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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Woodland Hills Interaction Series

by Kevin McGuire

In 2013, my colleague, Instructional Technology Coach Jason Coleman and I saw the need for a program that invited speakers to Woodland Hills to engage with our students. From this idea, we began to partner with local organizations to bring speakers into the library and, from these partnerships, the Woodland Hills Interaction Series (WHIS) was born. The mission of WHIS has always been to provide first-class interaction opportunities for students at Woodland Hills Jr/Sr High School. 

During our first four years, the WHIS has hosted such notable guests as Colum McCann (National Book Award Winner/Academy Award nominated writer), Elizabeth Strout (Pulitzer Prize Winner), Dr. Sheri Fink (Pulitzer Prize Winner), Terrance Hayes (National Book Award winner/MacArthur Fellow), Jesse Andrews (N.Y. Times Bestseller), Dr. Cyril Wecht, and Robert Bilheimer (Academy Award nominated director). Additionally, the WHIS has also hosted local writer Dave Newman, poet Jim Daniels, EPA Director Barnes Johnson and U.S. Ambassador Bryant Salter.

Pulitzer Prize-winning Author Elizabeth Strout speaks with students at Woodland Hills Junior/Senior High School

Most recently, we hosted Pulitzer Prize winning author Elizabeth Strout. Her visit was made possible through our partnership with Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures. To prepare for this event, students read her books and generated questions that were used during her presentation. The students loved engaging, as they always do, with our guest and it was clear it had an impact on their learning.

Kevin McGuire is the Library Media Specialist at Woodland Hills Junior/Senior High School.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


by Alicia Giove

To celebrate “Music in Our Schools Month,” on Tuesday, March 21, the Woodland Hills Department of Performing Arts hosted a musical evening featuring the 3rd grade students of each WH building. The students performed on stage with their first musical instrument, the recorder. Wilkins, the Academy, and Edgewood all had a great showing of talented students who took the stage with pride and demonstrated what they have been working on in music class. The audience was warm and receptive and the students should be so proud.

Not only a night of recorder music, the audience was also treated to several performances by other Woodland Hills performing groups. The show started with a brass ensemble, which included students and teachers. Throughout the night we heard a string ensemble, a cello soloist, and a flute/clarinet duo. To conclude the concert, the Woodland Hills Marching Band marched through the aisles of the auditorium and had the audience clapping with cheer.

Alongside showcasing the 3rd grade recorders, the students were also studying the other instruments. Next year, the students will be able to choose a symphonic instrument to study. This concert gave them a glimpse into the sounds and possibilities of all the choices of instruments they will have in the near future. The students are already buzzing about what to play!

Ms. Giove is a music teacher at the Woodland Hills Primary at Edgewood.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Letter to the 2016-17 Basketball Season

by Amante Britt, #25

Dear 2016- 2017 Basketball Season,

On behalf of myself, Junior starting point guard Amante Britt, and my teammates, Seniors Tyrese Robinson, Deontae Robertson, and Kenny Lee, we are all blessed for the “ growing pain” as coach O’Dell Miller would say. This year we made a commitment to dream big and be bigger than ever before. We each went into this year’s basketball season with the expectation that we would fight blood, sweat, and tears to be at the top Section and bring home the Section Title.

At the start of the season we all decided that it was going to be our basketball season to take back the Section Title for the first time since 2000 which was 16 years ago! I was born in 2000 so I wanted to be part of the change. However as one of the leaders on the team I had to be mindful that in  order for us to achieve the goal we knew that we would have to work hard and together from the start to the end.  I had to work harder at being a better leader especially when things got tough. We had to learn and grow together that in order for great things to happen we must get rid of the “I” and make a team effort  for us to be a stronger and disciplined team that could compete and that's what we did, every team that we faced and played hard from start to end.

Woodland Hills 2016-17 Boys' Varsity Basketball

Overall the season was filled with high’s and low’s, but no matter what each of us are proud Woodland Hills Wolverines. Woodland Hills is our home away from home. Making the playoffs was a huge accomplishment for us and being only one game away from a championship game was a even bigger accomplishment. We had a strong playoff run until we were defeated in the semi-finals by Butler. However we are still keeping our eyes on the prize in the state playoffs.

Although we did not become Section Champions this season we know that we are still Champions because we never gave up even when things got tough. We are able to take every win and lose as grateful experience. Without them we would not know how to be survivors after the storms.

Personally I would like to thank our coaches, our families, our friends,  and our fans  for all the love and support  it gave us a hope and courage along the wins and the loses.

