Friday, December 17, 2010

Does my Spanish offend you?

If you've ever called my office, you will have heard my outgoing bilingual message. It's your run of the mill, "hi, I'm not here," message, then repeated in Spanish. Did I mention the message is BILINGUAL?

Today I got a message from a reader upset that I have a message in Spanish (a complaint that I get fairly often, actually). This particular reader equated my outgoing message with how supporters of the Dream Act (as depicted in a photo that ran along with an article I wrote) also use Spanish.That's the problem, the caller said. That we don't want to learn English.

And did I say my message is in ENGLISH and Spanish?

I have an outgoing message in TWO languages not because I want to impose my own tongue on English speakers. I have a message in Spanish to make callers who may only speak Spanish feel like they can talk to me, like they'll be listened to. In fact, my message says "I will communicate with you in either language."

For the record, not one of the young Dream students I interviewed spoke Spanish to me. They all speak perfect English, even the ones who arrived here when they were nine or ten. This is the rule, not the exception: every single student I've interviewed over the years, regardless of where they're born, spoke perfect English after two or three years in this country. In fact, that's a condition embedded in the Dream Act: if you want to attain residency, you have to go to college. Have you ever heard of a student attending college and not having to take English 1A?

And why wouldn't they learn the language? It's everywhere: they all listen to Justin Bieber, watch Glee and read Twilight. English is the dominant language in this country, it's the global language of commerce and trade. These young people are smart, and they're being socialized with English all around them. They would have to live in a cave not to learn it.

So why do I have an outgoing message in Spanish? It's because their parents need it. It's field laborers, maids, people who migrated to this county when they were older who still have a hard time with English. Not because they don't want to learn, mind you -- there are lots of ESL classes that attest to that. It's because after a full day stooped on the strawberry fields it's hard to process a foreign language. It's because they have children they have to feed, it's because their brain at 25 or 30 or 40 is not what it used to be when they were 15.

So how exactly does this offend you? And by the way, did I mention my outgoing message is BILINGUAL?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Good and bad news

If I give you the good news first, will you stop reading to prevent the pain?

OK, here's the bad news first: yet another report documenting how painful the budget cuts are for schools in California, and what districts are doing to cope with them. From competing priorities, delayed payments, cutbacks not really "away from the classroom," and how proposed reforms are adding to school administrators and teachers workloads, the picture is far from rosy. If you have the stomach for it, check it out here.

In the good news department: thanks to a huge federal grant we got in Monterey County, there will be more technology programs available in the next couple of years. For instance, there are six spots left on an animation workshop for girls that will take place in King City the first week of January. Yep, that's next year.

Chicas: learn how to make an animated short: Learn basic stop-motion animation from local artist, filmmaker and animator, Andrew Dolan of Surfhound StudioTM. You’ll learn the entire animation process from start to finish: Write & draw your story then use a digital camera and computer to shoot, edit and record the soundtrack, then upload your video to the Internet to share it with everyone. No experience required--all you need to bring is your story idea. Open to girls from 9 yrs and older. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m Jan. 7 and 8 at Sol Treasures, 519 King City. Space is limited so sign up today. Free. For more information, click here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Good morning, Zumba style

Neither cold nor rain stopped first graders at Carmel Mission's Junipero Serra School from performing their Zumba Christmas dance routine.

The children performed their holiday exercise routine twice this week, after several morning practices with Alexandra Semlali, a Zumba fitness instructor at the Monterey Sports Center.

The performance included quick-moving dance steps with jingle bells tied around their wrists shaking to the beat of holiday songs. "We just wanted to do something fun and festive to get everyone in the spirit of Christmas" said first grade teacher Mrs. Hofman. This performance not only helped everyone get exercise, it was a fun way to welcome everyone to school on a cold and wet morning!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hail to the champs!

Kudos to the skating athletes of Marina, who nabbed first place at the 2010 California Amateur Skate League National Skate Federation State Championships. The City of Marina/On the Beach Skate team, took first overall place Dec. 5 at the Woodward Skate Facility in Southern California.
Individual awards given as follows: 12 and under division: Chance Youngs, 1st; Alejandro Martinez, 2nd; Sergio Anaya, 4th; 13-15 division: Sean Byrne, 4th; Billy Rodel, 5th; 16 and up: Coach Perry Doig, 4th and Knox, 5th. Best trick: Knox, 2nd; Perry Doig, 3rd.
The team now advances to the National Championships, to be held August 1, 2011 in San Diego,
and will represent the State of California as the Junior Olympic Gold Medal State Champions.
We'll cross our fingers for you, champs!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Planning ahead

If you're planning to go to this year's robolympics at Hartnell College this Saturday, be prepared for a treat: the Hartnell Rockets and Robotics club students will be demonstrating robot-sumo and its protagonists, sumo-bots. Like in sumo, the robots in robot-sumo try to push one another out of a circle.
But the real competition will take place among six high schools -- Soledad, King City, Alisal, Salinas, North Salinas, and Everett Alvarez High. From 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., students will face off in two robotics competition. And maybe next year, they'll design their own sumobot.

For more information about the event, check out the Olympics website here.

Also coming up soon, the English as a Second Language Department will hold an open house from 6 to 8 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 6. at the college's Marina Education Center, 289 12th Street, Marina. With help with registration for all students, bilingual counselors available.

For more information contact the MPC Marina Ed Center at 646-4850.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Of giving and receiving

Thanks to the big heart of 13-year-old Kylie Lemaire, The Hope Center at the McGowan’s House will receive a $2,500 grant from Nickelodeon Big Help grants. Kylie found the grant, applied for it, and said she wants to use the money to keep the Hope Center's food pantry stocked with enough groceries, toiletries and household cleaning items to help local Monterey families in need.
Don't be deceived by Monterey's glitzy reputation. One in nine people in the Peninsula go hungry, and one in ten children are on the subsidized lunch program -- according to the Hope Center. So they need help to help the needy.

And speaking of receiving... these days of budget uncertainty, the only way schools seem to be getting money is through grants, and three local districts plus the Monterey County Office of Education were recently awarded some of those federal funds everyone seems to be fighting for.
The California Department of Education announced that Monterey Peninsula Unified, North Monterey County Unified, and Soledad Unified will share in the $36 million pot with $250,000 for MPUSD, and $50,000 for each North Monterey, Soledad, and the county office.
The Enhancing Through Technology grants will be used to buy and upkeep data to improve high school graduation rates, a big piece of Obama's education plan to reform schools.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

More on grading the teachers

The Brookings Institute, an influential Washington DC based think-tank, is jumping on the teachers evaluation fray with the new report Evaluating Teachers: the Important Role of Value-Added. I'll confess: I haven't read the full report (it was just released yesterday, just found it today, so have mercy on me). But it's not too long, and its conclusion may be something that pleases most. From the executive summary: "We conclude that value-added data has an important role to play in teacher evaluation systems, but that there is much to be learned about how best to use value-added information in human resource decisions."

The study looks at value-added, or the evaluation of teachers based on the contribution they make to the learning of their students, from four points of view: how is value-added used? what are the consequences (for teachers and students) for classifying or misclassifying teachers as effective or ineffective? How reliable are these types of tests? How reliable are evaluation methods between those that use value-added and those that don't?

