Notes from the Office

  • Figuring Out What Matters

    Posted by VP Communications on 12/20/2019

    “Things that matter most should never be at the mercy of things that matter least.” Goethe


    At this very busy time of year, both personally and professionally, I thought a reflection on the never ending dimension of time would be very relevant. My message is not one that delves into the Christmas theme, but rather one that has ample application to the holiday season. It seems all throughout the year that there just isn’t enough time to accomplish all that we desire. Time, regardless of how much we want to get done, keeps passing from minute to minute, class period to class period, sun-rise to sunset, throughout our lifetime. Do you ever feel stretched for time, like me? Do you leave loose ends at the end of the day? Do you often wonder how you are going to get it all done? I have come to the realiza­tion that time constraints will always be present and that I will never get it all done. I know that we all strive to be the best people that we can be. In order to be our best, it is necessary that we take care of ourselves. So what can we do to manage all of our life activities, both professionally and personally? I have come to find comfort in one of Richard Carlson’s (1997) many strategies from his book titled, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff—And It’s All Small Stuff. His strategy (slightly tweaked) is as follows:

    Learn to Live in the Present Moment

    To a large degree, the measure of our peace of mind is determined by how much we are able to live in the present moment. Irrespective of what happened yesterday or last year and of what may or may not happen tomorrow, the present moment is where you are always. Without question, many of us have mastered the art of spending much of our lives worrying about a variety of things all at once. We allow past problems and future concerns to dominate our present moments, so much so that we end up anxious, frustrated, and hopeless. On the flip side, we also postpone our gratification, our stated priorities, and our happiness, often convincing ourselves that someday will be better than today. Unfortunately, the same mental dynamics that tell us to look toward the future will only repeat themselves so that someday will never actually arrive. As John Lennon once said on the subject, “Life is what’s happening when we are busy making other plans.” When we are busy making other plans, our children are busy growing up, the people we love are moving away, our bodies are get­ting out of shape, and we feel our dreams are slipping away. In short, if we don’t live in the present moment we might miss out on life.

    Many people live life as if it were a dress rehearsal for some later date. It isn’t. In fact, no one has a guarantee that there will be a tomorrow. Now is the only time we have, and it is the only time over which we have any control. When our attention is in the present mo­ment, we push fear from our minds. Fear is a concern over events that might happen in the future. The copying machine might break, the internet may go down, our students will not meet the stan­dard on the standardized test, and so on. To combat this fear, the best strategy is to learn to bring your attention back to the present or a demonstration I witnessed at a leadership training years ago.  

    At the training the presenter pulled out a wide-mouth gallon jar and placed it next to a pile of fist-sized rocks. After filling the jar to the top with rocks, he asked, “Is the jar full?” The group replied, “Yes,” in unison. Next, the presenter got some gravel from under the table and added it to the jar. The speaker jiggled the jar until the gravel filled the spaces between the rocks. Again, he asked, “Is the jar full?”   “No!” the group shouted back.  Finally, the speaker filled the jar to the brim with water and asked the group what was the point of the exercise. Someone replied that you could always fit more things into your life if you really worked at it.  “No,” countered the speaker, “the point is if you didn’t put the big rocks in first, would you have ever gotten them in?”

    As we bring this year to a close, think of the “big rocks” in your life as the things you can do to make next year a happier and more productive year for yourself and others. What are your big rocks? Can you identify and define them? Then, prioritize your big rocks, making sure they are taken care of first, not only for this holiday season but also for the time to come.

    Have a peaceful, blessed holiday season.

    —Mr. Avent

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  • Try, Try Again...

    Posted by VP Communications on 12/13/2019

    “Failure is part of success, an integral part. Everybody gets knocked down. Knowing it will happen and what you must do when it does is the first step back.”  — Bill Walsh, San Francisco 49ers (1979-1988)

    As we approach the final weeks of the calendar year, adults frequently find ourselves reflecting and revisiting our fears and failures over the last twelve months. We consider what we could have done differently or how we could have faced challenges with more courage. We overthink our decisions and question ourselves. I realized this week that our students may actually have already found the answer to facing difficulty and persevering through challenges and that they have shown us how not to fall into a well of self-doubt. And if you feel like you already have, let’s let the students be the ones who show us how to find a rope and climb out.  I’m proud to say after what I’ve seen this month at Montera, our students are growing and persisting despite fear or failure. 

