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DLS Academic Life | Blog

December 5, 2019

Dear Parents, Guardians, Students, and Friends of De La Salle,

On Tuesday December 3, our Academic Affairs Council met to approve the last of the newly proposed curriculum for next year. We meet every other week on late start days, and a different department chair or academic director inaugurates the meeting with prayer. This week, Dr. Elizabeth Berkes offered a compelling meditation on “let us remember,” which the Advent season encourages us all to do. She also shared a mantra that I think I will adopt for Advent: “make room.” As we move through the hustle and bustle of finals, holiday concerts, ornament shopping, new sports seasons, Star Wars watching, and on and on, I am going to ask myself daily to remember and to make room for the Holy in the everyday.

As I wrote last year, this month also ushers in some of my favorite De La Salle activities:

  • the Physics boat races, that will take place in the pool Periods 1-6 on December 10;
  • the DLS/CHS Christmas Concert on December 11, held in the Hofmann Student Center starting at 7:00;
  • the Our Lady of Guadalupe Liturgy on December 12;
  • the ongoing Toy Drive, which comes to an end December 19.

In addition, all DLS faculty and staff have been invited to Carondelet’s I-Center Open House on the afternoon of the 10th, and we are always excited celebrate our partner school.

As semester one comes to an end, here are a few reminders:

  • Final exams will occur from Tuesday, December 17 through Thursday, December 19. Please remember to consult the School Calendar for the exact times. Final exams are firm dates, and any student who is sick will need to notify both the attendance office and Ms. Lillian Dickson (dicksonl@dlshs.org) to schedule make-up exams.
  • Grades will be available after they are stored on Monday, January 6.
  • Classes resume for the second semester on Monday, January 13.

Finally, let me wish you and your families a restful and joyful Advent season and Christmas.


Dr. Heather Alumbaugh
Vice President for Academic Life


VP For Academic Life Letter Archives

2019-20 School Year

December 2019

December 6, 2019

On Tuesday December 3, our Academic Affairs Council met to approve the last of the newly proposed curriculum for next year. We meet every other week on late start days, and a different department chair or academic director inaugurates the meeting with prayer. This week, Dr. Elizabeth Berkes offered a compelling meditation on “let us remember,” which the Advent season encourages us all to do. She also shared a mantra that I think I will adopt for Advent: “make room.” As we move through the hustle and bustle of finals, holiday concerts, ornament shopping, new sports seasons, Star Wars watching, and on and on, I am going to ask myself daily to remember and to make room for the Holy in the everyday.

As I wrote last year, this month also ushers in some of my favorite De La Salle activities:

  • the Physics boat races, that will take place in the pool Periods 1-6 on December 10;
  • the DLS/CHS Christmas Concert on December 11, held in the Hofmann Student Center starting at 7:00;
  • the Our Lady of Guadalupe Liturgy on December 12;
  • the ongoing Toy Drive, which comes to an end December 19.

In addition, all DLS faculty and staff have been invited to Carondelet’s I-Center Open House on the afternoon of the 10th, and we are always excited celebrate our partner school.

As semester one comes to an end, here are a few reminders:

  • Final exams will occur from Tuesday, December 17 through Thursday, December 19. Please remember to consult the School Calendar for the exact times. Final exams are firm dates, and any student who is sick will need to notify both the attendance office and Ms. Lillian Dickson (dicksonl@dlshs.org) to schedule make-up exams.
  • Grades will be available after they are stored on Monday, January 6.
  • Classes resume for the second semester on Monday, January 13.

Finally, let me wish you and your families a restful and joyful Advent season and Christmas.


Dr. Heather Alumbaugh
Vice President for Academic Life

November 2019

November 7, 2019

Dear Parents, Guardians, Students, and Friends of De La Salle,

I have to repeat what I have been saying since September to our parent community: I cannot wait to talk to you about our Lasallian Catholic Assessment Process (LCAP), an overview of which I provided in last month’s Spotlight and at Back to School Night. President DeMarco’s letter summarized some of the findings of the visiting team’s final LCAP report, most particularly the strengths of the school as a Lasallian Catholic school and the challenges that we as a community identified we would like to address to continue to offer the best possible academic, spiritual, and holistic education for the students entrusted to our care. The success of this assessment process is because of a climate of care, quality academics, and “focus on growing up well” that the entire community works to create and foster. I wanted to add further context to President DeMarco’s overview by drawing your attention to the central role that our Religious Studies and Campus Ministry departments play. They were celebrated by the visiting team for numerous reasons, and I think the “Final Word” of the visiting committee’s report illuminates the significant contributions of these two ministries to the lives of our students.

“A Final Word

Our Lasallian regional tag line reads, ‘Transforming Lives Since 1680.’ This statement is theologically false if one reads it as we (teachers) transform lives. Saint John Baptist de La Salle tells us that the spirit of the Institute is a spirit of faith. We believe that God transforms through human ministers. God may use us as conduits of grace to young people, and, of course, young people can be the bearers and means of our salvation. If living faith is the source of the transformative education that we call Lasallian, how do we keep faith alive in a community?

I encountered young people at De La Salle High School whose lives had been transformed—young people who had found God, compassion, listening, a heart for service, commitment to growth, and care for one another. I found a faithful community whose openness to God made those transformations possible.”

That sentiment offers a beautiful segue to highlight further the ongoing service of our students and faculty alike. Today began with the second edition of Campus Ministry’s “MMM: Music, Ministry, and Munchies.” We began the day at 8:00 a.m. sharp in front of the cross in the courtyard, and Librarian Brooke Heskett led us in song as prayer. The ministry ended with students, faculty, and administrators linking arms in a circle singing “Lean on Me”—a reminder that we are a community whose members can rely on one another. Campus Ministry then offered donuts to all attendees before classes started.

Today also witnessed our Veterans Prayer Service. The service ended with a unique moment: Mr. Jerome Hudson, Senior Vice Commander of the VFW in Clayton and father of DLS alum and fellow veteran Michael Hudson, presented DLS Social Studies teacher and department chair Mrs. Annemarie Talmadge with the 2019 VFW California Teacher of the Year award. Mrs. Talmadge received the award for her and her students’ work with the Veterans History Project, which is archived in The Library of Congress. Today we also thanked DLS faculty and staff veterans for their service to our country: Mr. Matt Harrison, Mr. Jay Juarez, Mr. Michael Norris, Mr. Jason Shelton, and Mr. Jeff Villafania.

We have additional faculty and student achievements to celebrate today. Mr. Mike Aquino (Director of Campus Life & Culture) presented this afternoon at the Northern California Safe and Healthy Schools Conference on campus climate, leadership, and our ongoing work with Mentors in Violence Prevention.

In addition, tonight marks the official debut of Company’s fall play: She Kills Monsters. About the play, DLS theater director Ms. Meredith Barnidge writes:

“Set in the 1990’s, the stage-combat filled, comedic play She Kills Monsters tells the story of Agnes, a senior in high school, who stumbles into a dungeon and dragons game written by her deceased little sister. Agnes discovers that her little sister created a fantasy world that mirrored her experiences of her real world. She turned them into a game of D & D. Bullies became monsters. Friends became warriors and heroes. The little sister became the mighty Paladin in search of her lost soul longing to be found. By the end of the play, the audience may wonder who the real monsters are. High school students or Fantastical Dragons? Or in some small way… each and every one of us.  If each of us can be a monster, can’t each of us also choose to become the hero?”

She Kills Monsters will play at 7:00 p.m. November 7-9, 14, 16 and at 2:00 p.m. on November 10. Please go here for advanced tickets.

Before I sign off, I wanted to share some end-of-October highlights:

  • On Friday October 25, DLS held the annual Jim Olwell Memorial Duck Race at the pool. Mr. Olwell was a beloved math teacher at De La Salle, and we were honored to welcome his wife, Mrs. Wendy Olwell, his daughter-in-law, Mrs. Lianna Olwell, and his grandson and namesake, baby James Olwell, to campus. De La Salle’s Service Leadership class and the Students in Action/Jefferson Awards club run by Mr. Andrew Berkes and Dr. Elizabeth Berkes sponsor the event every year to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in Mr. Olwell’s name.
  • On Saturday, October 26, twenty-five Latin students from De La Salle and Carondelet High Schools participated in LUDI at The Menlo School in Atherton. About 600 students from all over Northern California were present at this gathering of the Junior Classical League. Students participated in academic contests and sporting events and attended colloquia given by college professors on such Classical figures as Hannibal and Achilles. Several of our students earned honors in their respectful levels. Freshman Janie Hatfield placed third in Vocabulary; Sophomores Marcel Latasa placed first in grammar, Isaiah Sana earned second and third place awards in Reading Comprehension and Vocabulary, Sam Pickett placed second and third in Vocabulary and Grammar; and Junior Diego Hernandez earned third place honors in Vocabulary. Congratulations to our very own classical scholars!

As we enter this season of Thanksgiving, I want to underscore the work of our College Counselors and to thank the multiple faculty members and school counselors who together wrote literally hundreds of letters of recommendation for our students’ college applications. For more information about our superb college counselors, please go here.

As always, thank you for your partnership. We wish your families a blessed Thanksgiving.


Dr. Heather Alumbaugh
Vice President for Academic Life

October 2019

October 3, 2019

Dear Parents, Guardians, Students, and Friends of De La Salle,

The beginning of the 2019-2020 school year has moved quickly (the quarter ends this Friday 10/4). As always, we have so much to celebrate in the Academic life of the school. First, we would like to invite you to join us in congratulating our senior Semifinalist in the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program: Cameron Katz. In addition, ten seniors were named Commended Students: Riley Cisneros-Mann, August Gingrich, James Jolin, Jack Lamborn, Tyler Manning Shannon, Carson Newman, Sampson Paonessa, Luke Taylor, Brian Vega, and William Wygal. Another eight students who scored in the top 2.5% among Hispanic and Latino PSAT/NMSQT test takers in our region were officially recognized by the National Hispanic Recognition Program: Alexander Avila, Myles Bergman, Riley Cisneros-Mann, Jarod Jatoft, James Jolin, Cameron Katz, Charles Kunz, and Alexander Prado. Brava, gentlemen!