There seems to be some momentum building up towards some type of standardized testing for teachers, so the more we know, the better off we'll be.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The science of happiness

From the University of California at Berkeley comes this fascinating video about their current research on happiness and how happy children are likely to be more successful than those who aren't. Sounds logical, right? Happy people have the good attitude we all love and appreciate, the type that takes you places in life. Grumpy people get quickly relegated to the dog house. Now, if researchers could reveal exactly what the secret is in raising happy children, that would be so nifty...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Building peace

What does it take to build peace? Twenty-three high school and CSUMB students tackled the issue through the Summer Youth Leadership Training Project, a five-week program with El Sausal Middle School students. The two sets of students grappled with issues such as concerns about safety, being underestimated by adults, and not being able to see a real future, and they presented their explorations last month at the Breadbox Community Center.

CSUMB student Victoria Flores was one of those university students who lent her talent to explore this thorny issue. During the presentation last month at the Breadbox, she showed some of the artwork created by El Sausal students. (Photo courtesy of CSU Monterey Bay)

And speaking of weighty explorations, while Hartnell College considers axing what looks like a good program job training program, Castroville Rotary club held its annual "job shadowing" program, aimed at introducing students to a host of occupations out there: dentistry, moving and storage, restaurant work, banking, and construction management. Monterey County Supervisor Lou Calcagno and Superior Court Judge Efren Iglesia were job-shadowed by two North Monterey County students last week. Now, those are jobs surely any teenager would want to have. Right?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A gift-bearing trip

Representatives from All Saints' Day School in Carmel traveled to Haiti to deliver gifts to its sister school, St. Patrick's Episcopal. Straight from the keyboard of Cynthia McCoy of All Saints' Day School comes this story. Enjoy!

It takes a long and bumpy five hours in a four-wheel drive vehicle on a semi-dirt road to reach St. Patrick’s School, located in the village of Locorbe in central Haiti, about 90 miles from Port-Au-Prince. But last month, members from Carmel's All Saints’ Day School traveled to Haiti to deliver supplies and gifts to St. Patrick’s Episcopal School and Church. Besides bringing gifts, their mission was to strengthen already established relationships, and assess what additional help might be needed, especially in light of the earthquake that devastated the country in January.
“The trip began on a main road and eventually turned onto a dirt road that sometimes disappeared, turning into a path. The biggest challenge was washed-out roadbed and twice residents had to bring hoes and rakes to smooth out the surface,” said Fr. Rick Matters, All Saints’ Day School Chaplain and Rector of All Saints’ Church.
For over a decade, the children and families of the rural Haitian community where St. Patrick’s is located has received significant support from its sister school, All Saints’ Day School of Carmel, for teacher salaries, school supplies and the development of goat herds. For this year’s journey to Haiti, All Saints’ Day School Board Trustee, Betty Kasson, and Fr. Matters joined members of St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in Carmel Valley and St. Jude’s Episcopal Church of Cupertino, as well as Fr. Roger Bowen, former Head of York School.
All Saints’ Day School will continue its partnership with St. Patrick’s and anyone who is interested in helping with funding, all of which goes directly to that community, is encouraged to contact Deanna Cleary, Outreach Director at All Saints’ Day School (831-624-9171 ext. 77).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Finally watched "Waiting for Superman"

and if you want to know what I think, indulge me and read first about the honor the International School of Monterey received last week.
The charter school was named "Ocean Guardian School" School and received a banner for its commitment to ocean stewardship by Rep. Sam Farr and NOAA. The school has shown a commitment to protecting the world's oceans by integrating the Ocean Literacy Principles into all grades, participating in restoration activities at a local beach dune, and developing “Captain Conservation,” a superhero who protects the ocean.
Funds for the project were provided by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries’ California Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) program. To receive funds, a school makes a commitment to be an ‘Ocean Guardian’ by proposing a school- or community-based conservation project. After successful implementation, the school receives a banner designating it as an Ocean Guardian School.

And from Captain Conservation we joyfully leap to "Waiting for Superman." What can I say? It's extremely touching and heart wrenching -- emotionally manipulating? I found myself wondering why it was that, except for the middle school girl in Northern California, all the children featured in the movie were of color -- blacks and Latinos. Why is it that, willingly or not, we continue to portray minorities as the victims -- resilient and valiant, but victims nonetheless? And even though the filmmakers want to encourage people to get involved, it's also obvious that they believe charter schools are the solution. Are they? Hmmmmmm. Financial troubles and not-so-stellar test scores may say otherwise, as pointed out by colleague John Fensterwald and his astute readers.

Like one of my teachers used to say, for complex problems, there should not be silver-bullet solutions. And for the complex issues facing education in this country, charter schools can't -- and perhaps shouldn't -- be the silver bullet. They have their place and their use, but I can't imagine them being the end-all. Can you?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

20,000 leagues under the sea

Well, the vessel's not called Nautilus and James Lindholm, a marine scientist at CSUMB, is not exactly Captain Nemo. Just the same, Lindholm and one of his graduate students, Jessica Watson, are currently living on the research vessel Aquarius, 60 feet below the surface in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The two of them, plus four other scientists and NOAA staff members, are spending eight hours a day diving in the Keys as part of a 10-day research mission. Wednesday is the last day the aquanauts will be diving before starting the process of coming to the surface.
Dr. Lindholm is studying social foraging of coral reef fishes and its role in maintaining biological diversity – he's dubbed the mission, "If Reefs Could Talk."
The experience (akin to living in space, with its tight quarters and the inability to just go take a walk when your roommates are driving you crazy) is being webcast (and tweeted, and blogged about and posted on Facebook), and hundreds of classrooms across the country have been tuning in to watch; each day includes a broadcast in Spanish as well as one in English. On Wednesday morning, four classes of fifth-graders at Carmel River School tuned into the webcast and watch Dr. Lindholm explore the coral reefs, talking to them and answering questions submitted from school children all over the country. A teaching assistant from NOAA will be there to help the students understand what they are seeing and hearing online.
You can check one of his broadcast here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Help for children with special needs

Special Kids Crusade, a local nonprofit that supports families with children with special needs, is coordinating an educational series for parents and professionals on Autism Spectrum disorder. The ten sessions will be held the second Tuesday of each month from 6:00-7:30pm, beginning Nov. 9 and continuing through August. Dr. Linda Lotspeich of The Stanford Autism Center at Packard Children’s Hospital will present via video stream into our class site at the San Andreas Regional Center at 344 Salinas Street, Suite 104 in Salinas.

