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Spring 2018


Sequoia Healthcare District Note

Dear SCSD Families,

We are pleased to publish this edition of the SCSD Wellness Journal. This issue focuses on the important wellness topics of Inclusivity and Abilities Awareness.

We are excited that San Carlos middle schools have newly partnered with Beyond Differences, an organization dedicated to ending social isolation for middle schoolers. It is well documented the impact that social isolation can have on our children, including poor self-esteem and anxiety. Based on the level of enthusiasm and commitment, I am sure the partnership will blossom.

This past March was the third annual Abilities Awareness Week (AAW). It was impressive to learn about the creative ways that the key message of appreciation of individual learning and ability differences, was delivered. For example, two deaf dancers from the Urban Jazz Dance Company performed for your middle schools demonstrating how deafness does not limit access to dance. A big thank you goes to the sponsor of AAW, your district’s Special Education District Advisory Council (SEDAC.) You can learn more about them later in the newsletter.

Our editor, Stacey Holmes, sat down with your interim Superintendent, Mary Jude Doerpinghaus. She has made many valuable contributions, including building a robust Special Education Services Program, since joining San Carlos ten years ago. Read about their conversation.

We invite you to visit our website at http://www.sequoiahealthcaredistrict.com/hsi to read about our Healthy Schools Initiative work and all the ways we are helping your schools take care of your students.

Wishing you all the best,

Pamela Kurtzman, CEO, Sequoia Healthcare District

Up Close with Interim Superintendent,

Mary Jude Doerpinghaus

I had the pleasure of interviewing our interim Superintendent, Mary Jude Doerpinghaus. It was evident to me by the way she spoke about her work that she has a unique passion for contributing to the lives of our children.

Q: The topics of this newsletter are Inclusivity and Abilities Awareness. What messages do you have for parents on these topics?

A: We are one community that wraps its arms around all children. A culture of having different abilities helps us celebrate each child. I love seeing the shifts in how our children support each other. I see it on the campuses I visit weekly.

Parents can help by having their children play with children of all different abilities and using inclusive language. The little things we do and say make an impact. Children learn very early by watching us. Also, our kids are more accepting of others than we are and in turn we can learn from what they model.

Q: When you first came to this district, in 2008, your role was in Special Education Services. I suspect that many people are unfamiliar with this program. As way of education, please share what you did to create the strong program it is today?

A: First, Special Education Services directly impacts about 10% of the student population which is similar to the national average. The true impact though spans across our whole student population. When I came into the role the program required many changes. We created tiers of support and focused on preventative interventions versus waiting for kids to fail. We strived for tailored services, not cookie cutter services, so each child could get the support they need. We brought services inhouse which helped create a feeling of community. Education for parents was another initiative. In the end, we want everyone to feel they belong and are welcome here.

Q: You mentioned earlier that you visit our schools weekly. What do you get out of those visits?

A: Yes, I visit one or two campuses weekly. My job is to impact kids learning and it is valuable to see that in action. It brings me joy to see kids learning in the classroom. Also, it validates our efforts. Being in classroom keeps me grounded as to why we are here. I am impressed to see how students are rising up and exercising their citizenship.

Q: The Sequoia Healthcare District (SHD) helps support many programs within our district. What would you like to share with our parents about this relationship?

A: I want to parents to know that SHD has been an incredible partner over the years. They provide a significant amount of money allowing us to support the social and emotional well-being of our kids and staff. We don’t take the money for granted. We try to use it in alignment with their goals which in turn helps us meet our goals.

Q: Any final thoughts?

A: Inclusion isn’t just for special education kids. It is for everyone, no matter who you are and what abilities you have. The concepts we use to include special needs kids apply to everyone, no matter what makes you unique.

Lastly, I would like to share two of my favorite quotes that inspire me.

If you would like more information about Mary Jude, here is a link to an interview conducted for her role at Interim Superintendent.