Here are additional academic highlights from September and a look at October:

  • Our Lasallian Catholic Assessment Process came to a very successful end, and the entire community worked with our visiting team to identify our strengths as a Lasallian Catholic school and our desired growth areas. I look forward to sharing out some of the final commendations and recommendations once we receive the official report.
  • The annual Cereal Drive is in full swing. It began on September 23 and will continue through October 11. In case you missed it, here is the video made by student Conor Sweeney that we showed during Back to School Night.
  • Mr. DeMarco and I made our biannual trip to join our San Francisco Lasallian colleagues at the District Chief Administrators Association gathering that was held this fall in San Diego. This gathering was unique in that it included experiential learning to allow school leaders to explore perspectives on the realities of the U.S. Mexico Border.
  • Our very own Biology teacher Mrs. Viki Acquistapace just returned as an invited participant from the 2019 Society for Science and the Public High School Research Teachers Conference held in Washington D.C. on September 27-29.
  • This week De La Salle participates in Down Syndrome Awareness week, and the student coordinators are Shamal Perera and Amir Desai. The week leads up to the 2019 Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk in Pleasant Hill this Sunday. It is impressive to witness the commitment of our student servant leaders.
  • Please join us on Wednesday, October 9, from 6:30-8:30 at Carondelet’s Garaventa Center for our joint screening with Carondelet High School and Fusion Academy Walnut Creek of the new documentary Like. A panel discussion will follow. For more information or to RSVP, please click here.
  • October 7-11 will witness our Third Annual Stream Week hosted by the De La Salle Library. Every day at lunch and after school, there will be different activities, and students will be able to build Littlebits Circuits, Spheros, Makey-Makey, Catapults, Bristlebots, and more. Please reach out to the library if you have any questions.
  • On October 15th, all De La Salle and Carondelet academic departments will meet for a joint professional day.
  • At the end of October, with teacher and DLS Director of Online Learning Mr. Donald Van Bomel and Carondelet teachers and administrators, I will be heading to the annual iNACOL conference to learn about best practices in online learning.

We are excited to start a successful Quarter 2. In the meantime, thank you as always for your partnership.

Dr. Heather Alumbaugh
Vice President for Academic Life

September 2019

September 5, 2019

Dear Parents, Guardians, Students, and Friends of De La Salle,

Welcome back! Summer feels like a distant memory. So much has already transpired at De La Salle High School, from our new teacher orientation at the beginning of August to our faculty professional days to the welcome Bar-B-Que for all new students, the second year of joint orientations for all classes at De La Salle and Carondelet, the Welcome Rally, Welcome Dance, first athletic games, theater try-outs, lost locker combinations, and the list goes on.

September promises to be an equally dynamic month. Next week will be particularly eventful for the Academic and Mission side of the school, as we welcome a visiting team of administrators/leaders from our local and national Lasallian network for a school-wide process entitled LCAP, the Lasallian Catholic Assessment Process. The team will be here from 9/11-9/13. Working from the surveys we gave to administrators, faculty, staff, coaches, students, and parents in late spring 2019 as well as our inventory and assessment of the school’s Religious Studies Program and Spiritual Life, the visiting team help us assess how we are living the Lasallian Core Principles. In other words, LCAP “addresses the question: How does the Lasallian Catholic spirit and mission permeate all aspects of the school and create a distinctive identity now and into the future?”

In particular, LCAP aims to

  1. “provide a self-assessment of the school …”
  2. “provide for a review of the religion program and the spiritual life of the school …”
  3. “recognize and reinforce the strengths of the school as demonstrated through the five core Lasallian Catholic principles…”
  4. “envision how the school will be living the five core Lasallian Catholic principles in the future by creating a shared vision and practical plans for growth.”
  5. (Guide to Lasallian Catholic Assessment Process 2019-2020)

The assessment process will include multiple meetings with school leadership; an extensive meeting with the Religious Studies and Campus Ministry departments; 11 listening sessions for adults and for students from every grade level and from Student Leadership, Service Leadership, and Spiritual Life Leadership. We will spend the entire professional day on 9/13, the last day of the visit, working through our strengths and growth opportunities in order to create a shared vision that will guide us in the future. The day will culminate with the visiting team meeting with the Board of Trustees. We are excited to learn and grow.

Next week also witnesses Kairos 122 AND Back-to-School Night on Thursday, September 12th starting with the President’s Welcome and Prayer and some brief words from me in the gym at 6:30.

You will hear more from me in my next newsletter about the end of September (after Mr. DeMarco and I join our Lasallian colleagues for a Chief Administrators Conference in San Diego) and the anticipated events in October. Until then and as always, thank you for your partnership.


Dr. Heather Alumbaugh
Vice President for Academic Life

2018-19 School Year

June 2018

June 12, 2019

Dear Parents, Guardians, Students, and Friends of De La Salle,

Now that the academic year is officially over, the sounds I hear outside of my office windows, which face the quad, have changed dramatically. I still hear on a daily basis the exciting, if not loud, construction progress of the Ladouceur Athletic Performance Center. Instead of the sounds of the thundering running of a 1050 young men to the Hofmann Center every break and lunch to be the first in line, I hear the summer athletic camps in progress (I am pretty sure I hear Mr. Pelosi coaching the basketball camp as I write this). The changing of the sounds are a daily reminder of the ebb and flow of school life. It is hard to believe that the 2018-2019 academic year has come to an end, and a few weeks ago, we graduated the class of 2019 and promoted to the next level our freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. (If you missed the 2019 graduation ceremony, please click here.)

As I discussed in my graduation speech, 2019 is an important year for De La Salle. It marks the tricentennial of the death of St. John Baptist de la Salle, the patron saint of teachers and the founder of the Lasallian charism. In addition, this year marks the retirement of three cornerstones of De La Salle High School, whose combined service to the school is over 82 years and whose combined years as educators is in excess of 120: Mrs. Mary Ann Mattos, Mr. Jack Dyer, and Mr. Steve Oelschlager. With the closing of the Christian Brothers community on campus, we also say goodbye to Brother Lawrence Haley, FSC (Religious Studies, school photographer, webmaster), who will be deeply missed. This year two additional teachers are moving on to new adventures, Mrs. Rebecca DeWeese (Chair, Visual and Performing Arts Department) and Mr. Ray Meadows (Social Studies). We wish them all the best in their new journeys, and we thank them for their dedication to our students and faculty alike.

We are delighted to welcome to our 2019-2020 De La Salle family our new hires: Ms. Caitlin Coblentz (English), Mr. Kevin Fordon (Social Studies), Mr. Michael Norris (Math), Mr. Rene Sanchez (Religious Studies), and Mr. Giles Thompson (VAPA). We are excited also that Mr. Eric Ghisletta, former Captain for Martinez Police Department, has agreed to teach a Criminal Justice class as an instructor of practice.

There are additional changes we would like to share with you. Ms. Lillian Dickson will be taking over for Mrs. Mattos as Director of Academic Services. Also, the President’s Cabinet deliberated at length after Mr. Dyer announced his retirement by strategically assessing the overall needs of the school. We decided not to replace the Vice President level position in campus life. Instead, a new position will be created for 2019-2020, which will be Director of Campus Life and Culture that will report to my office. We are grateful and excited that Mr. Mike Aquino, who has many years of administrative experience in this aspect of school life and who has worked for years on school climate initiatives here, has agreed to assume the position. Among the duties that the Director will supervise and/or coordinate are all Campus Climate Initiatives, Campus Life Programming (including Student Activities, Clubs, Class Moderators, etc.), Student Orientation, Parent Association and Education, and Educational Technology.

Please be attentive to the upcoming summer electronic mailing (forthcoming mid-July); it will include everything from required summer reading to a check list of responsibilities to prepare for the upcoming school year. 

Thank you for a wonderful year, and enjoy your summer! We look forward to seeing you again in the fall. 


Dr. Heather Alumbaugh
Vice President for Academic Life

May 2019

Dear Parents, Guardians, Students, and Friends of De La Salle,

Last Tuesday (4/30), we held not only our Founder’s Day Liturgy during the school day, but also our National Honor Society inductions that evening. The Founder’s Day Liturgy is one of my favorite every year, as it asks the entire community to join in prayer and contemplation about the legacy of the founder of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, St. John Baptist de La Salle. This year was particularly important as it is the 300th year anniversary of the founder’s death, and there have been global “events and celebrations … honoring our common Lasallian mission of faith, service, and community through the theme highlighting that we are one: One Heart, One Commitment, One Life.” At DLS, we honor the Lasallian Educator of the year at that Liturgy, and I think it was particularly fitting that we inducted our new class of NHS members on the feast day of the Patron Saint of teachers. Both NHS and Lasallian schools are committed not only to quality education, but also to the belief that education is a means to create servant leaders capable and willing to share their gifts with a larger world community.

It was an honor to announce at the Founder’s Day Liturgy Mr. Richard Graham as the 2019 Lasallian Educator of the Year. This award is given to a faculty member who exemplifies the qualities of St. John Baptist de La Salle, specifically meeting the following criteria:

  • A dedicated and committed individual who is an exemplary educator
  • An educator who understands his/her own dignity as a child of God so that he/she can pass this on to students
  • A person who cherishes and cares for his/her students like an older brother or sister, and, above all, someone who is committed to a life of faith and expresses that in a commitment to teach his or her students the importance of the spiritual life, inculcating living values.

Mr. Graham is both an alumnus and a long-time teacher, and multiple peers wrote about his humility and his commitment to his students. About Mr. Graham’s gifts, the English Department Chair Ms. Alex Stevenson wrote: “His ability to connect the literature in his classes to the experience of the human condition is exemplary. He has an innate ability to establish relevancy and encourage depth of understanding. He is deeply committed to honoring the dignity in all humans, especially his students … He is also a man who looks out for the ‘marginalized.’ He is profoundly compassionate and is sensitive to the suffering of others.” Congratulations to Mr. Graham, and a hearty thank you.

We held our recognition assembly on Wednesday, May 1, and it is always a delight to see so many student accomplishments celebrated by the community. Sophomore Luke Anderson, who competed in the California State Science and Engineering Fair, received a Special Recognition Award from the UCLA Brain Research Institute, which recognizes outstanding projects in all areas of Neuroscience from “Molecules to Mind”. Also, the Athlete(s) of the Year, as voted upon by the DLS varsity head coaches, were Henry To’oto’o and Kyle Parco.

I want to remind you, before I sign off, that you still have time to see the Winton Arts Festival, which began with the spring play Pygmalion on April 4 and concludes with the Concert and Jazz Band Concert on May 10. Please check it out!

As always, thank you for your partnership.


