A monthly update from the Whittier Union High School DIstrict.
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May 2021


Dear Whittier Union High School Community,
As we near the end of the 2020-21 school year, I want to thank our entire school community – including our students, classified and certificated employees and parents – for their patience during a year that challenged us all.
At Whittier Union, we pride ourselves in our vision to do Whatever It Takes to ensure our students have the tools and resources they need to reach academic and personal success.
I am thrilled to share that since the District’s reopening on April 6, we have had no cases of transmission of COVID-19 on any of our campuses. The use of our protocols – which include symptom screenings, temperature checks, face masks and social distancing – have shown effectiveness.

Additionally, thanks to partnerships with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Community Advisory Council and PIH Health Whittier Hospital, Whittier Union has been able to offer the COVID vaccine to our interested students and family members. Vaccine rates at the District run from 52.6% to 61.5% – which help ensure a healthy and safe environment on campus for our students and staff.

As we plan for the full reopening of our schools in August, Whittier Union will continue to follow all of these health and safety protocols to ensure our students safe return for the 2021-22 school year.
May is also Mental Health Awareness Month, and an excellent time to remind our students and families of the support and resources Whittier Union offers, emphasizing our commitment to the health and wellness of our school community. Visit our website for more information on our resources and our student well-being program.
In just a few short days, our Class of 2021 will be celebrated with in-person graduation ceremonies at our District stadiums. We are so excited to have the opportunity to honor them for their successes while at Whittier Union, and look forward to seeing them walk across the stage and receive their diploma. Thank you to everyone who played a role in making this possible. 
Martin J. Plourde

Whittier Union Partners with PIH Health to Administer Vaccine to Students

A student from Whittier Union High School District receives the vaccine from a PIH Health Whittier Hospital nurse.

On May 18, Whittier Union students received their first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, thanks to a partnership with PIH Health Whittier Hospital. Whittier Union is grateful for the partnership and opportunity to provide the vaccine to students who are interested in receiving it. If you have questions regarding the vaccine and upcoming clinics, email us at

Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council Honored at Special Recognition Event

From left to right: Superintendent Martin Plourde; Destinee Yepez, Sierra Vista; Julian Pizano, La Serna; Savanna Aguayo, Santa Fe; Victoria Wilkerson, Pioneer; Alejandra Santiago, Whittier; Sabina Schaefer, Cal High.
The Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council was honored during a socially-distanced recognition ceremony on May 11, where they received certificates of appreciation for their dedication to representing their schools during the 2020-221 school year. Each student, joined by their family, was also awarded a Superintendent’s Advisory Council medal.

Whittier Union High Schools Place in Top 25% on Best High Schools List

Whittier Union’s five comprehensive high schools have been listed among the top performing public schools in the state and nation – ranking in the top 25% – according to the 2021 Best High Schools rankings by U.S. News and World Report.

California, La Serna, Pioneer, Santa Fe and Whittier high schools have earned high rankings among approximately 1,675 high schools in California. Additionally, Santa Fe placed among the top 12% in the country.

Whittier Union’s strong college and career readiness programs were amplified on the list, as each school boasted a graduation rate of 95% or higher – keeping Whittier Union on-target for its graduation rate of more than 90%.

To read more, click HERE.

Pioneer High School Recognized as a 2021 California Distinguished High School

For the first time in school history, Whittier Union’s Pioneer High School been recognized as a 2021 California Distinguished School from the California Department of Education.
Pioneer boasts a graduation rate of 94.6%, and serves its students through rigorous college and career readiness programs and robust intervention policies.

The school provides an Expanded Horizons program, which offers students advice on how to acquire financial aid, fill out a college application, sharpen computer skills and complete A-G requirements, working with District partners such as Rio Hondo College, Tri-City ROP and Cal State Long Beach’s Cal-SOAP.

Expanded Horizons also provides English learners with resources to boost their academic performance and to assist them in preparing for the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC) exam.

Pioneer is an Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) National Demonstration School, an honor accorded to only 3% of all AVID programs nationwide. AVID focuses on ensuring underrepresented students have a pathway to higher education.

Click HERE to read more!

