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Spotlight on Academic Life

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

May 2017

May 2017 Letter from Dr. Heather Alumbaugh

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

As we approach the end of the 2016-2017 academic school year, I have been thinking constantly about one of my favorite poems, written by doctor-poet William Carlos Williams and entitled “The Red Wheelbarrow.” The poem reads:

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Originally published in 1923 as "Poem XXII" in Williams’s collection Spring and All, the poem has polarized public opinion for generations. In my own classrooms, students have either loved it or hated it. I have always been a committed fan of the poem, not only because of its elegance, deceptive simplicity, and visual appeal, but also and more importantly because of how I have interpreted its content for three decades. The poem, to me, has always been a beautiful meditation on the simple aspects of our everyday lives upon which we depend. It invites the reader to contemplate what aspects of the reader’s life are crucially important but perhaps overlooked.

As we approach the end of the school year, this poem resonates with me deeply because we have so much for which we can be grateful at De La Salle High School, so much to celebrate, so much to embrace. The triumphs our students experience both big and small depend upon so many people, depend upon a dedicated group, from parents and siblings and grandparents to coaches, staff, and faculty. These same groups also promote our students’ abilities to be resilient and to persist. The amazing support that Mr. Jim Olwell received as he battled cancer and the fact that so many are gathering tonight at De La Salle High School to celebrate his life testify to a community that depends upon one another to triumph, to change, to grow, to struggle, and to mourn.

In a few weeks, we will graduate the class of 2017 and that would not be possible without the hard work of our students and their families as well as their mutual sacrifice, commitment, faith, and idiosyncratic journeys. I want to take this moment to end our school year by celebrating not only our students, but also our families. Let’s metaphorically celebrate “The Red Wheelbarrow” upon which so much depends. Thank you, as always, for allowing us to be part of your sons’ educational journeys.


Dr. Heather Alumbaugh
Vice President for Academic Life

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

May 2017 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.

Spring 2017 Final Exam Schedule



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

5 April 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

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