Monday, December 31, 2012

Teens, show your talent

Do you think you have what it takes to sing, dance, and act or play an instrument? Would you like to show your talent to your friends and family?

If you are in middle or high school, you can sign up for the Teen Talent Extravaganza and showcase your talent for the Salinas Community.

Deadline to register is January 28, 2013. All participants must attend dress rehearsal on January 30, 2013 – 5:00pm

The Teen Talent Extravaganza will take place at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1, at the Steinbeck Institute for Art and Culture, 940 N. Main St., Salinas. 

To register call 758-7306/ 7587476 by January 28. For more information call: Salinas Recreation Center 758-7306

Monday, December 24, 2012

MPC's Doug Garrison nominated for a statewide award

If you read the profile I wrote about Doug Garrison, who just retired from leading the Monterey Peninsula College for six years, you'll notice no mention about his nomination for the 2013 Harry Buttimer award.

My bad. There was just so much material I had to leave out a lot. But this tid bid is important.

The award, given by the Association of California Community College Administrators, will be given in February and it honors those who excel in their administrative duties.

"Over the years this award has come to represent the highest level of excellence in administration," writes Susan Bray, executive director of the association, in a letter notifying Garrison of the recognition. "'Integrity, principle, compassion, strength in leadership, contributions to colleagues and the profession, contributions to the college and the community…' are some of the criteria that each of our outstanding nominees have possessed, and the same qualities that were outlined and detailed extensively in the many letters of nomination we’ve now received on your behalf."
 Congratulations, Dr. Garrison. Your nomination speaks to the many qualities widely attributed to your leadership.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Safe Routes grant to benefit Monterey Peninsula students

The Monterey County Health Department has received $375,000 as part of a Safe Routes to School grant from the California Department of Public Health’s Kids’ Plate program. The Safe Routes to School grant will bring pedestrian and bike education to schools as well as traffic enforcement around the schools and the surrounding neighborhoods.

The 21-month long grant begins on March 1, and will benefit Ord Terrace Elementary, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, Highland Elementary, Del Rey Oaks Elementary, and Marina Vista Elementary.

While a large majority of students live within one mile of their schools, many of the parents still drive their children to school. This reduces the exercise a child gets and increases traffic around the schools.

The lack of exercise may contribute to the high childhood obesity rates in Seaside, which is at 46 percent, the third worst in Monterey County. Furthermore, driving children to school causes major traffic congestion around schools in the mornings and afternoons.

A unique feature of the grant is having the children practice with a mock town brought to their school. As part of the mock town, students will work with pretend traffic situations such as cars backing up in driveways and/ or drivers who are distracted, and learn to recognize these problems and how to protect themselves.

Rose Ferrero Elementary in Soledad could be a National Blue Ribbon School

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson nominated Rose Ferrero Elementary in the Soledad Unified School District as one of the 35 California public schools worthy of receiving a National Blue Ribbon. 

 “I applaud the principals, teachers, staff, and families whose commitment to learning has led to success in the classroom,” Torlakson said in a statement. “Schools nominated for this significant recognition are performing at very high levels or are making impressive strides in student progress under challenging circumstances.”

Schools are eligible to be considered for the 2013 National Blue Ribbon Schools Program if they meet either one of two performance criteria:

Exemplary High-Performing Schools: Schools that achieve at least the 85th percentile statewide in the percent of students scoring proficient or advanced in English-language arts and mathematics on the state assessments. Schools nominated in this category may or may not have at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Exemplary Improving Schools: Schools with at least 40 percent of their students from a disadvantaged background that are also among the top 10 percent of schools in the state showing the greatest improvement in the percent of students scoring proficient or advanced in ELA and mathematics on the state assessments over the last five years.

Congratulations, Rose Ferrero! We'll be cheering for you!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Palma student, former CASA foster child donates hundreds of stuffed animals

 Former CASA foster child Ryan Moses knows what is like to grow up under difficult circumstances.
At six he found out his parents were addicted to drugs and alcohol and a week after his seventh birthday his father was in jail and his mother had abandoned him. In and out of foster homes and back with his father before another stint in jail Ryan almost gave up hope.

By the end of sixth grade, he went from one foster home to another, until his CASA representative said, enough.

“After staying at the group home for a year the place was going to be shut down and I was going to be moved to yet another home,”  Ryan told Celeste White of White Page Communications. “Luckily my CASA sponsor caught wind of that and said this has to stop, he doesn't deserve this anymore; he deserves a better life. So, she told my social worker that she would take me in and be my guardian. I knew that God was the one that did this. I would pray and pray that I could just go back home, but God had better plans for me. He wanted me to live a better life than what I have been living.”

Ryan, 15, now in his sophomore year at Palma School in Salinas, and still living with the Walkers, has decided to give back to the organization that helped him when he was in need. With the help of ‘The Know That You Matter Club’ of Palma, he collected more than 500 stuffed animals to be donated to children sponsored by CASA, children just like him.

“We are very proud of Ryan and the rest of the members of  here at Palma.” said Brother Patrick Dunne, president of Palma School “We have an obligation to be there for these children. That’s why we do what we do.”

There's a huge need for children in the foster care system to get court appointed advocates, people who can advocate on their behalf. Voices for Children, formerly known as CASA, provides free training and support for caring adults who want to help these children.

Their next information session will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 2 at Starbucks Del Rey Oaks, 441 Canyon Del Rey Boulevard Del Rey Oaks. For more information about Voices for Children, click here.

* This story and photos come to us via Celeste White of White Page Communications

David Clemens of MPC goes to Boston

Monterey Peninsula College English professor David Clemens has been elected to the Modern Language Association  delegate assembly as a special-interest delegate for two Year Colleges.

Clemens founded and coordinates the MPC Great Books Program and is a prolific writer on higher education issues.  His work has been published in the National Association of Scholars and the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy,  Academic Questions, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside English, Teaching English in the Two Year Colleges, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers’ Forum. In January, Clemens will attend the 128th annual Modern Language Association Convention in Boston.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

MPUSD to begin search for new superintendent

New MPUSD board president Curt Parker, still green on procedures, failed to include an agenda item to accept Superintendent Marilyn Shepherd's resignation for Monday night's meeting. Not to worry, a special meeting has been scheduled for Thursday at 5 p.m. to accept it and to begin the search for a new superintendent.

What do you want to see in a new leader for the district? It's your time to voice your opinion.

Incidentally, after being at Monday's meeting, I had yet another revelation on why Dr. Shepherd may have decided it's a good time to call it quits. Yes, I had a conversation with her in which she said she's leaving of her own volition, because it's a good time to do something else. Nothing or nobody is pushing her out, said.