Inclusion is Cool:  Ending Social Isolation

Beyond Differences, an organization dedicated to ending social isolation in middle schools, recently received a grant to partner with six middle schools in San Mateo County. Our middle schools, Central and TL, are fortunate enough to be part of the initial launch that happened this year. Specifically, students from both Central and TL attended their first Middle School Leadership Retreat.

(Please refer to separate article for more information about the retreat.)

Did you know?
  • Loneliness is considered to be America’s fastest growing public health crisis.
  • The younger generation is lonelier than the older generations.
  • Loneliness is a predictor of premature death, not just for the elderly, but also for younger people.
  • Weak social connections can shorten a person’s life by 15 years.
  • Half of Americans view themselves as lonely.

Americans are a Lonely Lot and Young People Bear the Heaviest Burden
Loneliness May Be a Bigger Public Health Risk Than Smoking or Obesity

I had the pleasure to speak with Beyond Differences’ Co-founder and Executive Director, Laura Talmus.

Beyond Differences’ mission is to inspire students, at all middle schools nationwide, to end social isolation and create a culture of belonging for everyone.

The three components of their program are: National Awareness Day events, Student Leadership Training and Original Curriculum for teachers.

There are currently three National Awareness Days:

Over 2,300 middle schools participated this year in BD’s flagship event, No One Eats Alone.


When asked what parents should know/do, Laura answered with this:

  • Engage in conversations. Use some of the prompts from teacher lesson plans (parents are welcome to request access to download materials) at home over dinner!
  • Watch videos together and ask children how they feel? Can they relate or have they seen others feeling this way?
  • Ask your children what they could do to make sure all their classmates are included.
  • Support your principal to stay strong with BD programs.
  • Volunteer your time.
    • Drive student leaders to local assemblies and meetings.
    • Carpool to activities.
    • Attend a retreat.
  • Make a donation.
  • Follow us on social media and spread the word.

Lastly, I asked Laura what they have learned over the last eight years. Here is what she shared:

    • Social isolation is a universal problem.
    • Student leaders can move the needle on social isolation.
    • Peer to peer influence is a BIG part of the answer.
    • Students want to do the right thing, they need skills, training and confidence.
    • Everyone is dealing with symptoms of social isolation, from principals to pediatricians.

Ending Social Isolation at Central & TL

Bringing Beyond Differences to our schools

Our district began partnering with Beyond Differences by sending a group of students to their Middle School Leadership Retreat. In March, we sent about 10 students from Central and 1 from TL.

Students learned leadership skills, public speaking skills, event planning, and had the chance to meet other student leaders from across the country! They also learned how to bring Know Your Classmates, No One Eats Alone™, and Call It Out to their school.

“Beyond Differences is a wonderful program that is helping youth end social isolation. I have had a wonderful experience with the program and I think that our school will be a better place because of it. I am so excited to start implementing it into our school’s community!” (Sarah Hansen, 7th Grader, attended retreat)

At the retreat students came up with a plan for what they wanted to do at their schools.

With the support of the administration, the plan for next year includes creating a student club, hosting the three awareness days (with help from BD), and implementing student-run lessons.

Julie Jobak, Counselor at Central, wanted to share with parents that Beyond Differences aligns with our vision in San Carlos. We are partnering with BD to expand on the good work done already towards kids feeling accepted and included.

Students at Central making BD club posters

“Managing Emotionally-Intense Conversations with Your Teen,”

Eran Magen, PhD

The topics covered in this issue can be difficult subjects to talk about with your children. Recently there was a parent education event that focused on how to have “difficult conversations.”

Here is a link to the video and the handout.

The advice is simple, yet powerful.

The main points that Dr. Magen makes are: Supportive interactions have 3 stages: Setup, Listening, and Speaking

Setup and Listening skills help your partner release emotional charge, while Speaking skills help you deliver advice without antagonizing your partner.

