News & Notes - April 26, 2019
What's Happening at The Academies? 

May 1 -- Summer Program Early Bird Deadline

May 3 -- SVA Band & Movie Night @ SVA

May 10 -- SVA PTO Evening Fundraiser

May 15 --  BOA Open House

May 22 --  SVA Open House

May 31 - Jun 1 -- SVA Theater Shows

June 6 -- SVA 8th Grade Graduation

Download the  2018-19 Academic Calendar
From Superintendent Dutton
Wednesday, April 10 was an day of interesting parallels. 

For the majority of the day, I worked collaboratively within a committee of 14 individuals, all of whom possess a special love for our academies and commitment to our work, and who serve our schools and organization in varied capacities. The group included representatives of both schools and our CMO/home office of the nonprofit, as well as external partners and consultants, members of our Board, parent perspectives, and our incoming
Superintendent. Together, we further honed a draft of the organization’s goals and strategic priorities for the next 3-5 year horizon, imagining a future of continued thriving and increased impact, while also strategizing to mitigate our present challenges. 

At the conclusion of this day, as we reflected together, Mr. Benton (SVA Principal) shared the following quote, which he’d gotten from Erika Chan (SVA Teacher) earlier in the week. It seemed to capture the sentiment of the group and resonate with each one of us. “Each school is a unique organism comprised of the collective struggles, history, and hopes of the community it serves. Just as there’s no curriculum that’ll work for all students, there’s no sweeping fix for education. The only fix is getting knee-deep in the humanity of it all.” (Amy Fast, Assistant Principal, posted on Edutopia website).

After the planning session was over, as I was answering emails and wrapping up the last tasks of the day, Mrs. Jackson (BOA Office Assistant) came into my office and shared anote with me. It was from an SVA alumni. The note indicated she and her grandmother had stopped by to let me know she was graduating from high school soon and planning to continue her education at COS in the fall. She ended with, “Thank you for everything.”

As educators, many times we do not see the fruit from the seeds we plant, or how far our ripple of influence extends in the lives we affect. Reading her update and her thanks was an awesome moment for me, because I recalled how we worked with this student and her family in her two years with us. We never gave up on her, and we found success with this student and helped her overcome the adversity in her life by being compassionate educators and adapting to support her needs while also thoughtfully building her independence. The family and our staff worked to keep lines of communication open and information flowing between home and school so we could be most effective, working and learning together. After her time with us, she continued her education at a local charter high school, and clearly, their team picked up where we left off, and continued to support this child’s needs to give her access to a better future. When I texted Mr. Benton to share the update about this student we both knew, he replied, “Kinda makes you remember why it’s worth it.” Exactly!

Reflecting with joy upon learning of this student’s positive outcomes, and remembering all that went into that success from multiple parties at home and at school, I was reminded of this short story that Mrs. Rocha (SVA VP) shared with me, back when I was a teacher and she was the principal at Visalia Charter Independent Study:
Friends, I want to share with you that the educators and leaders who work at our academies understand that this is human work, and our team truly values the worth of each individual child. I am so honored and privileged to have supported the establishment of these schools, where this understanding of the work, and these values, are visible in action every day.

After I got home from work on Wednesday, I checked my facebook account and found that many friends were posting a link to a news article from the Sun Gazette,  “Seven Visalia Schools Among the Lowest Performing in the State.”  I read the article and thought again about my decision to get started to establish SVA back in 2010, when I had come to the realization that I couldn’t wait for the larger system to right itself: I was a mother whose children needed an education now. The following Gabriela Mistral quote inspired me at the time, “Many things we need can wait. The child cannot. Now is the time his bones are formed, his mind developed. To him we cannot say tomorrow, his name is today.” 

I thought about how grateful I was for the Charter Schools Act of 1992, which afforded me the right and the opportunity to seek to establish and operate a public school “outside of the school district structure” in order to address local needs immediately, and how crucial this law has been to protect the right of the people to take public education into their own hands, and offer important, quality choices to the public across our state over time. 

I thought of how responsive our system had been in this former student’s life after she’d had contrasting experiences elsewhere in public education, and what a difference good charter schools make in a community. 