At Monday's meeting, however, the board received a report of the district's financial situation, and even though the district has very good reserves, I don't see how the district will go on without huge budget cuts. The district is deficit spending to the tune of $8 million, so in three years those reserves will be essentially wiped out if those cuts don't come along.

It's going to be interesting. Stay tuned.

CSUMB's Barbara Sayad takes Carmel children to Nepal

Barbara Sayad, a lecturer in the Health, Human Services and Public Policy Department at CSUMB, took sixth graders at Carmel Middle School on a virtual tour of Nepal on Monday, when she shared her experiences from a trip she took to the Asian country.

Language arts teacher Shelly Glennon had recently assigned "The Homeless Bird", a novel by Gloria Whelan which narrates the life of a 13-year-old girl in India who's sold into marriage. The book,  music, art and stories of life in south Asia had so moved the Carmel students that they went into the community to raise funds for Empower Nepali Girls, a non-profit that gives out scholarship to needy girls in Nepal.

The students raised $5,700, according to Sayad, enough to send 57 girls to school for a year. Sayad will give the money to a professor at CSU Fullerton, the organizer of the CSU's yearly trek to Nepal, who will be bringing the money along with a backpack full pen-pal letters to the rural Himalayan villages this month.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Monterey County students attend Met performance

Franca Gargiulo of Occhiata Productions in Monterey tells us that more than more than 470 Monterey County students, many for the first time ever, went to the opera Saturday to see a live performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida.

 Did they board a plane and travel to New York to attend a concert at the Metropolitan Opera? Nah. The students attended the performance thanks to the Met's program "Live in HD", which shows in movie theaters throughout the country to bring the Met to our backyard. The students saw Aida at Century Theatre in Monterey.

More than 10 schools and 4,000 students participated in the classroom multimedia, which included interactive presentations and curriculum which explained the story of Aida. Schools participating in Saturday’s event included Boronda Meadows, Kamman School, Martin Luther King Academy, Roosevelt, University Park of Salinas; Fairview Middle School, Gonzales, Main Street Middle School and Soledad High School, Soledad, North Monterey County Middle School, Castroville and Rancho Cielo, Salinas.

The next Met show at the local movie theaters will be on Saturday Jan. 19 at 12:55 p.m. The show: Donizetti's Maria Stuarda

Can we add anything meaningful to the conversation about Sandy Hook?

A horrific tragedy took place Friday. Twenty innocent children and six of their brave teachers were gunned down. It was our national conversation for the entire weekend.

At newsrooms across the country -- ours at the Monterey Herald is no exception -- we often find ourselves asking, how can we contribute to the conversation -- not just in this event, but any other national tragedy? Do we ask local schools if they're beefing up security? Do we ask if we have enough mental health professionals for our young males? Do we ask parents if they fear for their children's safety? I wonder if any of it makes sense, when trying to figure out something so incongruent.

But here I am, asking our readers: what questions should we ask, at the local level, that would address our concerns about a mass shooting across the country? Or have you heard enough, read enough, from other outlets? Maybe I can curate a page with resources for families, if that's what's needed. Call me, email me, tweet me, light a fire and send smoke signals. I want to hear from you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Was MPUSD's Marilyn Shepherd forced out?

By now, I'm used to all sorts of rumors coming from Monterey Peninsula Unified. I usually try to chase them in a vain attempt to substantiate them, and most of the times, rumors are just that: unsubstantiated gossip.

The latest: that Superintendent Marilyn Shepherd, who announced Monday night that she's retiring at the end of the school year, was actually forced out.

If that's the case, nobody will say it on the record, naturally. It would be a personnel matter, something that would expose board members to litigation if in fact they asked Shepherd to resign and then blabbed about it.

But here's why I'm convinced this is just one of the many unsubstantiated rumors that surround MPUSD as persistently as the summer fog embraces the bay: the trustees genuinely like Dr. Shepherd. They respect her leadership, trust her advice, and ultimately, vote to support her proposals. They say it over and over again, every meeting, every chance they get.

Since I began covering the district more than two years ago, I've heard constant rumors that Shepherd's losing the support of the board. Then  I go to the meetings, I see one or two board members question her intensely about one proposal or another, sometimes even getting the superintendent a bit flustered; but in the end, her proposals get approved. Usually the decisions are unanimous. Once or twice, she's gotten a dissenting vote. Rarely two. All these votes tell me she's still trusted and respected. In June she got her contract extended until 2015, with only Jon Hill voting against it solely because he wanted to see stricter accountability measures in it -- not because he opposed Shepherd's presence in the district.

I've covered boards where trust for superintendents had eroded, where trustees began negotiating an exit for their top administrator, and MPUSD is far from being one of them.

But what do I know? I've only sat at three out of every four MPUSD trustee meetings for the last two years. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dan Soudran brought a 30-foot gray whale to Greenfield

Some days I get to meet amazing people. Today was one of those.

Dan Soudran, founder of Community Science Workshops, came to Greenfield to show students at Vista Verde Middle School the skeleton of a 30-ft whale that got beached on Half Moon Bay.

Soudran came up with the idea of starting community science workshops about two decades ago, and his network has nearly a dozen in rural areas like Greenfield and Watsonville. I've been wanting to interview him for a while, so today, even though I was supposed to be on vacation, I came in to talk to him.

It was a real treat. Dan's energy and enthusiasm for getting children inspired about science is contagious. The students really got into exploring the bones, even tried to use a cow hip like a mask.

Plus, he likes Antonio Machado, one of my favorite poets! In the middle of our interview, he quoted Machado's most famous poem, "Caminante, no hay camino. Se hace camino al andar."

There are no roads. We make the roads as we walk.

What a treat! Dan, come back soon!

Pacific Grove Unified will get manual recounting for parcel tax vote

There will be a public recount for local ballot Measure A, Pacific Grove Unified School District’s parcel tax measure, Monterey County Elections officials announced Monday.

Results tallied by Monterey County election officials reflected that the measure failed by less than one percent, with 6,102 votes in favor of and 3,092 votes against the measure. Parcel taxes need 67 percent of the vote to be approved.

The request for a recount was made by the Pacific Grove Unified School District on December 5. Any request for a recount of any ballot contest must be filed within five days of certifying the election, which was Friday, December 7, according to elections officials.

The manual recount will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, and will continue every day until it's complete.

Friday, December 7, 2012

So long, Doug Garrison!

Monterey Peninsula College officials are hosting a retirement party for President Doug Garrison. He leaves after six years in Monterey and  three decades of service in the California community college system. 