    For example, after arriving mid-match to Saturday’s Volleyball playoff game between Montera and Elmhurst, I was shocked to see that Montera was losing by 3 points. I knew that we have a strong team, but we were facing a dominating server from Elmhurst and we were falling behind. I was concerned that we might not make it to the Championship finals after all. After only a few minutes in the gym, though, my attitude changed as I noticed the positive encouragement between teammates on the court. Our volleyball players were constantly supporting each other after every missed play or mistake. When we finally won back the serve, Kiana Diaz stepped up to serve the ball and continued scoring point after point. With this encouragement, the team took on a level of confidence that was missing moments before.    To avoid giving a long play by play, Montera came back to win the game and advance to the finals. Kiana took that “first step back” towards overcoming game challenges, and, in refusing to stay knocked down, she helped lift our team back up. 

    Also, this week students from our Music, Art, and Woodshop classes displayed their talents for all to see in our Music and Art exhibitions.  After listening to the Choir sing “Someday at Christmas” and the Orchestra perform “Atishbaji” and the band “Georgia On My Mind,” I could not help but wonder how many notes were missed in the last three months or how many times our students were “knocked down” in practice.  I thought of all of the instruments left at home, the sheets of music crumpled in a backpack and the tension in the classroom when the piece just didn’t sound right. And yet, with the courageous leadership of our two, new Music Teachers and their parent partners, our students performed, and they performed well. Viewing the student’s art I asked myself how many complained about the paint or sawdust, how many needed guidance in trying a new technique or medium, or how many got stuck along the way.  Yet, as I watched our hallways transform and light up with the great work of our students, I realized that despite any challenges, they too had overcome to create pieces of art. Wow! It is amazing how much we can learn from students by watching them overcome fear and failures.

    So this year, I want to encourage our adult community to recognize that the learning and growing our students are doing takes courage and commitment and that they are consistently rising to occasion. I’d like to encourage our teachers to notice and celebrate these moments when we see our students take “first steps back” and give them the acknowledgment they deserve. I am so proud of our students for reminding us all how to persevere. 

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  • Motivating & Caring

    Posted by VP Communications on 12/6/2019

    “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Stephen Covey

    “To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.” Henry David Thoreau


    The things society throw at our students makes it hard for them to be motivated to learn. For the school communities, this task can seem nearly impossible and ex­hausting, especially when students enter our schools with no ma­terials but lots of baggage, past failures, academic frustrations, social media, and less-than-ideal attitudes. 

    Robert Harris (1991), a writer and educator with more than 25 years of teaching experience, writes about how what we do in school communities can be compared to the game of baseball:

    Think about a group of young people playing a baseball game. The very things that motivate them to work hard and do well playing baseball can be adapted to schools:

    Teamwork: Young people like working as a team. Yet often the learning activities we assign call for individual effort. By designing more team assignments, we can reap the benefits of teamwork. The weaker students will learn by having others help them. And, since teaching someone something is the best way to learn, the students who teach each other will learn better than if they were learning alone.

    Fun: Sports are fun, exciting, and highly emotional. Learning expe­riences should be, too. Strong and lasting memory is connected with the emotional state and experience of the learner. People remember more when the learning is accompanied by strong emo­tions.

    Enjoyment of Success: Playing a game provides a constant flow of accomplishments. Even the players on the losing team enjoy a strikeout, a good hit, a great catch. Breaking learning into smaller parts that can more easily be conquered, producing feelings of ac­complishment and success, will help motivate students to go forward, even though very difficult material.

    Activity: A baseball game is definitely not passive—it requires both mental and physical activity. Schools should strive to make learn­ing always mentally active and often physically active as well.

    Flexibility and Creativity: Baseball has rules, but within those rules, the players have a range of choices and strategies for accomplish­ing a given goal. Students learn better when the directions have some flexibility and they can put some of “themselves” into the as­signment.

    On a more personal level, I have tried countless strategies to moti­vate low-performing students with varying degrees of success and high levels of frustration (mostly mine). The one strategy that consis­tently works for me, though, is caring. I do know that our staff are all caring individuals, or else we wouldn’t be in this noble profession called education. What I’m talking about, though, is taking caring to the next level:

    Allowing ourselves to be human in front of our students. Share sto­ries, lessons learned, mistakes made. Young people are quite insecure at this age. They need to see the person, not just the teacher or authority figure.

