THE PHOENIX, Thursday, March 5, 2020

Korematsu sweeps awards at WCCUSD District STEM Fair, getting highest medal in every category!

It was a stellar year for Korematsu at the West Contra Costa District Science Fair Awards. Our school took home the top awarded prize in every one of the 7th and 8th grade categories: Biological (BIO), Engineering (ENG), Physical (PHY) and Social/Behavioral (SOC) Sciences, for a total of 25 prizes!

In an exciting new format this year, students winners selected to go onward from our Korematsu Science Fair were driven on a special school field trip to meet and discuss their projects with three scientist judges. Several days later students from across the district gathered with their family and friends for an awards evening at the new Pinole Valley High School auditorium. Following a fascinating talk on spiders and communication by an inspiring young scientist and self-described “Spider Woman” from UC Berkeley, District leaders and Superintendent Duffy presented this year’s awards on stage:

In 8th Grade, First Place medals went to Korematsu students Chaitanya D.(ENG), Demarrion M. J. (PHY), and Brenna M. (SOC). Winning 2nd place prizes were Meah B. (BIO) and Maeve U. (PHY); while in 3rd place prizes were won by Vienna K-T & Emilia W. (BIO), Michael H. (PHY), and Romy W. & Zoe T. (PHY); and rounding out 8th grade awards in 4th place were: Eghosa O. & Thomas R. (PHY).

In 7th Grade Korematsu winners included: in First Place, Henry A. (PHY) and Elsa B. (SOC), and in 2nd place Lachlan M. (BIO), Benjamin D. (ENG), Umar A. (PHY) and Clara H. (SOC). Third place prizes went to Edda G. & Juliana P. (BIO), Daniel G. & Madeleine N.(PHY), and Oona C. (SOC); and in 4th place Iris F. (BIO) & Nicolai C. H. (PHY).

The first place winners received engraved medals and checks from sponsor BioRad for $50 each as a reward for their efforts. Our schools’ top projects have also been invited onward to the prestigious Golden Gate STEM Fair covering the entire Bay Area and being held in March at the Army Corps of Engineers Bay Model. We wish them luck and congratulate all our young scientists and their teachers for the great effort again this year.

Table of awards


Congrats to 7th grade English teacher Sydney Schantz who was awarded EdFund’s Teacher of the Year award! She joins three other Korematsu educators that have won this prestigious award
Tiffany Carrico
Sarah LaDue
Bruce McCormick
Ms. Schantz said, “One of the most rewarding aspects of being a teacher is the growth of trust and personal relationships with students and families.”
She’ll be honored at Ed Funds Soaring to Excellence celebration in early May, and enters the running for Contra Costa County’s Teacher of the Year.


NLT 10:30 a.m.

Let’s brunch!! It’s time for the teacher luncheon! Share the spring joy with your favorite brunch dish. Is it a casserole, quiche, salad, waffles, pancakes, sausages? Whatever strikes your fancy will be popular with our teachers! Friday March 13th!!!



On March 31st and April 1st, the 7th-grade class will be going on a walking study trip to the El Cerrito Rialto Cinemas for a private screening of Mulan. The 7th-grade History classes plan to have students compare the Ballad of Mulan (primary source) to the live-action film to analyze continuity and change over time. We are looking for approximately 30 chaperones. If parents can chaperone, please email Ms. Schantz at with their WCCUSD Badge, the date they can attend (March 31st or April 1st), phone, and email.

When we have enough chaperones, study trip forms will be distributed and collected in History class.

Our itinerary is as follows,
8:00 to 9:00 Walking to El Cerrito Rialto Cinemas from Korematsu (1.5 miles)
9:15 to 10:00 Purchasing snacks and getting to seats
10 to 12:15 Private screening of Mulan
12:15 to 1:15 Walking back to Korematsu from El Cerrito Rialto Cinemas

Jackson Lee



El Cerrito High School/Korematsu Middle School Ultimate Frisbee Club presents its

Fifth Annual Ultimate Crab Feed!!

WHEN: Saturday, March 14th 5:30-9:30 pm

WHERE: El Cerrito Community Center

Unlimited crab with salad, pasta and bread, and fantastic raffle prizes!




UnnamedPlease take the survey and distribute to your school community!


The U.S. census is a count that is conducted every 10 years of all the people living in the United States. Please take a few minutes to respond, because having a complete count is important. Why? Because the results of the 2020 Census will shape your future in many ways.

Census data determines congressional representation, and guides how more than $675 billion in federal funding is distributed for schools, healthcare facilities, roads and transportation, recreation centers, social services, and much more!

In terms of education and schools, the census count impacts the next 10 years’ worth of funds that your community’s schools will receive for classroom technology, teacher training, after-school programs, school lunch assistance, Head Start, Pell Grants, rural education, adult education, and grants for preschool special education. If your child is in second grade now, the census count will have an impact on her education until she graduates from high school!

To read more about the U.S. Census on the California State PTA website, click here.


In mid-March, households will begin receiving official Census Bureau mail with detailed information on how to respond to the 2020 Census. By April 1, 2020, every home will receive an invitation to participate.

You will have three options for responding:

By mail
By phone

Online and phone responses can be completed in 13 languages (English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese). For more information on ways to respond to the Census, click here.