The celebration will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. December 12 at the Marriott Ferrante Room. For more information or questions call 831-646-4272 or email

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Youth voting, civing engagement and knowledge

Perhaps because of the presidential election, civic engagement among youth emerged as one of the topics that piqued my interest. So I was happy to learn that CIRCLE, a center for the study of youth engagement at Tufts University, has formed a nonpartisan commission to analyze data on young Americans’ civic knowledge and voting, then issue recommendations for how to improve both.

The commission was formed in response to controversies about recent voting laws (for instance, new state photo ID laws in several states) as well as debates about civic education in schools and colleges.

The commission begins with no position on the existing or proposed policies; its deliberations will be influenced by new data collected during and immediately after the 2012 election.

The commission will be comprised of a bipartisan group of 14 scholars and experts from across the country and will conclude its work in the spring of 2013 with a comprehensive report outlining recommendations on how to strengthen the civic participation of America’s youth.

For more information about the commission, click here.

I can hardly wait for the report!

Documentary on Michelle Rhee soon to hit the airwaves

Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of the Washington D.C. schools and now the CEO of Students First, will be featured in a Frontline documentary in January. Find more details here.

Rhee's now Sacramento's First Lady, and remains a controversial figure in education. She received much praise for what were perceived great gains in the D.C. schools during her tenure, but those gains came into question later when it was discovered that the erasure rate in exams throughout the district was higher than normal.

Rhee was featured in "Waiting for Superman" and promoted "Won't Back Down," a dramatization of parents taking over a school. She's a personality worth knowing, so mark your calendars.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Former Monterey Peninsula student living her dream in Las Vegas

Unlike my colleague John Devine, I seldom hear from former MPUSD students. Imagine my pleasure when I received an email from Cathy Poochigian, class of 2000 at Monterey High.

Poochigian attended Bay View Elementary, Walter Colton Middle School, Monterey High and Monterey Peninsula College. She calls herself a proud " product of MPUSD" who still have ties with Colton Middle School and Vickie Lucido's drama department (costuming their annual spring musical for the last 6 years).

Earlier this year, she was named MGM Grand Hotel and Casino's Employee of the Year, which she says it's a big accomplishment for a kid from a small town in Monterey.

"I currently work as a Wardrobe Attendant for Cirque du Soleil's KÀ at the MGM Grand and have just been promoted to Production Coordinator for our show," she said in an email message.

"From volunteering with local food banks to being the face of MGM Grand and a model employee, this year has has had had so many windows of opportunity ready for me to push open. I feel like I am a great example of how amazing things can happen to students who went through the Monterey school system and credit my instructors who encouraged me throughout my educational years. People say 'Merry Christmas and have a happy new year'. I say, 'what an amazingly happy new year it has been!'"

Congratulations, Cathy, and happy holidays to you too!

Monday, December 3, 2012

School Bonds 101 -- a financial lesson for the ages

Thanks to the report in the L.A. Times, I've now fully jumped into the bonds bandwagon. Suffice to say, it's not fun.

A recap: an L.A. Times report rang alarm bells on Capital Appreciation Bonds, which accrue enormous amount of interest and could sock the taxpayers with huge repayments for funds borrowed through bonds to build schools, etc. I blogged about it last week. 

The issue, as usual, is a lot more complicated than that. No wonder sometimes experts hate us journalists for being overly simplistic.

Don't take my word for it. Take a look at the documents that spell out the obligations that both buyers and sellers get into when trading bonds. Series D of Hartnell bonds, sold in 2009, can be found here. The most recent issue of MPUSD bonds can be found here

Naturally, I don't expect anybody to read them. That's my job. So by the end of the week, expect a full report. In the meantime, pass the aspirin. 

English learners and the Stanford project

When I wrote an article about English learners and the Common Core a couple of weeks ago, I failed to link to the Understanding Language Project at Stanford University. The team is working on developing teaching resources to share, something that could be very useful as schools work on implementing the Common Core Standards.

The project will host a webinar to discuss their unit "Persuasion across time and space," a unit for 7th graders that analyzes a series of texts in the context of the Common Core. I was lucky to attend a workshop on this unit taught by Prof. Aída Walqui, who piloted the program in Oakland to much success. So English teachers out there, I highly recommend the webinar!

#FreeToTweet: could you win a $5,000 scholarship?

Last year, Marina Abigail "Abby" Hoffman, now a freshman at UC Berkeley and a graduate of Steven, tweeted her way to a $5,000 scholarship for her message about the First Amendment.

Could the winner be you this year?

Beginning at midnight on Dec. 1 through 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 15, (yea, I'm arriving late to the party) students at a high school, community college or university ages 14 and up can tweet their support for the First Amendment with the hash tag #FreeToTweet, which will enter them in the “Free to Tweet” scholarship competition.

Last year’s campaign received more than 17,000 submissions in one day, including a tweet of support from the White House.

Students can enter the scholarship competition by tweeting a message of support – using the hashtag #FreeToTweet – for the First Amendment. A panel of educators and First Amendment experts will review the entries and award five $5,000 scholarships.

Judging criteria and complete rules can be found here. Updates on the event can be followed on Twitter at @FreeToTweet2012.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

More on the PR firm hired to smooth wrinkles at MPUSD

The boss of bosses at the Herald, Royal Calkins, wrote an interesting column regarding MPUSD and their hiring of K-12 Insight to improve community relations.

I wanted to share it here because, in this day and age of electronic communications, I'm not sure Internet readers saw it. So here it is.

MPC's Walter Tribley 3.5 year contract approved

Monterey Peninsula College trustees unanimously approved a 3.5 year contract for incoming president Walter Tribley. He's scheduled to begin service Dec. 17.

His annual salary will be $205,000, minus a 2 percent wage concession for 2012-13, for a total of $200,859. He'll receive similar health and other benefits as other administrators, a $625 monthly expense allowance and $625 monthly car allowance.

Tribley will be earning considerably less than his predecessor, who was hired at $215,000 in 2008 and has earned a 5 percent increase every year minus wage concessions like all the rest of the staff.

Willard Lewellyn, hired to lead Hartnell College in the summer, has a yearly salary of $225,000 plus benefits, a $450 monthly allowance for use of his personal car for college businesses and $5,000 for moving expenses.

Of school bonds and other demons

The widespread practice among school districts of selling "Capital Appreciation Bonds" is coming into sharp focus this week after the L.A. Times published an investigation on the topic. Here's the link.

School districts statewide have been resorting to selling Capital Appreciation Bonds since the economic bubble burst and pushed down property values. Administrators began to use these bonds banking with the belief that property values will go up, so taxpayers would not be adversely affected.  I've also heard from district administrators they plan to refinance the bonds before they become due so the payments are not as high as they're being made to sound on stories like this.

