El Toro Weekly 10/11/2012

First SSC Meeting of the year
SSC meeting will be Friday Oct. 19th at 2:45 pm. Items to be discussed include the previous year’s test data and what programs will be continued to increase student achievement, and the School Site Plan for Student Achievement. All SSC meetings are open to the public. However, only council members may vote on any decisions.

Second ELAC Meeting of the year
ELAC is hosting its second English Learner Parent Informational Meeting on Friday Oct. 19, 2012 at 9:00 am in Room 7. You can learn all about the English Language Advisory Committee (ELAC), and how you can get involved to support and improve the English learners program and services at Portola. Only parents of English Learner students are asked to attend.

Fright Fest Update
Fright Fest, Portola’s first annual Halloween party, will take place over three days, Oct. 29-31, instead of the previously announced Oct. 31 date. Activities will occur during the 4th and 5th lunch periods. Planned activities for Oct. 29-31st include guess the pumpkin weight, and guess the number of candy in the jar. Scarecrow building contest is scheduled for Oct. 31st. See attached flyer for more details. (Fright Flyer PDF)

Teacher Treat Day goes Italian
The next teacher treat day will be Friday Oct. 19th (instead of the usual second Friday of the month). The suggested theme for food donations is Italian. Please let Tre Curran know if you can bring anything. Also, if anybody has a red and white checkered pattern tablecloth they are willing to lend to enhance the theme, please let Tre know at trecurran88@gmail.com.

Preparing for High School
The 8th Graders will be taking the ReadiStep assessment test on Oct. 18th and 19th during class. The assessment consists of three multiple choice tests in areas of Critical Reading, Math, and Writing Skills. Students will have 40 minutes to complete each section. For more information, please visit http://readistep.collegeboard.org/.

8th Grade hoodie design due date extended
Students who wish to submit a design for the 8th grade hoodie contest have until Monday Oct. 22nd. Winning artist will receive a free sweatshirt so make sure you have your name on your drawing! See attached flyer for more details. (8th Grade Hoodie design contest PDF)

PTSA Seeking Graphic Designers
PTSA would like to create more signage to announce events and direct appeal progress to hang on the fences along Moesser and Portola. We are in need of graphic designers to create the designs for the signs. We will take take care of the printing. If you can help, please contact Jenny Parks at jennylparks@hotmail.com.

More upcoming events:
Oct. 18th – Cross Country Team at 4:15 in Cerrito Vista Park
Oct. 24th – Portola Bands Halloween Concert at 7:00 pm in the El Cerrito High School Theater
Nov. 1st – Halloween Dance from 2:35-4:00 pm in the El Cerrito Community Center Main Hall
Nov. 1st – Portola Information Night from 6:30-8:00 pm. Program starts at the Café.

El Toro Weekly 10/4/2012

Get Your Ghoul On
Look out for the annual Fright Write student anthology of Halloween-themed stories, poems and artwork. Guidelines were sent home Thursday with your student. Submissions are due by Monday, Oct. 22. Adult volunteers needed to judge submissions, please e-mail Evangeline at emireland@yahoo.com if you can get involved. Selected entries will appear in a bound volume.

Fright Fest, Portola’s first annual Halloween party, is also coming up on Oct. 31. Save the date and e-mail Evangeline at emireland@yahoo.com to start helping with the planning of this event. Past activities include scarecrow building contest, guess the pumpkin weight, and guess the number of candy in the jar.

World Cup at Portola
Get ready for the arrival of the beautiful game at Portola with intramural soccer. Sign-ups begin next week. See Mr. Aloi in Room 25 if interested.

Go Cross Country Team!
Portola cross country team hosts the next meet at Cerrito Vista Park on Oct. 11 at 4:15 p.m. Get out there and cheer on those runners!