Then I saw the California Charter Schools Association’s update on how the Assembly Education Committee Hearings had gone that day in Sacramento. If you haven’t been following the conversation, please take a moment to  look into the proposed legislation, all of which passed out of committee Wednesday , AB1505, AB1506, AB1507, and AB1508, and consider how, if these bills continue forward unamended, they might affect Sycamore Valley Academy and Blue Oak Academy into the future, as well as how these bills (if enacted) would affect the right of community members like myself in 2010, who might want to offer other models of public education to this community in the form of new public charter schools in the future.
Wednesday, April 10 was a day of interesting parallels for me, and I wanted to share what I see from the vantage point of SVA/ BOA/ TACMO Founding Superintendent. I was reminded during strategic planning of the incredible asset our academies have in our people. I was inspired to see stakeholders’ belief in the power of our organization to continually improve, to share best practices with others and continue our advocacy, and to change individual student lives and the course of their trajectory through our caring. I learned that the right
turn that our school had been for a former student turned out to be permanent, that she continued on the right path and is heading for a bright future. I learned that the need for high quality public education options in Visalia and in Tulare County is still urgent, and that with the changing politics of this work, our schools and their strength become ever more critical for this community. 

Thank you all for the way you invest in our schools. May we continue to thrive by embracing the humanity of this work, and may we continue “as educators and families working together” to stay engaged, so we can provide a “model [of] transformative change in education,” making our schools ladders of opportunity for all who are served there. May we persist with the courage to roll up our sleeves with a “can do!” and “we’re in this together” attitude, and rise to the challenges of our region and our time! It’s all for the kids! Es todo para los ninos!


Our VISION: The Academies’ charter schools model transformative change in education by elevating expectations of learning and growth. With grit, tenacity, and empathy, we improve the world around us by embracing challenges as problem-solvers. We create an inclusive community with access to rigorous and enriching educational experiences that challenge and support individuals to achieve their personal best and realize new opportunities.
The MISSION of our school is to provide a rich, meaningful education in a nurturing environment, where students are continually challenged and their natural curiosity, creativity, and talents can thrive. We are a collaborative community of educators and families working together to help our students grow into virtuous, courageous, and intelligent citizens, equipped with a love of learning and a love of life, and eager to contribute to a better world.
Current Job Postings

State Testing

Beginning next week 3rd-8th graders will be taking the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP).

The state test takes a “snapshot” of a student’s ability in English Language Arts and Mathematics once a year, helps us “take the temperature” of the school. We are able to use this as a way to compare our student’s growth and achievement to that of other students all over the state. In fact, it is one of the only ways that we have to compare schools to one another. For this reason, this assessment is important to us as an organization. From the outside-looking-in perspective, this particular measure is widely used and highly valued. It also serves as one of the major points of consideration when our charter is up for renewal.

Here is how you can help:

Let your child know that it is important they do their personal best on the test. That is, of course what is expected, and what we are trying to see. We are always seeking a balance for our scholars between being undermotivated (“this test is lame and I don’t see the point”) and having anxiety about the test to the point that they aren’t able to perform their best. It’s a tough balance!! We want to see what they have mastered, as well as where we might need to provide more support.

Tell your child that we need to know how we are doing as a school, and what we need to improve upon as teachers. This message conveys a level of importance, but doesn’t put all of the weight on the student.

You might also mention that test scores are a common way that people outside of our school can see just how great our school is compared to other schools. Our schools' scores are an important factor in charter authorization, so when our students perform well, they help keep our charter secure and our schools open to serve kids into the future. They also help to catch the attention of families in the area, demonstrating that our model is effective. This contributes to positive public perceptions, which helps our school receive enough student applications each year to sustain our learning community.

Make sure that your scholar is well rested and well fed on the days when their class is scheduled to test. It’s a no-brainer that kids are more focused and ready to give their personal best when their basic needs have been met.

Download more information about state mandated testing at our schools here.

 TACMO Summer Enrichment Programs

As a service to our community, our home office non-profit organization (TACMO) will offer summer enrichment opportunities again this year in four one week sessions. Sessions will be open to students entering grades 1-5 in the fall. All summer programs take place at Blue Oak Academy. 

