Eye on the Schools

dusd officials at good dinner.jpg

Well, its mid-May and our schools are in the last leg of the school year. It’s unbelievable how fast this year has gone. The students are busy testing, finishing up projects and making plans for summer break.

To be honest with everyone, this is the busiest and best time of the school year for me and my fellow Board members. This is the time when we are pleased to attend student scholarship and award nights, retirement parties, employee award ceremonies, plays and spring concerts, and best of all, our middle school promotion and high school graduation ceremonies. These events celebrate the dedication of our students and their parents that have led them to these culmination ceremonies.

So, what’s been going on you ask, and what’s in store for the rest of May? Let me brag a little before we get to the events. You may have seen some of these announcements in other sections of The Downey Patriot, but they are worth repeating.

First, in honor of National Teacher Appreciation Week and Classified School Employees week that are this month, I want to celebrate our employees. I want to congratulate our Downey Unified Masonic Teachers of the Year: Lucy Atlas from Old River Elementary School, Kathleen Carter from Doty Middle School and John Glaister from Columbus High School.

We have four Classified (non-teaching) employees representing us as California Classified Employee of the Year finalists. Considering there were only a total of six people selected from Los Angeles County to move on to the State level, I think our entire classified employees deserve a big round of applause. Let’s hear it for Bus Driver Sandra Jarquin, Utility Worker Jose Ramirez Rosales from Lewis and Imperial elementary schools, Food Service Assistant Nelly Salinas from Warren High School and Campus Supervisor/Aide Miguel Sanchez from Griffiths Middle School.

WHS Spring Concert 2.jpg

How could I forget our students and their advisors that have worked so hard representing Downey Unified in the SkillsUSA Competitions this year. We have had students competing at the Regional and State levels from Warren and Downey high schools as well as Downey Adult School. The SkillsUSA State Competition was held over Spring Break this year and our students brought home 52 medals! Of those 52, 29 students who received gold medals will be traveling to Louisville, KY, over the summer to compete against students from across the country at the National Championship. There are over 15,000 chapters across the country and Downey Unified has traveled to the Nationals every year since we started competing in 2009. This competition gets students ready to step into the workforce. If you want more details about this program, you can read about it at www.skillsusa.org.

The HS Spring Concerts have been wonderful! This year Warren High School’s (WHS) Spring Concert was dedicated to Stauffer MS band director, Todd Miller, who is retiring this year. Todd has worked for Downey Unified for 15 years with a little break in the middle, but as we know, all roads lead back to Downey.

The WHS band, under the direction of David Niemeyer, played many of Todd’s favorite pieces including one of my personal favorite’s “September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire. It was a wonderful night.

The Downey High School (DHS) Spring Concert led by Corneliu Olariu (Mr. O) and Raul Guerrero was as equally uplifting. They held a fundraiser that night and auctioned off the opportunity to take the lead and act as ensemble/band director. They had two winners and raised over $2,000. My favorite song of the evening was “The Flintstones.” As a child, I loved watching that cartoon and it brought back so many fond memories.

I was also able to see the Doty Middle School Spring Concert on Monday and it was a great event. The 6:30 p.m. show was the beginning band, concert band and choir, and during the 8:00 p.m. show the advanced band, concert band and a combo of advanced and concert bands performed. All of these young musicians were led under the direction of Andrea Keen, whom I now believe is related Superman. I will go into more detail about Doty’s Spring Concert next month, I just wanted to quickly congratulate the Doty Knights and Andrea King for such amazing performances. Griffiths and Stauffer middle school still have upcoming Spring Concerts if you would like to attend.

WHS Spring Concert.jpg

I, along with my fellow Board members, have been to several award and recognition ceremonies this month with many more to come. I was pleased to attend the Gangs Out Of Downey (GOOD) Scholarship Dinner in honor of Ricky Galvez. That evening, two students from each of our three high schools were awarded $1,000 scholarships. The Downey Council PTA held their annual Scholarship Breakfast that I was lucky to be a part of. They selected 26 students to be awarded scholarships that included the California State PTA Scholarship, the Sally McFarland Scholarship and the Downey Council PTA Scholarship. I want to thank GOOD and Downey Council PTA for their continuous support of our students.

The WHS Golden Bear awards and the DHS Viking awards were also earlier this month, where teachers select outstanding students who excel in various categories such as Visual Arts, Mathematics and CHARACTER COUNTS! to name just a few. Students in each category are awarded a pin and/or a medallion and one student from each category is awarded a Golden Bear or Viking statue.

In the case of WHS, they also recognize a Grand Golden Bear that is given to one student each year who best displays the finest all-around qualities in a WHS student.

The statues are beautiful to say the least and I’d just like to mention that if anyone from DHS or WHS has an extra one laying around, I am more than happy to display it at home to show my Viking and Bear pride.

I’m running out of space and I barely touched the surface of all that has been happening since my April edition. Next month I will be back with a recap of the end of the year. You will be amazed when you hear the total amount of scholarship money our wonderful local organizations and individuals awarded our graduates this year.

Also, as a heads up for the upcoming seniors of 2019-2020 who may be thinking of heading into community college after graduation, Cerritos College has a great plan that provides free tuition for two years!

Called the Cerritos Complete program, many of our current seniors have taken advantage of this great opportunity and I wanted to pass it along to anyone who is unaware.

Middle school promotions and high school graduations are coming up and we will proudly be shaking the hands of many of our students in just a few weeks. Before I close, I want to give special congratulations to my niece Marley Vesneski for promoting from Sussman MS and longtime family friend Raquel Rios for graduating from Downey HS at the end of this month.

I hope you can join me before the end of the school year at some of these upcoming events:

Griffiths MS Spring Concert – Tuesday, May 21st, 6 p.m.

  • Stauffer MS Spring Concert-

  • Beginning Band, Tuesday, May 21st, 6:30 p.m.

  • Advanced Band & Jazz Band, Wednesday May 22nd, 6:30 p.m.

  • WHS Play “Mrs. America” at WHS Emerson Theatre – Wednesday, May 22nd, Saturday, May 25th, both at 7:30 p.m. (I want to correct a mistake I made in my last edition. I accredited WHS construction teacher for creating the rotating platform that was built into the stage floor at WHS, when in actuality it was Drama teacher Kyle Deichman! My apologies and thank you for all you do for our students, Kyle.)

Nancy A. Swenson
President, Downey Unified Board of Education