News & Notes March 2, 2018
What's Happening at The Academies? 

March 7 -- SVA Jog-a-thon

March 8-9 -- Conferences *NO SCHOOL* 

March 10 -- Chess Club Tournament 

March 12 -- SVA PTO Meeting

March 13-- BOA PTO Meeting

March 12 -- Staff Development *NO SCHOOL*

April 11 -- BOA Jog-a-thon

APRIL 16-20 -- BOA Scholastic Book Fair

April 20 -- BOA Grandparents and Goodies 

April 27 -- BOA PTO Night @ Rawhide Game

The 2018-19 Academic Calendar is here!

SVA in the News! 

Sycamore Valley Academy's Sandra Padilla was featured as educator of the week on KSEE TV!  Watch the clip here

It is so important for our kids to see the right behaviors and ways of being held up as exemplars for them. What a wonderful opportunity to give our kids an experience of seeing good models lauded as well as the reminder that they are in good, loving hands with the educators in The Academies!

Congrats, Mrs. Padilla, on this well-deserved honor. 
Thank you for sharing your gifts with us!

A Message from Superintendent Dutton

R&D across The Academies CMO ("TACMO")

The education of our children is of paramount importance.  Because educators at The Academies understand this, we are committed to continuous improvement.  2017-18 has been an exciting year, with the successful launch of Blue Oak Academy, a change of authorizer, etc. We managed a great deal of change and have redesigned many systems, as we navigated the replication of SVA to create BOA and established our CMO home office to support both.  At the same time, we prioritized aspects of our program and operations that could be improved and began their improvement as well.  As your Superintendent, I am very proud of the progress we have made this year and grateful for our amazing staff family who give passionately to our development.  I thought I'd share with you a bit about some of the improvement work we've been doing in the 2017-18 year to give our families a glimpse of our commitment to our schools' excellence.  

TACMO Resource Bank
We have created a digital bank of resources for our team to more easily do their jobs and have reference tools at their fingertips. We have crowdsourced and curated the tools of our work, so these can be more easily shared and reused or updated. We are developing the habit of "banking it," instead of continually sending emails with attachments to share tools that are really a part of our infrastructure or modus operandi. This contributes to organizational sustainability and greater efficiency across the roles. It has also helped us reduce role confusion and ensure effective division of labor.

The next step for the TACMO Resource Bank will be continuing to populate it with our tools and refine these over time.  We will cultivate the staff's comfort with this resource and also the staff's habit, each time they approach a problem of practice or a routine process, to think in terms of what they can build to prevent the problem in the future, or what they can build to reduce how long it takes them next time.  The creation of templates, process maps, protocols, and other supports helps us work smarter over time.

Better Defining "the TACMO way" of Instructional Coaching
We have exceptional Instructional Coaches who have gotten deeper professional development in 2017-18 through a training called, "Cognitive Coaching."  Mrs. Denham (SVA) and Mrs. Johnson (BOA) are also spending a portion of their time exhuming the practices they use from their expert minds/habits, and into written form within TACMO Resource Bank.  

Leadership Development
On a monthly basi, our two Principals and Superintendent are participating in the "Central Valley Leadership Program" with several other charter schools in the region.  Each month, we come together to take a leadership perspective on crucial issues affecting students today, the functioning of our schools, and the work of running successful autonomous charters.  We regularly return to define what true leadership looks and feels like, in order to develop our team's capacity to rise to the challenges that we face.  Many of the principles learned there are being shared with the other important leaders in TACMO, including Operations, our VP, and HR & Admin Specialist as well.

