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September 21, 2010 > News from New Haven Unified

News from New Haven Unified

Submitted By Rick La Plante

Heroes and tailwinds:
During an address that was part of the District's Back-to-School celebration for employees, Superintendent Kari McVeigh talked about how ordinary folks sometimes become heroes. She also pointed out that heroes often benefit from others who provide a "tailwind" to push them along. The Superintendent then invited employees to pass along stories of "heroes and tailwinds" that she could share with others. Here are three stories from District principals:

"The first person I thought of was Pat Lothian, kindergarten teacher at Pioneer. Knowing I am a new principal at the site, she has been checking on me almost daily since I returned to work at the beginning of August. She has definitely gone above and beyond the call of duty time and time again. Everything from arranging a teacher's room that will be out on maternity leave when school starts, to helping our custodian decide which furniture goes where. I would not have been ready for school to start this year without her help and guidance!" - Cheri Benafield, Pioneer Elementary

"I just want to put a plug in for Grace Kim. She has been working tirelessly and relentlessly on a new job that has been assigned to her, the master schedule. Grace never complains about the long hours she puts in or the fact she has given up many of her summer weekends to work on this giant task. You will often find a light on in her office at 10:30 p.m. at night as she works to balance our classes and make sure the schedule works for our staff and students. I think she really deserves a pat on the back. Her work ethic is truly extraordinary." - Amy McNamara, James Logan High

"Aland Walker, technician, has always gone over and above for our staff. He maintains the dignity of the District expectations while making sure things run smoothly for us. He helps set up for meetings, he answers questions as needed and he really keeps our technology needs in check. When we're in a "panic" he responds quickly so we can get our work done effectively. All with a smile and good-humored conversations. He is truly a gem." - Debi Knoth, Searles Elementary

Parents, employees and other community members are invited to share their stories of "heroes and tailwinds" by e-mailing Superintendent McVeigh (

Another hero - and an opportunity:
In the aftermath of last year's public discussions about budgeting priorities for items such as class-size reduction, home-to-school transportation, and co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, the parent of a New Haven elementary school student was moved by stories told by families for whom it was difficult to get their children to school. The parent donated her daughter's bus pass, which was used for the rest of the year by a middle school student from a disadvantaged family.

And this year - even though state budget cuts have forced the District to limit transportation only to middle school students whose families live farthest from school - the elementary parent has offered to buy a pass for another student.

If you'd like to make a similar contribution, please contact Director of Parent and Community Relations Rick La Plante at (510) 476-2610 or A full-year, round-trip pass for a student who qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch costs $240, and a semester pass is $125.

If you'll buy the pass, we'll find a student who can use it.

Cesar Chavez Middle School is "Cool School of the Year":
Cesar Chavez Middle School (CCMS) is one of only five schools in North America - and the only one in California - to win the 2010 "Cool School of the Year" competition sponsored by Office Depot.

As part of this year's Back to School campaign, Office Max associates across North America were asked to submit entries on behalf of a student in their lives that explains why their school deserves to be named "Cool School of the Year."

Cesar Chavez Middle School was nominated by Pamela Nonato, a service consultant in the education division of Office Depot, who worked with teacher Hilda Perez. According to Principal Alberto Solorzano, more than 30 CCMS students wrote essays in support of the school's nomination.

The school will receive a $1,000 gift card from Office Depot.

Names 'n Notes:
Logan freshman and aspiring comedian Joey Bragg has reached the final round of the San Jose Improv stand-up comedy competition, reports his father, Emanuele Elementary media specialist Ken Bragg. The finals will be Tuesday, October 5, starting at 8 p.m. Free tickets are available by e-mailing Mr. Bragg (

New Haven students who need a little extra help can get it Monday through Thursday afternoons at the Homework Center at the Union City Library, 34007 Alvarado-Niles Road. Students in kindergarten through 10th grade can get help in all subject areas, from high school students under the supervision of adult tutors. Paper, pencils, calculators, and some textbooks and laptop computers are available. The Homework Center is open from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. For elementary students, a parent or caregiver must remain in the library while the child is receiving help. For more information call (510) 745-1464, ext. 7.

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