And for young people with disabilities comes the "Transitioning to Independence Conference," which will take place Saturday, October 30, and it's being presented by the Central Coast Center for Independent Living (CCCIL). The conference is free, for young people ages 16-24 with disabilities, who are considering changes in school, work or living situation. The conference will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Salinas High School, and includes lunch, prizes and entertainment.
The conference will feature speakers from service agencies and disability rights organizations, as well as young people with disabilities who have made successful transitions to adulthood. Conference participants will also have an opportunity to speak about the services and resources they think are needed, with input going to service providers and policymakers. This event is co-sponsored by Workforce Investment Board, Monterey County Office of Education, California Foundation for Independent Living Centers, Workforce Investment Board of Monterey County, Monterey County Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.
Register for the conference here. Or call Denika Boardman at (831) 757-2968 or for more information.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

No more child care for you

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger may have signed a long delayed budget last week, but he used his mighty pen to veto funding for thousands of working families.
The funding he eliminated was for families who have been off welfare for 24 months and are seeking job retraining.
“The Governor’s veto of funding for the CalWORKS Stage 3 Child Care Program is an attack on working families with children," Superintendent of Public Schools Jack O'Connell said in a statement. "This twelve-year-old program has played a significant role in helping California families leave welfare and become financially independent."
This program helped more than 81,000 children and some 60,000 families during Fiscal Year 2008-2009, allowing parents to work. This veto will terminate child care services for all these families who have worked so hard to leave welfare and maintain employment for at least two years or more.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The beautiful and grim reality of Alisal

Today was career day at Cesar Chavez Elementary school in the Alisal, and I, along with a dozen professionals, came to the school to try to inspire the children into seeking higher education. There were professional basketball players, firefighters, corrections officers, college professors, and one or two journalists. We all gave the students 'high fives' in the cafeteria, and then we had a chance to talk to them in their classrooms. You have to read every day, study hard, and pay attention in class, I told them. These kids are all so precious in their curiosity, their eagerness, their bilingualism: the ease in and out of English and Spanish like a fish swimming in two different waters without noticing if it's sweet or salty.

Then came the questions: Do you go when someone gets shot? And the comments: My uncle got shot in the stomach five times and he died. My cousin saw when somebody got shot the other day. My mom wants us to move out of here. It seems like every single one of the kids I visited with had an experience with violence, experiences that had clearly left marks. And that's all they wanted to talk about. It made me wonder, how much time is there for processing this type of trauma when you have to focus on learning? And can you focus on learning when you haven't processed the trauma?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Is that you, Prince Charming?

Assemblywoman Anna Caballero promised students of Los Padres Elementary School in Salinas that she would kiss a frog if they met their test scores goals.

Well, the students increased their test scores by 21 points, and Caballero delivered. On Monday, she went looking for Prince Charming. Juan, is that you in there?

It's not the first time that Caballero encourages Los Padres students by promising a stunt. Three years ago, she jumped out of an airplane to celebrate the students' accomplishments.

And speaking of motivating children, The Lyceum, in partnership with Hartnell College, is sponsoring a two‑day workshop designed to get kids and adults involved in fun, hands‑on astronomy experiments. Parents and kids will meet for two Saturday sessions and participate in a creative and educational project about the Earth’s moon and the solar system. This exciting class will have you seeing stars! The two sessions take place from 10 a.m. till noon, Oct. 9 and Oct. 23 at the Ching Planetarium in Salinas. $35 per child. For more info, click here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The governor and his pen

In case you missed it, last week the guv signed to pieces of legislation that I'd covered in two separate stories published a few weeks ago. The first one is the Kindergarten Readiness Act, which will move up California's kindergarten entry date from Dec. 2 to Sept. 1 so children start school at age 5. Before, thousands of children would start school at age 4, often without the maturity and social skills needed to meet the ever-increasing challenges of our test-driven schools. Now the kids will be ready to fill in bubble tests in no time...

The second piece of legislation I was following was AB12, the California Fostering Connections to Success Act. Also signed into law Thursday, the bill will allow foster youth to stay in the system until they are 21. Previously when foster youth turned 18, they were basically on their own -- no home, no money, and basically a bleak future. This lack of stability makes foster youths much more likely to be homelessness, incarcerated, pregnant or addicted to drugs than the average teen.

Under AB12 foster youth who continue their education or job training and who work at least a part-time job would be eligible for extended benefits until they are 21. The costs for these extra years of benefits be covered partially by federal matching funds.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Of Bay View and MATE

While the wheels of bureaucracy continue rolling, parents of the Bay View Academy will start enrollment Saturday. Depending on how the political winds blow, the Academy would open at Hilltop Park or the site of the current Bay View Elementary next September. If you're interested, visit the Academy's site right here. Remember, there will only be 150 places, so they are likely to run out fast....

And speaking of innovative institutions, kudos are in order to the Marine Advanced Technology Education Center, housed in Monterey Peninsula College. The center was honored September 21 with the Marine Technology Society (MTS) Special Commendation and Award at the OCEANS’10 MTS/IEEE Seattle Conference in Seattle, Wash.
The Center is a national partnership of educational institutions and organizations, research institutions, marine industries and working professionals funded by the National Science Foundation. It’s mission in to disseminate information on marine-related careers and create enthusiasm for marine technology careers. The Center publishes books and articles, and exhibits at conference. It joined the society to create a catalog of higher education programs in marine science and technology. It helps teachers provide their students with technology-rich learning experiences through its Summer Institutes. The MATE Center is perhaps best known for its remotely operated vehicle (ROV) competitions, which are held around the U.S. and in several foreign countries. Winners of these regional events compete at an international competition each June. The Marine Technology Society is a co-sponsor of that event through its ROV Professional Committee.

Friday, September 24, 2010

New digital tool for teachers

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell has unveiled a new tool designed to encourage teacher collaboration and innovation called Brokers of Expertise
Brokers of Expertise is a dynamic Web site that allows educators to search for,and follow colleagues across the state who have had success in teaching specific strands of California’s content standards, or are working with similar types of students, and thus make their own experience in the classroom more effective. Teachers can use the site to form customized online groups to share experiences and challenges they face in the classroom and collaborate on ways to improve instruction. Users can share instructional practices through links, video, pictures, or documents that can make it easier for other teachers to replicate innovation in their own classrooms. The Web site also lists where each resource came from and provides a blog where educators may share their thoughts on the resource’s effectiveness.
You may wonder, when are teachers going to have the time to upload video, pictures or other documents. I was wondering that myself....

And speaking of digital tools, the South Monterey County Center for Arts and Technology will begin its fall digital video course for teens. Lunch and transportation provided for this free workshop at Cal State Monterey Bay. Beginning Oct. 2, students will spend five Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. learning all there is to know about video production and editing. Pre-registration and info at 831.869-6055 or information@,

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Separate and unequal?

From the "no kidding" department comes a new report that says minority children are segregated into high-poverty schools, away from wealthier white peers., a project of Harvard University that tracks indicators of diversity opportunity, quality of life and health for various racial and ethnic population groups, has just published Segregation and Exposure to High-Poverty Schools in Large Metropolitan Areas: 2008-09. The report ranks racial/ethnic segregation and exposure to high-poverty schools for public, primary school students in the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, and reveals that black and Hispanic children attend very different schools than do white children and are disproportionately concentrated in high-poverty schools. Read the report here.
School segregation comes from housing segregation, and we don't have to go too far to find some shining examples locally. Carmel Unified: 74 percent white, 10 percent low income. Alisal Union in Salinas: 94 percent Latino, 79 percent low income.