Whole School Report Card (WSRC)/ Use of Student Achievement Data
Since 2013-14, we have produced a "Whole School Report Card" on a trimester basis so our staff and Board could keep an eye on the trends in our internal student achievement data and affect these through real-time decision-making.  This year, we took the basic Whole School Report Card up a notch, and it is now truer to the intent of our charter to serve "the whole child."  One new area in 17-18 that was not previously included in our WSRC is Qualitative Student Interviews, which are standardized, open-ended questions asked of a random selection of students who represent a cross-section of experiences.  These give us a sense of student experience and tell us more about culture than our Annual Parent Satisfaction survey has captured in the past.  Another new addition in 17-18 is a deeper dive into our computer-adaptive tests ("MAP") with greater disaggregation and more of a focus on growth.  At the same time, we have worked to simplify the process of synthesizing our WSRC each trimester, so it will take our administrators LESS time to produce MORE data, and also MORE USEFUL data as well.

We are excited to regularly review more holistic indicators of student learning and to continue on our path to refine this internal report so we can produce greater clarity around the difference our educators make in children's lives.  In the end, the purpose of the WSRC is to be able to observe how our choices move these needles so that we may become better at what we do and more impactful with our resources.  

Report Cards
Related to the above project, part of the work to better automate the tedium of synthesizing data for our Whole School Report Card included simplifying our Report Card template. Teachers now enter student data into more of a digital gradebook for their whole class, which then auto-populates and generates distinct student Report Cards.  Before this change, teachers completed each student's Report Card one at a time. Teachers were recently trained in our new template, and are already reporting appreciation for the relief and the time they are saving with the new process!

Professional Evaluation Systems & Differentiated Professional Development Tracks
We are constructing drafts of new tools for evaluation, and we will be bringing drafts back to the members of our teams for feedback soon, so iteration can improve these. Role-specific tools will give our staff feedback that is more closely related to the purpose of each role in this organization and the major aspects of the work. We are further developing related professional development documents, so staff will be more aware of the required and optional trainings to support their growth areas.  We know that having these in place, once finalized, will also help us more intentionally prepare our staff for future opportunities within TACMO.

More Automation
Like the Report Card process described above, we are looking for ways to improve functionality administratively, especially trying to introduce automation everywhere it is trustworthy to apply.  We understand that every minute saved can free our leadership up to attend to the more important matters of how to best educate and nurture our children and how to support our staff in their learning journeys as well.

Improving Social Contract (Discipline) & Social-Emotional Learning Curriculum
Many of our staff have been researching and piloting specific practices from Discipline That Restores, Responsive Classroom, Trauma-Informed Practices, as well as Mindfulness/Stress-Relieving Techniques.  We have significant infrastructure already built in our "Social Contract," which includes our design for proactive culture-building and fostering a safe, accepting, and academic culture, as well as our systems for responding to the teachable moments when students misbehave or a conflict arises. We've been researching a while now; next, it is time to collaborate and pull these improvement ideas together.  Over the course of the 18-19 year, we expect our SEL curriculum and instruction to be markedly improved!

Improvement Science (aka "Learning to Improve")
A couple of years ago, a few of our staff began training in "Improvement Science" through the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and funded by the Gates Foundation.  This professional development was available to us because the Tulare County Office of Education pursued an opportunity to create the "Central Valley Networked Improvement Community," or "CVNIC," and we were invited.  The work of CVNIC continues, and it is centrally focused on learning how our local public schools can improve mathematics results for 5th graders. After our team had the opportunity to acquire the tools of Improvement Science through our participation in CVNIC, we immediately saw that these tools could be used across our organization, and we have recently applied these tools beyond the CVNIC work.

In January, our team shared the concept of the PDSA cycle with our entire teaching staff.  PDSA stands for Plan, Do, Study, Act.  The basic structure of this process includes these steps:
1-  look at a piece of data about student learning
2- plan to introduce some change into the practice or system we think produces that data/ result & predict how this change in practice will change the data/result
3- do the change, implement the new strategy or try out the adjusted system
4- study the new data after the change was implemented, and reflect on how it all went, whether predictions proved reasonable or if not, determine what we learned from that
5- begin again at step 2; repeat cycle until desired data/result is achieved