    Developing a relationship with our students. Try to learn about our students’ lives outside of school. It can make a world of differ­ence, especially when their home situation is less than ideal.

    Setting goals with individual students. For one student, it might be an attendance goal. For another, it might concern disruptive be­havior. And remember to check on their progress. Your concern and approval might be the only reward needed.

    Enlisting the help of families.

    I would love to say that Montera has embraced all of these ideals. Yet I prefer the idea that we are a good school moving toward them and I’m confident that the wonderful work that the Montera Community has done this year will push us closer. Let’s never forget that it truly “takes a village” for Middle School children, because they require that constant push. Just don’t give up, for long after the content has been forgotten, the school community will be remembered.


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  • Thanksgiving Message from Mr. Avent

    Posted by VP Communications on 11/22/2019

    When asked to identify what made the school so good, every person, without fail, said it was the people of the school: the children, the fam­ilies, and, most importantly, the staff. Nobody said, “We have a really great computer lab” or “a brand-new reading textbook.”

    (Eaker, DuFour, & DuFour, 2002)

    Many of you are probably too young to even remember Natalie Cole’s song “Be Thankful”  and with the Thanksgiving holidays swiftly approaching, I thought appropriate to simply offer heartfelt thanks to all of you for enriching the lives of our students and me. 

    I’m deeply thankful for our staff at Montera. In many ways, their individual and collective greatness mirror that of our overall staff. We have a returning veteran administrator in Ms. Rasheed. With several years of experience as an assistant principal at Montera, Ms. Rasheed possesses valuable expertise and insights that help us all. She offers consistently sound advice and judgment; Her organi­zational skills and meticulous attention to details are unsurpassed. In Mr. Smith, we have a staff member who is changing roles at Montera just this year, moving from SSO to OCR extraordinaire. Smith’s amazing ability to multitask as athletic Coach, Mentor, in-school suspension coordinator, and lunch detention coordinator never ceases to astound me. Finally, in Ms. Ranahan, we have a staff member who is brand-new to Montera. She has made an immediate positive impact on our entire school community with her compassion, her intellect, and her overall com­mitment to excellence. I am deeply thankful that they are here each day supporting our teachers and students.

    Our PTO and parents nicely parallel our staff.  Such as our PTO president Ken Sorey and extraordinaire tour guide Kat Verani whom we rely on for their wisdom and for sharing and spreading “The Montera Way.” Finally, we have a solid core of teachers completely new to Montera this year. Each of them has brought with them a multitude of skills and traits that are helping us all to grow continuously as professionals.

    I am sincerely thankful that you are here. I have the best job in the world because I am surrounded by the best teach­ers, parents, and students in the world. In the above quote, Eaker and colleagues have clearly stated what makes our own school great: it is not our pristine facility, or our world-class curriculum, or our many extracurricular of­ferings; instead, it is each of you performing great deeds day in and day out. As Natalie Cole said, “Thank YOU!” for showing me so clearly the power of community. 

    Have a great Thanksgiving Holiday!

    Mr. Avent, Principal

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  • Notes from the Office January 14, 2018: Grant Writing to Help Our School

    Posted by VP Communications on 1/14/2018 8:00:00 AM

    Hello Montera Families!

    By now, you’ve probably seen the foreboding financial news about the OUSD budget.

    With ever-changing funding in public education, our school budget is always at risk. But with the revised, much lower OUSD budget recently approved, all schools in the district are taking a cut. Including Montera Middle School.

    We don’t want our students or dedicated educators to feel these cuts!

    We are prioritizing spending and actively seeking out new resources. But the truth remains: Our dynamic programs are threatened, including International Baccalaureate.

    It’s time to think outside of the box -- and we need your help.

    If you or anyone you know has experience writing grants, could you please contact me through the main office? (Call 510-531-6070 or email

    Even if you don't have grant writing experience, you can still help: If you write proposals for work or are good at filling out forms or meeting detailed requirements, you can help. If you are good at gathering information or writing in general, these skills can get us there! If you know retired people with any of these skills who can volunteer some time, please contact the school.