And speaking about an educational system that does not provide equally for everybody, the buzz heralding the opening of "Waiting for Superman" is growing louder. Directed by David Guggenheim of "An Inconvenient Truth" fame, Waiting is an exploration of the current state of public education and how it's affecting U.S. children. It opens in Los Angeles and New York this Friday, and nationwide in October. For those of us who care about the public education system, it's an absolute must see.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Corporations and education

Two events this week that will likely resonate in the education community for a long time to come: one, Democratic voters fired Washington D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, and effectively along with him one of the movement's biggest superstars, District schools chief Michelle Rhee. Nathalie Hopkinson describes it best in her piece for The Atlantic: "This Spring, Rhee negotiated among the most revolutionary teacher's contracts in the country, which essentially broke the union, loosening tenure protections in exchange for the potential for teachers to make more money and earn performance bonuses. D.C. is being hailed as a model in urban education reform, and there are plans to replicate this model..."

Where the road meets the rubber is in the insistence of the charitable arm of Wal-Mart to retain Rhee to make sure she'd continue on the union-breaking war path or it would yank millions of dollars in funding, according to Hopkinson...

which leads me to the second event this week, also in Washington D.C.

President Obama announced Thursday the launch of a new organization called "Change the Equation," which will help the administration's goal to improve math and science education. In the prez words, Change the Equation "brings together a coalition of more than a hundred CEOs from the nation’s largest companies who are committed to bring innovative math and science programs to at least a hundred high-need communities over the next year."
Among the top execs invited to witness Obama's announcements were Ursula Burns from Xerox, Rex Tillerson of Exxon Mobil, Craig Barrett, former Intel CEO; Antonio Perez of Kodak; Glenn Britt from Time Warner.

So I'm curious. Will the funding of these corporations be contingent on whether school reform includes union-breaking measures? Can we really expect schools to work as businesses? If so, how do we measure "productivity" and for whom? And what happens to the kids who don't "produce"?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What does it mean to be an American?

of the country type?
The Bill of Rights Institute wants to know what you, high schoolers out there, think. Better yet, how you express yourselves in writing.
U.S. high school students and their teachers have a chance to win thousands of dollars in prize money by participating in the Bill of Rights Institute’s fifth annual Being an American Essay Contest. Top prize winners and their teachers will also receive all-expenses paid trips to the nation’s capital.
All you have to do: write a 750 word essay answering this question: “What civic value do you believe is most essential to being an American?”
The top three student winners and their teachers from each of the nine geographical regions will be announced at a special Washington, D.C. Awards Gala in the spring of 2011, where they will be awarded cash prizes of $5,000 (First Place), $1,000 (Second Place), and $500 (Third Place). The winning students will also explore the nation’s capital, meet contemporary American heroes and national leaders, and visit national landmarks.
Deadline to submit the essay is Dec. 1. For more information, click here. And get writing!

Now, here's news of a local girl who's already getting noticed at the state level. And has a chance to win big.
Aradhana Sinha, a 10th grade student at Salinas High School, is one of three finalists for the prestigious Outstanding Young Scientist Award presented by the California Association
of Professional Scientists (CAPS). The winner will be announced at a luncheon ceremony at the
Sacramento Zoo’s Kampala Center from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Friday, September 17.
Aradhana, 14, was selected for her project titled “Effect of Virus Competition and Dominance in Different Host Types” which looks at how two different types of viruses reacted in a range of crops (tomato, spinach, lettuce and tobacco) when present on their own and when combined in the same plant.
Aradhana believes her research could help prevent future virus outbreaks in crops.
The winner will receive a $1,000 scholarship award and the two runner-ups each receive a $500 scholarship award. So the least Aradhana will come home with is $500.
And they say youth nowadays are apathetic, conformist, yada yada yada. Don't think so....

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chess crazy

Forget about the folklorico dancers, the singers or the speeches. All 13-year-old José Jacobo wanted to do was play chess. So on the corner of the Breadbox, while the Alisal Center for the Fine Arts celebrated the inauguration of their performance space, José was playing timed chess
against two -- TWO -- opponents.
"I'm using the knight strategy" he told me excitedly. "I'm going to work with the queen and then the bishop."
José is protegee of Alberto Murillo, the real estate agent turned teacher and chess evangelist. Alberto is convinced that chess will transform Salinas from an agricultural center into an "ideas" center.
First, he will have to convince local school districts to bring his programs back. Anybody heard about budget cuts?

And speaking of extra-curricular activities that work like magic for student achievement, Evan Liddle from Salinas High School was selected to attend the 2010 Congressional Academy which was held from June 27 to July 9.
The Congressional Academy for American History and Civics is a program for high school juniors to learn about pivotal turning points in American history memorialized by the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, and the "I Have a Dream" speech.
Only 112 high school juniors -- out of 775 applicants -- from across the country were selected to participate in the Congressional Academy. The professors conducting the Congressional Academy are among the finest scholars of American history and government.

Evan spent two weeks in Washington, DC, with day trips to Philadelphia and Gettysburg, studying the American Revolution and Founding, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights movement. Students are thereby exposed participants to the ideas and arguments that shaped these three great American epochs, the documents that make up our history, and the places where the history was made. During their stay, participants were surrounded by the streets and halls, the battlefields, public places, and private lodgings where the history we studied took place.
It'll be great if we can get more Monterey County students participating in this academy. For more information, click here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Speaking of life-long learners...

Learning never ends, and here's a few opportunities for those of us past our high school years to take some refresher courses in whatever it's out there. Learning can be so much fun.

The first opportunity comes via CSUMB's Osher Lifelong Learning institute, aimed at "50-and-better" folks. In its fourth year, the OLLI expects to have a membership of 500 by the end of the year, which will trigger a $1 million grant from the Osher Foundation to provide an endowment.
Among the course offerings are the OLLI Writers' Circle and several other writing and poetry classes and workshops; Unearthing the Past: the Prehistory of Monterey Bay; Introduction to Oceanography; the Three Worlds of Jazz, about the Monterrey Jazz Festival; and back by request, OLLI Goes to the Movies: International Social-Issue Films.
Several classes, such as Autumn Bird Migration and Salinas Chinatown: Once and Again involve field trips. Most of the classes will be held on the CSUMB campus; several will be offered at locations in the local community.
Former Assemblymember Fred Keeley is back with a six-session class on the 2010 California elections that will include polling and campaign updates and a post-election summary. And popular MPC instructor John Provost will offer an eight-week class in integral philosophy.
Students can purchase individual OLLI class offerings or may become members by paying a $149 annual fee or $99 semester fee which includes complimentary tuition for three OLLI courses per semester and other benefits including a parking pass, invitations to social events, discounts to the university’s sports center, swimming pool, athletic events and World Theater performances. To find out more, visit the OLLI website.

The second offering comes via the Monterey Bay Christian School, which is offering a series of free parenting classes based on the book, “Value-Packed Parenting – Raising Rock-Solid Children in a Pleasure-Driven World” by Dr. Kevin Lehman. The classes will be held on Thursdays, September 9th to October 28th, from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM in the Fellowship Hall at the Monterey Bay Christian School, located at 1184 Hilby, in Seaside. Topics that will be covered include anger, discipline, self-confidence, communication and birth order. Babysitting will be available, including nursery care from birth to age 2 years, and the Royal Rangers and Girl Ministries for kids ages 3 to 18. Parents of students at Monterey Bay Christian School or Little Ones Preschool will receive $100 off their tuition for the following month if they attend seven out of eight of the classes.
Monterey Bay Christian School has classes from preschool through middle school at three location in Seaside, California. For more information, click here.