Nine districts in Monterey County have resorted to this type of bonds since 2007: Alisal Union, Bradley Union, Carmel Unified, Gonzales Unified, Greenfield Union, Hartnell College, Monterey Peninsula College, Monterey Peninsula Unified, King City Elementary, and Santa Rita Elementary. Together they've issued about at least $104 million in bonds to finance school construction and renovation.

To my untrained eye, it looks like the only bonds that should raise eyebrows are in Bradley, Carmel, Hartnell and Santa Rita because of their high repayment ratio. But I'll have a chance to look at them more closely in the days to come.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

California funding "deferrals" tool

District administrators not only fret about budget cuts, but about "deferrals." It's the money they're supposed to be getting but it's being used in Sacramento to close budget gaps. Talk about borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. 

Doing research for a story I'm writing for tomorrow's paper, I found this cool tool in the web, courtesy of Ed Voice. The database allows you to find out how much the state "deferred" in payments to districts for the 2011-12 school year.

For MPUSD, it was a cool $8 million.
Salinas City Elementary, $10 million.
Salinas Union High, $21 million.

It's money that's owed to the districts, but they can't use it. So they go and borrow, usually with some interest rates attached.Ultimately, it's the taxpayers who foot the bill.

Mmm. Not sure how that will change now that Prop. 30 passed, but will definitely find out.

A 30-foot gray whale is coming to Greenfield

Two weeks from now, students from Vista Verde Middle School in Greenfield will have the chance to view and touch a complete skeleton of a 30-foot gray whale.

The Greenfield Science Workshop program, which is part of a network of science workshops across California, will bring the whale exhibit.  The exhibit travels in a modified truck and is used as a natural science resource to engage students in science education.

Dan Sudran, founder of the network of workshops, salvaged the whale bones that make up the traveling exhibit.  The young gray whale first washed up on Pescadero Beach in June 2011. Sudran asked for permission to remove the dead whale’s remains, and with little time to act, he relied on a team of volunteers and friends to dig up the bones and carry them to his backyard in Pescadero. He  cleaned the bones and built a structure that would allow for the safe travel of the skeleton in a donated truck.  A real human skeleton, the rib of a blue whale, as well as cow, deer, and even gopher bones accompany the exhibit.

I've been to the workshop in Greenfield, which is truly magical. Being around the children and teachers you realize how much students gain when they receive an opportunity to explore. The whale exhibit sounds like another great opportunity.

The exhibit is scheduled to return during February 2013 to visit Oak Elementary School.

Monday, November 26, 2012

November is national adoption month

and there's tons of teenager out there waiting to join a family.

I've been meaning to write about adoption for a while for two reasons: one, November is adoption month, and we get bombarded with messages about opening our homes to children less fortunate.

Two, a good friend of mine, mother of two gorgeous adopted boys, began blogging recently. Naturally, she's been blogging about adoption. You can read her blog here.

For those of you with children out there, you'll know how hard it gets when they hit the teenage years. Their hormonal levels spike through the roof, and previously lovable boys and girls become aliens from Planet What's the Matter with You Today.

Not surprisingly, children in their teenage years have the most difficulty finding permanent homes. And it's at this time when they most need it: it's the time when they'll be making decisions that will affect them their whole lives: whether to drop out or finish high school; give into the drugs temptation. If they set out on the wrong path, the chances for them to re-chart it will be slim.

Adoption is not for everyone, but if you're curious, here you can find more information.

Mary Claypool sworn into Monterey County Board of Education

Top Seaside community activists gathered at the Monterey County Office of Education last week to witness the swearing in of Mary Claypool as the newest trustee on its board.

Claypool, a business consultant, former executive director of the Monterey County Business Council, and columnist for The Herald, was appointed to fill the Trustee Area 6 seat left vacant in September with the resignation of Byrl Anderson-Smith.

Claypool will serve the remainder of the term, which expires Nov. 2013.

Claypool has served on various parent-teacher associations, worked directly in classrooms, and currently serves as a member of the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District Bond Oversight Committee. She has 42 years of experience working as a budget/management analyst for local government, including the City of Seaside and County of Monterey. She holds bachelor and master degrees from La Salle University.

In the picture, Monterey Peninsula Unified Trustee Helen Rucker swears in Claypool in under the watchful eye of Mel Mason, president of the Monterey County chapter of the NAACP. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Speaking of "CAVE" people and MPUSD

I knew my story about MPUSD hiring a communications firm would spark reaction. And Monterey resident and mother extraordinaire Joanna Greenshields didn't disappoint.

Here's an email she sent to MPUSD administrators and board members in response to my story:

I hope that these folks from Virginia are fluent in Spanish (CMS- Not that I could tell). 

The largest group of parents in MPUSD are Hispanic and very specific issues have to be addressed by people who are culturally and linguistically capable and sensitive. 

The other issue I see is that MPUSD personnel are some of the biggest naysayers. 
Many staff are unwilling to support district goals and many more won't put their own children in the very schools they teach in. How is that supposed to inspire confidence in the rest of us? 
My own experience with a few members in the top tier administration has been thoroughly entertaining at times! 
I have been lied to, I have been ignored, I have had administrators at board meetings roll their eyes, smirk and make sarcastic comments after I have raised an issue. 
Why would anybody but a bloody idiot get pulled in to that snake pit on a regular basis? 
It is embarrassing to see district staff try to argue a point on behalf of "the party line" when they are ill prepared and uncomfortable, but they have been sent out in to the firing line to sell the latest twaddle to the deaf public anyway. 
This has been my own personal experience and I know many other parents and community members that have experienced exactly the same. 

 I will say that the Board members have never acted inappropriately, nor have they made me feel like a " CAVE " person. Honesty, integrity, and total transparency are an absolute must for this administration. The superintendent sets the tone. Enough said!

Mrs. Greenshields raises an issue here that I've heard from many corners of MPUSD -- not just Monterey. Many don't like the top-down approach to decision making that appears to be the norm in the district. Thus, decisions that are arrived to this way keep building pressure in several corners until they finally bubble up, and explode one way or another.

If nothing else, maybe K-12 Insight will help take the community's pulse and see what kind of decisions would be more palatable.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Monterey youth: apply for the Immigrant Youth Achievement Award

Here's one of my favorite dreams: that one of the young, talented immigrants I've profiled wins the American Immigration Council’s annual Immigrant Achievement Awards.

José Hernández, I'm looking at you! ;-)

But anyone else from the Central Coast would make me happy.

The Immigrant Youth Achievement Award celebrates high-achieving young immigrants, whose personal accomplishments and contributions demonstrate the impact young immigrants are having on our nation every day.