    We need to put together a team of grant writers as soon as possible.

    If you have ideas for other financial support, we also want to hear from you!

    They say it takes a village, and it appears now this is truer than ever, so thank you for your consideration and assistance. We think the Montera school community of families is very special, and if we work together, we can get through this and make our school stronger!

    Thank you!


    Darren Avent
    (510) 531-6070

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  • Notes from the Office January 7, 2018: International Baccalaureate Nuts & Bolts

    Posted by VP Communications on 1/7/2018 8:00:00 AM

    International Baccalaureate Nuts & Bolts
    Wednesday January 24th ,  7 to 8:30pm
    A Montera Community Presentation and Q&A

    Happy New Year, Toro Families!

    I hope you thoroughly enjoyed the winter break.

    To start off 2018, please join us in the MUR on the evening of January 24th from 7:00 to 8:30pm to learn all the nuts and bolts of our International Baccalaureate program (IB)!

    A panel of administrators and teachers will be on hand to share and provide Q&A to help you understand:

    • What IB is and how it nurtures our students’ growth and learning
    • How Montera is implementing IB now
    • How Montera will continue to implement IB
    • How Skyline High School is also transitioning to IB (and what an IB diploma is)

    There will also be group workshops to give you a better feel for how IB philosophy is implemented and taught in our classrooms.

    Here are a few highlights of our IB program so far:

    • Our kids now have more electives
      • Encouraging creativity, design, expression, and more
      • Electives are often the classes that keep our kids engaged in school!
    • Every student has three years of foreign language
      • Providing them future opportunities in our global economy
      • Giving them greater command of languages, including their native languages
      • Widening their cultural understanding
    • We see that IB is contributing to a more positive school community and culture.
      • Individuals are honored and group support of one another is required in IB curriculum.
      • Through IB, there are more opportunities for student leadership in classrooms and campus-wide.

    We highly encourage every family to attend or at least send one representative to this meeting!

    As the only International Baccalaureate middle school in Oakland, Montera is proud to be paving the way and offering an education that develops the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills needed to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world.

    Remember: Wednesday January 24th, 7:00 to 8:30pm in the MUR and encourage other Toro families to attend!

    See you there!

    Darren Avent

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  • Notes from the Office October 31, 2017: Touring the Toro Way

    Posted by VP Communications on 11/4/2017 10:00:00 PM

    Hi Toro Families!

    It’s that time of year when Prospective Families are looking at middle schools for their kids.

    Would you please help spread the word about Montera and the Great Things Happening here?

    Why Spread the Word?
    The healthier our community, the healthier our school and the more we can provide for our Toro scholars. Your involvement in our community -- in any way you can make it happen with the demands of work and family -- helps your child and all our children to thrive.

    Great Things Are Happening at Montera!
    Tell other parents about some of the wonderful things Montera has to offer our students:

    • We embrace our diversity at our core.
    • We are the only International Baccalaureate Middle School in Oakland with:
      • The goal of creating confident global citizens
      • Multiple electives (with an emphasis on design and expression)
      • Three years of foreign language
      • Integrated programs that emphasize building character
    • We offer our Toros supportive social-emotional programs, something for everyone:
      • 30 lunchtime clubs
      • An active sports program
      • After-school clubs
      • Restorative Justice (accountability, personal and group transformation)
      • Avid (organization, goal setting, critical thinking, determination)
      • NFL Character Playbook (building and maintaining healthy relationships)
      • Onsite tutoring and counseling
      • Daily Advisory

    Consider Leading a Tour
    You can sign up to guide prospective families around campus. Sign up here!
    This is also a great way for you to get a sneak peak of Montera during your child’s school day.

    Thank you Fall Fest Organizers & Volunteers!
    A big shout out to all our parent and student volunteers (including our Cheer & Dance Squad) who made this year’s Fall Fest a success.

    Yours Truly,
    Mr. Avent

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  • Notes from the Office October 23, 2017: The Montera Mission

    Posted by VP Communications on 10/20/2017 10:15:00 PM

    Greetings Toro Families!

    I realized the other day that some of you may not know what our Mission Statement is here at Montera.

    Here it is:

    Mission Statement: Montera Middle School aims to provide all students with a supportive environment and rigorous curriculum through which they develop into inquiring, knowledgeable, and caring lifelong learners utilizing their creative talents to help build a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.