And last, but not least, an opportunity for Spanish-speaking residents in the Salinas Valley to get a peek at the wonderful world of computers. The South Monterey County Center for Arts and Technology will host the first computer fair on Sunday, along the Day of the Agricultural Worker festival in Greenfield. Volunteers will demonstrate the benefits of owning a computer and the wonderful things they can do -- and in the interest of full disclosure, I will be one of the volunteer tutors at the event. Megan Heath, founder of SoMoCoCAT, wanted to bring the event because she's seen the need to bridge the digital divide with our neighbors in South County, and many are heeding her call and helping her out in her efforts. Still time to volunteer! Give Megan a call at 831-869-6055 or email her at

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Race to nowhere

So after all that huffing and puffing, California ended 16 in the latest round of Race to the Top grants, the carrot the Obama administration is dangling to states to implement some school reforms. At a press conference this morning, California Superintendent of Public Schools Jack O'Connell said California's scorecard would be released Wednesday, and that President Obama is asking Congress for another $1.3 billion for more Race to the Top. We won't know until tomorrow why California scored so low, but in the meantime, it may be a good idea to ponder whether the chase is worth it...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Grading the teachers

L.A. Time reporters Jason Felch and Jason Song will be available Thursday at 11 a.m. to discuss the findings of their investigative report "Grading the teachers." Felch, Song and Doug Smith analyzed tons of data to see which teachers are more effective according to how their students score on standardized tests.

I can almost hear everyone now holding their breath. And yes, their work has both earned praise and drawn ire. Praised from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who endorsing the release of such data publicly. The ire from Los Angeles teachers union president A.J. Duffy, who called for a boycott of The Times in response to the report.

Among the investigation's findings:

• Highly effective teachers routinely propel students from below grade level to advanced in a single year. There is a substantial gap at year's end between students whose teachers were in the top 10% in effectiveness and the bottom 10%. The fortunate students ranked 17 percentile points higher in English and 25 points higher in math.

• Some students landed in the classrooms of the poorest-performing instructors year after year — a potentially devastating setback that the district could have avoided. Over the period analyzed, more than 8,000 students got such a math or English teacher at least twice in a row.

• Contrary to popular belief, the best teachers were not concentrated in schools in the most affluent neighborhoods, nor were the weakest instructors bunched in poor areas. Rather, these teachers were scattered throughout the district. The quality of instruction typically varied far more within a school than between schools.

• Although many parents fixate on picking the right school for their child, it matters far more which teacher the child gets. Teachers had three times as much influence on students' academic development as the school they attend. Yet parents have no access to objective information about individual instructors, and they often have little say in which teacher their child gets.

• Many of the factors commonly assumed to be important to teachers' effectiveness were not. Although teachers are paid more for experience, education and training, none of this had much bearing on whether they improved their students' performance.

Read the report and drop me a line. I'd love to hear what you think.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

It's the season to compete

You saw them identifying car parts. Now you can see them putting together a carburetor.
During the "Carburetor Challenge," 19 high school teams from San Andreas, Hollister, San Diego, Lodi, Visalia, Monterey, Seaside and Castroville will tear down, inspect and re-assemble an Edelbrock carburetor at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., on Aug. 14. Ohio Technical College, sponsor of the will award $1,500 to each participant, while the four fastest teams will compete in a final challenge to earn prizes including Edelbrock gear, Matco tools and tuition scholarships. The first place winner will receive a $5,000 scholarship; second place $4,000; third place $3,000; and fourth place $2,000.
The Carburetor Challenge starts at 8 a.m. with the awards ceremony beginning at 6 p.m.

Speaking of competitions, young and talented musicians who want to be a part of the Youth and Honors Orchestras can register online for an audition to be held Aug. 28. All new and returning students must register online before Friday, August 20, 2010 for the 2010-2011 concert season. Students who need to audition will tryout on Saturday, August 28, 2010 from 9am-5pm at the Monterey High School Band Room located at 700 Pacific Street in Monterey. Season begins Wednesday, September 8, 2010. Rehearsals begin Wednesday, Sept. 8. For more info, click here.

School's back in session -- at least in some school districts -- so more competitions are likely on the way. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Of teachers and students...

A brand new school year is afoot, and the folks at the Salinas Public library are gathering backpacks and/or donations to give to families in financial distress.
Backpack Extravaganza is back by popular demand.
On Sat. Aug. 15, folks at the library will give free backpacks and supplies on a first-come first served basis while supplies lasts. Their goal is to help 500 children,
Donations of $20 or more would help meet their goal -- each $20 will provide one backpack and basic school supplies for one child. Backpacks and school supplies may be donated at "bins" placed at all three Salinas Public Libraries.
Send a check to: Salinas Public Library Backpack Extravaganza, Attn: Mary Ellison, 350 Lincoln Ave., Salinas, CA 93901. Or drop off a backpack or make a cash donation at any Salinas Public Library:
John Steinbeck Library Cesar Chavez Library El Gabilan Library
350 Lincoln Ave. 615 Williams Rd. 1400 N. Main St.
For more information, visit

Monterey native Amanda Penn has joined Teach For America, the national corps of top college graduates who commit to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools in
low-income communities.
Penn is a 2006 Monterey High School and Monterey Academy of Oceanographic Sciences, 2010 graduate of University of California, Los Angeles, and will teach in the Mid-Atlantic beginning this fall.
Only 12 percent of the 46,000 applicants got a job. Consequently, admissions were more selective than ever.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Heading off to college

Seven Salinas students received scholarships from Mi Pueblo, the supermarket chain of the yummi nopalitos. They students were feted at the Salinas store last week, and they even had cake!
The awardees were: Carla Contreras, Baldemar Herrera and Nathalie Martinez of Everett Alvarez High School, and Andrea Rivas, Jessica Rodriguez,
Sintia Solis, and Sandra Zuniga of Alisal High School.

The money was collected through a three-week drive that asked customers to support education. A total of $127,000 was raised in all the Mi Pueblo stores.

The Salinas youngsters may be heading to college in the fall, but there's another group of tiny scholars who've already spent almost three weeks there.
About 250 Migrant Junior Otters, students in the fourth through 10th grade in Monterey County migrant education programs, began their month-long college experience July 6 at CSUMB. They've been taking language arts and math classes in the morning. In the afternoons, they're involved in theater, music, dance and video editing, taught by the renown Teatro Campesino. On July 30 they will stage a performance.
This year, the Migrant Junior Otters were recognized at the 2010 National Migrant Education Conference as an outstanding example of a collaborative effort.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Best of the best

For the third year in a row, Carmel High was ranked among the 1,600 best high schools in the United States by Newsweek magazine. The rankings are based on the total number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge (AICE) tests given at a school each year and divide by the number of seniors graduating in May or June. For this year's rankings, the magazine used the 2009 numbers.
Carmel placed 554. Go Padres!

In Salinas, an opportunity for at-risk youth to learn new skills and on-the-job training. Space is still available for The Rancho Cielo Drummond Culinary Academy, a program that gives students the opportunity to finish high school while receiving culinary instruction. Students will have the opportunity to complete a 200 hrs internship program at local restaurants. The program will offer job placement and referral services for graduates. For more information, click here.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Summer travel!

