Weekly roundup: Fullerton students join park restoration effort, TK students exempt from English-language proficiency test, and more

Teacher Danica Perez (far right) and her students, accompanied by local biologists, lead a successful cleanup effort at Coyote Hills Tree Park in May, focusing on removing invasive plants to restore the park's natural ecosystem.
Teacher Danica Perez (right) and her students, accompanied by local biologists, took part in a successful cleanup effort at Coyote Hills Tree Park in May, focusing on removing invasive plants to restore the park’s natural ecosystem. (Photo courtesy of Danica Perez)

Inspired to expand their own cleanup efforts, a teacher and students from Fullerton Union High School have embarked on a mission this summer to preserve and restore Coyote Hills Tree Park, a 3.64-acre community space known for picnicking and leisurely strolls. 

Guided by Danica Perez, an AP environmental science teacher and advisor to the Environmental Science Club, the high schoolers are embracing the hands-on conservation efforts, focusing on removing invasive plants to restore the park’s native coastal sage scrub ecosystem. 

Through the process, the students are learning from local biologists and volunteers from the Friends of Coyote Hills group about the importance of enhancing biodiversity and local ecology. 

“We often overlook the beauty around us, but when you take action to improve an area, you develop a sense of ownership,” Perez said. “Even if it’s a small effort, it contributes to the community’s well-being. My goal is to see our community blossom into a beautiful, thriving place.”

With the city of Fullerton’s support, Perez and her students plan to expand their efforts at the park through the 2024-25 school year. The class plans to spread seeds and cultivate native plants in the fall, hoping to attract pollinators by next spring.

During the last school year, the teacher of 10 years — five of which have been dedicated to Fullerton Union — supported campus clubs in organizing several cleanup efforts. They also attended an event hosted by Inside the Outdoors, an Orange County Department of Education program, to beautify Newport Back Bay by collecting trash. 

Here are the other stories we’ve been tracking this week:

Dr. Stefan Bean with the OC Board of Ed
  • Starting in 2027-28, California high school students must pass a standalone personal finance course to graduate. The new bill, supported by Gov. Gavin Newsom, aims to teach skills like budgeting and avoiding scams.
  • Orange County students stood out at the National History Day Contest, winning four of California’s eight medals, with several finalists and one special award winner contributing to California’s top medal count among over 2,600 students from all 50 states.
Al Mijares
  • Educators and community members are celebrating Dr. Al Mijares’ 12-year tenure as Orange County’s superintendent of schools, sharing tributes that highlight his legacy of kindness and leadership as he prepares to retire on June 30.
  • Tim Floyd, a 16-year veteran of the Huntington Beach Union High School District, has been appointed principal of Marina High School, succeeding Dr. Morgan Smith, who is now the district’s director of certificated human resources.
  • Orange High School’s Early College Academy, a partnership with Orange Unified School District and Santiago Canyon College, allows students to graduate with over 45 college credits. The program enables them to enter college at a sophomore or junior level, saving on future tuition costs and providing a significant head start in their higher education.
Teacher Leslee Milch reads to children and families
  • Following an intense debate, California lawmakers sent a bill to Gov. Newsom that would ban schools from requiring teachers to notify parents about changes to a student’s gender identity.

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