Here's the requirements:

• Candidates must be between the ages of 14 and 25 years of age on April 11, 2013;
• They must be an immigrant to the United States, including those who have become naturalized citizens.
• His or her accomplishments must reflect more than personal success and should have evidence of a commitment to making a positive impact in their community or the world around them;

For more information and submit a nomination, click here. Only emailed submissions are accepted. Deadline: February 1, 2013.

Monterey children with special needs: this movie show is for you

The idea comes from Aaron and Kelly Schneider, parents of a child with ASD who have recently moved to Monterey County.

After experiencing a "sensory film screening" in Ohio, they approached Jeremiah Leach, general manager at the Century Theater in Monterey about hosting a similar event here. At 9 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 24, families with children with special needs will have the chance to watch Wreck it Ralph in its non 3D version in an environment that let's them be. Cost: $6.50 per person.

 The movie theater would like to have an estimate of how many people will be attending. Call 831.373.8051 or email to let them know you'll be attending.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

College graduates: apply for the Capitol Fellows Program

Interested in learning more about the legislative process in California? Apply for a fellowship from the Center for California Studies!

The fellowships include the Jesse Marvin Unruh Assembly Fellowship, Senate, Executive, and Judicial fellowships.

Applicants must be 20 years of age by September 1, 2013, and they must have completed a bachelor's degree on any major. Graduate, postgraduate and mid-career applicants are also encouraged to apply.

Legislative Fellows are placed in the Capitol office of an Assemblymember or Senator and perform a variety of tasks in different issue areas. Responsibilities may include drafting and staffing legislation, writing committee analyses, responding to constituent letters, writing speeches, meeting with constituents, tracking legislation, or researching policy issues.

Deadline to apply for a fellowship is February 11, 2013. Each fellowship has different qualifications and application requirements, but most require the applicant to be at least 20 years of age at the start of the program and have completed a bachelor's degree by September 1, 2013. Fellows in each program work for about 11 months, receive health benefits, and a monthly stipend of $1,972. They work as full-time members of a legislative, executive, or judicial branch. Fellows are assigned workloads equivalent of full-time staff.

For more information about the programs and their application requirements, please visit the Center for California Studies website here.

Candance Thille talks about "Disruptive Innovation" at CSUMB

The CSUMB's President's Speaker Series kicked off last week with a talk by Candace Thille, director of the Open Learning Initiative (OLI) at Carnegie Mellon University.

Thille's specializes in applying results from research about learning to the design of open web-based learning or MOOCs (massive open online courses) which  are all the rage right now. Most major, prestigious universities have added these type of courses (Harvard, Yale, Stanford) to their curriculum, something's that's really turning higher education upside down.

CSUMB's President Eduardo Ochoa is enthusiastic about the possibilities of revamping education using new technology tools.

 If you want to see Thille's talk, click here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Salinas City Elementary to host dual immersion parent conference

Dual Language Program Advocates and the Salinas City Elementary School District will hold its 2nd annual dual immersion parent conference at Boronda Meadows Elementary School from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, November 17th.

 Dual immersion is a method that teaches students in two languages.

The conference is free and is geared toward prospective parents of incoming preschool, kinder and first graders and current dual immersion parents. Separate tracks for each session (in Spanish and English) will focus on areas specific to either group.

Enrichment activities will be provided for children in attendance.  Dual language expert Rosa Molina will deliver the keynote speech and host one of the breakout sessions.

Boronda Meadows is at 915 Larkin Street, Salinas.

To register click here or or call 831-607-9360. Walk-up registration is welcome.

Dual Language Program Advocates exists to promote and support dual language programs that develop bilingual, bi-literate and bicultural students in the city of Salinas and the state of California. For more info on dual immersion programs, click here or here.

Hartnell to break ground for Technical Training Building

Hartnell College will host a groundbreaking ceremony for the Technical Training Building at the Alisal Campus from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 15.

It is the second major building project at the Center for Advanced Technology, which opened last year. A 16,500-square-foot facility, the Technical Training Building will be LEED certified and house the automotive technology, heavy duty diesel technology, and sustainable construction programs.

Majors now offered at the Center for Advanced Technology include agricultural business and production, food safety, agricultural and industrial technology, welding, sustainable design and construction, automotive technology, including heavy duty diesel technology, and computer science, along with general education classes that support those majors.

Mary Caypool appointed to Monterey County Board of Education

Seaside business leader Mary Claypool has been appointed to fill the seat in Trustee Area 6 of the Monterey County Board of Education effective immediately.

The seat became vacant in September with the resignation of Byrl Anderson-Smith. Claypool will serve the remainder of the term, which expires Nov. 2013.

Claypool has served on various parent-teacher associations, worked directly in classrooms, and currently serves as a member of the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District Bond Oversight Committee. She has 42 years of experience working as a budget/management analyst for local government, including the City of Seaside and County of Monterey. She holds bachelor and master degrees from La Salle University.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Jose Castañeda now a Salinas councilman

Criminal Defense Attorney Andrew Liu reminded me via Tweeter (gotta love social media) that I predicted José Castañeda - his former client - would be re-elected by his constituents at the Alisal.

I did. Here in this post. Seems that I had totally forgotten about it on election night. 

Castañeda, current board president of the Alisal Union School District, won a decisive victory on his quest for a seat on the Salinas City Council, capturing so far 53 percent of the vote. He bested union-endorsed Margie Wiebush, who's received so far about 32 percent; and well-heeled, Salinas Valley Leadership candidate Josh Kuzmicz, who barely got 15 percent even though he spent the most on the race.

Supporters for mayor elect Joe Gunter, who had gathered to celebrate his victory at the Grower's Pub, gasped in disbelief when the T.V. screen flashed the news of Castañeda breaking away from the pack. Like Joe Heston, they seemed very removed from the reality of the Alisal.

Here's my takeaway from the election: Boots on the ground can beat well financed candidates. Obama and his organizing machine was able to withstand the power of Citizens United and the obscene amounts of money it brought. Castañeda declared no money spent for the election, and judging by the lack of signage in the neighborhood, he didn't. He relied on the goodwill he's built among his neighbors, the muscle of the May First Alliance, and the general distrust people of the Alisal seem to have of outsiders. Neither Wiebush nor Kuzmicz speak Spanish, which is practically the first language of District 1.

It'll be interesting to see how far Castañeda gets on the Salinas City Council. At the Alisal Union board, he forever played the game of the contrarian, voting against the majority until he helped drive them all out and new members more amenable to his own views were elected. He never saw the need to build alliances, and eventually, he proved he didn't need to.