La Serna High School Receives 2021 California Distinguished School Honor

Whittier Union’s La Serna High School has been recognized as a 2021 California Distinguished High School, receiving the honor from the California Department of Education for the fifth time.
La Serna boasts a graduation rate of 93.2%, and serves its students through rigorous college and career readiness programs and robust intervention policies.

La Serna provides an Expanded Horizons program, which offers students advice on how to acquire financial aid, fill out a college application, sharpen computer skills and complete A-G requirements, working with District partners such as Rio Hondo College, Tri-City ROP and Cal State Long Beach’s Cal-SOAP. Expanded Horizons also provides English learners with resources to boost their academic performance and to assist them in preparing for the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC) exam.

The school's Puente Program is a University of California-sponsored academic program that combines writing, counseling, and mentoring and an interdisciplinary, multicultural curriculum to help students become college eligible.

The school's student leadership component includes the OASIS and HAVEN programs, which assist struggling sophomores and juniors by teaming them with student mentors. Stressing core values such as accountability, respect, and compassion, OASIS and HAVEN have helped improve the lives of La Serna students.

For more information, click

Whittier High School Correspondence Chess Players Gain National Prominence

Whittier High School Correspondence Chess Players from left to right: Isabel Luna, Soledad DeAguayo, Mary Lusinyan, Sadie Cruz, Sophia Reyna, Amanda Guevara and Samantha Silva. Not pictured: Ena Pejovski.

When Whittier High School senior Isabel Luna joined the school’s Chess Club, she was looking to challenge herself and connect with her peers in a way that went beyond Zoom conferencing. At first intimidated by what she perceived was a male-dominant sport, Luna learned that chess can be mastered with patience and dedication.

Quarantining at home, Luna discovered correspondence chess, which is typically played through the postal system or email. Through correspondence chess Luna has sharpened her skills in the comfort of her home, gained new friends, and exercised her brain. In the process, Luna has emerged as one of the top-ranked female correspondence chess players in the United States.

Luna and more than a half dozen of her Whittier High Chess Club teammates are listed in the U.S. Chess Federation’s Top 20 Women Correspondence players for April 2021. Whittier High students occupy places 8 to 15 on the list.

The growing interest and participation of Whittier High students enabled Chess Club adviser Kele Perkins to secure a $2,500 grant from U.S. Chess Women to develop its correspondence program.

Click HERE to read more.

Santa Fe High School Senior Receives $20,000 Destiny Scholarship from Santa Fe Springs Chamber

Santa Fe High School senior Madison Kelly will pursue her dream of studying aquatic mammals and ecosystems at UC San Diego – on her way to a career as a marine biologist – with the help of a $20,000 Destiny Scholarship, awarded annually by the City of Santa Fe Springs Chamber of Commerce.

Kelly – recognized as an exceptional graduating senior by the chamber – has completed six Advanced Placement classes, five Honors classes, is listed as one of Santa Fe’s Top 100 students and has competed on Santa Fe’s swim and water polo teams. Kelly is also a public programs docent for the Ocean Institute of Dana Point.

“This is an amazing honor and receiving the Destiny Scholarship is an incredible gift,” Kelly said. “Thank you to all the wonderful people who have helped shape me into who I am today. I am so excited to continue my education and keep moving forward with the support of family, friends and the City of Santa Fe Springs. Thank you to the community. I love our city!”

Kelly is active in Santa Fe club life, serving as president of the school’s Youth Alive club for three years. She is a member of the Art and Fashion Club, Link Crew, theater, and the Comedy Sportz improv group, and also serves as an academic mentor.

Click HERE to read more!

California High School Senior Receives Acceptance to Johnson and Wales University Culinary School

California High School senior Anthony Gutierrez will pursue his passion for cooking at Johnson and Wales University, where he has been accepted into the university’s culinary school and will pursue a degree in nutrition. Inspired by the work of famous Los Angeles Chef Marco Zapien, Gutierrez’s goal is to become a chef for a professional sports team.

In addition to his university acceptance, Gutierrez was invited to the Rhode Island campus – all expenses paid – to compete in a soccer tournament, based on a video that highlighted his athletic skill. Gutierrez impressed the coaches during the tournament and was later offered a position on the Johnson and Wales University soccer team.

At California High School, students have the opportunity to join a variety of different industry-specific academies. Gutierrez was part of the school’s Culinary Academy, which played a major role in igniting his passion for cooking.

