Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A prowler in Pebble Beach

This may be a good time to remind our children not to accept car rides from strangers.

A middle school student from Pacific Grove Unified School District was approached Tuesday afternoon by a man who offered her a ride, then followed her when she refused. The following message was sent to all the families in the Pacific Grove Unified School District by Superintendent Ralph Porras:

At approximately 4:45 pm yesterday (Dec 20) afternoon, a middle school student was approached on her way home from school yesterday by a man who tried to lure her into his vehicle. The incident occurred near Congress Road and Morse Drive in Pebble Beach.
The driver asked the student if she wanted a ride. When the student refused, the driver persisted in asking her if she wanted a ride home and followed her for several blocks until the student was able to evade him. He was driving a gray Porsche sports utility vehicle (Cayenne). The car was dirty and had a dented front bumper.
The man was described as a balding white male with whitish gray hair around the sides of his head and strands of hair combed over the top of his head. His face was unshaven, and he has an inch-long scar on his left cheek near his nose. He wore frameless prescription glasses with silver arms. At the time, he was wearing a navy blue button down shirt with black stripes and has a medium build.
Thankfully, the student is safe and has provided a good description of the man.
The Pacific Grove Police Department is aware of the situation and is on the lookout for the vehicle. If you have any information that you deem helpful, please contact the Pacific Grove Police Department at 831-684-3143.
Please remind your student to never accept a ride from a stranger and to report any incident to a responsible adult as soon as possible. We are grateful that our student followed this important guideline and is safe.

Author, advocate to lead California's efforts to teach English learners

Karen Cadiero-Kaplan, a scholar, published author and longtime advocate for students, will lead the California Department of Education’s efforts to help school districts across the state teach English learners effectively, California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced Wednesday.

A professor at San Diego State University, Cadiero-Kaplan chairs the Department of Policy Studies in Language and Cross Cultural Education, which focuses on biliteracy and English language acquisition. She began her career teaching elementary and secondary special education, and English as a Second Language at the community college level, and went on to become a professor and a provider of professional development for teachers and administrators working with bilingual students.

Cadiero-Kaplan has a range of publications focused on the role of education and language policies in curriculum development and teachers’ professional development, including “The Literacy Curriculum; Bilingual Education: A Critical Examination.”

She will take her post mid-January

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Carolina and her children

Seldom have I received the type of response I got about the story on the Marina family we featured on Sunday's paper. The story about Carolina and her children. If you missed it, you can find it here.

The overwhelming response was filled with desire to help: people want to send money, help run errands, buy clothes for the children, you name it. We have a generous community, and we're blessed by it.

I also received two emails that were more questioning, if you will. Where's the father of these children? Is he paying child support? Yes, Carolina is in a terrible situation, but that's because she made bad choices. Maybe Sabrina won't make the same choices. Maybe the cycle will be broken.

Because I have first hand experience in dealing with families in abusive situations, I can tell you it won't be easy. Sabrina will need a lot -- A LOT -- of help. Not just Sabrina, all of her siblings. They will need guidance, support, constant caring adults. Most importantly, tons of love. And their unstable situation does not seem to have an end in sight. Who knows how long it will take for her mother to regain her health.

This is what experience has taught me: the only "choices" we have are the ones presented to us. If a woman's practically locked up by her husband, with no access to friends and family, does she really have "choices"? If a young girl has to forgo an after-school science program because she has to help with chores and take care of her little siblings, is that really a choice? Could she be blamed later on for not becoming a scientist? (For the record, I'm not writing about Carolina and her family here. These are just scenarios I've run into often in my years of reporting)

I hope, for Sabrina's sake, that she indeed makes wise choices as she grows up. But what I hope for most is that she's surrounded by caring adults who show her what those choices are.

Monday, December 19, 2011

For the little artists in our midst

Sweet Elena’s Bakery and Cafe is sponsoring a children's art contest to celebrate its 20th anniversary -- and a chance for them to win $100.

Children 10 and under can enter to win $100 and have their artwork used for Sweet Elena’s postcards

· Must be 10 years old or younger.
· Art work must be submitted by February 1, 2012
· All artwork to be mailed to: Attention, Children's Art Contest, 465 D Olympia Avenue, Sand City 93955.
· Winner will be selected February 15, 2012
· Artwork will be juried by local artists
· The winning artwork will be made into postcards and sold at Sweet Elena’s Bakery and Café through the month of March 2012.
· For the month of March 2012, the entire proceeds from the artwork will benefit Hamilton House an emergency shelter for displaced and battered woman.

For more information, visit Sweet Elena's here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Monterey Bay high school students and the pressure to get accepted into college

Carmel High student Lily Trytten wrote that "students are still stressed given the message that if they do not get into a good college, they will not succeed. Students are being robbed of their childhoods."

Alex Thurman, her peer at Carmel, wrote a letter to the editor suggesting we write about the pressure to get into the "right" school.