Dr. Heather Alumbaugh

Vice President for Academic Life

April 2019

Dear Parents, Guardians, Students, and Friends of De La Salle,

Last Wednesday was one of my favorite days at the school. I began the day in one of Mr. Terry Eidson’s freshman Religion classes. The class began with a beautiful prayer that wove together a Lenten reflection, Isaiah 49, redemption, and the theology of baseball and that included teacher and students alike. The class moved on to review Malcolm Gladwell’s interpretation of the David and Goliath biblical story. Then one student group presented on their modernization of David and Goliath by showing a video of the all-deaf football team from the California School of the Deaf and linking the team’s journey to the biblical passage. One student wisely commented that the team has “figured out how to communicate in a different way than people expect them to.” My next stop was Mrs. Rebecca DeWeese’s Drawing and Painting class, as both she and Mrs. Jennifer Ricketts welcomed onto campus “Safari Encounters,” a Petaluma based non-profit that brings exotic animal rescues into the classroom to promote interdisciplinary and environmental education. The teachers always schedule the animals’ return around our own children’s spring break, so we were delighted to welcome many of our teachers’ children to this interactive classroom experience (my son included). My trip to the Hofmann for lunch included the De La Salle/Carondelet annual talent show, that ended with a beautiful duet by our very own Mr. Corey Kelly (Physics/AP Physics teacher) and Mrs. Brooke Heskett (Librarian). My last stop? Mrs. Anna Talmadge’s class. As you may remember from last month’s Spotlight, Mrs. Talmadge is not only our Social Studies department chair but also the VFW California Teacher of the Year. The students from her “History of the 60’s” class are participating in the Veteran’s History Project, and last week I had the great honor of sitting in as three De La Salle students interviewed a female naval veteran of the Vietnam War.

Yet again, we have a lot to celebrate this month in terms of faculty and student achievement. First, two De La Salle teachers have recently been accepted to nationally prestigious summer institutes. Mr. Rob Rogers (English teacher) will attend the NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshop, “From Immigrants to Citizens: Asian Pacific Americans in the Northwest,” and Ms. Meredith Barnidge (Theater teacher and Director of Theater Arts) will be participating in the Yale Writers’ Workshop. It is good day when I receive an email from a faculty member that begins, “I got in!”

Many of our Latin students participated in the spring California Classical League State Competition (over 900 students attended from California and Nevada). There were academic competitions in the areas of reading comprehension, vocabulary, grammar, classical art, and mythology. In total, DLS/CHS students garnered nine awards, and special mention should be made that Henry Baer scored in second place for the statewide advanced reading comprehension contest. Overall, our team came in third place for points earned in academic competitions. A special thanks goes out to Mr. Michael Marcheschi for his inspiring work with our Latin students.

That same weekend (March 28-30), De La Salle and Carondelet students participated in the International Thespian Society State Competition in Upland, California. The competition is attended by 70 high school ITS Troupes in Northern and Southern California and over 2,000 student artists competed. Please help us in congratulating the following students for their accomplishments:

Grace Hatfield – Selected as the Light Board Operator during Main Stage All Fest.
Jessica Pulver – 3rd in State for Dance
Alana Dallmann – Cast in All Festival Closing Number
Robert Nelson – Superior in Solo
Robert Nelson – Cast in main stage Playworks (against 200 other male students)
Jeff Gilbert – Superior in Monologue
Justin Campo – Superior in Monologue
John Laurence & Robert Nelson – Superior in Duet Acting
Dante Williams – Superior Stage Management in Dogfight

Finally, join me in celebrating the 20 AP Biology students who received awards at the Contra Costa Science and Engineering Fair. Two students qualified for the state competition:

Luke T. Anderson (1st Prize in the Behavioral Category) and Thomas Cumbelich (1st Prize in the Physical Category). In addition, students were honored with named awards: Angelo Grajeda (US Naval Science Award), Colton May (Chevron Special Award), Ben Deviney (Stockholm Junior Water Prize Regional Award), and Alexander Wackowski (Meteorological Society Award and Contra Costa Water District Award). All of this would not be possible without the vision and guidance of our Science department, Dr. Elizabeth Berkes (Director of Faculty Development), and Mrs. Viki Acquistapace (AP Biology teacher).

As always, it is with gratitude that we thank you for the gift of educating your children and for your partnership. Have a blessed Easter.


Dr. Heather Alumbaugh
Vice President for Academic Life

March 2019

Dear Parents, Guardians, Students, and Friends of De La Salle,

I have an exciting story to share that began this time last year and that includes our nine students in Drawing and Painting 2, three of our Visual and Performing Arts teachers (Thomas Wickboldt, Jennifer Ricketts, and Rebecca DeWeese), and two school counselors (Scott Drain and Lindsay Melaas).

Here is how the story began: in the spring of last year, we sent Jennifer Ricketts and Thomas Wickboldt to a professional development opportunity at the Christian Brothers’ retreat on the Russian River that allowed them to connect and discuss best practices with multiple VAPA teachers from our partner schools in the San Francisco New Orleans district. They returned with an amazing idea modeled after a teacher-student collaborative project at San Miguel High School in Tucson, Ariz. The project asks our advanced arts students to pitch, design, and implement a semi-permanent art installation that expresses one of the five Lasallian Core Principles. The teachers came to me with a proposal at the end of May, and I said yes before they finished the pitch. They applied and were awarded a faculty innovation grant, with Rebecca DeWeese, to create the curriculum for the 2018-2019 school year.

Fast forward to the fall of this school year. De La Salle runs two Drawing and Painting 2 courses this year, with nine students combined over both sections. The students this year who were tasked with the project are:

Tyler Cesio
Noah Cheng
Chloe Creecy
Benjamin Deviney
Jonathan Diaz
Jack Hazard
Aidan Payne-Kraus
Jackson Shess
Jacob Vines

They were asked, while working simultaneously on the other course curriculum, to focus their design on the Lasallian Principle of the year, inclusive community. Each class section created a design, received feedback from the art teachers, revised the design, and crafted a draft to be judged by me, the three arts teachers, and the two school counselors. Two weeks ago we selected the design, and now the students will create collaboratively a mural painted in sections that will reside in our Student Support Services hallway for every member of our community to see. The installation, which will be there for years to come, will include the artist statement, a legend that describes the visual imagery and how it connects to the theme of inclusive community, and a legend that names which artist created which panel.

Words cannot express how thrilled and emotionally moved we are about this year-long project that relies on multiple people, students and faculty alike, to render visible one of the hallmarks of Lasallian education, namely that we are and will always aim to be an inclusive community. The project not only brings together people, but also multi-disciplines, real world experience, the spiritual, the pragmatic, and the artistic. It is particularly special that the students are working on the actual installation during the season of Lent, which underscores the importance of an artistic artifact that asks us to consider the possibilities of charity, compassion, and redemption. Aiden shared with me that “this is exciting because … this is a real thing people are going to see” and Tyler commented that the art is “more to affect others and to have them see the art the way we do.” I will let you know as soon as it is finished and installed so you can come visit the magic. 

We are in the thick of what some of our teachers call March Madness: Quarter 3 ends today and both the Contra Costa Science Fair and our participation in the First Robotics competition will happen within the next two weeks. Our annual Charity Challenge began on Ash Wednesday.

Finally, I would like to congratulate our Director of Student Support Services, Scott Drain, who will now sit on the advisory council for the Mental Health Education Press. His work with this organization will not only allow him to offer his significant gifts as a pastoral counselor, but also enable him to collaborate on resources that we will be able to share with our entire community.

Additionally, a huge congratulation to student William Cumbelich, who is officially a National Merit Scholar Finalist.

As always, thank you to our community for your partnership.

Dr. Heather Alumbaugh
Vice President for Academic Life

February 2019

Dear Parents, Guardians, Students, and Friends of De La Salle,

Imagine my delight when I received this email from one of our teachers,
Mrs. Victoria Acquistapace, on January 31st saying: 

Xander Friedman '21 has successfully transformed mouse stem cell to Neural tissue (image below). He will try today to artificially “clump” these cells as seen in Alzheimer’s then un-clump them with two biological agents.

Yesterday, I received an email from Mr. Andrew Berkes, Religious Studies Department Chair, summarizing an activity his students performed that is part of our Mentors in Violence Prevention curriculum; when I ran into both him and one of his female students, they were excited to discuss how impactful the activity was. I relish the emails and the personal exchanges with faculty, staff, and students alike that ask us to celebrate student innovation and the creation of meaningful student communities.

As I have said time and time again, the great work of our faculty and staff make the creation of our Lasallian community possible. Last weekend ended our Mental Health Awareness week with another moving Laps for Life gathering in the Hofmann. This week would not be possible without the vision and hard work of Mr. Andrew and Dr. Elizabeth Berkes’s Service Leadership class and the multiple teacher volunteers, including Ms. Meredith Barnidge and Mr. Scott Drain.

On Monday, Feb. 4, on our professional day, we all attended the 2nd Bay Area Lasallian Symposium at Saint Mary’s College that brought together the working communities of all Northern California Lasallian Schools to share best practices: the topics addressed everything from Blended Learning, to Enrollment Management, to a Senior Administrator roundtable. I want to thank the two members of our community, Mrs. Linda Byrne and Ms. Lillian Dickson, who spent two years as volunteers on the planning committee.

I would like to commend two additional teachers. Mrs. Anna Talmadge, the chair of the De La Salle Social Studies Department, has been awarded Veterans of Foreign War Teacher of the Year at both the district and state level for her innovative curriculum that focuses on citizenship education topics. She now represents California in the national competition for the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award. On January 25, we were notified that Mrs. Victoria Acquistapace was awarded a STEM Grant from the Toshiba America Foundation to purchase a plate reader. Toshiba America Foundation’s grants fund projects designed by individual classroom teachers. This “direct-to-teacher” approach brings immediate results. Teachers are able to change the way they teach Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects because the grant supports equipment for hands-on experiments and inquiry-based approaches to the curriculum.

For two weeks in February, De La Salle and Carondelet will focus on the issue of human dignity and respect. This week, Carondelet begins its seventh year of participation in One Billion Rising, a global movement drawing attention to the issue of violence and sexual assault suffered by women around the world. This week of awareness-raising, education, and empowerment is complemented by De La Salle students learning how they can be allies in the fight to end gender-based violence. For the last three years, De La Salle has used this week to educate and raise awareness on the role of men’s leadership in combatting and ending harassment and violence, as we “Rise Together, Respect Each Other”.

The week of February 11-14, De La Salle will host its Respect Week with the theme “Respect Yourself - Respect Others.” Building off the awareness raised during Mental Health Awareness Week, our campus will explore how cultivating a healthy sense of self can extend to how we interact with and treat others. The week will end with two assemblies on Thursday the 14th:

  • for the 9th and 10th graders, we welcome back Mr. Ashanti Branch of the Ever Forward Club.
    Mr. Branch will host a pilot workshop with our students to explore the concept of personal boundaries and how the boundaries we create inform the way we show up in the world as men of integrity;
  • for the 11th and 12th graders, representatives from the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office will host a presentation on our roles and responsibilities in combating sexual assault (CHS is hosted the same presentation on Feb. 7);
  • Respect Week programming also leads into the school’s Day of Silence (Feb. 22), which is a way to highlight the voice-lessness of those who are oppressed into silence by harassment and violence.