Andrew Clark, a junior at Stevenson School, is heading to the the National Rifle Association's annual National Youth Education Summit (Y.E.S.). -- all expenses paid!!!! Y.E.S. is a 7-day educational experience in Washington, D.C. for outstanding high school sophomores and juniors. While in the nation's capital, Andrew will learn the significance of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights while developing an understanding of government and the importance of actively participating in it.
Andrew is founder of the Stevenson Hunting and Shooting Club, plays varsity Lacrosse and Football for the Stevenson Pirates and was recently selected as one of only 8 juniors at Stevenson School to be elected to the Cum Laude Society for academic excellence.
Hopefully the heat will have let up by the time Andrew makes it to the east coast. Have fun and congratulations!!!

And speaking of travel, York School teacher Kevin Brookhouser as an attendee at the next Google Teacher Academy, which will take place in London on July 29.
Last year, Brookhouser was named Teacher of the Future by The National Association of Independent Schools -- no kidding! After the free training in England, Brookhouser will become a Google Certified Teacher, which means he will be in the up-and-out of innovative technologies.
Brookhouser is thrilled -- of course -- to be among those selected. And he'll be blogging about his experience at The blog's not up yet, but then again, he still have a couple of weeks to prepare!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summer of celebration!

Who says summer is just for camps or endless boredom?
It's also time to celebrate our local talent!
Yarieza Barboa, 14, is one of thirty-seven Boys & Girls Club artists whose work has been chosen to appear in the 2011 National Fine Arts Exhibit. Selected from more than 252 finalists vying for top honors at this year’s national competition, “Philosophical Angel” won in the collage division, and will travel with the National Fine Arts Exhibit on a nationwide tour. In recognition of their achievement, winning artists will receive a plaque and congratulatory letter from Roxanne Spillett, President and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Way to go, girl!!!

And speaking of local talent, two York students were among 25 in the Bay Area honored by the National Center for Women & Information Technology.
Marina and Natasha Nogueira were awarded the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing, which recognizes high-school women for their computing-related achievements and interests. Each recipient received a $250 gift card, A Day@Google, 1GB Microsoft flash drive, one year memberships to the Computer History Museum and The Tech Museum, an engraved award for both recipient and school, and much more!
The young women were feted at an award ceremony at The Computer History Museum on June 6.

And another local student, Minbo Bai of Salinas High School won a total of $11,000 in two scholarships from telecommunications company Comcast. One hundred and seventy six high school seniors won the Comcast Leaders and Achievers Scholarship, with carries a $1,000 award. But Bai, who will be attending UC Berkeley in the fall, also won one of two Comcast Founders Scholarships of $10,000 -- instituted in honor of Ralph J. Roberts, Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Comcast Corporation.
The Leaders and Achievers Scholarship Program, recognizes high school seniors for their leadership skills, positive attitude, academic achievement and various community service activities including mentoring and tutoring younger students, volunteering at hospitals and participating in relief efforts. The philosophy behind the program is to give young people every opportunity to be prepared for the future, to engage youth in their communities, and to demonstrate the importance of civic involvement, and the value placed on civic involvement by the business community.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Of graduates and scholarship recipients

Salinas high school seniors received over $7.2 million in scholarship offers to go on into college. The biggest recipient, Sarah Epperson of Salinas High, will get $300,000 to attend West Point. Among other big winners are:
Sarah Reams, Salinas High, a volleyball scholarship of $198,000 to attend Saint Mary's College
Taylor Camany, Salinas High, golf scholarship of $188,000 to attend Santa Clara University
Kyle Knoles-Barnet, Salinas High, $184,620 to attend Drexel College
Uriel Garcia, Everett Alvarez, $165,200 for UC San Francisco
Jamil Cary, Everett Alvarez, $121,836, Macalester College
John Antonio, North Salinas, $120,000, US Marine College Fund
Kelly Allyn, Salinas High, $120,000, St. Lawrence University
Nataly Raygoza, Everett Alvarez, $106,912, Saint Mary's College
Marisa Hernandez, Everett Alvarez, $100,600, Bay Path College

The Salinas Union High School District has made it a tradition to track down the money earned for scholarships by its students, and administrators hope to double the amount in the next couple of years.

Speaking of graduates, the International School of Monterey just celebrated a special graduation: their pioneering class, the students who "opened" the school when it started in 2001, graduated from 8th grade last week. Among the students were 11 "homegrown", who have started with the school, and 34 others who began their schooling at ISM afterwards.
The International School is a charter school under the umbrella of the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District. About 416 students from throughout Monterey County attend.
Congratulations, International School. And many more!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Healthy and colorful

Coming soon to a school or public gathering center near you: the winning posters of the county-wide artistic contest on how to stay healthy. Children from pre-Kinder to 5th grade were asked to depict behaviors that will help them stay healthy, and this is what they came up with: images of washing hands to get rid of germs, sneezing on your elbow a la "vampire cough" and animals hiding in their natural habitats when they're sick.
"The children captured the health messages with imagination and color.” Said Dr. Hugh Stallworth, Monterey County Health Officer “It is my hope, the messages will remind all of us to take three simple steps to keep our community healthy.”
And the winners are:
Wash your hands – Mrs. Varner’s Kindergarten Class, Prunedale Elementary
Stay home when you are sick – Madeleine Britt, Laurel Wood B.E.S.T. Program
Cover your cough - Sabrina Sheffer and Gisselle Chavez, Loma Vista School
The winning posters have been re-printed and will be distributed to area schools and community organizations.
The Health Officer’s Award for creativity went to Karina Carrasco of Boronda Meadows. Karina’s image -- a turtle that stays inside its shell when he's sick -- and other children’s artwork will be featured in the 2010-2011 the Health Department’s Stay Healthy Calendar.

Now that school's in summer session and many children will have to dispense with their school breakfast and lunches, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monterey County will be serving FREE healthy breakfast and lunch to children age 18 and younger -- through August 6, 2010. Breakfast will be served Monday through Friday at 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 a.m. and lunch is served Monday through Friday starting at 12:00 noon until 1:00 p.m. You do not have to be a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monterey County to participate.
The Salinas clubhouse is located at 85 Maryal Drive (behind the Rodeo Grounds), Salinas CA 93906 and the Seaside clubhouse is located at 1332 La Salle Ave, Seaside, CA 93955.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Whatever you say about our low-performing schools....

at least they're not cheating.

Check out this article at the New York Times describing a major scandal in Houston where a principal, an assistant principal and three teachers resigned over allegations they helped boost students scores in a non-academic sort of way. Very sad, but with the pressure many teachers and administrators are facing to improve test scores -- or face takeover, like at the Alisal -- it's not surprising that cheating is on the rise. The Old Gray Lady promises a series, so keep your eyes open.

Most fascinating are the comments: frustrated teachers who are getting all the blame for kids who don't have a supportive environment at home that will help them succeed in school. They don't have it easy, and I'm afraid it's gonna get worse before it gets better.

And speaking of budget problems, with so many schools canceling their summer sessions, many more students will be idling about, getting bored and perhaps getting into a bit of mischief. The Monterey County Office for Employment Training is offering an alternative through its Youth Employment Program for youths ages 14-21.

