March 17, 2017
Spring 2017 Newsletter
Superintendent's Message

State of the District
Where We've Been...Where We Are... 
And Where We're Going

San Marino Unified School District continues to be the premier school district in the State of California and in the  Nation. Our priorities are focused first and foremost on Education, Student Safety, Communication, and our Capital Facilities Program.

Within the areas of education, the District emphasizes the three A's: Academics, Athletics, and Arts. 
Our District is expanding our curricular offerings in the areas of STEM (Science,  Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Computer Science curriculum has rapidly expanded over the past 3 years and now is taught at elementary, middle, and high school levels.  We have adopted and successfully implemented new and state-of-the art curriculum in the area of Mathematics and English Language Arts.  Moving into next year and beyond, we have initiated the process of focusing on the (NGSS) Next Generation Science Standards.

Student Wellness continues to be a priority for ensuring a physically and emotionally safe learning environment for all of our students.  Our teachers have been trained in identifying at-risk behaviors of our students and we have implemented new mindfulness programs through our Health curriculum at the high school and in our middle school.

San Marino USD continues to champion the Arts, with vast programmatic offerings at all levels through Band, Choir, Dance, Drama, Instrumental Music, and Theater.  Our District's Athletics programs are a great source of community pride and participation. Our student athletes benefit from incredible coaches and supportive parents and boosters. We have embarked on the building of the new Barth Athletics Complex, which will be a jewel for this school district and San Marino community. In addition, we are planning future modernization and construction to improve our school facilities.

Not only is SMUSD the top academic school district in the State, but we also implemented a state-of-the-art parent notification system that is the envy of all school districts. Communication is at the heart of how we involve our parents and community members. Our parents receive immediate notifications through our mobile app, which heightens our capabilities to communicate student safety and school awareness.

Some of the major challenges are the same each and every year.  We still receive inadequate funding from the State and must continue to raise critical monies locally.  The outpouring of support from our parents, our schools Foundation, and our community continues to drive our District's success.

Alex Cherniss, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Message from the Board of Education

Along with many of parents, students, and community members, the Board of Education attended the PTA's Founder's Day ceremony to honor our hometown volunteers for their incredible energy, efforts, and contributions in making San Marino Unified School District schools the best in the State of California. On behalf of the Board of Education, I congratulate each of the recipients whose dedication to our  community makes progress and success possible.

A safe community is a top priority at SMUSD. While unfortunate for all involved, the January lockdown at our four schools demonstrated that our District and the San Marino Police Department were properly trained and fully prepared to protect our students in an emergency.  Teachers, staff, administrators, and police handled the emergency procedures as professionals- prioritizing student safety first. The District and its community-wide Safety Committee will continue to focus on maintaining safe learning spaces in our schools.

Beyond the classroom, San Marino students have been working hard to excel in both the arts and athletics.  Our Carver and Valentine students gave holiday performances that we will long remember.  Both "PIPPIN," presented by the San Marino High School, and "STATE FAIR" from the Huntington Middle School, were superb musicals. The SMHS Varsity Boys' Basketball team had a great season, reaching third-round playoffs in CIF Division 4AA. Congratulations to all of the athletes and coaching staff. We are proud to be Titans!

On February 14th, the Board of Education took the next step in making the Barth Athletics Complex at HMS a reality by approving a resolution to finance construction of the $14 million facility, which will include a fully functional gymnasium, fitness center, multi-purpose room, and media classrooms. The Board appreciates the generosity of several families and foundations that have thus far pledged more than $6 million to support the state-of-the-art facility that this community deserves, and we encourage interested donors to contact the District for more information about naming opportunities. The District expects to begin demolition and break ground for the new construction during the summer break.  

This Spring, the Board will be focusing on its LCAP goals for the coming years. The LCAP (Local Control and Accountability Plan) is a critical part of the new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) in California public schools. Each school district must engage parents, educators, employees and the community to establish a plan that addresses the educational needs of its students.  For more information about the LCAP, please visit

Together, we are proud to give our students the best education with the resources available. On behalf of the Board of Education, I wish you all a happy and safe Spring Break!

C. Joseph Chang, President
Shelley Ryan, Vice President
Lisa Link, Clerk
Chris Norgaard, Member
Nam Jack, Member

What's Happening in our Schools

San Marino High School

College Acceptance News
As of March 1st, San Marino High School seniors have already received over 362 letters of acceptance from 138 colleges and universities.  These acceptances come from within  and outside of the United States and more come in every day. Highlights include:

Bucknell University
California Institute of Technology
Carnegie Mellon University
Claremont McKenna College
Cornell University
Dartmouth College
Emory University
Fordham University
Georgetown University
Loyola Marymount University
New York University
Occidental College
Purdue University
Rutgers University
St. John's University
Trinity College
University of California Berkeley
University of California Davis
University of California Los Angeles
University of California San Diego
University of California Santa Barbara
University of Illinois
University of Massachusetts
University of Oregon
University of Pennsylvania
University of Southern California
University of St. Andrews
Xavier University
Yale University
Speech and Debate
Congratulations to Matthew Slimp! Fellow debate coaches named him Southern California Debate League Coach of the Year.