Distractions (lose them), Eye contact (make it), Body language (use it)

WIG: What I Got (saying back what the speaker said with care and acceptance), Ask (only clarifying questions), Summarize (the situation)

  • Listening shows you are paying attention and that you respect the other person
  • Each good WIG builds trust

When is it time to speak? Provide your child with a summary of what they said. If they agree, then it is appropriate to move to speaking.

No need to push for the talking. Listening is, by far, the most important thing you can do to help your child.

Ask for permission to speak. For example, can I share an idea with you? Can I make a suggestion?

Acknowledge your ignorance. For example, “I know I don’t know everything about what is going on…”


  • Be collaborative in problem solving: “You and me against the problem”.
  • Make sure it is invited.
  • Acknowledge lack of perfect knowledge.
  • Base on personal experience.
  • Seek out reasons for why it may not work.
  • Be careful saying, “things will be okay”.
  • Remember that tone of voice very important.
Sequoia Healthcare District
San Carlos School District

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Contact Mindy Hill, Wellness Coordinator


One of the most important aspects of parenting is finding humor in our day-to-day.

The Magic Behind AAW: SEDAC

What is SEDAC? The Special Education District Advisory Council is a group of parents of children in special education and administrators representing the schools in the San Carlos School District.

What does SEDAC do? SEDAC members share ideas, opinions, support, and resources related to students in special education amongst parents and provide input to the school district on matters related to educational programs, policies and procedures on behalf of students in special education.  SEDAC’s activities include the following:

  • Coordinates Abilities Awareness Week district-wide.
  • Meets with the San Carlos School District administrators periodically on issues related to special education.
  • Hosts various activities for parents, including monthly coffee and chats, parents’ nights out, and “Happier by the Minute” positivity training for parents.

What is SEDAC’s mission? To provide support to parents of children with different abilities and to create an environment of inclusion and awareness.

To learn more about SEDAC, or if you are a parent of a student who has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), please refer to this handout which provides information regarding the SEDAC and resources. You may also contact your school’s SEDAC representative for more information: 

School SEDAC Rep Email
Arundel Marnie Perini marnie.perini@gmail.com
Brittan Acres Sylvia Lexington lexingtones@gmail.com
Heather Adrienne Werner

Trisha Lebus



Central/Arroyo Judy Woo

Robin Alonso



Tierra Linda Emma White penguins4home@gmail.com
White Oaks TBD (Please contact Trisha Lebus or Sylvia Lexington)  trishawerner@yahoo.com


LEAP preschool (at Heather) Christie Ma christielma@yahoo.com

Getting connected to SEDAC: SEDAC maintains an email distribution list to inform parents of events and other useful information. To sign up, please email Trisha Lebus at trishawerner@yahoo.com. SEDAC also maintains the “San Carlos Special Education Parents” Facebook page (which is a closed page, parents must be admitted) where parents of special needs kids can post about matters and events. To join, please send a request with the email you use on Facebook to Sylvia Lexington at lexingtones@gmail.com.

“SEDAC has created an amazing community of parents of special needs kids and we have become close friends who share advice, support, resources, and friendship. We continually learn from each other and help boost each other up. I hope more parents of kids with IEPs hear about SEDAC and join us.” (Sylvia Lexington, SEDAC Rep for Brittan Acres)

What can parents do?

  • Awareness: learn more about SEDAC and spread the word
  • Support: volunteer for AAW
  • Have conversations at home with kids about inclusion and respect
  • Teach kids appropriate language by utilizing the People First Language Document



  • The Crayon Box that Talked – Shane Derolf
  • Ian’s Walk: a story about Autism – Laurie Lears
  • A Rainbow of Friends – P.K. Hallinan
  • The William Hoy Story:  How a Deaf baseball Player changed the game – Nancy Churnin
  • Just Because: Where seeing another point of view makes a better you – Amber Houses

Click here for the complete list.