I'm not sure that's going to get him very far in citywide politics, but what do I know?

Will we be looking at a complete makeover of the Salinas City Council a few years from now, brought to you by Castañeda and his allies? Or will Salinas Valley Leadership learn the rules of a game it's not used to playing?

Stay tuned.

Ramon Resa at Marina High

Pediatrician and inspirational speaker Ramon Resa will be talking to students at Marina High in two assemblies on Nov 30.

His visit is sponsored by Festival in the Schools, a branch of the Carmel Authors and Ideas Festival.

For more information about Dr. Resa, click here.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Veteran's Center to open at Hartnell College

Hartnell College will host a grand opening for the Hartnell College Veterans Services Center from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9.

The Veterans Center is organized as a one-stop shop for Hartnell student veterans and their families to ease the transition from military service to college and civilian life with a comfortable gathering place that provides essential services.

The center will offer assistance and updated information on any matter of military veteran benefits, college student services, and transition issues that include academic and social support. The center is also the home to the college veterans club.

For more information about the open house or the center, contact Belen Gonzales at 831-755-6822 or

Monterey high school filmmakers: here's another chance at a contest

Student filmmakers throughout California are invited to “Direct Change” by submitting videos for a statewide contest to prevent suicide and change minds about mental illness.

The contest is part of statewide efforts to prevent suicide, reduce stigma and discrimination related to mental illness, and to promote the mental health and wellness of students.

I'm hearing a lot of noise about this lately, and I'm actually planning to interview a family that's struggling with mental illness, depression and suicide attempts. It's a lot more common than we imagine, so hopefully efforts like this will increase much needed awareness.

Here's the details of the contest:

Open to high school students in California

Students have  to develop a 60-second public service announcement about suicide prevention or eliminating mental illness stigma during the 2012/13 school year.

Winning team and associated school earn a $1,000 cash prize

Enters each school into a drawing for a free suicide prevention program

Winning students and schools are recognized at an award ceremony in Sacramento at the end of the school year

For more information, submission guidelines, and entry forms, click here.

Entry deadline to submit final PSA’s is at 12 a.m.  March 1, 2013.

Questions? Email

Here's a pet peeve about fundraising for schools

It always warms my heart when I see children selling chocolate bars for a field trip, or when parents chase after you at the supermarket so they can get the 2 percent or something of your purchase for their school. Even though education is a right, we should not take it for granted, and in fundraising we become aware and make our children be aware of how costly it could be.

(Often I see these fundraisers as remainders that schools don't have enough to educate children: not enough music teachers, not enough funds for transportation for field trips. But that's another story)

Here's my peeve. It's usually the wealthiest among us, those of us who are blessed with wealthy friends and neighbors, who get to raise more money for schools when the schools are probably already doing well. The poorest among us, with no social connections, no healthy tax base, no affluent neighbors, who need more money for their schools and are probably least likely to raise funds by going door to door selling candy.

The problem is likely to be exacerbated in cyberspace. Low income families are less likely than affluent ones to be online. They are less likely to try to raise funds through or, sites that specialize in channeling money for your favorite causes.

Call it a conflicted relationship. I understand the value of these sites (hence the plug), as I understand the value of fundrasing. But my heart aches when I think the activity likely has little impact in areas where it's most needed.

In a perfect world...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Your child's brain: Princeton neurobiologist in Carmel

This sounds exciting for parents, new and experienced:  as part of its Parent Lecture Series, the Carmel Public Library Foundation will host Princeton Professor Sam Wang, a neurobiologist and author of "Welcome to Your Child’s Brain: How the Mind Grows from Conception to College."

The presentation and signing will take place at 7 p.m.  November 13, 2012 at the Sunset Center, Carpenter Hall between 9th and Mission in Carmel.

Limited seating, so arrive early. Suggested donation: $10.

Proceeds benefit Carmel Public Library. For questions call (831) 624-2811. Or click here.

Salinas Union High Wins "Transformation Award"

Salinas Union High School District has been recognized as one of five educational institutions nationwide for implementing innovative online learning programs by K12, a private provider of curriculum and online education programs for students in kinder through high school.

Salinas Union High was recognized for its flexible time program that helps at-risk students complete their credits. Salinas Union High School District has a substantial high-risk student population, with 60 percent English Language Learners and 70 percent qualified for Title I funding.

According to K12, which only recognizes organizations that are using its programs, the district decided to implement a  district-wide credit recovery program after successful pilot in 2011. Their approach was to provide different options for students at each of the four comprehensive high schools and two alternative schools, where more than 25 percent of students are parents and can take advantage of onsite child care. The options ranged from before and after school classes, to in-class time, to a 4-hour block class for targeted at-risk students.

Salinas has implemented a unique sign-up process that requires students to meet with teachers and administrators during the first few weeks of the online program, to ensure they are engaged. This process has proven to dramatically increase completion rates. After one year, the district has seen excellent results, with 465 students successfully recovering credits.

I can't wait to go over to one of the sites and see up close how it's working. 

Bolsa Knolls students recognized by Anthony Cannella

State Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) presented awards to more than 100 students at Bolsa Knolls Middle School who participated in Red Ribbon Week on Nov. 2.

Red Ribbon Week recognizes the efforts of Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent, who was murdered in the line of duty. Every October, schools around the country encourage young people to lead a drug-free life.

That's a message we all know should be repeated loud and often, so good for the Bolsa Knolls students!

Monterey Peninsula College gets funds renewed for minority outreach

Monterey Peninsula College will receive up to $1.85 million over the course of five years to continue the TRiO Math/Science Upward Bound Program, which seeks to encourage low-income and first-generation high school students to pursue math and science majors in college and eventually careers in the field.

 The program, a six week academy, simulates college by having students from all over the United States live at the University of California, Santa Cruz and study marine biology through classes in marine biology, mathematics, communications, foreign language, and computer skills. Students also attend a personal development class to increase their understanding of themselves, others and the college experience.

The program has been in place at MPC since 1990.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Monterey Peninsula College rolls Day of the Dead, College Day and Election Night into one giant party

They say it's better late than never, and MPC will host its Day of the Dead activities about a week after the actual celebration takes place. Good thing difuntitos don't care about that stuff.

But that's not all. The same day, the college will host an Election Night Party, and a Career and Transfer day. They'll be busy on Nov. 6, for sure.

The Dia de los Muertos festivities will take place from 11 a.m. till 1 p.m, and will include food, music, dancers, inflatable games and rides for students, faculty and the entire community. At the same time, the Career and Transfer Resource Center will be hosting over 50 national and area Colleges and Universities for Transfer Day, which happens once a year from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Student Services patio area.