We are extending drop off and pickup times this year with our programs running from 7:30AM-4:00PM. 

The fee for each session is just $150!  Register online by May 1 to receive a $25 early bird discount per session.  Limited scholarships are available in each session for families who qualify for free or reduced price lunch. The deadline to apply for scholarships is May 1. 


Session Dates & Details

Session 1: June 17-21
Mrs. Gates-Wai - All about pets - Learn about pets with fun educational activities, including games, crafts, guest speakers, and more!

Session 2: June 24- 28
Mr. Enriquez - Stop Motion Lego Animations- Students will develop their narrative and storyboard, and then shoot their videos using iPads over the course of a week. The session culminates in a film festival at the end of the week.

Session 3: July 8-14
Mrs. Cazarez - Foodie Kids Cooking - Back By Popular Demand! Mrs. C cooks up new fun and delicious recipes with more hands on cooking activities for your kiddos in this yummy week. 

Session 4: July 22-26
Mrs. Padilla - Let's Go Camping! - The Padillas will create a fun filled week of camp themed crafts and books, outdoor games, s'mores, and more!
SVA Leadership Team Presents Family Movie Night
WHO: All TACMO Families are welcome!

WHAT: FREE Family Movie Night- featuring "Shrek". Pizza and refreshments will be sold. BYO lawn chairs and picnic!

WHEN: Friday, May 3rd @ 7pm. SVA Band will perform at 7:00. Movie will begin at 7:30pm.  

WHERE: SVA Baseball Diamond.
Student Placement Requests for 2019-20

If you would like to provide information that we should consider during the formation of class rosters, please complete this form and return it to your school’s Front Office no later than Friday, May 24, 2019.
Service Learning

Blue Oak's 3rd graders were recently tasked with completing chores outside of their usual chores to earn money. Then they went to grocery stores to purchase canned food in person and brought cans to school. In all, students collected 149 cans of food and delivered these to the Visalia Rescue Mission, a local nonprofit that serves the homeless in our community. Students practiced and learned about hard work, human kindness, and giving selflessly. The addition and subtraction practice in the exercise was an extra bonus!

Did you know our school model, articulated in our charters, includes service-learning as central, not peripheral, to our program for students? Each class completes a minimum of one service-learning project per school year, and many times, students experience multiple opportunities to serve our community in a given year. Between school-sponsored events (such as Campus Beautification Days or Jog-a-thon), field trips to volunteer at community events (such as work days at Kaweah Oaks Preserve, marching in the Cesar Chavez March or manning the CSET Senior Day event for local seniors), fund and item drives (such as those to support local nonprofits Read for Life and FoodLink), and activities directly linked to their learning about civic engagement (such as the 3rd/4th Get Out the Vote effort last fall), students of our academies have regular practice "being the change" they wish to see in the world. We choose to emphasize and value this learning, though it doesn't show up in our external state testing results, because we recognize:
Yearbooks On Sale Now! 
Yearbooks are for sale! 

Order your copy of your school's yearbook NOW or anytime during the month of April using the links below. Four personalized pages that YOU can create for your student included in the price!   Orders due May 6.

Buy your Sweepstakes tickets in-person
Fridays after School
8th Grade Graduation
WHO: Event open to ticketed guests only (the ticket order link will be sent directly to families of graduates).

WHAT: Recognizing our graduates as they promote to high school. Event details will be sent directly to families of graduates.

WHEN: Thursday, June 6
6:00 PM (doors open at 5:30PM).

WHERE: Odd Fellows Hall (116 S. Court St.).
SVA Online Book Fair

The Usborne book fair at SVA was a huge success! The school library received 175 books from the $5 book fair event plus an additional $350 to spend online for more books.

If you are looking to order the next book in the series that your child purchased, or any other additional summer reading, use this online link that will be open throughout the summer. SVA will earn a 50% match on any purchases through the link.
BOA Spirit Days

Friday, May 31: Hawaiian Day
Friday, June 7: Free Dress Day
SVA Spirit Days

Friday, May 31: College Day
Friday, June 7: Free Dress Day
Our schools offer a convenient option for student breakfast and lunch. Meals are provided by through contract with  Visalia Unified School District's Nutritional Services Division  and are delivered daily to our cafeterias.

