Ulloa Elementary Honored as 'Distinguished School'
By Judith Kahn
Ulloa Elementary School is situated in the Sunset District where the weather is sometimes foggy and the sun shows sparingly. However, the atmosphere at Ulloa Elementary School is bright and invigorating.
Ulloa Elementary School, located at 2650 42nd Ave., received a Distinguished School of the Year award for 2008. It was one of the 343 elementary schools across California to receive the honor.
It is quite an honor given the difficulties of working with a very diverse school population. Half of the student population when they first arrive at Ulloa may know a few vocabulary words in English, but many struggle to complete a sentence verbally. Thus, it is crucial to have a good bilingual program at Ulloa.
Principal Carol Fong is proud of Ulloa's bilingual curriculum. She says it is the only one of its kind that exists in the Sunset District at the elementary school level.
Fong came to the United States from Hong Kong at the age of 10. She said she did not speak a word of English when she arrived.
"I did not speak a word of English - I didn't even know the alphabet," Fong said.
For this reason, she is sensitive to the needs of students who speak limited English. At Ulloa there is a conscious effort made by the teachers and administration to create an atmosphere that supports students at Ulloa, regardless of the grade level.
Realizing the importance of one-on-one attention, Fong sometimes makes tough fiscal decisions. If she has to choose between buying new equipment or expanding her resources, she will opt for more people. For example, Fong has hired a poet- in-residence teacher who helps second grade students with their writing. The focus of the program is to help children discover their own voice.
A part-time math teacher was also hired. He provides one-on-one services for Latino and Asian students who are behind in math.
Then there are the four bilingual professionals helping English as a Second Language (ESL) students. They also have acquired grants which support a nutritionist and a creative artist program.
Fong is proud of the special education program at Ulloa which is run by to Laurie Rosencranz.
She commented that Rosencranz is a knowledgeable, compassionate mentor.
She is a true advocate for the kids, Fong says.
Students in the bilingual program are taught English from kindergarten to the third grade. If students are not fluent in English by third grade, they get the support of a professional, who is bilingual, until they achieve sufficient fluency to stand on their own. Usually this is not needed.
Fong said the student's English skills in the bilingual program often surpass or excel those of native English-speaking students.
The goals of the computer program at Ulloa are used to enhance its core curriculum and to teach the students basic computer skills. The programs service all students from kindergarten through fifth grade levels. Students expand their vocabulary skills by using DVD's that come with the mandated Houghton-Mifflin language arts program. Other educational links used are Brain-pops, which engage students in active learning.
Some of the basic computer skills students learn are how to use a mouse correctly, how to save material, and how to create a file.
Another ingredient which makes Ulloa a successful school, says Fong, is the parents' strong commitment to the school. Annually, a walkathon is held to raise funds. In the past, $19,000 was raised during the event. Students ask for pledges from friends and relatives, whatever amount they deemed appropriate, to walk around the perimeter of the school yard. The participants walk anywhere from 10 to 12 laps.
Another annual fundraising event is the Scholastic Book Fair, organized by the PTA. The Scholastic Publishing Company delivers books and other items to the school. Teachers bring the classes to the book fair and students purchase them. Ulloa gets 30 percent of the total profits from the book fair.
Fong enjoys watching the progress the students are making daily and the staff's continual commitment to increasing its knowledge and sharing it with others so their classrooms prove to be an active learning center for students. For Fong, that makes coming to work a joy.