In the flurry of the schools’ vibrant activities, I am trying to finish a daunting reading list (The Hebrew Bible: A Translation With Commentary by Robert Alter and How We Learn by Benedict Carey). I am always compelled by the work of Roy Petitfils, who was the keynote speaker at our Lasallian Symposium, and I will continue to contemplate his work on teenage mental health. We encourage you to take a look.

As always, it is with gratitude that we thank you for the gift of educating your children and for your partnership.


Dr. Heather Alumbaugh
Vice President for Academic Life

January 2019

Dear Parents, Guardians, Students, and Friends of De La Salle,

We just completed the first day of school, and it is amazing to see how much the campus changes when school is in session. I always have to remind myself that when the students return, I have to move quickly out of the quad at the beginning of break as the young men literally race to the Hofmann Center to eat. Yesterday, the students in my Study Skills class noted that the things they loved the most about Christmas break were time with family and friends and sleeping. It always puts a smile on my face when the campus lights up on the return of all of our students.

January in the life of De La Salle High School not only inaugurates the second semester, but also ushers in the academic counseling all students will receive as they prepare to register for the 2019-2020 school year. As a quick reminder, semester one grades were stored on January 3rd, so please make sure to consult PowerSchool.

The most current edition of the course catalogue will be available on January 15th, and Academic Advisement officially begins for pre-registration on January 28th. In order for students to register, they are required to complete the Annual Student Survey, which will go live in a few days, is a necessary piece of our accreditation, and asks students to reflect on every aspect of school life. Their reflections, as always, help drive any changes we make across the campus.

At the final meetings last semester, the Academic Affairs Council (which is the advisory body of the school comprised of Academic Chairs and Directors that approves all curriculum and gives advice regarding all aspects of academic life), approved many exciting new pieces of curriculum. The school next year will be offering its first interdisciplinary course, entitled “Literature, Conflict, and the Human Experience.” The course will focus on “international conflicts that often go unexplored in secondary education” by evaluating the history surrounding and literature produced through the Irish Independent Conflict, the Belgian Congo, and the rise of the Khmer Rouge. This course will be open to Seniors (and Juniors upon approval), will fulfill one of the English requirements, and will be co-taught by an English and History teacher. We are so excited to be able to expand our students’ ability to think as global citizens. The Council also approved our new AP Computer Science Principals, AND a revision of the Religious Studies Curriculum. The former, which is the cornerstone of any Lasallian education, will have a three-year roll out, so stay tuned for more to come!

We are in our second year of our Faculty Innovation Grants, which funds faculty to think, design, and vision in new ways, and much of the new curriculum is a direct result of that initiative and the dedication of our faculty.

Before I sign off, I would like to celebrate two more things.

Congratulations are in order for John Christopher Wackowski, who will be the student keynote speaker for the KPIX/KCBS Jefferson Awards Ceremony night on January 16 at the Herbst Theater for his work on Diabetic Hope, a non-profit he founded.

Also, the entire school community wants to send a serious SHOUT OUT to all of our De La Salle families. Because of you, the school donated literally hundreds and hundreds of toys to various organizations, including the Bay Area Crisis Nursery, Holiday Helpers Warehouse in Martinez, Oakland Catholic Worker, Monument Crisis Center, and Running With Love (during Ven a Ver Salinas Immersion). During the Advent season, we witnessed daily the spirit of Christ and St. John Baptiste de La Salle alive in all of you.

Welcome back.


Dr. Heather Alumbaugh
Vice President for Academic Life

December 2018

December 6, 2018

Dear Parents, Guardians, Students, and Friends of De La Salle,

How is it possible that December is upon us? The month’s arrival ushers in some of my favorite activities at the school:

  • the ongoing Toy Drive, which will be held until December 19th
  • the Physics boat races that will be held in the pool on December 11th
  • the Our Lady of Guadalupe Liturgy on December 12th
  • the DLS/CHS Christmas Concert on December 13th, held in the Hofmann Student Center starting at 7 pm

Congratulations are in order for Company, whose production of Dogfight (ongoing until December 8th) showcased not only our student talent, but also our students’ ability to maturely, insightfully, and sensitively treat such complicated and messy theatrical material. One of the reasons I always swing by the students’ theater auditions is because it is so gratifying to see how much our students grow over the course of each production. I will be there sometime next week when spring play auditions begin for Pygmalion.

Congratulations are also in order for the group of De La Salle and Carondelet students who competed and won multiple awards in Ludi Novembres (11/10) at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco.

As semester one comes to an end, here are a few reminders:

  • Final exams are firm dates, and any student who is sick will need to notify both the attendance office and Mrs. Mattos to schedule make-up exams (mattosma@dlshs.org).
  • Grades will be available after they are stored on January 3rd.
  • Classes resume for the second semester on Wednesday, January 9th.

Finally, let me wish you and your families a restful and joyful Advent season and Christmas.


Dr. Heather Alumbaugh
Vice President for Academic Life

November 2018

November 1, 2018

Dear Parents, Guardians, Students, and Friends of De La Salle,

Since I have started working at De La Salle, November has taken on a new pace that mirrors that of the school. It begins with the All Saints Day Mass, seems to always include NCS playoffs, and will end not only with Thanksgiving but also with Company’s fall theatrical production. As I have written before, as a life-long theater lover, the production of the school's plays always inspire me, most specifically because of the way they showcase student courage, growth, and talent. Our fall play is no exception.

De La Salle and Carondelet Company’s fall production is Dogfight (which will run from November 28-December 8). Dogfight is a musical that chronicles the last evening of six Marines before they depart to Vietnam. They host a “dogfight,” which is a contest to see who can bring the “ugliest” girl. The story then unfolds as our protagonist comes to realize he has feelings for Rose, the girl he chose to subject to this humiliation. Rose is the example of compassion and empathy that is the heart of the production. Although it is an upbeat and fun musical, there is an undertone of layered seriousness that could be mistaken if not seen with mature eyes, as Dogfight deals with sexual harassment, objectification, mob-mentality effects, the role of the bystander, standing up to friends, and the importance of radical self-awareness. The spring production, Pygmalion, was also intentionally chosen to extend the conversation about respectful behavior. Director of Theater Arts, Meredith Barnidge, points out: “We create the people we spend our time with by how we treat them.”

The selection of both plays is timely, confronts topics relevant to teenagers who are asked to negotiate a thorny and complicated world, and allows both schools to continue to investigate and to model the importance of bystanders in disrupting damaging norms and behaviors. Most importantly, the plays ask our students to be front and center in using the artistic process to engage the real world challenges they face every day.

Both De La Salle and Carondelet will participate in ongoing conversations with students about the topics the play illuminates. Crucially, Ms. Barnidge will have made over 20 invited classroom visits on both campuses to introduce the play to students outside of Company and to help them understand its layered content. In addition, a video announcement will be made at both schools, lunch time forums will be held for students, and two “talk-backs” will be offered after the December 2 matinee and December 7 showing. 

The end of October bore witness to the fruition of many school-wide initiatives:

  • The cereal drive ended in excess of our goals, and we donated 3,095 boxes.
  • Last Friday’s Jim Olwell Memorial Duck Race raised almost $500 for Blood Cancer Research.
  • This month, our English 2 courses began a new Service-Learning project in conjunction with The Catcher in the Rye, which teacher Greg Brown-Davis summarizes here:
    “Using the medium of children’s picture books, it is our hope to expose young kids to life lessons of substance without having to learn by getting smacked between the eyes. Students will spend over two months creating and illustrating the books which will then be voted on by their peers; the winners will get the opportunity to an elementary school and read their work to kids.”

Egg Drop Design

  • To inaugurate the project, Mr. Rick Graham and Mr. Brown-Davis invited children’s book author and DLS mother Mrs. Lisa Bakos to share her work and to give students an overview of how to craft their own children’s picture books. It was such a delightful presentation to witness!
  • Last week, the Physics courses participated in one of my favorite academic activities, the DLS Egg Drop (CLICK HERE to see video), while our inaugural HNRS Biology course began a Photosynthesis Lab.

As we look forward, I would also like to make you aware of an exciting parent education event Co-hosted by the College Counseling Departments and the Parent Associations at De La Salle and Carondelet:

Special Guest Speaker: New York Times bestselling author, Harlan Cohen
Date: Wednesday, November 7
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: DLS Theater

Cohen will be here to present Happy, Healthy, Almost Stress-Free College Planning: A New Approach to Search & Selection, which applies a new lens to an old process that shifts the power from the college to the student. Parents and students in 10th-12th grade are encouraged to attend. 

On November 14, De La Salle will host the second meeting of the Consortium of Boys’ Schools, which we convened beginning in June 2018, to continue sharing best practices and topics impacting other school communities. Return to the De La Salle website for updates following this meeting. 

As we are approaching the end of semester two, we would like to remind every student that we have multiple academic and emotional supports to help them succeed.

We wish you and your families a healthy and joy-filled month of gratitude.

Thank you.

Dr. Heather Alumbaugh
Vice President for Academic Life

October 2018

October 4, 2018

Dear Parents, Guardians, Students, and Friends of De La Salle,

We are quickly approaching the end of the first quarter; as always, it has been a rich and invigorating beginning to our school year, and we have so much to share. First, we would like to invite you to join us in congratulating our senior Semifinalist in the 2019 National Merit Scholarship Program: William Cumbelich. In addition, 12 seniors were named Commended Students:  Henry Baer, Rithik Castelino, Peter Christie, Charles Conrad, Aiden Guzman, Riley Hilt, Timothy Kostolansky, Connor Livingston, Joshua Manickam, Cole Silva, Michael Wentworth, Jr., and Dylan White. Bravo, gentlemen!