Many educators have experienced a misuse of student achievement data during their professional career in public education.  Historically, very coarse scale data points have been used to justify micromanagement of teachers or poor decisions, like requiring extreme standardization of the teaching process or requiring perfect "fidelity" to adopted curriculum or pacing calendars created in district offices, away from the students they are intended to serve.  Our team understands why teachers fear "data-driven decision-making," yet we know, too, that there is power in applying inquiry to our problems and in consulting unbiased data periodically to analyze the why and how of our work.  We are excited to use data in a different way at The Academies, and to support our teachers' improved practice with healthier ways of managing and thinking about student achievement data.  Currently, our teachers are running their first PDSA cycle with goals they've set themselves to improve student learning.  We are excited they have overcome some of their fear to engage with data in this way and drive the improvement of their own teaching practice!

R&D is our MO

The Academies CMO has a dedicated staff that keeps its focus where it matters most, always using our expertise and energy to improve the quality of our service to families.  I am so proud of the significant change and continuous improvement we've achieved in this 2017-18 year and excited for what's next. Thank you for supporting us and for the trust you place in us!

Core Academic Teachers
We currently have two Core Academic Teacher openings for next year. One opening for 3rd grade @ Blue Oak Academy (will grow to 3rd/4th grade) and one opening for 1st/2nd grade @ Sycamore Valley Academy. 

Substitute Custodian
The Academies Charters is seeking a backup daytime custodian. F ingerprint clearance is required. 

Substitute Teachers
The Academies Charters have an experienced and dedicated teaching staff, but we are always looking to expand our sub list. 

If you or someone you know has the desire to be a substitute teacher at our amazing school, has a bachelor's degree, has passed the CBEST, and is willing to get a substitute credential and fingerprint clearance we would love to grow our team. 

If you are interested please email Shauna Dolin at

Teacher Recruiting

The Academies Admin team will be out at the 33rd Annual Tulare & Kings Counties Teacher Recruitment Fair this afternoon. 

They are looking for the best and the brightest teachers around to add to our TACMO Family for the 2018-19 school year. Teacher Recruitment Fair
Download TACMO's Fast Facts for your teacher friends!

Friday, March 2, 2018
from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Visalia Convention Center
Exhibit Hall
303 East Acequia Avenue
Visalia, California

SVA Jog-a-Thon

Save the date! March 7 is SVA's 6th Annual Jog-a-Thon.  Look for a pledge form to come home with your child this week. Pledge forms and money are due on March 7th. There are many opportunities to help before and on the day of the event. You can help your child seek pledges from family and friends. We need raffle prize donations, set up/clean up, help with our awards week, etc.  If you are able to help, contact

Raffle Prizes
The PTO needs your help in collecting raffle prizes.

Each student who brings in pledges for the jog-a-thon will be entered into the schoolwide raffle to win prizes like gift cards, art sets, games, a trip to go bowling with Mr. Benton, and many more.  That is where you are needed- in helping to donate SMALL raffle prizes.  Did your child receive gifts for Christmas that s/he still hasn't opened?  Do you have a drawer at home where you have been storing things to "re-gift"?  If it is something a 5-14 year old would be interested in, we would be happy to receive it as a donation to the raffle.  Another easy idea is to send in gift cards in small denominations (Baskin Robbins, Cold Stone, Starbucks, Target, Corner Bakery, Panera, etc.).

If you are willing to help out and donate an item or two for this year's raffle, please send items to school NO LATER THAN Tuesday, March 6. 
As always, thank you for your support!

Blue Oak's Jog-a-Thon info is coming up on April 11!

Yearbooks On Sale Now

There is one online store for both school's 

Use this link, and be sure to select which 
yearbook you want to order.

Orders will only be accepted online. The deadline to order is April 29

Conference Care

There will be no school on conference days, March 8-9. Our After School Program is offering  care from 8:00AM-5:30PM.  The days will include special activities, crafts, and fun!  Meals and snacks will NOT be served, so please be sure to send food for the day with your child. 

Sign up using the form linked on the After School page of our websites. 