Thanks, 2016 - 2017 Basketball Season,
Amante Britt # 25

Amante Britt is a junior at Woodland Hills Junior/Senior High School.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Woodland Hills Plans Underway for our Second Annual Extended School Year Services Program!

by Agatha Leonard, Assistant to the Superintendent for Special Education

During the summer of 2016, Woodland Hills School District opened our doors to our “Wolverines” who qualified for Extended School Year.  These students were offered special education and related services in order to ensure their provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

Extended School Year is a Federal and State Regulation: Federal-IDEA 300.106 and State Regulation-Chapter 14.132 mandates service for students with disabilities who qualify. It requires that school districts ensure that ESY services are available as necessary to provide a free and appropriate public education to students with disabilities. It means that Special Education Services and any Related Services that a student receives according to his or her Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is provided services beyond the 180-day school year.

It is important to note that ESY is not a daycare, day camp or respite care services. There are seven specific criteria  for a student qualify for ESY: 1.)Regression:  The student has reverted to a lower level of functioning; 2.) Recoupment-student is unable to recover skills of behaviors due to interruption in services due to school (holidays) 3.) The Combination of Regression and Recoupment; 4.) Skill Mastery; 5.)Self-Sufficiency and Independence; 6.) The degree to which Successive Interruptions negatively impacts the student; and 7.) the severity of the student’s disability. These criteria are specific. For example, to be eligible, there must be a demonstration that the student has regressed by approximately 25% as a result of an interruption in educational programming and that the student has the capacity to recover those skills in which regression has occurred to the prior level. The decision about who is eligible for extended school year is made at the building level and within the IEP process.

In our school district, our special education teachers, paraprofessionals and other professionals monitor our students and collect data on several different time points to determine if any regression or recoupment has occurred.

Swissvale Fire Fighters demonstrate their equipment for ESY students

During our kick-off year, summer of 2016, our students participated in fun and motivating activities that addressed each student’s individualized academic, social/emotional, vocational/transition and/or behavioral goals.  Our teachers used creative hands-on activities such as building bird houses to combine creative math and science experiences. Teachers also embedded sensory alerting strategies such as music to engage students in their learning process.  As the month of July progressed, the learning process for the students went beyond the classroom walls.  We incorporated on-campus fieldtrip experiences with the Humane Society and Swissvale Fire Department.  Students learned about their community and experience the pride of learning that former “Wolverines” are contributing members of these community agencies. 
ESY Students learn about animals with visitors from the Human Society

As we concluded our first district ESY program, we saw the spark of excitement in the eyes of all those who participated.  Teachers planned ideas for next year, students asked to come back next summer, and parents shared positive feedback on the length of the program day, the structure, and delight they could see in their child both before and after each ESY day. For our second year, we are building in several off-site, field trip/enrichment activities for our students. Please stay tuned for more information on our special education webpage and a new Schoology page!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

"The Books are Delicious!"

by Marty Sharp

Students in Mrs. Beitler and Mrs. King's reading classes at Woodland Hills Intermediate experienced their first ever book tasting.  During the book tasting, the students were able to "taste" different genres of books.  Many students discovered their new favorite genres!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

High Impact Family Engagement

High Impact Family Engagement
By Dr. Deborah M. Vereen,
Assistant to the Superintendent, Family and Community Engagement and Volunteerism

The Woodland Hills School District has demonstrated their commitment to promoting more active levels of parental involvement throughout the process of education by the creation of the Office of Family and Community Engagement and Volunteerism at the start of the 2016 – 2017 school year.  As a result, high impact family engagement is emerging.

High impact family engagement involves building strong relationships between our families and the school district.  It also builds capacity of families and staff members by providing education, supports, and opportunities for genuine, non-exclusionary partnerships that rely on the development of joint skills, talents, motivation, and abilities.  In other words, families and the staff are growing to depend upon each other so that common goals which benefit the learning process are beginning to blossom.  Finally, this type of engagement promotes family events and activities that are closely linked to student learning.

HUGS Volunteers

Several high impact family engagement initiatives have been developed within the school district, again, which reflects an authentic effort to develop deeper, more meaningful relationships between each family and the school district as well as with the schools.  Some of these include:
• Parent Camp
• Home Visiting using the BFF (Bonding Face-to-Face) Process
• The H.U.G.S. (Helping Unconditionally by Giving Support) School Volunteer Program
• Parent University
• The Family Resource Room and Parent Library
• The annual English as a Second Language District Wide Family Meeting and Reception
• The F.A.C.E. (Family and Community Engagement) Committee
• Professional Development Activities
• The Woodland Hills C.A.R.E.S. (Connected And Resourceful Engagement with our Schools) Early Childhood Outreach Program that includes:  Presenting Resident Infants with Unique Care Packages; the annual Breakfast With Santa Wolverine Learning Adventure; the annual Open House
• Advocacy and Support for Families
• The Family Resource Fair
• Unique School Wide Family Engagement Programs and Activities
• Outreach and Collaborations with Community and Neighborhood Partners including but not limited to Municipalities and Faith-Based Communities

We recognize the importance families play throughout the educational process. If you would like to become involved in any of these opportunities, or if you have additional questions about Family and Community Engagement at Woodland Hills, please contact me at