In Academic Life, we continue to focus on interdisciplinary collaborations, both within the campus and beyond. Here are some of the collaborative highlights:

  • Our students and faculty are participating in multiple service activities, and many of them are part of our Service Learning Curriculum. The annual Cereal Drive is in full swing, and it began on September 24 and will continue through October 12. Here is the video, “It’s Crunch Time,” we showed during Back to School Night. Wednesday (October 3), Carondelet and De La Salle hosted a Blood Drive; we had 60 appointments, and with those, the community far exceeded the goal of 36 units of blood. Our De La Salle community will be supporting the Down Syndrome Connection of the Bay Area with donations from a Jamba Juice sale during the Power Puff game on Thursday.
  • On Tuesday, October 9, on our Professional Day, Carondelet and De La Salle will host our first Innovation Conference across both campuses, in which faculty from every department will present sessions on innovative classroom practices, curriculum, and co-curriculum. We will offer 19 sessions over three hours, and each faculty member will attend three sessions. The sessions include topics as varied as “Restorative Practices for Classrooms, Teams, Clubs, and Beyond” and “Student Interdisciplinary Research Symposium” at Carondelet and “Mentors in Violence Prevention, Theater, and Respectful Education Initiatives on Winton Drive” and “Six Degrees of Star Wars: The Use of Cultural Iconography to Deepen Thematic Purpose and Foster Relevancy” at De La Salle. We are so excited to learn from one another! Stay tuned for more to come on social media after the conference.

  • October 22-26 will witness our Second Annual Stream Week hosted by the De La Salle Library. Head Librarian Elaine Seed shared, “we hope the boys will see the fun side of science, and we hope to challenge their creativity.” Every day at lunch and after school, there will be different activities, and students will be able to build Littlebits Circuits, Catapults, Bristlebots, and more. Please reach out to the library if you have any questions.

As we move through our homecoming week on both campuses, I would like to take this time to thank and celebrate our De La Salle and Carondelet families, who contribute so much to the creation of community on both campuses.

Thank you.

Dr. Heather Alumbaugh
Vice President for Academic Life

September 2018

September 4, 2018

Dear Parents, Guardians, Students, and Friends of De La Salle,

Welcome back! Last week, De La Salle High School and De La Salle Academy were honored to have Bishop Barber celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit with us. The level of respect and reverence our students showed Bishop Barber was something that we are all still talking about. It was a wonderful way for the students to embrace and demonstrate this year’s Lasallian theme, Inclusive Community.

As you may remember, we have partnered with Stanford’s Challenge Success (http://www.challengesuccess.org/) program since 2013, which gives us access to a dizzying array of strategies to promote adolescent health and a strong school climate of care. In spring 2018, we administered the Stanford Survey of Adolescent School Experiences for the second time, and we were the first school in the nation to administer the Challenge Success Parent Survey. As an entire school community, we will be working with the results for the next few years as they help us identify areas of strength and those of growth. Some of our most important findings underscore that students report that we have a nurturing, warm community. 757 students responded to the survey’s first question: "If you were going to use three words or phrases to describe De La Salle, what would they be?" The four “most common categories of words” that students used to describe their experiences at the school are

Family or community
Caring or Welcoming

In addition, the same number of students responded that on average they are doing 42 minutes of homework less per night and yet our student achievement is as strong, or stronger, than ever. We have more work to do on how we can help our students gain the skills to lead healthy, balanced lives and still engage in multiple activities, and we look forward to that ongoing challenge.

This year marked the second consecutive year we have combined Carondelet and De La Salle students together for part of our orientation program. For the 9th and 10th graders, we were pleased to welcome back Ms. Kim Karr. Ms. Karr is a former teacher and co-founder of #ICanHelp, a program designed to educate and empower students to use social media positively and combat negative behaviors they witness online. For the 11th and 12th graders, we welcomed back to campus renowned gender violence educator Dr. Jackson Katz and Mrs. LaShonda Coleman from MVP Strategies. Dr. Katz and MVP are key architects of the bystander approach to preventing gender-based harassment and violence. The bystander approach stresses the power of the bystander as a leader, notably that everyone has the power to influence his/her peer group by choosing at important moments to take an ethical stand.

De La Salle has partnered with MVP Strategies for professional development and student training designed to strengthen the culture of respect and inclusion within our school community. Respect and Inclusion will continue to be a focus for us, centered in our Lasallian charism.

The joint orientations programs are a direct outgrowth from student forums and discussions we hosted last year. We listened to our students who asked for more opportunities to be educated and hear the same messages together. Film screenings, speakers such as Dr. Katz (who spoke to parents at an education evening last year), and ongoing topical discussions will continue to be provided for our parents. We look forward to partnering with you as we shape your sons to continue to live out what it means to be a “Man of Integrity.”

I want to end this letter by celebrating the diligence and commitment of our students and teachers. Last spring, 216 of our students (188 juniors and seniors, 28 sophomores) took an AP class and respective AP exam. Our student pass rate (those who received a 3 or higher) was a remarkable 89.4%. That is the highest in the school’s history.

As a reminder, we will be delighted to see you at Back to School Night on Thursday, September 6 at 6:30, starting in the gym.

Again, welcome back to all families. We are so thankful to be working with your sons.

Thank you.

Dr. Heather Alumbaugh
Vice President for Academic Life

2017-18 School Year

June 2018

June 6, 2018 

Dear Parents, Guardians, Students, and Friends of De La Salle,

The 2017-18 has come to an end, with the graduation of our 2018 class and the promotion to the next level of our freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. (To see the 2018 graduation ceremony, please click here.)

Last week, we said goodbye officially to some beloved faculty and staff members. Mr. Robin Bradford (40-year DLS Social Studies teacher) and Mr. Michael Otterstedt (30-year DLS school counselor and Director of Student Support Services) both retired at the end of this year. We will miss their wisdom and humor, and it is hard to imagine this place without these men who have worked here in combined years longer than the school has existed!

We also say goodbye to Mr. Tim Chu (Library), Mr. Chris Crespi (Science), Mr. Jordan Kirkner (Math), Brother Patrick Martin, FSC (Religious Studies), Mrs. Shannon Sullivan-Danser (Communications Assistant), and Mr. Chris Trinidad (Religious Studies). We wish them well as they pursue other life journeys, many of them in other locations.

We welcome to our 2018-2019 De La Salle family these new hires: Mr. Brian Wiersma (Library), Mr. David Nelson (Science), Ms. Danielle Garrison and Mr. Travis Pacos (both Math), Mr. Jason Shelton (Religious Studies), Mr. Rich Davi (Communications Associate), and Ms. Lauren Stevens (School Counselor). 

Please be attentive to the upcoming summer electronic mailing (forthcoming mid-July); it will include everything from required summer reading to a check list of responsibilities to prepare for the upcoming school year. 

Thank you for a wonderful year, and enjoy your summer! We look forward to seeing you again in the fall. 


Dr. Heather Alumbaugh
Vice President for Academic Life

May 2018

Dear Parents, Guardians, Students, and Friends of De La Salle,

As we approach the end of the 2018-2019 academic school year, I have been ruminating about Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road.” It is a poem in which Whitman, the speaker poet, envisions his journey as an ongoing interplay between the open road, his body, and his soul. It seems such an appropriate poem to ponder as our students move through another transition, whether it be to college or to another grade. Whitman writes ultimately that “Wisdom is of the soul.” As we quickly approach our 2018 graduation, I have thought a lot about the concept of wisdom. We as educators approach every day at De La Salle as one in which we both instruct and learn from our students, from the “Wisdom of [their] souls.” I am struck often not only by our students’ academic, athletic, and artistic accomplishments, but also and often more so by their faith and kindness and compassion and humor and sense of fun. Every day feels like an open road where we have the wonderful opportunity to learn from each other.

To that end, it is no surprise how much we would like to celebrate our students and faculty at the end of the year. Last week, we celebrated St John Baptist de La Salle Founder’s Day with a liturgy, field day, and the announcement of the 2018 Lasallian Educator of the Year, Mrs. Mary Ann Mattos (DLS Director of Academic Services). Mrs. Mattos has been a Catholic educator and administrator for over 35 years, and one peer captured her contributions to our community beautifully when writing Mrs. Mattos’s nomination: “This educator’s commitment to students and parents and determination to help students succeed is unparalleled and visible on a daily basis as this educator interacts with students, parents and faculty on the students’ behalf. This educator’s embodiment of the Lasallian core principles is also exemplary.”

Four students competed in the State Science Fair in Los Angeles, also last week—Chris Fakhimi, James Jolin, William Milosovich, and Dami Olatunji—and Chris, James, and Dami all placed Honorable Mention. Our AP Biology teacher, Mrs. Acquistapace, summarized their participation: “To make it up on the stage at the State Science Fair …well there are actual Nobel Prize winners walking and part of the mix of it all … is special.” The weekend before, DLS and CHS students participated in the Junior Classical League State Convention, and they placed 2nd overall in the category of small High School team.

This evening, we will hold our NHS inductions. This Thursday, we will hold our Spring Recognition Assembly. For the past two days, a group of faculty, staff, and administrators participated in full-day workshops with trainers from Jackson Katz’s Mentors in Violence Prevention Strategies as we continue to strategize how to move the training program into the classroom and beyond.

As we speak, the art work for the Winton Arts Festival is still up in the Old Cafeteria, and the Company’s production of Little Shop of Horrors continues through May 5th. I would also like to share with you a news clip about a CHS and DLS brother and sister team, Sophia and Luke Anderson, and the non-profit organization they founded together four years ago called Para Ti Global. They are both regional Jefferson Awards recipients.

Finally, as you may have heard, we mourn the recent passing of the great philanthropist Mr. Ken Hofmann. His contributions to the De La Salle community are numerous and include the STREAM Center, the Hofmann Center, and the DLS Academy. We extend our condolences to his family, and we pray for his continued journey with God. St. John Baptist de La Salle. Pray for us. Live, Jesus, in our Hearts. Forever.


Dr. Heather Alumbaugh
Vice President for Academic Life

April 2018

April 6, 2018

Dear Parents, Guardians, Students, and Friends of De La Salle,

Although the Lenten season has ended, I continue to reflect upon the various ways our community comes together in the spirit of Christian service, an ongoing pillar of all Lasallian communities. On March 28th, faculty and staff began Easter break by volunteering across the Bay Area on various service projects, including Habitat for Humanity, various food pantries, ARF, and Save Mount Diablo. The 2018 Charity Challenge ended in March with students, faculty, and staff raising more than $10,000, and we welcomed home another successful Ven a Ver immersion Campus Ministry trip from San Diego. One of my favorite moments of the Lenten season included the Student Lead Reflections every Friday in our Studies Skills class, which I co-teach with Mrs. Mattos, Ms. Stevenson, and Mr. Bristol. The most recent reflection included one student’s evaluation of his Lenten promise to perform four acts of intentional kindness every day.