We'd love to. But we need your help. So here's a call to all high school students out there: how's your college search going? are you feeling the heat? where's the pressure coming from: school officials, friends, relatives?

Email me (, call me (753-6755) or write on my blog. Tweet me! @MelendezSalinas. I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

If I were a rich, white lady...

OK, maybe it's not very original, but I was trying to come up with something as outrageous as a recent column by a self-described balding white guy, and that's what popped into my beleaguered brain.

Gene Marks, a Forbes columnist, wrote a column titled "If I were a poor black kid." I'll let you read it and imagine the response it's received. I'll also point you to a compilation of counterattacks: all of them have "white guy" in the title.

It occurs to me that Gene Marks is suffering from a disease very prevalent among certain elite circles: cluelestitism. They suffer from an inflammation of the organ that detects societal clues. That's why so many out there still haven't figured out what the Occupy movement is all about: they say they're disorganized, they have no goals, what are they protesting for anyway?

Well, if you can't figure that out, but then you think you can advise a "poor black kid" what he needs to do in order to succeed in life, then the horrible disconnect becomes more obvious.

I've been hanging out with four homeless children. You'll read about them soon in the newspaper. And I can't begin to imagine having the audacity to tell these young humans that all they need to do is to study hard and take advantages of free computers to do well in life, to overcome their extremely difficult circumstances. When their mother's deathly sick. When they don't even know where they're going to live next year.

And no, I won't try to tell you what I'd do if I were a rich white lady. I have no idea what's like to live in somebody else's shoes.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Here come the CSUMB graduates!

It's taken them four years -- or more -- to get to this place, where students get to demonstrate the knowledge and expertise they've acquired.

The CSUMB Capstone Festival celebrates the culminating projects of graduating seniors and master's students as they present their work in sessions held by each of the graduating programs.

They are oral presentations, poetry, oral histories, installation art, murals photography, research presentations, online teaching and learning, tabletop exhibits, films and videos, multimedia works, computer visualizations, and who knows what else the students have come up with. These projects are a mirror into what the students have learned throughout their sojourn at CSUMB. And everybody's invited to get a glimpse into this knowledge. For a complete schedule, click here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Salinas City classified employees are "socking" their homeless students

They're the secretaries, bus drivers, custodians, and cafeteria workers who pave the road for Salinas City School District students to receive an education. And last month, they collected over 1,000 pairs of socks for the homeless children in their district. Last year they collect teddy bears. Cheryl Camany, director of the homeless program, told the employees there was a need for socks, so classified employees launched a campaign called "sock it to them with love". Rosy Arroyo donated over 200 pairs of socks.
"With all the cuts coming our way, we never know when maybe a classified employee will be homeless," said Rosalie Sanchez, Migrant ID&R/Health Coordinator and public relations officer for the district CSEA chapter.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Opposition to Student Success Task Force recommendations picking up steam

Last week I wrote how Monterey Peninsula College officials have strongly denounced proposed recommendations to revamp the Community College system, beginning with centralizing operations much like it's done at the UC and CSU systems. The proposed reforms would also reduce the number of classes available for the general public, as emphasis would be shifted to students following a career path.

Sooner than you can say "remediation" I got a letter from Monterey resident Danielle Martin, who's very concerned about the possible loss of classes that may not count towards a college degree, but enrich the cultural landscape of the Monterey Peninsula. Journalism students at City College of San Francisco's Newspaper - The Guardsman - have launched a state wide campaign to denounce the possible impacts this plan would have if implemented. Here's a bit from their press release:

The California Community College span Student "Success" Task Force was formed by California Community College Chancellor Jack Scott for one purpose: to make the difficult choices of how to ration education following a brutal decade of budget cuts across California’s education system. The Task Force produced a document that outlines who they feel should be entitled to California’s education system, and who should be left out. Who they left out though, is any student who is not attending school full time, planning to transfer in two years.
Everyone else is left out in the cold.

And Rick Kappra from San Francisco began a petition at for the governor of California to "Oppose Student "Success" Task Force Recommendations."

The more you think about it, the more it becomes apparent that the "Success" plan would do to Community Colleges what NCLB did to K-12 education in California: all reading, all math, and no fun. That may be OK if you need reading and writing, but what if you need art? What about the soul?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A kind student reader said s/he liked the posting on the computer classes

which prompts me to ask, what kind of postings do you like best? Find more helpful? Interesting?

I asked this of Seaside Principal Mary White, and she said she liked it all -- kind that she is. From reader traffic, I can deduct what kind of stuff is getting attention.

Ms. White said she'd like to see more young people's voices. I agree. Young people out there (and I know your schools probably block my site) what would you like to see in my blog? In the newspaper?

Ms. White also said she'd like to hear from more teachers, particularly from south Monterey County. Do you have some particular stories you'd like to share?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Is CORAL Academy a step away from being approved?

We won't know for sure until Dec. 19, when the MPUSD board is scheduled to give its final decision. But Scott Maxwell, a board member with the CORAL charter, is optimistic: district officials approved their request for facilities, and CORAL representatives have been meeting with friendly MPUSD employees, Maxwell says.