Thank you!
A big round of applause to all the volunteers and parents who helped with the work day last weekend to help make Portola more beautiful. Thanks to Nerissa Wu, Bobbie Dowling, Susan Riggle and John Waterson, Sarah Rowell and Tim Warner from the GoPortola group. Thank you also to the following volunteers who helped: Sally and Kadin Foster, Natalie and Tom Page, Kara and Jonathan de la Paz, Michael Suwzinsky, Michael Kunz, Matthew and Reggie Burnham, Peter Ireland, Patty Enrado, Romy Douglass, Joanna Pace and Cass Duggan.

Congrats and Thanks
Mary Schmida, Julie Brown and Saidah Said were elected to join the School Site Council as parent representatives. Thanks to them for volunteering for the role. The SSC reviews and analyzes student achievement data and helps develop the school plan and the school budget. Existing members of the SSC are: xyz.

Reminder: Next PTSA meeting is at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 9. We will be discussing the budget, Fright Fest, and the auction. Please bring boxtops!

Middle School Principal of the Year

Drum roll please…

Mr. Burnham was named Middle School Principal of the Year by WCCUSD! Nominated by his peers in the district, he was selected by the members of the administrators’ union as THE Middle School Principal in the district. He is now in the running for best Middle School Principal in the county. Congratulations Mr. B!

Green Portola Part One

Some exciting changes are happening at Portola. Green things are sprouting on the black top.

A big THANKS goes out to the GoPortola parents and the Kensington Dads Club for their efforts moving these cement planters with full grown shrubs donated by Navis in Oakland. Go Portola parent, Bobbie Dowling, who acquired the donation, also purchased and donated benches and picnic tables for Portola.

Let’s keep up the effort by coming on Saturday, Sept. 29 from 2-5 pm to build more planters and plant more bushes around the campus. Donations of plants (bushes, shrubs, or flowers) are welcome. Please remember to bring your own gardening tools.

Measure G Plea

From our Legislative Chair, Pamela Gilbert Snyder:


Hello, fellow parents.  I am the Legislative Affairs Chair of the Portola PTSA and spoke briefly at last night’s PTSA meeting about the need for parents to participate, in any way you can, in the campaign to pass Measures E and G in the November election.

MEASURE G is a PARCEL TAX RENEWAL that needs **67%** of the vote to pass.

We are asking parents to:

  • Speak with everyone you know about the importance of voting YES on this measure
  • Place a sign in your yard supporting Measure G, and 
  • PHONE BANK for Measure G with fellow parents (dates and details below). 

I will let you know as soon as yard signs become available.

Basic information:

MEASURE G is a STRAIGHT RENEWAL of an existing tax. In Kensington/El Cerrito, it amounts to less than NINE DOLLARS per month, on average, per parcel.
The money is used for:

  • Class-size reduction at the elementary level.
  • Maintaining a college-going culture.
  • Attracting and retaining qualified teachers (with better working conditions such as:)
  • Safety officers.
  • Classroom computers.
  • Science labs.
  • Libraries.
  • Athletics programs.
  • And more.

The cuts to our schools in recent years are ONGOING, and programs and services have taken the biggest hit. Measure G will maintain our current level.  

If this measure does not pass, WE WILL LOSE the above programs and services. 

Addressing possible voter concerns:

– The WCCUSD has lost $40,000,000 due to reduced State funding, forcing it to eliminate programs and services, reduce employee compensation, increase class sizes, and reduce supplies and materials.  MEASURE G will prevent FURTHER LOSSES.

– G gives the WCCUSD local funding that cannot be taken away by the state.

– MEASURE G is a STRAIGHT RENEWAL of an existing tax amounting to less than NINE DOLLARS per month, on average, per parcel in our area.

– The parcel taxes passed in 2004 and renewed in 2008 were used as promised.

– Citizens over age 65 may file for a SENIOR EXEMPTION to this tax.

Parents, it is CRITICAL that we pass Measure E.