Abilities Awareness

March 12-16

Do you know what AAW stands for?
1. Any Adolescent’s Wish
2. All Adults Welcome
3. Abilities Awareness Week

(Answer: 3. Abilities Awareness Week)

Ability Awareness Week (AAW) aims to promote understanding, acceptance and appreciation of individual learning and ability differences through fun, experiential activities.

AAW, now in its third year, is continuing to grow thanks to the support of the schools, the district, and the community. The program is snowballing and all children are benefitting, not just children with different abilities.

AAW is sponsored and coordinated by SEDAC (Special Education District Advisory Council). (Please refer to separate article for more information about SEDAC.)

Shout Out: Thank you SEDAC for your dedication of educating all of San Carlos School District on the importance of understanding people’s differences and how inclusion can change lives. Thanks also to the the demonstrators that performed for the schools:

College of Adaptive Arts :Their vision is to provide a college campus for adults with differing abilities where they will have opportunities to learn that will enable them to live a full and empowered life.

Animal Assistance Happiness: AAH enriches the lives of children and their families experiencing special needs, health or family challenges. As a non-profit organization, they provide barnyard friends to bring moments of happiness and smiles into their day. Their vision is “A Million Smiles.”

Urban Jazz Dance Company: They performed for 5th-8th graders to demonstrate how deafness does not limit access to dance.The company’s mission is to show the world that no matter who you are, your dreams are possible. The two deaf performers had children make noise on the floor to show how they can feel the vibrations, even if they can’t hear the noise.

Puppet Show: The show was presented by parents, Adrienne Werner and Trisha Lebus. The script was provided by Gatepath, an organization focused on empowering people with special needs to achieve their full potential through innovative, inclusive programs and community partnerships. The puppet show vignettes demonstrated how inclusion of all children makes everyone happy and included no matter their differences.

Canine Companions for Independence: A non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs at no charge to the recipients.

In addition to the demonstrators, SEDAC provided a lesson plan to the teachers. Teachers were asked to do one lesson and counselors were encouraged to include empathy and inclusivity into their lessons. An example of one lesson is cutting with the non-dominant hand whereby students experience what it feels like to have low muscle tone or fine motor issues.

There was a district wide Wonder Movie Night! The movie inspired over 200 attendees with its message about the importance and power of acceptance and kindness.

What can parents do?

  • Help build awareness of AAW through word-of-mouth.
  • Ask your child about what happened and what they learned during the week.
  • Ask your middle schooler about the dance club.
  • Ask your elementary schooler about the puppet show.
  • Have a conversation about different abilities and emphasize what people CAN do.

“Ability Awareness Week has helped me to understand better that even though kids have differences, they still have many characteristics that are the same, like wanting to do your best, trying hard, making friends, being accepted and loved, and having fun.” (Anonymous Student)

Abilities Awareness Week: Physical Fitness

Heather School: Opposite hand curling with bean bags and circles

Legarza created an elementary school curriculum that allowed students to showcase a variety of different abilities through physical activities and games. The Paralympic Winter Games inspired the activities for the week, and students also learned about the Team USA paralympians.

The activities included:

  • Warmup station with follow the leader in silence
  • Opposite Hand Curling with bean bags and circles
  • Sled Hockey while sitting on scooters
  • Frisbee Archery with eyes closed while a partner directed them to be more accurate
  • Olympic Kickball, kicking with non-dominant foot and catching with non-dominant hand
  • Reflection station – Coaches led students in a discussion about the events. “Why are we doing this? What do we learn? What are abilities seen? Unseen? What abilities did you notice that aren’t physical?”

The key messages from the week include the children’s heightened sense of abilities, both seen and unseen, and the importance of a community of support and compassion. Legarza encourages you to reflect with your children on different abilities you see in day-to-day life.

Here is what some of the Heather 4th graders had to say:

The day made us celebrate how important and unique these abilities are — even though we are different, we should all be treated the same.” 

“It was cool to find similarities without talking.”

“I liked it because it seemed like we were doing things differently— maybe familiar things, but in a different way.”

Summer Events

MB Summer Concert 2018