Remember to count EVERYONE in your household, including any friends or family members who live or stay with you most of the time, roommates, young children, foster children, newborns, and anyone who is renting a space in your home. For more information on who to count and not count, click here.


Some of you may have heard myths and rumors about what personal information is asked on the census, and whether your answers could adversely affect you or your family.

Please be aware that the Census Bureau is bound by law to protect your personal information and keep it strictly confidential. That includes every answer to every question. Here are the facts:

NO questions are asked about citizenship status.
Your answers CANNOT be shared with law enforcement, any government agency or any court.
Your answers CANNOT be used to impact your eligibility for government benefits.

To see a sample Census form, click here.

You should also be aware of potential fraud. The Census Bureau or its employees will never ask for your Social Security number, money, donations, your bank or credit card account numbers, or anything on behalf of a political party. If you get a phone call, email or personal visit from someone claiming to be from the Census and they ask for personal, political or financial information, you are encouraged to report it by calling 1-800-923-8282 or your local police department.



Dear WCCUSD Community,

On Wednesday night, the Board of Education made the difficult decision to notify nearly 300 certificated employees that their positions may be reduced or eliminated for the 2020-21 school year. The affected teachers, counselors, and administrators will receive official notices in the next week.

This was a painful but necessary step in the process to ensure that the District is able to solve its budget challenges for the 2020-21 school year in the event it is unable to implement negotiated agreements with each of our bargaining units. The District is actively negotiating with all 4 groups to minimize the impact of these cuts on our students and employees.

The District has a $47.8 million budget deficit that it plans to solve over a two-year period. We have made a commitment to reduce expenses by $32 million in the 2020-21 school year and have decided to reduce the remaining $16 million in the 2021-22 school year.

The Board has already taken steps to significantly reduce spending by approving a $6 million reduction in non-salary expenses and a $2 million cut from the discretionary funds allocated to individual schools. There will also be a $2 million reduction in unrepresented central management personnel costs, many of which were included in the resolution.

The remaining $22 million must be negotiated with our bargaining units. If we are unable to reach agreements that allow us to reach the $22 million target, the layoff notices could become permanent. However, our discussions with our union partners are progressing and I am confident that we will reach agreements soon and be able to rescind many of the notices.

You should know that this action is not the last layoff decision the Board of Education will be asked to make. In April, a similar action for classified employees will take place in order to hopefully finish the last budget reductions necessary for the 2020-21 budget.

In the meantime, we will continue negotiations and continue advocating for the state to fund our public schools at a level more in line with the state’s status in the global economy.

More information about the budget process can be found at

In partnership,

Matthew Duffy



Dear Community,

Welcome back from the Presidents’ Week recess. First, we continue to work through the budget challenge and you can find all the updates at the District’s budget update page Also we have been monitoring the coronavirus and have been in contact several times with the Contra Costa County Health Services and office of education and are following their advice.

I want to highlight a number of events this month that celebrate Black History. Lake Elementary started Black History Month with its annual African American Read-In. Several other schools including Coronado and DeJean also hosted read ins.

Chevron Richmond’s Black Employee Network hosted its 21st annual Black History Awareness Celebration and awarded the Dr. William F. King scholarship to Middle College’s Hawi Abraham and Shreejal Luitel and Richmond’s Ryan Saechao. Crespi Middle School, Hercules Middle School, Grant Elementary and Richmond High School all hosted Black History Month celebrations or events. There was also the annual celebration at the final Board meeting in February where students from Riverside and Olinda elementary schools and Hercules and Pinole Valley high schools performed.

We entered February on the heels of a historic resolution led by the family leaders from the African American Site Advisory Team (AASAT). The AASAT Resolution adopted in January highlights the community and district’s commitment to ensure that every student, particularly African American students can and do succeed.

The Director of African-American Student Achievement Omar Wandera was instrumental in collaborating with AASAT leadership Zelon Harrison and Yolanda Vierra-Allen on the resolution. Mr. Wandera has been working to hone and enhance the current District work around African American student success. We know we have much more work to do to ensure the success of African American students and have progress to build on. Currently, WCCUSD college-going rate for African American students is higher than the state average with 64 percent UC and CSU eligible compared to 59 percent for the state. Look for a question and answer with Mr. Wandera next month.

Over the break, Coca-Cola’s History Shakers advertisements launched celebrating Black History month and highlighting six African Americans. Two of the highlighted individuals, Olympic gold medalist Simone Manuel and opera singer Davone Tines, had their commercials filmed at the Kennedy Swim Center and Richmond High School’s theater, respectively. You can see a preview of the campaign here and you might recognize the pool and theater.

Finally, this also a great time for your student to sign up for the District’s first Oratorical Festival on Saturday, April 18. The Oratorical Festival is modeled after Oakland Unified’s MLK Oratorical that was just featured in an HBO documentary.

Antoinette Henry-Evans, who spent 34 years with the district as a teacher, principal and administrator, is leading the event. There is no theme to this year’s oratorical but Ms. Henry-Evans said students can perform their own piece, recite a poem or speech. The focal point is getting students to perform. If your student is interested in participating in the oratorical, please contact your school principal as soon as possible.

Lastly, don’t forget to take the culture and climate survey at

Again, welcome back and I look forward to getting back to work.

In community,

Matthew Duffy,