First PTSA Meeting held Sept. 11

First PTSA meeting was held on Sept 11

Thank you to all the parents and the one student who came to our first PTSA meeting of the year. Items discussed included:

  • Budget for the year: PTSA’s goal is to raise at least $35,000 this year to fund for new computers for the library and the computer lab, expand Writer’s Coach Connection, classroom and department grants.. Other activities to be funded are school beautification and noontime.
  • Mr. Burnham requested for parent and student volunteers to help phone bank for Measure G & E on Oct. 2 from 5:30 to 7:30 at the Interactive Resources in Pt. Richmond. It is vital that Measure G, the parcel tax renewal, passes in the November election to maintain the school services we currently have, including class size reduction, librarians, & counselors.
  • Communication from school to home – Parents talked about how school happenings are not well publicized and need to be communicated to parents on a regular basis. Thus, the birth of the El Toro Weekly, which will be distributed to students every Thursday, and be posted on the Portola PTSA website, e-tree, and Facebook.

What a way to start the year!

First, it was great to see many people attend the Back to School event. Got to meet new people as well as renew old friendships. Thank you to all the people who helped make this event a success: Lori Klumb, Julie Yamashita, Tre Curran, Lianne Tsujimoto Wong, Tracey Kitaoka, Kara DeLaPaz, Kelly Whitney, Patty Enrado, Kathy Guarneri, Saidah Said.

Second, the Direct Appeal is underway. We are about 10% to our goal of $25,000. Monies raised will go towards replacing the computers in the library, purchase science equipment and supplies, fund lunchtime activities like Math Club, etc. The Donate button at the top right of this site is waiting to be clicked, or drop off/mail your check to the school main office in attention to PTSA Direct Appeal.

Third, on Sept 24th, the schools of El Cerrito will be hosting a WCCUSD School Board Candidates Forum at Harding Theater from 6:30-8:00 pm. This is an informative Question and Answer session to get to know the candidates for the upcoming school board election. Community members can submit questions ahead of time by emailing Bobbie Ohs Dowling at bohs@earthlink.net, or write their questions as they walk in.

Fourth, PE Department’s fundraiser is underway. Check out the catalog of treats and turn in your order forms and collected monies by Sept. 17th. Please support our PE program. Library has also created a wish list of books students have requested. Circulation has skyrocketed this year, and our librarian, Ms. Bogie is dedicated to providing new quality fiction and non-fiction material. The wish list is at Amazon.com/Portola Library Wish List.

Don’t forget, our first PTSA General meeting is next Tuesday Sept 11th from 7:oo pm to 8:00 pm in Room 7. We will be discussing our plans for the upcoming school year. Students are especially invited to come as plans affect them as well.

Back To School Picnic

You are invited! It’s not too late to pre-order your pizza. Email Evangeline at emireland@yahoo.com to let me know how many slices or whole pizza and pepperoni or cheese. I just need a head count to know how many pizzas to order. You can pay on Thursday at the event.

Want to help with this event? Go to and select the activity you can help with.

First day of school!

August 20th is the first day of school year 2012-2013. If you’re new to the school, Welcome! If you’re returning for another great year, Welcome back! With over 500 students on campus this year, there will certainly be many new faces.

Thanks to all who have turned in all the school forms and PTSA forms.

Reminder that the first day of school is a minimum day. Students will be dismissed at 1:25 pm.

Looking forward to seeing everyone at some point during the year!

Evangeline Ireland
PTSA president

The End of Summer…

At least that is what the beginning of August brings for me. Is is a seasonal change really. Though El Cerrito and the surrounding micro-climate(s) are bound for warmer months, the approach of a school year brings a renewed and refreshed focus on education for many. I have spent the last month or so watching my children engage with the world. The further away from civilization we traveled the more my boys discovered their surroundings. It was quite magical and certainly a privilege to spend so much time with them at such a young and vibrant age.

Having watched my kids this summer I believe teaching can and should engage all students.

See the rest of this post on the Principal Page.