March proved to be yet another amazingly fruitful month in the academic life of the school. De La Salle students from our AP Biology program presented cutting-edge research at the Contra Costa Science and Engineering Fair. Dami Olatunji’s project entitled “Biting Back - Mosquito Control” was the school’s top winning project and will send him to the state science fair, and an impressive list of other students also placed in various categories including Behavioral Science, Biology, Engineering, Environmental Science, and Math & Computer Science. Those students include Grant Dermon and Cameron Katz; Charlie Kunz; Gus Gingrich; Cesario Randazzo; Zachary Golden-Trujillo; Sam Paonessa; Christian Abbas and Benjamin Moeller; Alex Avila and Ben Maier; Myles Bergman; Jack Lamborn and Tyler Manning-Shannon; William Milosevich; Ben Parker; Riley Cisneros-Mann; Chris Fakhimi and James Jolin; Brian Vega; Kevin Harioka; Christopher Rizkalli; and Jackson Castle. Please check out this piece on the science fair, in which our very own Ms. Viki Acquistapace talks with FM 103.7’s Martha Quinn!

The Robotics Club (bot #2141) made it to the semi-final alliance (out of 65 high schools) with schools from Napa and Vacaville at UC Davis for the FIRST Robotics Competition. Congratulations to all of the students who participated in these competitions!

The Visual and Performing Arts Department also had an active month. Two teachers, Mr. Thomas Wickbolt and Mrs. Jenn Ricketts, attending the discipline-specific workshop at St. Joseph’s Camp in the Russian River with other faculty from Lasallian schools in our San Francisco-New Orleans District. Additionally, students in Ms. DeWeese’s classes received the beautiful and moving portraits in situ that they created for Syrian children as part of their participation in The Memory Project (https://memoryproject.org/; https://memoryproject.box.com/RebeccaDeWeese).

The Learning Center continues to thrive as an academic hub, and we are so grateful for the collaborative efforts of Mr. Jon Norfolk, Mr. Sean Bristol, and Mr. Greg MacArthur, not to mention the dedicated volunteer Deb Jansen and the army of other adult and student volunteers. Here are some of the averages since we returned on January 11:

Makeup Tests/Quizzes

Total tests: 1400
Average tests per week: 115

Homework Study

Total: 350
Average per week: 30

Tutoring Sessions

Total: 700
Average tutoring sessions per week: 65

April and May will witness the Theater Company’s performance of The Little Shop of Horrors.

In addition, on April 30th and May 1st a group of administrators, faculty, staff, coaches will participate on campus in another intensive 2-day training in bystander approach with Jackson Katz’s Mentors in Violence Prevention Strategies. The training will continue the school’s multi-year partnership with Dr. Katz’s organization, and it will be the next stage of training for the school.

As always, we thank you for sharing the tremendous gift of your sons with our entire community.



Dr. Heather Alumbaugh
Vice President for Academic Life

March 2018

March 1, 2018

Dear Parents, Guardians, Students, and Friends of De La Salle,

President Mark DeMarco and I just returned from our attendance at the Lasallian Association of Secondary School Chief Administrators Conference in Orlando, Florida, during which Presidents and Principals from North America gather annually for multiple days of sharing and professional development. The conference not only introduces us to national educational specialists, but also enables us to contemplate and question the best practices of partner schools and allows us to connect in and through community. As you would expect, we spent a great deal of time in discussion about the most recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida; the growing student-led movement; school safety; the prayer and scriptural resources that help us navigate such a horrible event; and how we can best support our students before, during, and after moments of national trauma. Please watch our website for updates regarding these issues.

February’s frenzy of activities at the school also embody how inclusive community and quality education are inextricably intertwined in the Lasallian tradition. I am struck repeatedly by how many of our students exhibit daily these values, and as always, I am inspirited by their leadership. The first weekend in February we participated in Laps for Life, an event that was co-chaired by students Nick Brdar and Jack Napper and sponsored by the Jefferson Awards Students in Action Club. Hundreds of members of the community gathered for this moving and crucially important event, and student Dawson Diaz documented it.

February also included our participation in two important weeks: RISE Week with Carondelet (2/5-2/9) as well as our own Respect Week (2/12-2/16). During our Respect Week, we welcomed two national educational leaders about whom I have written extensively: Mr. Ashanti Branch and Dr. Jackson Katz. Please take a look at the photo gallery of Mr. Branch’s freshmen assembly. I include here a link to an article that beautifully summarizes our ongoing work to educate young men as our future servant leaders. In response to the Parkland school shooting, we gathered on the Day of Silence (2/23) to participate in a student-led prayer, in which two students gave up their “vow of silence” to give voice to those who cannot. Please reach out to me directly if you would like a copy of the prayer service—it was beautiful. We will be sending an email in the upcoming weeks to provide more information about Respect Week and the work that has happened since then, so please keep an eye out for that.

Two groups also just returned from academic adventures outside of the school. Two of our language teachers attended the World and Modern Language Educators’ Workshop held at St. Joseph’s Camp from 2/22-2/24. These workshops bring together educators from across the Lasallian District of San Francisco-New Orleans to share effective pedagogical practices in their discipline and to create an ongoing disciplinary community beyond the boundaries of any single school. Two of our VAPA department members will be attending their discipline workshop in March. De La Salle students also participated in Close-Up, during which they spent a week in Washington, D.C. with students from around the country engaging in debate, exploring monuments, and learning about the function of government. They studied each major monument: when and why it was made, what it is supposed to represent, and why it was put in a specific location. Students discussed current policy in small groups with other students from around the country. They ran a full mock congress. They discussed major topics currently in debate on the floor. De La Salle students and two faculty members spent over an hour with Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, and they toured multiple nationally important locations: the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, the Holocaust Museum, the Newseum, the African American Smithsonian, and the Georgetown campus.

In the month of March, we will continue to see our students participate in multiple educational activities. Here I share some of the highlights:

  • It is an active month for our band program, as our Jazz band will participate in the CSU Stanislaus Jazz Festival (3/2), and our Concert band will participate in the Sonoma State University Band & Orchestra Invitational (3/7)
  • The Senior Mother and Son Mass and Brunch will occur this Sunday (3/4).
  • From 3/8-3/11, the DLS Men of Faith Chorale along with the CHS Women’s Chorale and the joint DLS/CHS Concert Choir are traveling to Anaheim, CA to compete in the Heritage Music Festival. This is the second year of the DLS Men of Faith Chorale’s existence as an academic elective, and we have made significant strides in incorporating theoretical music concepts and applying these to our performance practice. A highlight of the trip will be the opportunity to sing on the Disney SoundStage, which is where voiceover and choral parts are recorded onto the soundtrack of a Disney animated film.
  • Our AP Biology students will compete in the Contra Costa Science and Engineering Fair (an Intel Affiliated Fair) from 3/15-3/17.
  • Our Robotics team will head once again to UC Davis for the FIRST Robotics Competition (3/22-24), for which they have been preparing all year.

We are so proud of the work our young men do. Thank you, again, for sharing your sons with us.


Dr. Heather Alumbaugh
Vice President for Academic Life

February 2018

February 1, 2018

Dear Parents, Guardians, Students, and Friends of De La Salle,

There are so many interesting developments to report, both small and big. Yesterday and today included one of my favorite classroom events of the school year, which many of us affectionately call “the animals are here!” For our Animation & Drawing and Drawing & Painting classes, teachers Mrs. Ricketts and Mrs. DeWeese hosted Classroom Safari, whose volunteers brought a menagerie of animals for our students to render artistically. While I was in class, we met, among other animals, an American alligator named Darth Gator, a paradox albino boa constrictor named Pandora, and a 20-year-old tegu named Ruben. The animals usher in a multi-step assignment, in which students will in one class move from quick renderings, to sustained longer studies of the animals, and ultimately to paintings of the animals in landscapes. The unit asks students to use various artistic techniques, to consider the importance of conservation, and ultimately to use imagination in the service of rendering visible these majestic creatures.

Today witnessed our Recognition Assembly, which celebrates the various academic, service, and athletic achievements of our students. Among the various accomplishments to applaud are the following number of students on our Honor Roll: 42% of Freshmen, 39% of Sophomores, 45% of Juniors, and 48% of Seniors made the Honor Roll at the end of the fall 2017 semester. Congratulations, gentlemen! View the full list here.

This entire week (1/29-2/4) is our Mental Health Awareness Week, and our DLS and CHS students are responsible for planning most of the week’s activities. On Monday January 29th, Mr. Berkes (Religious Studies Department Chair) sent an email to all faculty and staff that included 15 different prayers and inspirational quotes that students in our Service Leadership class compiled to “convey the message of hope amidst the struggles that people may have with mental illness.” I was particularly moved by the time, effort, and thoughtfulness that our students dedicated to this prayer sharing. Please join us on Saturday, February 3rd from 9-11 a.m. for our 8th Annual Laps for Life event; all money raised will go towards organizations that research and work for the prevention of suicide. For more information, visit the website www.bit.ly/DLS-LapsforLife.

This month we are excited to serve as allies to our sisters at Carondelet High School as they participate in the global One Billion Rising movement to raise awareness about the physical and sexual violence suffered by women worldwide. The following week from February 12-16 kicks off our 2nd Annual Respect Week programming, a week in which we further explore our yearlong theme: “Respect for All Persons.” This year we will be examining and highlighting the role men play in creating lasting and positive change:
  • February 12-13 (Lunch): In partnership with the Contra Costa Alliance to End Abuse, students will be encouraged to take the “No More” pledge against interpersonal violence.
  • February 13-14 (Lunch): As part of the Ever Forward Club’s 100K Mask Challenge, students will be invited to examine the masks we wear that conceal our true selves.
  • February 14: Ash Wednesday Prayer Service
  • February 15 (Special Assembly): Mr. Ashanti Branch will conduct a keynote and workshop with students examining the masks of masculinity and challenging our young men to look at the role masks play in their own lives. Mr. Branch was here last year, and we are excited to have him return and continue this important conversation with our young men.
  • February 15 (7:00-9:00 p.m.): De La Salle and Carondelet High Schools are pleased to welcome Dr. Jackson Katz for a special presentation, entitled “Bystander Training as Leadership Training,” on the role our students can take as empowered bystanders and leaders in ending cycles of harassment and violence. All families and students are welcome. Please see this page for additional information about both speakers, and please RSVP for the event!
  • February 16 (Professional Development Day- No Classes for Students): Dr. Katz will conduct a professional development training for faculty, staff, and coaches at both CHS and DLS; this training will be the first in a series at De La Salle that will lead to bystander training for students.
  • February 23: Our Respect Week Programming will extend into the following week to include our 10th annual sponsoring of Day of Silence, which is a day for all people to recognize and support all of those who are silenced through harassment, bullying, put-downs, and mistreatment. This year’s theme is “Use Your Voice.”
As we draw closer to Lent, we think daily of how fortunate we are to be a part of your sons’ academic and spiritual journeys. Thank you.