    How We Are Accomplishing Our Mission
    Our staff is continually working towards this mission with many practices in place and new ones developing. Here are some of those:

    Recognizing Diversity Is a Strength
    One way that we accomplish our mission is by recognizing that we are a diverse community, and that is one of our strengths. Academically and socially, we celebrate this diversity every day.

    Being an International Baccalaureate School (IB)
    Our IB program helps us prepare students to live in a global society. Through IB, we provide our Toros with opportunities no other school in Oakland has. With our multiple electives, three years of foreign language, growing advisory program and more, our students will be better prepared for high school and beyond.

    Having Supportive Social-Emotional Programs Like Restorative Justice
    Our practice of Restorative Justice is important to us at Montera. Much more than conflict resolution, Restorative Justice emphasizes accountability, making amends, repairing harm, personal and group transformation, cooperation, and the building of better relationships. To learn more about Restorative Justice, go to I recommend the tutorial here:

    Providing Professional Counselors on Campus
    We have a 5-year grant with CCEB (Catholic Charities of the East Bay), providing students (and their families) going through any kind of trauma, big or small, with trained counseling (non-denominational). Counselors are on campus for ongoing individual and group sessions.

    Kicking Off the NFL Character Playbook - Building Healthy Relationships
    This past week, we launched our NFL Character Playbook with a rally led by visiting Oakland Raiders and Raiderettes. Sponsored by the NFL and United Way, the Playbook teaches kids to cultivate character and build and maintain healthy relationships throughout their lives. Eighth graders will start taking online Character Playbook classes in their advisories. Seventh graders will do the same in the second semester. Read more at

    Expanding Our AVID Program
    This year we went from one AVID class to three. We are also working on integrating AVID curriculum and practices into our advisories and all of our classes. AVID teaches organization, goal setting, critical thinking, encourages determination, and develops a true sense of hope in students for personal achievement. Find out more at

    See you all at the Fall Fest on Saturday October 28th! Organizers still need more volunteers to help with this fun community gathering - see the link for details.

    Great things are happening at Montera!

    Darren Avent, Principal

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  • Notes from the Office October 8, 2017: Funding & the Importance of LCFF Forms

    Posted by VP Communications on 10/8/2017 11:30:00 AM

    Dear Montera Families,

    Our projected enrollment for the 2017-18 school year was for 741 general education students. We are under projection by three students, for a total of 738. This may not sound like much of a difference, but the funds we receive from the district are in a large part determined by this number. This means our school could lose $10,000.

    This is why it is so important that parents complete the LCFF (Local Control Funding Formula) survey. This state education funding formula determines the remainder of our budget.

    It has been estimated that last year Montera lost $30,000 because parents didn’t complete this form. Under the requirements of LCFF, the formula is locked in for three years, so parents who don’t complete this form will affect Montera’s budget for the next three years.

    Many families did complete this form at registration, and I thank you so much.

    But there are still 200 families that need to complete the LCFF form.

    We will be reaching out to these families directly to either complete the form at school or online. Either way, it takes only a few minutes. Forms are available in the main office.

    Option 1: Visit Montera's main office and ask to speak with Ms. Chantay. She will provide you with a form and walk you through the steps as necessary (a paper option or an online option is available if you come in).

    Option 2: Go online to This will take you directly to the website. Please complete your form and write your confirmation number down that will be displayed once the form is submitted. Please email or call (510) 531-6070 and provide us with your confirmation number.

    Either way, it just takes a few minutes to complete the form, and you'll be helping our school in a big way.

    What is LCFF?
    Under the new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), a portion of state funding will be determined based on the demographics of student population. On a per student basis for districts like Oakland, there is increased funding for large concentrations of low-income, English Language Learner, and foster student populations. Therefore, we are required to establish and confirm the number of students that represent these categories by having families complete the official LCFF form. Whether or not you fall into one of these categories, it is important that ALL families complete the survey.

    Remember, as a Sanctuary District, OUSD cannot and will not share any of your personal information to agencies that are gathering citizen status information.

    You can learn out more about LCFF at

    Please help us to insure we get all the funding from the district that our students and teachers deserve. If you have questions, please feel free to call the main office.

    Thank you, Toro families!
    Mr. Avent

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