Local elementary school students return to the classroom this week


Class is back in session for local elementary school districts.

The Las Lomitas Elementary, Portola Valley and Woodside Elementary school districts are resuming classes on Wednesday, Aug. 21. Most Menlo Park City School District schools begin classes on Thursday, Aug. 22, while students at the district's fee-based preschool start on Friday, Aug. 23, and Monday, Aug. 26. Three of the four districts welcomed new superintendents.

Here are a few of the highlights from the summer and the new school year from each district:

Las Lomitas

Beth Polito became head of the Las Lomitas district on July 1. Polito replaces Lisa Cesario, who retired after seven years as superintendent.

Workers are expected to finish construction work at Las Lomitas school (K-3) by October, Polito said. Modernization of the school will begin during the summer of 2020. Las Lomitas will move away from a staggered day schedule to a single earlier time, because the staggered schedule created a hardship for parents who did not get their first choice of session time, said Polito in an email.

The district expects total enrollment at Las Lomitas and La Entrada (4-8) to be about 1,210 students (as of Aug. 14), compared with 1,262 last school year, a decrease of 52 students. Enrollment at both schools is down.

Aside from Polito, there are no new administrators in the district this school year, Polito said. In March, the school board voted to reclassify the position of director of curriculum and instruction as an assistant superintendent position, held by Shannon Potts; this will be her first full school year in the newly created position.

There are 45 staff members at Las Lomitas and 85 staff at La Entrada. New staff members are:

Las Lomitas: Catherine Chong, speech and language pathologist; Clemance Khoury, half-time K-3 resource specialist program, half-time program specialist; Stacy Nelson, kindergarten; Yi Quan, instructional assistant in English language development and playground supervisor/monitor.

La Entrada: Valerie Aidan, French; Lurena Brubaker, school psychologist; Elise Gelb and Kellie Morris, fifth grade teachers; Nancy Villavicencio, Spanish.

Menlo Park City

The district expanded its preschool Early Learning Center (ELC) to the Oak Knoll School campus. A classroom was retrofitted and a playground was upgraded to accommodate the addition, Parke Treadway, the district's public information officer, said in an email.

The preschool initially opened at Laurel School Lower Campus in August 2018 with two classrooms. The district is expanding the preschool, which serves children just under 3 years old to 5 years old, to accommodate 44 more students this school year. Twenty-two more students will be at the Laurel School site, while 22 more will be at Oak Knoll.

Workers are modernizing the front office at Encinal School. The work is expected to be completed in the fall. Workers retrofitted 21 classrooms at Oak Knoll and Encinal schools with LED lighting.

The district is expanding its crossing guard program, from nine crossing guards to 17, to encourage biking and walking to school. This is funded for five years by Facebook. The program will also increase crossing guards in Las Lomitas and Ravenswood school districts.

The district expects enrollment to be about 2,945 students (as of Aug. 13) for the 2019-20 school year, compared with 2,926 last school year, an increase of 19 students.

The district has 208 teachers and 11 administrative staff. This does not include the ELC staff. New staff members are:

Encinal: Danielle Franco, fifth grade; Christine Rueter, fourth grade; and Calliope Stamates, K-5 Achieving Independent Minds program.

Hillview: Robert Lawrence, math; Ron Christopherson, P.E.; Leonardo Schneiderman and Kara Connelly, science; Caroline Lucas, Spanish; Kellie Raczkowski and Christina Johnson, counselors.

Laurel: Carrie Chase and Hannah Carney, kindergarten; Krista Carroll, first grade; Patricia Bortolazzo, fourth grade; Megan Scatena, fifth grade; Erika Rodriguez, second grade Spanish immersion; Antoinette Marquez, fourth grade Spanish immersion; Molly Malone, world language; Sara Fortin, education specialist/inclusion support; Michelle Winters, art specialist.

Oak Knoll: Janiq Meneze and Samantha Chiang, third through fifth grade multiage; Mary Coyle, fourth grade.

ELC: Mei Chung, Lori Sitrin and Stacy Matsuura, lead teachers; Tatiana Villalba and Gladys Salinas, assistant teachers.

District Office: Jane Yuster, director of human resources; Stacey Shirer, special education program specialist; Gina Silva, payroll technician.

Portola Valley

Roberta Zarea became the Portola Valley district's superintendent on July 1. She replaced Eric Hartwig, who left the two-school district in June after nearly four years in what was supposed to be a temporary position.

This school year the district will host a Portola Valley Community Wellness Fair, funded through donations from the Portola Valley Schools Foundation's FANfare 2019 fundraiser.

The district is installing cameras on both school sites for safety and security.

At Ormondale School, staff will be continuing work on a Zero Waste Initiative started last school year. The schools foundation helped fund new bins purchased to help children learn how to properly sort their recyclable materials from landfill and compost.

At Corte Madera school, Brook Coffee will teach students about the environment and plants in the school's garden. Topics include aromatherapy, the health benefits of gardening and maintaining and designing a garden.

The district's projected enrollment for 2019-20 school year is 550 students, compared with 574 students last school year, a decrease of 24 students.

New teachers are:

Corte Madera: Josina-Els Bol, band; Azadeh Malek, math; Christine Hollies, sixth grade core; Tiffany Hsieh, English language arts.


Longtime Woodside district administrator Steve Frank stepped into the superintendent role on July 1. He replaced Beth Polito, who now heads the nearby Las Lomitas district.

In addition to his new role as superintendent, Frank will continue to serve as the middle school's principal, at least for this school year, he told The Almanac. The district appointed three teachers to serve as deans for each of the middle school grade levels to handle day-to-day operations.

Over the summer, the one-school district finished a $130,000 project to put new roofs on three middle school classrooms.

The town of Woodside is completing construction work to create a safe walking trail along Woodside Road from the school down to Robert's Market, according to a letter from the district to parents. School officials advise people to use caution and give themselves extra time getting to and from school during the construction, which is expected to continue until the end of September.

The district has 43 teachers and four administrators. There are no new teachers.

Waly Ndiaye was hired as the district's business services director. He has 10 years of experience in school finance in the Oakland and Alameda Unified school districts, and most recently in the San Mateo County Office of Education, according to the letter.

The district expects enrollment to be about 383 students (as of Aug. 7) during this school year, down from 411 last school year.


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