 Capping off the day, the Associated Students of Monterey Peninsula College will be hosting its 2012 Election Night Party. Food, refreshments, inflatable games and rides will be provided, as national and local election results come in from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., in the MPC Library’s Sam Karas Room and Caroline Page Garden.

 Sounds like fun. I can't wait to see the pictures.

Jeanne Herrick, teacher extraordinaire, going over to the Alisal

After working at the Monterey County Office of Education for a number of years, teacher extraordinaire Jeanne Herrick and county's assistant superintendent of educational services told me she's going over to the Alisal Union School District.

That's definitely great news for the Alisal and its students. Ms. Herrick is a dedicated educator with great compassion for underserved students, a kind soul who just sees the best in people. It must be hard for MCOE to be losing her. It is for me. I hope I can still count on her knowledge to make sense of the confusing world education bureaucracy is.

Good luck, Ms. Herrick!  

College night and Transfer Day at Hartnell coming up

Attention high school seniors: Hartnell College will host a college information night on Wednesday, November 7, for all high school seniors and others who are planning to attend college next fall.  Representatives from more than 40 colleges and universities will be on hand to answer questions and give information and advice on college enrollment.

This 27th annual Salinas Valley College Night will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Student Center on the Main Campus at 411 Central Avenue in Salinas. It will be an invaluable opportunity for students and their parents who are researching and selecting colleges to get information from college and university representatives about admissions requirements, academic programs, financial aid, and student support services.

College representatives also will be on campus in the morning for Transfer Day, which is designed for community college students to learn about transfer requirements and opportunities. Transfer Day will run from 9 a.m. to noon in the College Center. For more information, please contact Hartnell’s Transfer and Career Center at 831-759-6007.

San Antonio students go for Romney

Today students at San Antonio School in south county received a civics lesson by 8th graders with the older pupils guiding their younger peers in the importance of voting.
 After watching videos of the presidential candidates, listening to presentations on the issues, and discussing what they all meant, the students voted and here's the results:

Presidential Vote
Obama - 78  (48 percent)
Romney - 85 (52 percent)

Prop 30 - Tax Increase
No - 106  (65 percent)
Yes - 56 (35 percent)

Prop 37 - Food Labeling
No - 77  (52 percent)
Yes - 72  (48 percent)

Given current polls, it doesn't seem likely the students will be predictors, at least not on the propositions. Maybe in the presidential election? Who knows. The important issue here is that the little ones are being schooled in the importance of voting. So they'll urge their parents to cast their ballots tomorrow, if they haven't done so.

Happy election day, everyone! I can hardly wait. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Monterey Peninsula high school students: win cash prizes for writing about voting

The League of Women Voters of Monterey Peninsula is sponsoring a contest about the importance of voting for students in the 10, 11, and 12 grades at Carmel, Pacific Grove, and Monterey Peninsula unified school districts.

Find out all you need to know about: the importance of voting, where do I get information about voting, or how do I get my friends and family to vote. Write a 500 word essay about your investigation, and turn it in to:

LWV Contest, PO BOx 1972, Seaside CA 93958. Or email to

Your essay should include your name, your parent or guardian's name, grade level, school name, and your contact info.

Deadline to enter is Nov. 30. Prizes are $375, $250, $125, and five honorable mentions at $50 each.

For more information, about the League of Women Voters, click here.

Chartwell School in Seaside holds open house

Check out the programs at the private, non-profit Chartwell School, which helps prepare students in grades K-8 with dislexia or other language-based learning difficulties.

Likewise, the New High School Project serves students in grades 9-12 who may have struggled in more traditional high school settings.

The school offers open houses regularly. The next ones are coming up Nov. 3 and Nov.6 from 10:30 a.m. till noon. At the school, 2511 Numa Watson Road, Seaside CA 93955 For more information, call 394-3468 or click here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

First, Governor Brown; now first dog, Sutter Brown

comes tour Monterey County in support of Prop. 30.

Democratic party stalwarts are getting all cutsey about First Dog Sutter Brown and its tour of California, as it puts "paw to pavement" in support of Prop. 30. The measure in next week's ballot would raise sales taxes for everyone and income taxes for wealthy Californians in order to avoid cuts to education.

Sutter will be in town All Hallows Eve, first in Salinas and later in Monterey. Like its owner, Sutter B has been touring the state to bark for Prop. 30.

The dog's first appearance is scheduled  at 4:30 p.m. at Teamster's Hall, 931 E. Market, Salinas.

At 6:30 p.m. he'll appear at the Monterey Center, 60 Bonifiacio Plaza, Monterey.

I supposed desperate times call for desperate measures. Bring fresh cement for a pawtograph.

And if you want to friend the First Dog, here's its Facebook page.

p.d. Sutter has more than 6,000 likes, way ahead of Bo Obama. America's First Dog has fewer than 2,000. 

Students at the CSU system plan to protest proposed fee increases

Trustees at the Cal State University system are scheduled to consider several fee increases that would take place even if Prop. 30 passes on Nov. 6.

The fees are: The "graduation incentive fee" which would charge seniors who've earned 150 semester or 225 quarter units and additional fee per unit. This $372 fee would encourage "super seniors" to graduate fast.

The "repeate fee" of $100 per semester unit. In addition, students choosing to repeat courses will not be permitted to enroll in more than 15 units in the term.

Third-tier Tuition Fee. Currently, students with six units or less are charged at one rate, and students who take more than six units are charged a second rate. This recommendation proposes adding a third tier in which students enrolled in 17 or more units would be charged for each unit taken above 16 units at a rate of $200 per semester unit. According to the CSU staff report, adding a “third tier” to the CSU resident student tuition fee structure would "improve the fair distribution of needed classes to each undergraduate student. The third-tier would also dissuade students from signing up for extra course loads (and then often dropping courses later in the term) and avail additional course sections and 'seats' to be available for all students and give every undergraduate a better opportunity to carry a full course load."

Students at San Jose State are scheduled to demonstrate on Nov. 8, and at CSUMB on Nov. 13 at 3 p.m. in front of the library. The CSUMB rally will take place a day before Trustees are set to meet in Long Beach to consider the proposed fee hikes. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Dias de los Muertos -- for everyone

It's my favorite celebration of the year: we dedicate Day of the Dead to our dearly departed, our loved ones who went on to the next world ahead of us.

We fete in the memory of our parents, our grandparents, our friends; eat their favorite dishes, sing their favorite songs, and for a few hours, we feel their presence again.

It's magical.