Honor Choirs
Honor choirs are the pinnacle of achievement for the high school choral student. The singers selected to be members of these ensembles work on their musicianship, vocal technique, sight- singing and personal confidence through middle school and high school choir to hone the skills needed to sing in an honor ensemble. Students must audition on required repertoire that is designed to be challenging for even the best high school choral singers-only the top 30% of students are accepted into the region honor choirs, the top 10% to the state honor choirs and less than 1% into the division and national honor choirs. We congratulate Seniors Kyle McCall and Richard Li who traveled to Minneapolis, MN on March 7, with SMHS Choral Music Director Tammi Alderman, to sing with world-renowned composer Eric Whitacre as members of the ACDA National Honor Choir.

SMHS Math Team
As a result of scoring in the Top 5% of all students taking the AMC 12 Math Exam, three of our students qualified for the American Invitational Mathematics Examination. They are David Zheng, Brian Xu, and Peiyao Li.  On March 18th, six of our math team members will travel to Long Beach State to compete in the problem-solving festival Math Day at the Beach. This competition is very intense and contestants often ring in to answer before many of the teachers even finish reading the question.  The team also competes in the Cal-Math League. We are currently in second place in the Northeast Los Angeles Division, just two points behind the leader (133-131), with one contest still to be played.

Huntington Middle School

HMS Math Team students performed well in the East San Gabriel Valley MathCounts Chapter Competition on February 25 at the Southern California Edison Education Center in Irwindale. Eighth-grader Matthew Li, and seventh-grader Michael Wang will advance to the state competition that will take place March 12th at U.C. Irvine. Five competitors from the HMS team scored in top 25% percent of the competition: Li placed second overall in the competition, Wang placed fifth, eighth-grader Eric Jiang placed sixth, 7th-graders Jefferey Deng and Claire Wang placed 19th and 26th, respectively. HMS placed more individuals in the top ten than any other school in the competition: Lee, Wang, and Jiang. As a team, HMS placed 8th overall. Other team members included Srinivasan Arumugham, Aaron Lee, Elaina Lee, Marcus Chua, and Marissa Lee. Sponsors of the yearly nation-wide competition include Raytheon Corp, the Northrop Grumman Foundation, the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Society of Professional Engineers.  Lee and Wang have an opportunity to advance to the Math Counts National Competition which will take place in Orlando, Florida in May.  The team is coached by Dr. Peter Wu, and Robert Chacon. Congratulations to all the hardworking competitors!

HMS Science Olympiad Team Headed to State! 

A big congratulations to our first Huntington Middle School Science Olympiad Team in over 10 years! The team competed in the Los Angeles Regional Competition at Antelope Valley College on Saturday.Out of 25 middle school teams, our HMS Science Olympiad team placed second overall and will be advancing to the state competition at CalTech in April! Out of 23 events, our team won 8 gold medals, 2 silver medals, and 3 bronze medals. 

13 HMS Students Selected for SCVA Jr. Honor Choir 
In addition to sanctioning choir festivals all over SoCal, the Southern California Vocal Association (SCVA) hosts HS and Jr. High honor choirs each spring. Students have to go through a comprehensive audition testing vocal technique and sight-singing. 110 students from around So Cal were accepted into this year's honor choir. 13 means HMS will make up 11.7% of the ensemble. Huntington Middle School wishes all students a huge congratulations for being accepted into the all southern California Jr. high honor choir. Each student demonstrated an exceptional ability in vocal technique and music theory and we know they will represent HMS in the most honorable way. The honor choir consists of 110 singers from grades 6-9 and will take part in an extraordinary performance conducted by Dr. John St. Marie, director of choirs at LACHSA.

HMS hosted the annual pre Special Olympics preparatory competitions with students from all San Marino Schools participating along with the HMS cheer squad and the SMHS ASB in support. We are ready to take gold!

HMS is preparing tomorrow's scientists by already incorporating NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) strategies and standards into the curriculum. Students focus on the hands-on practice of science in order to learn and understand the well established principles as well as challenge them through testing, application, and evidence.

Practicing our kindness campaign, HMS students donated nearly a pair of shoes per student giving over 500 pairs of shoes to the Soles for Souls organization. No act of Kindness is ever wasted.

The annual HMS Spring Musical was a great success. The nostalgic State Fair was seen by over 1200 people and loved by all. Students sang, acted, danced, and ran the sound and lights for the entire production. What hard work and great fun. 

Carver Elementary School

Carver School received a generous $35,000 donation from our Enrichment Fund towards the cost of replacing 140 old ChromeBooks. Thank you to all our families supporting Scrip and other Enrichment Fund activities.

