Casa Grande claims medals

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Casa Grande High School’s “AcDecers” medaled in the Academic Decathlon state finals. The state medal winners of the Academic Decathlon team include Samveda Rukmangadhan, who received a Gold Medal in Art and a Silver Medal in Science for the Scholastic Category. Zain Khan received a Bronze Medal in Mathematics for the Scholastic Category. Shreyas Kompalli received a Silver Medal in Science for the Honors Category. He also received a Gold Medal for having the highest score on the Casa team. Molly Zhou received a Bronze Medal in Speech for the Honors Category. Not to be outdone, the Casa Grande High School Jazz Bands had their own stellar performance at the Santa Cruz Festival. Principal Eric Backman shares that the JV Jazz Band received an overall excellent rating with “Commendations for Outstanding Musicianship” going to Camila Garcia-Gonzalez, Maggie Millard and Jennifer Brown. The Casa Grand “Lil’ House” Jazz Combo received an overall excellent for the very the first time Casa has ever had a jazz combo perform at this festival. Rounding out the event, Casa’s Varsity Jazz Ensemble received unanimous superiors and was invited to perform at the festival’s culminating “Command Performance Concert.”

Setting Sail! A group of Liberty School students began an overnight adventure this week aboard the Balclutha, a 300-foot Square-Rigged Tall Ship that is a National Historic Landmark Vessel.

According to the San Francisco Maritime National Park Association website (, the “Bringing Maritime History to Life” program supports the goals set out in the California Department of Education’s Content Standards for History-Social Science. By living the life of a sailor aboard one of the last surviving examples of the working ships of California, the students gain not only a better understanding of local and state history, but also the concept of historical empathy; a skill critical to a meaningful understanding and evaluation of the past. As with any working vessel, the “sailors” need to perform as a disciplined and reliable crew. In immediate and tangible ways, the students learn the value of critical thinking, active listening, problem solving, teamwork, self-respect, self-reliance and leadership. It sounds like the nautical undertaking is an experience no one will soon forget.

Principal Catina Haugen reports that the Valley Vista Vikings have a cross-aged “Buddy” in all classes. Last week, Mrs. Wyre and Ms. Aster’s classes did a math game together. “Seeing the big kids supporting the younger students is always a special moment on campus,” notes Haugen. Other activities the “Buddy” teams do together include reading, learning a new playground game, running laps to get to their 26.2-mile goal as part of the school’s iDo26.2 program and doing art projects. “Buddy” time is a favorite part of the week for the Viking students!

St. Vincent de Paul Elementary School’s sixth grade kicked off new Literature Circles recently. The students in Ms. Almond’s class are broken up into three different book study groups. This unit’s book study includes the novels, “Across Five Aprils” by Irene Hunt and “A Single Shard” by Linda Sue Park, and “Maniac Magee” by Jerry Spinelli. In Literature Circles, students are learning to develop higher-level questioning, reference text, make literary connections, recognize author style and much more.

At Loma Vista Immersion Academy, staff and students celebrated the weather finally clearing up enough for students to start planting the campus’ new Wildlife Habitat Garden. According to the school website, the new 6,600-square-foot garden was funded by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Grant and is being implemented with help and support from The School Garden Network, Daily Acts and the City of Petaluma. Maestra Gilchriese’s sixth graders were the first class to get to plant in the new garden a few weeks ago. Since then, several classes have made their mark on the outdoor learning space with a variety of plantings and special additions to make the garden a destination on campus. Keep up the great work, Loma Vista.

On Wednesday evening, the Petaluma Educational Foundation awarded 258 members of the Class of 2019 a total of 338 donor-funded scholarships in the amount of $218,650. The annual event is an inspiring evening as soon to be graduates who will be attending 2-year, 4-year and vocation training programs are recognized for their efforts during high school. The scholarships vary in criteria. Seniors from all seven comprehensive and alternative local high schools are eligible to apply. Casa Grande High, Petaluma High, Carpe Diem High, San Antonio High, Sonoma Mountain High, Valley Oaks and St. Vincent High graduates are all eligible for the scholarships.

(Maureen Highland is a Petaluma mother and executive director for the Petaluma Educational Foundation. She can be reached at

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