To learn more about the Culinary Academy, click HERE.

Frontier High School Named 2021 Model Continuation High School

Frontier High School is one of 27 schools in the state to be recognized by the California Department of Education and the California Continuation Education Association as a 2021 Model Continuation High School.

This marks the eighth time that Frontier High School has been honored with the three-year designation.

Frontier High School administrators and staff will receive the award during the Model Schools Gala celebration held Friday, Sept. 17.

Frontier received the honor for its dedication to students, ensuring that at-risk students stay on track by implementing innovative programs that address their academic and social-emotional needs.

The schools were selected based on a comprehensive and competitive application process that involves effectiveness, assessments and use of data. The process included a peer review panel and a virtual on-site visit to validate the schools and the programs they have implemented to drive student success.

“We are so honored to receive the designation as a 2021 Model Continuation School,” Principal Margie Moriarty said. “This would not be possible without our team of educators, who go above and beyond for our students every single day. We are so proud to provide our students with a strong system of support, in an environment that fosters achievement and learning.”

Sierra Vista High School’s Intervention Program Focuses on Student Well-Being

Sierra Vista High School Teacher Steve Williams works with a student on Zoom during the intervention class.
Sierra Vista High School launched an intervention class in 2020-21, focused on helping students manage their stress to better achieve their personal and academic goals.

Students work through an anxiety counseling curriculum and discuss tools and solutions with one another. Using a stress assessment called Perceived Stress, students took pre- and post-surveys, and the data collected showed student anxiety dropping as much as 62% due to the intervention class.

As COVID-19 conditions continued throughout the school year, students were faced with new challenges. In response, the program was restructured to focus on increasing student engagement and academic output. It was also expanded to reach over 80 students – and 53 students are currently attending the class weekly.

Students are led through social engagement and counseling lessons, and given time to work on their academic goals. The goal of the program is to encourage students to establish daily goals and work habits; they even received nightly accountability texts to help encourage and motivate them to reach their goals.

Whittier Union Transition Students Take Part in Campus Garden 

Whittier Union Transition Program students are helping maintain the site’s garden space by planting vegetables, following a watering schedule and monitoring the growth of the vegetables. Students have been working on the garden since the program was granted an area on campus in October 2018.

For the remainder of the 2018-2019 school year, students and staff prepped the area by cleaning out debris, removing weeds and leveling out the spaces, as well as developed a blueprint of the garden and generated a list of materials that would be needed. Through the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), the transition program was able to purchase materials such as tools, garden shred, lumber for planter boxes, a picnic table and umbrellas.

In total, the garden now includes 11 beds, two mobile planters that are accessible for students who use wheelchairs, and a walkway made from pavers to help students access the garden.

When students returned to campus in April – following a year of remote learning – they continued right where they left off; weeds were removed, the soil was prepped and seeds were planted. Students are currently growing cilantro, summer squash, watermelon, pumpkins, radishes, melon, tomatoes, jalapeno, oregano, parsley and basil.

“The garden has allowed students an opportunity to experience something new and develop new skills that they can take with them after they complete the program,” Transition Teacher Darla Breiling said. “Working in the garden has been very therapeutic for our students and it provides a sense of hope. We’ve had failures along the way, but those failures are also teachable moments.”

Whittier Adult School Students Graduate from Quarter 3 Electrician Course

Whittier Union Adult School recently celebrated its graduates from the Quarter 3 Electrician Program, honoring them for their dedication and commitment to their studies. The class is designed to prepare students to enter the Union Apprenticeship Program at the Electrical Institute in the City of Commerce, and to assist with interview preparation. The hands-on Electrician Program provides students with the knowledge and skills they need to eventually gain licensure as California Residential Journeyman Electricians.

Visit Whittier Union Adult School’s website for more information on available courses.

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Dr. Ralph S. Pacheco

Dr. Russell Castañeda-Calleros
Vice President

Jeff Baird
Leighton Anderson

Jaime Lopez

Martin Plourde
The Whittier Union High School District provides all students with an engaging, quality standards-based instructional program delivered by a well-trained staff resulting in improved student achievement.  Whittier Union High School District works to achieve and maintain excellence in providing a comprehensive education for all students.
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