Dr. Heather Alumbaugh

Vice President for Academic Life

January 2018

January 5, 2018

Dear Parents, Students, and Friends of De La Salle,

Welcome back! We all hope that you and your families had a restful, peaceful, and joyful Christmas break.

We are all furiously preparing for the return of all students next week. Faculty and staff will return next Monday to begin one of two professional days, which will include (among other professional development activities) the second half of a workshop on best practices in working with students who have differentiated learning needs, especially those students with ADHD.

In January, your sons will be receiving academic counseling from teachers and counselors alike, as pre-registration for the 2018-2019 academic year begins February 1st. The course catalogue will be online by the third week of January, and you will notice the addition of a new class: Computer Science. If you have any questions, please reach out to your son’s counselor and/or to Mrs. Mary Ann Mattos, the DLS Director of Academic Services.

Over the past few years, De La Salle has been engaged in a process of examining the prevailing culture of masculinity and its direct impacts on our campus culture. On Wednesday, January 24th at 6:00 p.m., we will host on encore showing and discussion of the documentary The Mask You Live In. The documentary examines how popular culture, peer culture, parents, sports, and schools influence how young men interpret and inhabit their nascent masculinities. We originally presented a showing and discussion of the film last school year. We will also be offering a student viewing during the school day, the details of which will be shared during our daily announcements.

Two experts featured in the film will also be speaking at De La Salle and working with administrators, faculty, staff, parents, and students in February 2018: Ashanti Branch and Dr. Jackson Katz. Watch for a more detailed email introduction to both activists and to the school’s partnership with them in the coming days!

As always, we are so excited to have the opportunity to join your sons’ educational journeys, and we look forward to seeing you back on campus on January 10.


Dr. Heather Alumbaugh
Vice President for Academic Life

December 2017

I did not read Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography until I was a doctoral student in English, and I remember with crystal clarity the day I read it for the following reason: Franklin began the Library Company of Philadelphia in 1731, and he believed that a cornerstone of a healthy democracy is public access to libraries. Until that moment, I had never considered the role of libraries in the creation of the United States. As a lifelong bibliophile, I was absolutely charmed by the idea that the public circulation of books was so wedded to the founding of American democracy. It was with equal delight that I discovered, upon my first year at De La Salle, just how central our own Library is to the functioning of the school. Our three librarians, Ms. Elaine Seed, Mr. Timothy Chu, and Mrs. Brooke Heskett, have many commonalities: They all have an MLS degree (Masters of Library and Information Science), love reading, and create a library as an information hub that makes so much of our academic lives possible. They work daily to bring to life a vision that Benjamin Franklin shared—that access to reliable information, in multiple forms, is a necessity for the creation of ethical citizens. To that end, they offer not only their expertise, but also creative technological solutions and programming.

For instance, they noticed that DLS did not have a “hub” that allowed students to interact with one another technologically as they created group presentations. After research and through their own design, the librarians asked our technology team to build a handful of what they call “Collaboration Hubs,” presentation technology that enables students to work mutually in groups on a single, large screen. The “Collaboration Hubs” allow teachers, students, staff, and administrators alike to merge old fashion group work and collaborative thinking with new technology, and they enable students to polish their written, verbal, and media communication skills. Additional programming includes their creation of STREAM Week in the fall (recapped in the November 2017 Spotlight) and Comic Book Week in the spring. One of the resources that parents may be particularly interested in is the AR (Accelerated Reading) Book Guide, which is one of 40 “Spartan Guides” they have created to help students in their research. http://spartanguides.dlshs.org/

As we move to the end of the semester, I want to celebrate a number of students and faculty. First and foremost, congratulations to our DLS and CHS Theater Company for another thoughtful and moving theatrical staging, which was our fall play The Outsiders. I always attend the matinee when many of our root school students see the play, and it is honestly one of my favorite activities of the year. In the first weekend of November, our Model United Nations club competed in the Diablo Valley College Conference. Branden Ross received a Distinguished Delegate award for working with other delegates to craft recommendations for how Europe could combat the illicit trade of “conflict diamonds” mined in Africa. On November 18th, a group of DLS and CHS students competed and won multiple awards in Ludi Novembres at St. Francis High School in Sacramento; the event is hosted by the California Junior Classical League (CJCL). During the third week of November, a group of DLS faculty and administrators attended and presented at Huether, which is an annual conference that brings together Lasallian educators who focus on innovative educational issues. Dr. Elizabeth Berkes spoke on the opening panel on the Lasallian educator vocation and additionally ran a workshop on Environmental Sustainability. Mr. Scott Drain presented on our SCORE program (Student Coalition on Respectful Education), and Mr. Mike Aquino addressed the topic, “Redefining Brotherhood: Giving Voice to Healthy Masculinity.”

As we move through Advent, I think almost daily about the DLS Toy Drive. It is a concrete reminder of our ethical obligation to one another, and it is a reminder how much our young men and families give. Walking by the many thoughtful contributions humbles us all daily. Thank you.

Finally, let me wish you and your families a restful and joyful Christmas.


Dr. Heather Alumbaugh
Vice President for Academic Life

November 2017


Dear Parents, Students, and Friends of De La Salle,

As October comes to an end and November announces it presence with All Saints’ Day, I am yet again awestruck by the ebb and flow of the school year at DLS. Much of what will be accomplished in November by our students, faculty, and staff began in October. Take, for instance, our ongoing service learning projects, including those connected to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in honor of our beloved teacher, Mr. Jim Olwell. On October 21st, students, faculty, staff, and more participated and raised funds for the “Light the Night” walk; on Friday, October 27th, we hosted the Jim Olwell memorial duck race, which also raised funds for the society. On this Friday, November 3rd, our Be the Match Service Learning project will once again hold a registration drive at our home football game, which will continue to allow us to participate in the largest bone marrow registry in the world.

On the night of October 25th, our Visual and Performing Arts department hosted their first “One Night Only” event, which allowed prospective students to participate in a behind-the-scenes interactive workshop as they rotated between Visual Art, Music, and Theatre. I cannot say enough about the energy, vision, and commitment to Lasallian education that our innovative teachers in that department share, and all were on full display that evening. Our forthcoming play, The Outsiders, will also showcase the significant talent that the VAPA department fosters in our students. Please join us on November 9, 10, 11, 16, and 18 at 7:00 p.m. for the play or on November 12 at 2:00 for the matinee.

Other partnerships that teachers have created for our students these two months add depth both to their curriculum and to their students’ learning. Our Learning Center continues to thrive with the partnerships our coordinators have created. In October alone, we had approximately 350 tutoring appointments. If you need to schedule an appointment or want to learn more about the programs we have there, please visit the Learning Center page here. In Mrs. Joan MacDonald’s junior level religion class, which focuses heavily on the sacraments, she asked her students to participate in “The Kindness Project” in the wake of the Las Vegas shootings. She asked students to paint two rocks as a means to bring God to others’ in to the world, and her instructions specifically requested: “What would your message to the world be? How could you put that simply enough on the rock to bring the message to the world?” To turn the assignment in, they had to take a picture of themselves with the rocks, and the students have until Thanksgiving weekend to physically place them in the world and to photographically document their placements. I invite all of you to follow their efforts after Thanksgiving by joining the Instagram page that Mrs. MacDonald created and the students named: @wintonrocks. For her Biology classes on Mondays November 6th and 13th, Mrs. Acquistapace invited Dr. Vernard Lewis to speak. Dr. Lewis is a UC Berkeley professor who specializes in Urban Pests. Take a look at Dr. Lewis’s illustrious career here.

Finally, let me end by reminding you that in October, our counselors sent an email to you with resources on how to talk about respect with your sons. We heard back from many of you about how this letter helped facilitate conversations and lead to some deep conversations about consent, respect, and more. I thought it prudent to re-share that message in its entirety with you.

As ever, we are grateful to partner with you and your sons on this journey. We are working diligently on adding more program and educational opportunities for our students and parents, and we will share that information with you as it becomes available. We encourage you to speak with your sons and to reach out to the counselors or to me with any questions or concerns you might have.

October 25, 2017 Email to Parents from School Counselors

Live Jesus in Our Hearts.


Dr. Heather Alumbaugh
Vice President for Academic Life

October 2017

Dear Parents, Students, and Friends of De La Salle,

As we approach the end of our first quarter of the 2017-2018 academic year, there are already many students to celebrate. First and foremost, we invite you to join us in congratulating our eight seniors who were named Commended Students in the 2018 National Merit Scholarship Program: Steven Cline, Easton Elting, Grant Gabrielson, Joseph Keane, Kyle McGrath, Bryson Patterson, Laurence Tacderas, and Daniel von Savoye. In addition, we also want to congratulate National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholars Jonathan Avila, Juan Gomez de la Vega, and Nicholas Pilgrim-Minaya.

On September 19th, De La Salle student Shamal Perera '20 was honored at the San Francisco Giants game for his work raising money for Down Syndrome Connection. He was joined at home plate by Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland, DLS Jefferson Award co-moderator Mr. Andrew Berkes, and Jefferson Awards representative Kim Bonney. De La Salle will be celebrating Down Syndrome Awareness week from October 2nd-8th ,with Shamal as one of our student leaders.

From September 22nd-24th, our intrepid Theater Director, Ms. Meredith Barnidge, and other De La Salle faculty escorted a group of De La Salle and Carondelet students on a field trip to Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon. The students and faculty stayed at the Southern Oregon University dorms, and they attended productions that included Merry Wives of Windsor and Shakespeare in Love.

In conjunction with our Lasallian Days of Peace, which will last from September 21st -October 21st, students in some of our freshmen English classes are participating in the “Then and Now Service Learning Project.” In complementing with their reading of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, students make a pledge in response to the prompt: “How can I be a voice for change, compassion, and social justice?” The responses range from mature to insightful, and I share with you some that I captured from Ms. Stevenson’s class: one student wrote “I …commit to try and stop racism on social media. I will prevent others from making racist/sexist jokes” and another wrote, “I … commit to standing up for someone I see that is getting bullied.”

We continue to support many students in our new Learning Center, and it is particularly important for us celebrate the over 100 students who have committed their time as peer tutors. Here are some particularly compelling numbers: we now have 45 National Honors Society tutors, 63 De La Salle Service Learning tutors, 10 Spanish Honors Society tutors, and 6 adult volunteer tutors, all of whom allow us to tutor in every subject area. As of last week, we are averaging 35 scheduled and drop-in tutoring appointments per week.

Before I sign off, let me invite all families and students to two special events that will be part of what we are now calling The Winton Drive Parent Education Series.