Excitement is high with the anticipation of the Next Generation Science Standards  (NGSS). Carver students enjoy a variety of hands-on, project-based science labs every other week. Thank you to our amazing Carver PTA for partially funding our Elementary Science program.

It is a great luxury to have not just one, but two music programs at Carver. Students in the primary grade levels have Choir and students in the upper grade levels e njoy band and strings. Thank you Carver PTA for partially funding these programs.

Instruction does not just happen in a seat in a classroom at school. Carver students participate in a variety of field trips that help bring lessons to life. The results can be seen in student writing samples that tie their field trip experiences to the curriculum. We thank our parents and PTA for supporting field trips, assemblies, and enrichment learning activities enjoyed by all students.

Valentine Elementary School

Urban Farming at Valentine
Second grade students are becoming urban farmers at Valentine. Through a generous grant from our PTA, our students have the opportunity throughout the
school year to work with Urban Farmers from Farmscape. Farmer Melissa
teaches our students lessons on our campus in our very own  Romney Garden.  Our students plan the garde n- learning how to choose the seeds for each season, how to compost the beds & rotate the crops, track the growth of the plants & enjoy the final reward of harvesting and sharing our crops of fresh organic produce. We produce several crops during the year.

New English Language Arts Curriculum
Remember the first time you were given a complex article in college to read? For many of us, with highlighters in hand, ready to highlight the most important information, we soon discovered we had a page of text covered in color! Our elementary students  are learning how to avoid  highlighter frenzy! Our new reading programs Benchmark Advance and California Journeys provide daily opportunities for our students to practice learning how to annotate complex text and use the annota tions as they talk and write about what they  have read. Dete rmining what is most important in an article or story is not an easy task but a critical one in developing strong comprehension skills.  We  also know that if we write about what we have read, we deepen our understanding and recall of important information. Students write daily in response to an article or story they have read. Our students love the topics in our new program as they explore science,  technology's impact on society, inventions, the solar system, social studies, and more.

Student Council Promotes Servant Leadership
Our 4th & 5th grade Student Council members were excited to bring "Caps For Kids" day to our school.  Students were encouraged to wear their favorite cap to school on Friday, March the 3rd to support children with cancer.  Donations to the "Caps for Kids" organization were collected in the morning. This charity provides celebrity signed caps to children going through cancer treatment.  The day was a great opportunity for our students to participate in an activity that enriches the lives of others & contributes to the spirit of a caring community.

California School Dashboard

The California Department of Education (CDE) recently launched a new website called the California School Dashboard  to help communities across the state access important information about K-12 districts and schools. The Dashboard reports on California's new accountability system and displays the performance of districts, schools, and student groups on a set of state and local measures to assist in identifying strengths, weaknesses, and areas in need of improvement. The SMUSD demonstrated very high performance levels in the Dashboard.

CAASPP State Testing

Smarter Balanced assessments in the areas of English-Language Arts and Math are coming to students in grades 3-8 and 11.

Students in grades 5, 8, and 12th will participate in a pilot of the California Science Test (CAST) this year. Although results of the CAST pilot will not be available, it will provide our students and staff a unique perspective on the new Science test.

Test-taking tips and reminders:
  • Have your child take a practice test online to become familiar with the interface and format.
  • Mark the test dates on your calendar to remind you and your child to plan accordingly.
  • Talk to your child's teacher if you have any concerns. Verify any accommodations and supports that your child may need.
  • Ensure your child gets a good night's sleep and eats a healthy breakfast on the day of the test.
2017 CAASPP Summative Test Schedule:
Carver: May 1-12
Valentine: May 2-16
Huntington: May 2-3 and 9-10
SMHS: April 18 and 20
Founder's Day Award Recipients

On February 28th, the San Marino PTA Council held its 87th annual Founder's Day event "Celebrate - It's A Red, White & Blue Salute to Our Hometown Heroes."

Congratulations to the 2017 PTA Council Award Recipients!

Kathy Osegueda- Carver Honorary Service Award
Izumi Suzuki- Carver Honorary Service Award
Marci Wendling- Carver Honorary Service Award
Chun-Yen Chen- Valentine Honorary Service Award
Anna-Marie Grizzell- Valentine Honorary Service Award
Angela Sze- Valentine Honorary Service Award
Jason Dawes- HMS Honorary Service Award
Don Duranso- HMS Honorary Service Award
Zillah Mendoza- HMS Honorary Service Award
Lainnie Capouya- SMHS Honorary Service Award
Diane Comi- SMHS Honorary Service Award
Cynthia Chubbuck- SMHS Honorary Service Award
Michele Canon- PTA Council Honorary Service Award
Sgt. Robert Matthews- PTA Council Honorary Service Award
Scott Barton- PTA Council Continuing Service Award