Breakfast - $ 1.25 per day  Lunch - $2.00 per day  Milk - $0.35 per carton

You can pay for lunches at school with cash or check, or pay online with the service. An app is available so you can easily use this service on your smartphone. If you have not already done so, you will need to register, create an account and provide an ID number for each student.  Contact the front office of your school to obtain your child's student ID number.
Next SVA PTO Meeting
Monday, May 13
Round Table Pizza
Packwood Creek Center
4035 S. Mooney Blvd.
Next BOA PTO Meeting
Monday, May 13
Round Table Pizza
Mary's Vineyard Center
1691 E. Noble Ave.
If you would like to share any ideas or add an agenda item for discussion at the  PTO meeting please  email it to  at least one week prior to the meeting.  

Spanish translation available at meetings. 
¡Estamos muy contentos de compartir que ofrecemos traducción en español en nuestras reuniones! ¡Hay que trabajar juntos!
Family Support
Dress Code Reminder
A quick reminder going into the spring trimester, please refresh yourself on our dress code policy and expectations. You can view the easy to ready 1-page guide here for SVA and here for BOA .

Our biggest issues are with items that are out of color range, have brand name logos, there is a special wash on or holes in jeans, and students wearing tights/leggings. For the most part, these issues are minimal and rare. That said, the more you can help us out at home, the less we need to address your student about these items at school, allowing us to stay focused on education.

The purpose of the dress code is to level the playing field for all and to keep our focus at school on learning. Thank you for your help with this! We are also happy to help make sure that you have dress code compliant cloths for your students. If you need help with this, please do contact our school offices and ask for Mr. Benton or Mrs. Stinson.
Community Events
ValleyPBS and PBS Nature are coming to Kaweah Oaks Preserve this Saturday, April 27 from 10-1 for a free family day of fun, free lunch, curiosity, and even some learning opportunities sure to excite the kids!

Nature Cat, the popular PBS animated character, will be on hand as will numerous organizations with hands-on booths for the kids including Sequoia National Park, Arts Visalia, Sequoia Parks Conservancy, and Imagine U. Cal Fire will have a truck on hand, sure to be a hit with the kids!

PBS's citizen science effort is part of a national program that will be showcased in a three-night Nature special airing nationally on PBS affiliates April 29-30 and May 1, entitled Nature: American Spring LIVE, to be anchored from Sequoia National Park. 

Additionally, as part of that WNET production, ValleyPBS has produced Nature's Keepers, a 30-minute documentary on the important work of Sequoia Riverlands Trust to air on ValleyPBS, as well as online. Many familiar SRT staff and community partners appear with SRT preserves as setting for this lively and engaging documentary.

So please join us April 27 and bring the kids -- or just the big kid in you -- and see how a new generation is exploring citizen science! Friendly leashed dogs welcome.

For free tickets, register here .
Scott Smith Invitational Golf Tournament

Hosted by Visalia Firefighters Association

Friday, May 31st, 2019 • Registration 8:30 am – 9:30 am

Shotgun Start 10:00 am
Format: Scramble & Callaway Scoring
Ridge Creek Dinuba Golf Club •
3018 Ridge Creek Drive, Dinuba, CA 93618 • (559) 591-2254

Entry Fee $120.00 per Player
(Deadline May 20th, 2019)

Includes Green Fee with Cart, Range Balls for warm-up,
Tee Prizes and Build Your Own Burger Bar lunch.

Summer Reading Program
This exceptional program is offered by California State University, Fresno, Division of Continuing and Global Education and taught by the Institute of Reading Development.

By the end of the program, Student will:
  • Double reading speed
  • Improve comprehension in fiction and nonfiction
  • Learn to read and study middle-school level textbooks
  • Learn effective note-taking skills
  • Read a great novel
  • Be ready for the first day of school!
Summer classes fill up quickly - enroll today to secure a spot. 
Know of a community event you'd like to share? Email information and images to Claudia Van Groningen
The Academies CMO| 559.622-3236 |