But the good folks need your help. They want to place as many as 1,200 youth into a job so they can gain hands-on experience through full and part-time work.
The Office for Employment Training will pay the employment wages and provide workers compensation coverage to the youth who qualify.

Applications for both youth and employers are available online. Or contact the Youth Employment Program by phone at (831) 796-3600 or toll free at 800-870-4750, or by email at

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Parents take charge

A common complaint from teachers and administrators is that not enough parents get involved with their children's education. Well, that's not the category where parents from the Kamman Elementary School fall.
For the first time, Kamman Elementary School provided a two-month training to Spanish-speaking parents whose children are enrolled in school. Parents who participated in “LifeSkills” program graduated last week and got a certificate.
"LifeSkills" is training to give parents the tools to prevent their children from getting into drugs and alcohol. Kamman School collaborated with Sun Street Centers to offer the program.

Shifting gears from parents to their kids, summer time is here, the time to learn something fun rather than being stuck in just any old classroom. Learn animation from local artist, animator and surfer, Andrew Dolan. Free! Dolan will first teach fun and interesting facts about the ocean. Then he’ll teach how to use video and stop motion animation to tell stories about the ocean. Students will learn the entire animation process from start to finish. Fourth-grade through college-level students can then enter their completed animated short videos into the Blue Ocean Film
Festival Student Video Contest! Space is limited. For information or to sign up, contact, 831.869.6055 / The classes are free and will take place June 15-18, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Center for Employment Training, 930 Los Coches Road, Soledad.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Colors of the Rainbow

Dancing Classrooms of Monterey ended its second year with an all-county final where Laurel Wood Elementary students became the dancing champions.
But the real champions here are Dancing Classrooms. In their short life, they've raised the profile of arts in the classroom as not only fun, but essential. Those children are transformed by the dance and become the embodiment of self-confidence and poise, qualities that I'm sure carry over to the classrooms.
Here's to the Laurel Wood kids -- who are quite the dancers, indeed -- to Ingrid Tower, for her idea to bring this fantastic program to Monterey county, and to Scott Moore for letting me use his photos for my blog.

Everyone looks forward to Memorial Weekend for the hot dogs and lazy days on the beach, but there's actually two groups who will spend the day doing scholarly stuff. One is the Soledad High School, which is organizing a conference on Sunday to inform parents and high schoolers about the path to college. The event begins at 1:30 at the high school. For more information, click here or call Eliza Gonzales at 521-5035.

The second group is the he MECHA-LULAC club of North Monterey County High School, which will host a safety awareness fair for teens from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Castro Plaza Family Resource Center. Young people will have a chance to learn what their rights are at the workplace, and also advice on safety. For more information, contact Omar Mercado at 233-8696.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Oh, the places they will go!

Michelle Donohue-Mendoza, daughter of Hartnell trustee Pat Donohue and sister of the Mayor of All of Salinas Dennis Donohue, was one of the 10 students graduating from the Ed.D. program in educational leadership at San Francisco State University. Donohue is a native of Salinas and now works as an administrator at West Valley Community College. Mmmm, this community college thing appears to run in the family.

First graduates from stem cell master's program

Another Salinas native also graduating from SF State is Marisa Leal, who will be among the first group to complete the university's stem cell training program. Marisa had no idea where a science degree could take her until she came to SF State. As part of the master's program in stem cell science, Leal quickly learned how to grow stem cells in the lab and has investigated how to turn stem cells into skeletal muscle cells during a year-long internship at University of California, San Francisco.

Speaking of graduates, this weeks marks the beginning of graduation for all high and middle schools in Monterey County -- that's a lot of young people, many of them going into the "real world." It's an exciting time for them and their families, and I wish each and every one of them all the luck in the world. Felicidades!!!!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ladies can sing! And make movies!!

The Santa Catalina School Choir brought home two trophies after participating in the "Music in the Parks" competition last weekend at Milpitas High School. They nabbed place in the women's choir division and the "finest overall choir," a great achievement considering the small size of their choir.
And they had the chance to spent the day at Great America. What a weekend!!!

And speaking of accomplished females, Rachel Asendorf, a junior in the Teledramatic Arts and Technology Department of CSUMB was selected as the 2010 recipient of the $1,000 prize in the Monterey County Film Commission Film Student Scholarship and Awards Program.
Rachel is putting herself through college, currently working as a news intern in the office of strategic communications at CSUMB, learning how to merge news and technology. She is also a production assistant for the Monterey Teen Film Festival, helping manage media and marketing. Rachel had her own political talk radio show, “Raving Raven,” focusing on issues such as media influence, and next semester she’ll be hosting the radio show, “Cult Pop.”
In other words, the lady rocks!!!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Here come the seniors!!!!

I will admit I was taken for a loop when I saw the Boys & Girls Club announcement for its 13th annual senior prom. Is this for all "high school" seniors or just for a particular school? Is it for low-income kids who can't participate in their schools' celebration?
Silly me. The free, fun-filled event is for real "seniors" -- the AARP kind. It's Boys & Girls way to give back to the community, and this year's them is the '50s. The dinner will be followed by Bingo (that should have been a major clue right there) and the crowning of the prom's royalty.
Arrive early because the event fills up quickly: from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Boys & Girls Club in Seaside, 1332 La Salle Ave.

And speaking of seniors -- the other kind -- CSUMB is inviting everyone to attend Capstone presentations on Thursday and Friday.
At CSUMB, all students must complete a capstone project in their final year, publicly presenting and defending the project or portfolio of work that demonstrates what they have learned. They do this each spring at the Capstone Festival, which is organized by academic departments. Capstone projects include research presentations, original poetry, oral histories, installation art, photography, performances, tabletop exhibits, films and videos, multimedia works, computer visualizations, and more.
Presentations will be held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on May 20 and from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on May 21 at various locations around campus. A complete schedule is available here.

They're not quite seniors yet, but judging by their achievements, they probably should be graduating ASAP.
Four Monterey County students have been given major awards at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF), held last week in San Jose at the San Jose Convention Center. The Intel ISEF is the world’s largest pre-college science competition.
The Monterey County students competed against over 1600 students from 59 countries.
Junior Dylan Freedman of Carmel High got an $8,000 tuition package in a Special Award by the Office of Naval Research on behalf of the Navy and Marines. The IEEE Computer Society also presented him with a second-place award of $500.
Frances Atkins, also a junior at Carmel High, received a $24,000 per year, full tuition scholarship by the Sierra Nevada College.
What do they give these kids in Carmel, may I ask? I'd like some.
In the Categorical Awards, the team of brothers Michael and Jimmy Lin, junior and sophomore at Stevenson School, placed second in the environmental management category. They were given a $1,500 award, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), through the CERES Program, is naming a newly discovered asteroid after the brothers.
An asteroid!!! Way, way cool.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Of bikes and hoops...

Not only is good for the health, it's good for the environment, and to celebrate Bike to School Week, all students in Soledad are being encouraged to get their two-wheeled vehicles out of the garage and pedal their way to school
Thursday is Bike to School Day and Frank Ledesma Elementary school will celebrate it by hosting a bike train, a group of students and parents who ride together. The bike train will meet at the Soledad Library Parking lot at 7:15 am and leave for Frank Ledesma promptly at 7:25 am. At the school students will receive a free light breakfast and an incentive gift.