Half Day: $10 for up to 4.5 hours*
Full Day: $20 for 4.5 or more hours*

*   You may indicate whether your child will attend full or half days but we will charge based on time in and time out. You 
WILL be charged the half day rate if you leave your child only during your scheduled conference time. 

Families who purchased the Unlimited Flat Rate Plan for after school care incur no additional charge for these days, but please do sign up if you plan for your child to attend so that we can plan staffing accordingly. 

Lost & Found 

Has this latest cold snap got you tearing the house apart looking for your kiddos warm layers in the mornings? It's that time of year again! Chilly in the morning, warm and sunny in the afternoon...glorious, isn't it? Well,it was last week anyway! This means that all of your children left at least one jacket, hoodie, or sweater somewhere on our campus last week! Please collect or have them collect these items ASAP! 

All items still left in the lost and found at the end of March conferences will be donated to the Visalia Rescue Mission. 

School Logo Clothing from Land's End

School uniform items are available for The Academies from Land's End. LE offers high quality school uniforms that last and last, resisting pilling, shrinking, and fading. These are definitely items to hand down again and again. 

Adult sizes are available for staff and parents. In fact, you can order our logo on ANY item that can be embroidered from Land's End, not just school uniform items.   

Blue Oak's official Land's End school uniform site is up and running! Blue Oak's preferred school number is 900185364. Click here to link directly to the Blue Oak page. 

As always, Sycamore Valley logo clothing is also available from Land's End. SVA's preferred school number is 900149840. 

Check News & Notes often for special offers, sales, and $.01 logo deals from Land's End! 
Cesar Chavez Legacy Celebration

This community event is the SVA 3rd and 4th grade annual Service Learning Project.  The 3rd and 4th grade students and current 5th graders (who participated last year) will be singing de Colores at COS to start the march and celebration.

Proteus is sponsoring an essay contest for K-2, 3-6, and 7-12Download the flyer here.  Essay contest winners will be announced at the Wittman Center at the conclusion of the march.  All are welcome. 


Camp Invention Returns to SVA

This fun day camp will be back again this summer. Camp Invention will take place July 16-20 at SVA. Registration is open to all students of The Academies as well the public, so bring a friend!

Birthday Celebrations!

at The Academies, we love celebrating each other. What better way is there to celebrate than to make a lasting contribution to your school? 

It's been a long-standing tradition to donate a book to your child's classroom library in lieu of sweet treats which are not allowed.  Our students love to celebrate this way! 

SVA PTO Party Train

These " Party  Train" events are coming soon. Tickets will be up for sale on

  • PTO Ladies Night Against Humanity 
  • PTO Middle School Bros Night with Mr. Padilla
  • PTO Pew Pew and BBQ II 
  • PTO K-4 Lunch with the principal

School Breakfast and Lunch 

Did you know that breakfast is available each school morning beginning at  7:45? It is!

You can pay for meals with cash or check (get an envelope in the school office) or online with our payment service You will need to register, create an account and provide an ID number for every student you're including. An app is available so you can easily use this service on your smartphone. If you need to access your student's ID number, please call your school's front office. 

School breakfast will be available at both schools before the school day begins. The cost for breakfast is $1.25.  The cost for lunch is $2.00. Applications for free or reduced price lunch will be sent home with your child on the first day of school. 

Menus are always available on our website.  Click here for the February menu

Family Support

Award Assemblies March 22 (BOA) and February 23 (SVA)

Next SVA PTO Meeting
Next BOA PTO Meeting
March 12 March 13
Round Table Pizza
Round Table Pizza
Packwood Creek Center
Mary's Vineyard
4035 S. Mooney Blvd.
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. 

NEW: Spanish translation available at meetings
Community Events

UPHS Enrollment Information Nights

Spring info meetings for University Prep High School will be held on the COS campus in room Yokut 9 on the following dates: 
  • Thursday, March 8, 6pm-7pm
  • Thursday, March 22, 6pm-7pm
Know of a community event you'd like to share? Email information and images to Claudia Van Groningen
The Academies CMO| 559.622-3236 |