Archive | April, 2017

LHCSD looks to go TK-6

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LHCSD looks to go TK-6

Posted on 20 April 2017 by La Habra Journal

By Jay Seidel
La Habra Journal

The La Habra City School District is opening up the discussion on the future of the district, including changing the structure of the nine schools.
According to Superintendent Dr. Joanne Culverhouse, a task force is being created to study the feasibility of changing seven of the schools to a transitional kindergarten-sixth-grade configuration.  The two middle schools would then become traditional junior high schools.
The idea was presented for discussion at the School Board meeting last Thursday.  Culverhouse explained that she had presented the idea to the teachers and classified staff unions as well as the board.
She added that the district has an opportunity to rethink teaching and learning and that this is an opportunity that may never come around again.
“It is beyond exciting, but more importantly a moral imperative that we owe our students and their future,” she said.
It was explained that the TK-6 structure would match the education structures of all neighboring school districts.
The board echoed the importance of Culverhouse’s suggestion of incorporating the community in this process.  They explained while the possibility of the new TK-6 structure is being discussed, it would take a similar configuration as the search for a superintendent. Surveys and focus groups of parents and community members will be conducted.
Board member John Dobson stressed the community involvement is vital.

LHCSD Superintendent Joanne Culverhouse

Culverhouse shared a comment from one of the school administrators that said the change could enable the district to create an “academic powerhouse from TK to 6.”
Further, that  “raising and mentoring students and teachers for six consecutive years. Ensuring every student, parent and teacher are provided with the very best.”
Culverhouse explained that it is very likely that the current boundaries will be able to be maintained.  She added that some schools could have a specialized focus, like the current dual immersion program, but all schools will maintain the same quality education. Earlier in the meeting, the board adopted a standardized language arts program for the various grades in the district. This ensures the same training is being conducted across the district.
Board President Ofelia Hanson said that something like this restructuring could help with enrollment.  She added that the district has been losing an average of 200 students each year.  She is hopeful that, if implemented well, this TK-6 structure might make the school district a “destination district” for parents.
Board member Sandi Baltes, who was a teacher and administrator in the district prior to k-6 to its current structure, stressed how the new structure can help with the creation of a “family” environment at the schools.  The new configuration  would eliminate transitions at third and sixth grades.  She explained how students would be able to build a greater feeling of comfort staying at the same school for six years.
The ability of teachers to better collaborate in order to provide consistent, quality instruction for the students.
Baltes added that the new structure would help parents by only having to go to one school to pick up their children and not having to race to another to pick up older or younger siblings.
The next step, according to Culverhouse, is for the 15-member task force to get started on determining the feasibility of this new structure (facilities, teacher assignments, bell schedules, etc.).  In addition, surveys will be going out to parents in both English and Spanish.  Focus groups will be scheduled and help for parents to share their thoughts and insight regarding this structure.
If the restructuring is officially approved, according to Culverhouse, the earliest it could be implemented would be fall 2018.
Parents and the community are encouraged to share their thoughts and input with the district.  More information about the focus groups and surveys will be coming soon.
Culverhouse added that “it is important to challenge ourselves as educators to create excellent institutions  of learning to instill hope and positive change in future generations in the La Habra community.”

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LH author shares story of her family's journey to find freedom

LH author shares story of her family’s journey to find freedom

Posted on 20 April 2017 by La Habra Journal

Jennifer H. Lau

By Leonardo Romero
La Habra Journal

La Habra resident Jennifer H. Lau released her autobiographical narrative “Beautiful Hero: How We Survived the Khmer Rouge” on October 13, 2016 after taking 15 years to organize, write, and edit her book.
The book depicts events that Lau and her family endured in order to survive the tragic 1975 Cambodian genocide where it’s estimated that close to two million died under the Khmer Rouge’s four-year reign, according to the United To End Genocide website.
Lau is the third of seven children, and was born in the Cambodian province
Battambang in January 1970. At the age of five Lau and her family were forced to evacuate from their home and move to a countryside concentration camp where her family of seven was split into three separate work camps. Her oldest brother Vunn Hong is proud of her for documenting their suffering in order for others to learn about and discuss this atrocity that has very little literature written about it.
“This was something that happened a while ago, and reflecting on it makes it seem like it was a nightmare,” said Hong. “I still remember the things she wrote about in her book happening back in Cambodia.”
The book opens with a chilling scene where Lau and her family are making their way through a mountain range covered heavily in landmines in order to get away from Thai soldiers shooting at them.
Writing about these traumatic events proved to be therapeutic for her. According to Lau, she felt a responsibility as a survivor to honor those who passed by telling their story.
The title of the book comes from Lau’s mother’s Chinese name Meiyeng, which translates to beautiful hero.
Throughout the book one follows the struggles Meiyeng faced getting her entire family through starvation, dehydration, and illnesses.
“I want people to read my story and walk away from it feeling the enormity of how blessed they are,” Lau said, “and with that feeling I hope that they help others in any way they can.”
Lau and her family eventually moved to Hudsonville, Michigan in September 1981 where her siblings and her worked in fields picking berries.
In 1983, they moved to California and have lived in La Habra since 1987 where her family owns and operates the Boston Donuts on Imperial and Idaho.
Lau graduated from Sonora High School in 1990, and then went off to UC Irvine where she graduated with two bachelor’s degrees in Chinese / Chinese literature and Economics. Today Lau is the president of the accounting and business consulting firm Topp & Lau Inc., in Santa Ana.
“If you think your life is hard then read other people’s life stories,” Lau said. “There’s always other suffering that can help you understand and get through your own struggles.”
During her time in college Lau began to realize that she should probably document her experience, but it wasn’t until early 2000 that she began writing her story down. In 2010 she had a rough draft of her book that was originally 450 pages. After several editing phases emerged the final draft at 350 pages. The book also includes photos of Lau and her family from 1981 to 2012.
According to Lau, writing this book was the most challenging thing she’s ever accomplished, because it was such a laborious and emotionally draining process.
The book has over 50 reviews on, and 90% of the reviews are five out of five star reviews. For more information on how to purchase a copy of Lau’s book visit her official website

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