades, we assess students to determine their current proficiency levels and aim to build math classes that will challenge and support each child appropriately. In the 345 class this year, we are offering 4 levels of math. In the 678 class we are offering both Algebra 1 and Geometry 1 in addition to 6th, 7th and 8th grade math. This year we are experimenting with instructors teaching multiple concurrent sections. For example in 345, Kirsten is teaching the 3rd grade math course and Lily will be teaching both 4th and 5th grade math with the support of Steve Miller. In this way, all students receive high levels of instructional skill and support. This may look like groups of kids working for part of the math block with Lily and then spending part of the math block engaged in practice with Steve’s support and supervision. Lily may grab 4th and 5th graders together to review a particular skill or launch an assignment. Virginia will be teaching a small group of accelerated 5th graders.

In the 678 class, Alix will be teaching 6th grade math and Geometry 1. So she may have those kids all in one space and move between them checking in, having discussions and launching lessons. Kids will at times work independently, with her or collaboratively. Virginia will be teaching Algebra 1. Lily will be teaching 7th and 8th grade math and Steve will be supporting. Your child probably knows their math placement at this time. Please reach out if you have a concern, so that we are able to address it. We do our best to accommodate children’s desire for challenge as long as the instructor believes that the student has enough of the precursor skills to be successful.

In the state of California school funding is based on average daily attendance (ADA). This means that if we were fully enrolled with 72 kids and everyone attended 180 days of school, we would receive full funding. The state essentially multiplies our enrollment by our attendance and then divides by the school days to determine our funding. When we submit this information to the state we are allowed to pick the ADA from the better of this year and last year. Based on last year’s attendance our 18-19 ADA is 66.33. We used 17-18 data last year which was 67.69. This means that even though we had 72 kids last year, we only received funding for 67.69 children.

What this means is that we need to both increase our middle school enrollment and drastically improve our attendance. Kelley Westling has made a fabulous flyer. Please stop by the office and get one if you have a good idea of where you might hang it. We are actively seeking 8th graders. We gained a 7th grader last week and an 8th grader this week. Please welcome Preston (grade 7) and madison (grade 8). Ideally, we would gain 4-5 eighth graders and 2-3 seventh graders by the end of September. We do not have space in any other grades. Though all are welcome to join the waitlist and should contact Ramona to do so.

The attendance issue is complicated. We have spoken before about the impact on the classroom, the Board’s ability to revoke inter-district transfers for poor attendance and the Education Code on truancy. I have school age kids as well and understand the visits to elderly relatives, the cost of plane travel on the busiest days, the desire for students to be able to participate in once in a lifetime experiences that conflict with the school calendar. For health safety and comfort of everyone, we do not want sick kids at school. However, we all need to understand that every absence, excused or unexcused, costs the school about $70. It doesn’t matter why the child is out. An absence can be excused (so the School Board is not seeing the absence as truancy), and still cause the school to lose money.

If you are absent for 5 continuous days, you can apply for an Independent Study which does mean that the attendance is counted for the school and we get the funding. However, our auditor does check to ensure your child completed the work. If your kids don’t come to school, we lose money.

Last spring I started researching the possibility of a bus service that we could contract (paid for by parents) to provide transportation from some popular locations to school. If you are remotely interested in the possibility of your child riding a bus, please click the link to complete a very brief survey. This information about numbers, locations and pricing will help me get a realistic quote.

Please remember that kids should wear sneakers (or bring them) and clothing that allows for athletic activity every day that they have PE. 345 has PE every day but Wednesday. 678 has PE Monday, Thursday, Friday. First and second graders have PE on Mondays and fridays.

Students in 345 who enjoy playing in the Creek, should consider keeping some back up clothes in their backpacks. We have noticed that many third and fourth graders would benefit from extra clothing:) A large ziploc bag with a change of clothes in it is a great thing to have just in case!

All kids should really aim to wear protective footwear every day. When kids are running around in the grove they can get sticks in their sandals and sneakers would work better.

Conflict Resolution:
If you have a concern with a staff member or parent, I would urge you to start by speaking directly to the people involved in an effort to communicate what you have observed and your feelings about it. If that is ineffective or too difficult to do, you are welcome to come to me for help. If you have a concern with school administration and feel that communicating directly with the office staff is not effective, you are welcome to speak to a Canyon School Governing Board member.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you and welcome your support to make Canyon School an even more special place.


A Message from the Principal

by Lucia Sullivan on 06/19/2019

Dear Canyon Community,

It has been a wonderful year. Thank you so much to all the staff and parents who worked so hard to support the kids.

The Board voted to approve the LCAP and the proposed budget at their June 18th meeting. We bid farewell to Art Peterson who taught 6th grade math this spring and helped out with supervising 678 snack and lunch and we say goodbye to Steven Day. We will be welcoming Alix Feinsod in 678. All other staff is projected to remain constant.