  1. On October 5 at 6:30 p.m., join us in the De La Salle Theatre for a special screening of Angst, a documentary that raises awareness of and breaks the stigma around anxiety. For more information, visit this link here.
  2. On October 18 at 6:30 p.m., Carondelet High School is hosting Striking Balance for You and Your Student. Included on a panel of experts will be Mr. Michael Aquino, our Director for Educational Technology. Joining him will be Nutritionist and current DLS parent Celeste Johnson, Life Coach and current DLS parent Torie Henderson, and Dr. Lizette Dolan, Carondelet's VP for Mission and Community Development. Here is a link to that evening.

As always, we thank you for allowing us to be part of your sons’ educational journeys.


Dr. Heather Alumbaugh
Vice President for Academic Life

September 2017

As we begin the 2017-2018 school year at De La Salle, I have been thinking quite a bit about space, both the physical manifestation of brick and mortar buildings as well as the more metaphysical aspects of the concept. We were beyond excited to begin the school year with the opening of a new space, De La Salle’s Learning Center; it is bright, open, flexible, and inviting. Philosophically and pragmatically, the Learning Center offers the support necessary for students to become life-long learners while achieving academic success at De La Salle. This support includes helping students assess, identify, and advocate for their individual needs, while developing practical skills to carry with them as they enter college and participate in the global community following graduation. The Learning Center offers multiple academic services, including ASL, Study Skills, Study Hall, Tutoring, as well as extended-time and make-up testing. It is open daily Monday-Thursdays from 8:00-6:00 and closed after school on Fridays. In keeping with our Lasallian tradition, all are welcome.

It is staffed by a group of coordinators who bring many years of experience helping students achieve academic, athletic, and life goals. Mr. Jon Norfolk, our new Learning Center Coordinator, has a Master of Arts in Education: Organizational and Leadership; Mr. Sean Bristol ‘97, Learning Needs and Spartan Success Coordinator, has a credential in Special Education and more than 15-years experience in public and private schools; and Mr. Greg MacArthur ‘03, Student Support Coordinator and Bishop Cummins Coordinator, has a Master of Arts in Catholic School Leadership. We invite all families to visit the new space during Back to School Night!

As some of you may already know, a group of 38 students, faculty, and two administrators made the long journey to Maupin, Oregon to witness the "path of totality" of the August 21 solar eclipse. Mr. Spencer Shively, our Science Department Chair, spent months planning the trip, and I was excited to be one of the adults accompanying the students on the trip. NASA set up camp just a few miles away from where we witnessed a natural and spiritual event that I can only describe as astonishing. As a lifelong educator, I have always believed in the profound value of a strong liberal arts education, an education that asks us to intentionally link the discoveries of multiple disciplines, from English to Science to Art to Religion. Witnessing the total eclipse reminded me, and I dare say all involved, that the reason that the liberal arts tradition exists in the first place is to give us the knowledge and language necessary to attempt to make sense of these types of experiences of wonder. Our science experience segued into a spiritual experience and ended in an art project. One student, Dawson Diaz, took pictures that impressed us so much that our Director of Faculty Development, Dr. Elizabeth Berkes, reached out to multiple media outlets to invite them to interview him and the other students on the trip. Check out the segment on KPIX linked here.

I also want to introduce our new Math teacher, Mrs. Roselle Macariola. She comes to us from St. Patrick – St. Vincent, where she was the co-chair of the Math Department with Mr. Matt Boyle and the sole chair after he left to join us here at DLS last year. She is starting her eighteenth year of teaching and has a Master’s Degree in Education from SF State as well as two teaching credentials.

Please join me in welcoming both her and Jon Norfolk to our faculty.

Before I sign off, I want to celebrate the hard work of the instructors and students alike that accomplished at the end of last school year a 100% AP pass rate on their respective AP Exams. Congratulations to Mrs. Marnell’s AP Calculus AB class, Mr. Marcheschi’s AP Latin class, and Mr. Diaz’s AP Spanish class.

Again, welcome back to all families. We are so thankful and delighted to be working with your sons.

Thank you,

Dr. Heather Alumbaugh
Vice President for Academic Life

2016-17 School Year

May 2017

Letter from Dr. Heather Alumbaugh

Heather Alumbuagh, Ph.D.
Vice President for Academic Life
(925) 288-8139

Letter From Mrs. Mary Ann Mattos

ACADEMIC AWARDS will be presented on Tuesday, May 23 at 7:00 p.m. We are looking forward to this very special evening when we honor students from the 9th-11th grades for academic excellence in all subject areas offered at De La Salle. You will receive an invitation in the mail if your son is slated to receive an award.

FINAL EXAMS are scheduled for May 26, May 30, and May 31 for Freshmen, Sophomores and Juniors. (See schedule above.) Students should plan to spend a reasonable amount of time preparing for these exams. Activities should be limited in the week or so before the exams to give sufficient time for preparation. If you have a concern about your son’s standing in a class, please feel free to contact your son’s teacher directly. I encourage you to check your son’s academic progress on PowerSchool at this time and in the next few weeks. Remember that tutorial help is available every day at 7th period. In addition, we are providing additional support in our Academic Support Center (Room 409) after 7th period. The schedule for final exams will be as follows:

FINAL GRADES: Final grades will be sent out during the week of June 5. Students will be able to see their final grades as well as final exam grades on PowerSchool as soon as they are posted. Grades are due to the office on June 2. We will be closing down the parent/student portal for viewing during final exams (beginning May 26) and until grades are posted on June 3 to allow the faculties from both DLS and CHS appropriate time to get final assessments graded. Final transcripts for Seniors will be sent out by the end of June.

2017-18 CLASS SCHEDULES will be visible on PowerSchool by mid-July. Final placement in Honors and AP courses is determined by the respective departments based upon second semester grades received in June. Letters of appeal for an honors course may be sent to Mrs. Mattos, who will forward them to Department Chairs. Students have been adjusting their course selections with Mrs. Mattos since the beginning of April, as needed. Since students had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with their counselors, the classes chosen should have been accurately and carefully chosen.

SUMMER SCHOOL IS REQUIRED for make-up of any semester F grades earned during this school year. If your son is in danger of receiving an F for the second half of this year, take care of enrollment in summer school NOW for any places offering summer school! Have your son see his counselor now regarding the course(s) and credits he needs to make up, and get an approval signature on the concurrent enrollment form from Mrs. Mattos. Your local public school district offers only VERY LIMITED summer school courses in many areas, due to budget issues. DVC and LMC are also options, but the class choices are limited, and students need to see me to get a concurrent enrollment form. There will be summer school available at both Bishop O’Dowd and Salesian High School. Brochures are available for some of these programs at local sites, and can be found on the bulletin board outside the Registrar’s Office or from Mrs. Mattos directly. Our online summer school options may be the best choice for most students. Visit our Summer Academic Program page for more information.

Students who earned D grades may wish to retake courses in summer school. Colleges and universities will not accept D grades in entrance-required courses, i.e. core courses such as English, Math, Social Studies, Science, etc. Your son may also need to retake a course to meet prerequisites for a course he plans to take next year. Please see the separate section about special on-line summer school make up possibilities. Visit our Summer Academic Program page here more information.

SUMMER SCHOOL ONLINE MAKE UP: Our Director of Online Learning, Mr. Donald Van Bomel, has several venues and options for online course remediation. Please contact him directly at (925) 288-8100 x8160 or VanBomeld@dlshs.org for more information. Students can also go see Mr. Van Bomel in the Student Services Building on the second floor to obtain information and direction. Please note that for Biology, we will have a summer make-up class on campus that will satisfy the UC/CSU requirement for lab sciences.



May 16, 2017
May 17, 2017
May 18, 2017
7:15 - 8:05Period 0Period 0Period 0
8:15 - 9:35Period 6*Period 3*Period 2*
9:35 - 9:55BreakBreakBreak
9:55 - 11:25Period 1*Period 5*Period 4* (until 11:15)
11:25 - 12:20LunchLunchLunch
12:20 - 1:40Period 4Period 2Period 3
(dismissed to Field Day
by Mr. Aliotti)
1:45 - 3:15Period 7Period 7 (until 2:30)n/a

*All Classes Meet / Seniors Take Finals

juniors, sophomores, and freshmen


Friday, May 26Tuesday, May 30Wednesday, May 31
8:15 - 9:45Period 2Period 5Period 6
9:45 - 10:15BreakBreakBreak
10:15 - 11:45Period 4Period 1Period 3
11:45 - 11:55AnnouncementsAnnouncementsAnnouncements
12:15 - 1:45Period 7Period 0n/a
12:15 - 1:45Period 7Period 0

April 2017

April 5, 2017

Dear Parents, Students, and Friends of De La Salle,

When I lived in New York City, my husband and I were avid theater fans, which is why in the 2008 theater season we saw four different versions of Macbeth, including one in Polish. The current school’s production of the very same Shakespearean play is, simply put, amazing. The set design, acting, lighting, and direction are all superb, and it is as memorable as the many professional productions of Macbeth that I have seen. Brava, Company!

March witnessed many academic accomplishments for our students. On March 16 and 17, a number of our AP Biology students exhibited their research and inventions at the Contra Costa Science and Engineering Fair. The standards to place 4th/3rd/2nd/1st are very high, and the Sophomores compete in a larger group with Juniors and Seniors from throughout the County. The work is judged for creativity, design, logic, thoroughness, problem solving, interviewing, and clarity of writing. It is with great pride that we congratulate our AP Biology Brotherhood and announce that all DLS AP Biology students placed at the competition! Eric Andre and Tanner Mercer won 1st Place and advance to the prestigious State Science Fair.

Also in March, three teams of Latin students competed in Certamen, a team-based trivia contest revolving around questions based not only on Latin, but also Roman mythology, history, and culture. The students have spent the past few months studying in their spare time in preparation for this contest. Their hard work paid off: every team managed to score enough points to qualify for the state semifinals, which will be held at the California Junior Classical League state convention this April. The Latin I team consisted of Sophia Hermelin, Jack Killeen, Antonio Renghini and Luke Taylor. The Latin III team consisted of William Cumbelich and the AP Latin team was comprised of Luke Giuntoli, Alexander Sintic, and Rohan Castelino. Congratulations to all of you, and good luck in the semi-finals!

The Robotics Club was at UC Davis on March 23-25 for the FIRST Robotics Competition. After nine qualifying matches, they were ranked 9th out of 56 teams, which allowed them to be a team captain in the playoffs for the first time. They made it to the semifinals and were eliminated after a couple of very close matches.

Finally, when you walk on campus this spring, remember to check out our inaugural member of the Spartan Garden that our Science staff has been nurturing all year.


Dr. Heather Alumbaugh