And since we're on the topic of exercise, it's time again for the 3-on-3 basketball tournament at Closter Park in Salinas. Organized by the Cesar Chavez Parent-teacher's Association, the Gil Basketball Academy and the City of Salinas, the tournament is a way to "take back the park," which is sometimes frequented by unsavory individuals. It's also a way to unify the community. So put on your shorts and join in the fun. Team check in begins at 8 a.m. Saturday, and games at 9 a.m. Cost- $40.00 per team, and there are 5 divisions. For more information, contact Jose Gil at 710-1499.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Season of winners

The rain appears to finally be over, the days are longer, and there's an air of restlessness in the air. Which can only mean one thing: school's almost over. With the waning days of schools, many scholarships and awards are announced, so I'll list some of the few who've come across our way in the last few days.

Kyle Pelot from North Salinas High won a $500 scholarship from the Local 234 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, located in Castroville. Kyle, who will be attending Hartnell in the fall, wrote an essay on the Employee Free Choice Act. Kyle's mother is a member of the California Teachers Association. Congrats, Kyle!

Moving south to Monterey... Santa Catalina High School senior Catherine Armanasco took the first place in the 7th annual Weston Scholarship Photography Competition. She will receive a $1,000 scholarship toward college from the Weston Scholarship program. Catherine's photos are also being featured in the "Cameras for Kids" charity photo auction at Santa Catalina School. The dollars raised from this event will go to a children's charity in India. For more information, press here.
Catherine is heading to New York in the fall to pursue her passion for photography. We look forward to seeing her pictures in Vogue in the not-so-distant future.

Moving down to Carmel Valley... Sophie Claudel has been accepted to attend the 2010 Vanderbilt Summer Academy, a program for gifted students in grades 8-12 hosted by Vanderbilt University's Programs for Talented Youth.
Students who attend VSA are among the brightest in the country, scoring in the top tier on academic achievement tests such as the SAT and ACT. Sophie is enrolled in the Med School 101 Program.

All this brilliance makes me wanna reach for my sunglasses...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hijos del Sol

"Los Hijos del Sol," the talented bunch of young artists led by muralist José Ortíz, are putting up the finishing touches on a mural that will serve as the backdrop for the California Shakespeare Theater production of Steinbeck's "The Pastures of Heaven." Adapted by renowned playwright Octavio Solis, the play will open June 2 and Los Hijos del Sol are scheduled to be part of the inaugural festivities in Berkeley. As a long time, devoted fan of José, I can't help to be excited for him and for the amazing work his students are producing. You rock, hermano!

We continue to celebrate teacher's recognition week, and here's a shout out to the Salinas teachers who have been awarded the "Important to be Nice" prize by ARIEL Theatrical. Teachers from all over Monterey County were nominated and the three finalists are:

* Sharon Nelson, Laurel Wood Elementary School, nominated by Evan Liddle and will be honored on stage with an award presentation at the Saturday, May 8 matinee (2:00) performance of Miss Nelson Has a Field Day at The Wilson Children’s Theatre, located at 320 Main Street, the home of ARIEL Theatrical.

* Lisa Parker, Toro Park Elementary School, was nominated by Hailey Sjoblom and Cole Burk and will be honored at the Saturday, May 15 matinee.

* Jacqueline Bartlett, Buena Vista Middle School, was nominated by Mariah O'Grady and received her award at the May 1 performance.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A big cheer for teachers

May 4 is National Teacher Appreciation Day -- actually, the whole week is dedicated to teachers -- so make sure to give yours or your children's more than an apple. A hug would be nice, a thank you letter would certainly be welcome. Often when I'm out on assignments, I run into teachers who attend meetings hauling papers around to grade them when they have a tiny window of opportunity in their hectic schedule. It certainly reminds you of how demanding their work is, how crucial and how often it goes uncelebrated. So here's to you, maestr@s. You're shaping the future of thousands of youngsters out there, and for that, we thank you.

And speaking of adults looking out for children, the folks at the International School in Monterey are hosting Master of Wine Tim Hanni for a school fundraiser. The sommelier is in a quest to dismantle old ideas about consuming wine, focusing more on a "let it be" attitude, which is causing quite a buzz in wine connoisseur circles. If you want to know what's the buzz about, the event will take place May 15, and for more information, click here.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ready, set, apply!

The folks who bring the world to Monterey County now want to send us out of space.
The Lyceum of Monterey County is taking application for its first ever "Space Adventure" camp -- a five-day class that will take students to the NASA Ames Research Center (and take a flight simulation class!!!), the Naval Postgraduate School (and take special guided tours of robotics, lasers, satellites, labs); and the Ching Planetarium.
So, if you are going into 5th, 6th, or 7th grade, write an essay explaining why you should be chosen to be in this planetary program, and send it to the folks at Lyceum. Deadline to apply is May 15. Happy travels!

Greenfield girls are gearing up for a day of healthy and informative Sunday. A group of teenage girls organized a conference that will touch on delicate topics such as reproductive health, drug and alcohol prevention, and self-esteem and emotional health. The free event will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Greenfield Community Center (YMCA) at 1351 Oak Avenue in Greenfield. Registration is required, so contact Tobi Marcus at the Women’s Fund of Monterey County at (831) 375-9712 x125 or

And speaking of South County, a new class is being offered for Spanish-speaking families to create their own digital family album. Free!! Classes began Monday, but there's probably room for more people to start next week. The group meets from 3 to 5 p.m. at Gabilan Elementary School, Rm 27, 330 N. Walker Dr, Soledad
Lunes, 3pm - 5pm / 26 April - 21 June. Llame al 831-678-6300 or 831-869-6055 para más información. O presione aquí.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Of artists and inventors...

Kudos to Francesca Flores and Makena Ehnisz, students at Santa Catalina Middle School, who have been recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers for their whimsical photographs and will be honored at Carnegie Hall. A pretty impressive feat, considering that a record 165,000 pieces of art were submitted for the competition this year.
Francesca, an 8th grader, will receive a gold medal for her photo Evening Windows. Makena, a 7th grader, will get a silver medal for her photo Wind Swept. You can see the photos here.

And speaking of geniuses -- artistic or otherwise -- the Monterey County Fair wants young inventors to come up with your most creative innovations for their fall fair. Grab a copy of Jo Mora's "Chippie de Munk: The Great Inventor" and get inspired to enter in any of the fair's five categories:
* Dude Beagle’s Nut Cracker – Build a Working Nut Cracker
* Grandpa Gopher’s Marshmallow Shooter - Build a working Marshmallow Shooter.
* Terry Pin the Turtle’s Wind Generator – Build a working wind Wind Generator
* Brother Jack Rabbit’s Ready to Launch Rocket – Build a working rocket. Rocket Launch will be held during the Fair.
* Chippie De Munk’s Flying Machine Contest – Build a working paper airplane/glider. Kit to be provided to entrant. Glider competition will be held during the Fair.
Fair promoters are adopting Tom Friedman's recent statements regarding our economy: "We might be able to stimulate our way back to stability, but we can only invent our way back to prosperity.” So boys and girls, go on and invent some prosperity for us!!!! For more information about the contest, click here.