At the last Board meeting the Earth Guardians presented a climate resolution. The resolution spurred almost an hour of discussion and made me think about several things. Chief among them was the notion of transportation. One of our on-going struggles is attendance. This impacts our funding and causes financial stress. Improving attendance increases our funding. As the Board was discussing climate action, I was thinking of the carbon footprint of all the inter-district families driving into Canyon. It got me thinking that if we could set up a bus system we might be able to:
Get more people to school on time (thus improving our ADA, increasing our funding and improving academic outcomes)
Reduce our carbon footprint
Make the school more accessible to families who are unable to drive here every morning
Make the lives of parents easier
Do we have anyone in our community who has the skills to help investigate the feasibility of a bus? It would be amazing if we could see where people live on a map and figure out if we could have one or two bus stops and pick up lots of kids? This would have to be parent funded (think of the money you would save on gas and brakes:). Let me know if this something you’d be interested in. And if you think you have the urban planning know-how to help make this happen, please reach out right away!

We have two parent volunteer summer work days. The first is Sunday, July 7th. The “must-do” tasks on this day are first getting the stage thrust taken down and then getting all the furniture out of the classrooms so the floors can be cleaned and waxed. The next work day is Saturday, July 27th. On the second work day the furniture is cleaned and replaced in rooms. If we get lots of helpers there are many other projects that can be done on this day as well. Please let me know if you plan to come to the first work day. This will help me know which projects we can expect to complete. It will also help CATSS know how much food to provide. The new 678 teacher would like a bit of help cleaning and organizing that room as well. Please let me know if you’d like to help with that.

Middle school enrollment continues to be an inflection point. Please help us out by recruiting kids who may be interested in our middle school program. We currently have availability in 7th and 8th grades. Please direct interested parents to email me directly as I will be on email all summer and eager to answer questions and talk to prospective families.

Raphaelle Steinzig participated in School Site Council this year and together we reviewed and analyzed the parent survey feedback. Thank you for taking the time to respond so thoughtfully. Things that came across clearly as hopes, wishes, wants:
1. Dogs on campus MUST be leashed. Some kids are afraid. If you bring your dog to school please leash it and pick up after it:)
2. Spanish has been a great success and is universally appreciated. Next year we will have more!
3. People love music. Some wanted more (like instrumental lessons as part of the school day). Unfortunately we do not have the resources for an in-school instrumental music program at this time.
4. There was a suggestion of getting a counseling intern so that we had more staff available to address the emotional needs of students in the school day. We do have a school psychologist. Her name is Kara. She works for the county and comes to school as needed to serve students who receive counseling as part of an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or to do psychological testing as part of the IEP referral process. I spoke with Ali Guida Smith and she said she would explore options for a Counseling intern. Thank you Ali!
5. Parents want the lunch calendar posted on the website. We do that now. Look under the tab that says LUNCH.
6. Parents want an accurate google calendar of school events posted on the website. We want this too!
7. Parents appreciate the weekly newsletters from homeroom teachers AND would like more communication from other teaching staff.
8. Parents continue to want more opportunities for afterschool enrichment. In the past we have had a parent volunteer work on this with Camille. Is anyone interested in doing this next year?
9. Parents in grades that have chrome books want to limit computer use to designated academic tasks and reduce freeplay on computers.

We will work to address these wishes. Have a wonderful summer!

Summer Calendar:
Sunday, July 7th Parent Work day
Tuesday, July 9th @ 7 PM Board Meeting
Saturday, July 27th Parent Work day
Tuesday, August 13th @ 7 PM Board Meeting
Sunday, August 25th Welcome Breakfast
Wednesday, August 28th First day of school (ends at 1:35!)

A Message from the Principal

by Lucia Sullivan on 04/23/2019

Dear Canyon School Community,

Happy spring! It is such a delight to feel the sun shine and see the kids working outside getting fresh air.

Please join us this Thursday (4/24) at 4:30 if you’d like to meet our finalist for the 678 position, Alix Feinsod. She will be here for an informal meet and greet from 4:30-5:30.

We have continued to work on recruiting more students for 678. So far we have two girls (7th and 8th respectively) definitely coming and two more who recently visited and may join the group as well. I am very excited to be able to add fresh faces to that room.

Moraga School District has invited us to a workshop they’re hosting on May 1st Exploring the Dynamic World of Gender. If you are interested in learning more there is an attached flyer. All are welcome!

It’s not too late to get your tickets for the Luau:

Luau in the Redwoods

It is not too late to volunteer to help with the Luau either!

Aftercare Update from Wendy:
I am updating here because, together with other co-workers, I have “filled” the lost and found box. Now is the time for all good kids and parents to go through the box.

Whatever is left, I know, gets donated to whomever. There is some “good stuff” in that box. As a parent, I know these clothes can be costly. Replacing lost clothing can be an even greater expense. Therefore, I encourage all parents and students to go through these items now. There is no more room to continue this interesting collection of textiles 🙂