The charter petition by CORAL was denied both by MPUSD and MCOE officials in the past, and its members rewrote their petition -- which, I may add, looks very much improved.

If approved, it would be the third charter school approved in Monterey County within the last year.

Marina High students navigate a colorful future

After a year long collaboration between Marina High and Cal State Monterey Bay, representatives from both institutions celebrated last weekend the completion of a mural named after the schools' motto, Navigate the Future.

According to CSUMB,last spring, students at MHS exchanged ideas and drawings with Professor Johanna Poethig’s painting and mural class, and then, this fall, the project was brought to life on a prominent wall at the school’s entrance.

It shows a lighthouse and a yellow brick road with ancient footprints that lead to a universe of endless possibilities. At the base, a compass emerges from the ground while a figure at the right looks through a telescope to the future. A high-tech “teleporter” depicts a light-hearted, science fiction-infused peek into a future technological world.

CSUMB graduate Roxana Keland (’97, Visual and Public Art) has contributed both money and time to VPA’s collaboration with the high school.She described herself as one of the university’s first students and recalled joining with others to paint murals on former barracks that dotted the new campus. Now she sees the Marina High students doing a similar thing, while discovering their own talent.

To see more photos of the project, click here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Quilts from Robert Down Elementary second graders for bodies and souls

Second graders from Robert Down Elementary School in Pacific Grove delivered 10 quilts that they helped make to Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula today to comfort babies who spend time in the nursery.

The project by Denise Johnson’s class was part of a social studies lesson on caring and kindness. Elizabeth Olney, whose son Corbin is in the class, does sewing projects at the school each year and proposed making the quilts. She received a grant and fabric donations from the Monterey Peninsula Quilters Guild, which also regularly makes quilts for local hospitals. The class made 26 quilts and Olney added four more. They are being divided among Community Hospital and the two Salinas hospitals.
Olney cut the fabric and each child selected the two prints they wanted to use and pinned them together wrong-side-out. Olney sewed the edges with a machine, then the children turned them right-side-out and tied a series of square knots in a grid pattern that will hold the front and back together. Each quilt bears a label with the maker’s signature and a message that they were a gift from the class.
“They were so excited about being able to bring these to the hospital,” Olney says.
The project incorporated lessons in math, art, and social studies, Johnson says, and it also taught the children that in the right circumstances, it’s OK to do something kind for a stranger.

Members of the class, their parents, and their teacher delivered the quilts to Catherine Powers, RN, director of the Family Birth Center, and Zosia Chciuk, RN, assistant director of the intensive care nursery. While at the hospital, they fed the fish in the koi pond and visited the Family Birth
Center, posing for a photo with the Dennis the Menace statue at the entry. They also got to peer through a window in the nursery to see a newborn who will be given one of the quilts.
“These quilts symbolize the support our families receive from the community,” says Powers. “Wrapping a baby in one of these quilts is like the community wrapping its arms around the baby.”

-- Brenda Moore, marketing and communications, Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula

Friday, December 2, 2011

UCSC grad and Gabrielle Giffords staff member to be honored in the US Capitol

Gabriel Zimmerman, the first Congressional staff member to be murdered while in the line of duty, will have a placed named after him in the Capitol, the Gabriel Zimmerman Meeting Room.

Zimmerman was killed in the January 8 shooting in Tucson, Arizona, that took the lives of six people and injured thirteen others, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

“The ‘Gabriel Zimmerman Meeting Room’ will honor the legacy of Gabriel Zimmerman and the thousands of congressional staffer that work in our communities across the country,” said Congressman Sam Farr, who co-authored the bipartisan resolution to honor Zimmerman. “By all accounts Gabe was a person dedicated to making a difference in the lives of the people around him, and now that spirit will be echoed by the people who visit this room and the staffer that use it everyday.”

Zimmerman graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 2002, where a scholarship fund has also been established in his honor to celebrate his dedication to public service. The resolution to name the Gabriel Zimmerman Meeting Room was approved unanimously.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Here's a good project for middle and high schoolers

California middle and high school students can compete for $50,000 in prizes by creating a five-to-eight-minute video documentary for entry in the StudentCam, -- C-SPAN's Annual student documentary competition. This year's topic, “The Constitution and You.” The goal is to engage youth in the principles of our democracy to ensure its preservation.

Students are asked to select any provision of the U.S. Constitution and create a video illustrating why it is important to them. Videos must reflect varying points of view on the topic and also include C-SPAN video that supports the topic. Winners in both middle and high school categories receive cash prizes. Teachers listed as faculty advisers, can also win equipment for their schools. One California student videographer and a parent or guardian, will win a trip to Washington, D.C., including a VIP tour of the C-SPAN studios.

Entry forms and completed videos must be submitted online by January 20, 2012. For more information on the competition, please visit the C-SPAN StudentCam 2012 Web site.