Three local celebrations are taking place:



CSU Monterey Bay hosts its 16th annual Dia de los Muertos celebration at 6 p.m. in the University Center, on Sixth Avenue and B Street. Free and open to the public.
Performances by Aztec dancers and musicians will highlight the evening. Altars will be on display; pan dulce and hot chocolate will be served.


Will have a procession from Closter Park on East Salinas to the Alisal Center for the Fine Arts at 6 p.m. With Aztec dancers, folklórico dancers, and more music. Free.

The Alisal Center for the Fine Arts is at 745. N. Sanborn St., Salinas.



Dia de los Muertos and First Friday

From 5 till 8 p.m.
One Main Street, Salinas

The procession will begin from Hartnell College to the National Steinbeck Center. There will be performances by the Yaocuauhtli Aztec Dancers, the Youth Orchestra of Salinas, acoustic guitar, and local band, Ill Fusion. Other activities include an art and crafts area for young people and the opening of a photography exhibition on Mesoamerican Cultural Preservation by Marianne Mangold. Enjoy hot chocolate, sweet bread, music, a community altar and a Frida Kahlo lookalike contest. For more information click here.

More international chances for Monterey youth to shine

Do you have a bright idea of how to fight poverty in Latin America? Are you between 12 and 18? Well, you have until Dec. 31 to enter your idea in a contest and win up to $5,000.

The Daniel Chavez Moran contest is open to all youth in the United States. A panel of judges will select the winning applicants that demonstrate the most original ideas that have a realistic chance of being implemented.

The grand prize is $5,000,
Certificate of Award Runner Up - $2,000
Certificate of Runner Up Third Place - $1,000,
Certificate of Participation

The Award is a great way to get today's youths thinking outside the box on how to solve traditional problems. Future categories to be announced could include Arts and Music, Public Policy and Social Media. The next category is slated to be open for applications in early January 2013.

For more information about the contest, click here

CORAL Academy on the road of rejection -- again

It doesn't look good for the proponents of CORAL Academy, a proposed charter school in the Monterey Peninsula that's been trying to get approved for more than five years.

After being rejected twice by the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, and twice by the Monterey County Office of Education, CORAL petitioners turned to the state. Earlier this month, the advisory committee on charter schools recommended CORAL be rejected, using language that was pretty much used already by administrators at MPUSD and at MCOE.

"The CDE finds that the CORAL Academy charter petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the intended program, and the petition does not contain reasonably comprehensive descriptions of the 16 charter elements."

Further, CDE administrators say CORAL Petitioners are proposing a program to serve special needs population, but are not explaining how to staff such a program or how to pay for it.

"The petitioners significantly underestimated the number of support staff, side-by-side assistants, special service providers, health care professionals, and psychologists that will likely be required to appropriately serve the anticipated school population. Additional services that may be reasonably anticipated for the target population, such as transportation, extended school year, and alternative student placements have not been budgeted."

The advisory committee recommends the full State Board of Education hold a public hearing and reject the charter. On occasions, state trustees go against their staff recommendations and vote their way, but it's not common -- which makes an approval for CORAL unlikely.

No public hearing has been set yet. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Salinas has two National Merit semifinalists

but word has it Monterey County has six. Where are the other four?

Aradhana Sinha and Brennan Fahselt of Salinas High were named among 16,000 students nationwide who made it to the semifinals of the National Merit Scholarship program, which recognizes the most talented students in the United States. I've been getting really good reports about Aradhana for the last few years, so I'm not surprised she's in this distinguished list. It's the first I hear from Brennan, but likely won't be the last.

The semifinalists have an opportunity to compete for 8,300 National Merit Scholarships that will be offered in the spring.

About 1.5 million juniors in more than 22,000 high schools entered the 2013 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2011 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which serves as an initial screen of program entrants.

The nationwide pool of semifinalists represent less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors, and includes the highest scoring entrants in each state.

Pretty amazing feat, huh? Congratulations, Aradhana and Brennan! 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gov. Brown's coming to Salinas to rally for Prop. 30

Monterey County Democrats are all abuzz about a rally to be held Thursday at Hartnell College, when Gov. Jerry Brown's scheduled to make an appearance and rally for Proposition 30.

Brown has been campaigning all over the state for the tax measure, aimed at balancing the budget and keep funds for schools, colleges and universities at the same level they were last year. If the measure doesn't pass, Brown will cut $6 billion to education.

Opponents to the measure feel the governor is holding education hostage, and have launched a strong campaign to defeat the additional taxes.

Of teaching literature, non-fiction, and the Common Core Standards

In his latest post for the National Association of Scholars, "How the Internet Ruined the Teaching of Literature," Monterey Peninsula College English instructor David Clemens decries how current technology is changing student habits for the worse: they are so used to be fed images they no longer find it pleasurable -- or necessary -- to read literary classics. Students also fail to acquire the necessary knowledge in grammar, history, or morality attached to the works. He writes it much more eloquently that I ever could, so take a look.

You're probably aware that California schools are in the process of changing their teaching practices to accommodate Common Core Standards. One of the main components of Common Core is switching emphasis from literature to works of non fiction. Instead of analyzing "Catcher in the Rye," students will now focus on an equivalent in the non-fiction world, like the biography of a famous leader.

Given the changes the Internet has brought about in the literary scene, and how students are no longer finding it "fun" to learn from the literary masters (it's all about fun these days for young people), maybe the Common Core standards have arrived just in time. Now the challenge for educators will be to make learning "fun" within these confines, and keep ahead of the Internet!

School Quality Snapshot for Califonia schools

Earlier this month, the California Department of Education unveiled a snazzy tool for parents and the general public to see how schools are making progress. It's called the "School Quality Snapshot" and it gathers about five years of data that helps paint a complex picture of how schools are doing.

You can see all kinds of results in the charts: passing rate for the California High School Exit Exam, graduation rate, fitness levels, proficiency in math and English, and more.

You can easily access the snapshot by clicking here and then typing in the name of your school.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Your chance to adopt a family for the holidays is back!

Each year, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monterey County sponsor the Adopt-a-Family program to help some of their families in need.

About 130 needy families from among the members of the B&GC are selected to be "adopted." Businesses or individuals who chose to adopt are given a list of gift the family would like to have, go out shopping, then return to gifts unwrapped to the Seaside Clubhouse. Gifts are delivered in time for the holidays.

The program is officially launched on Wednesday. Last year, 345 children benefited from the program. For more information, click here or call 831-394-5171.

It's National School Bus Safety week so please...

watch out for the little ones -- and not so little ones too -- as they get in and out of school buses.

Studies prove that the most dangerous part of the school bus ride for children is when they get on and off the bus. When you consider that this is also "walk to school" month, drivers are encouraged to be super careful and pay attention to the young pedestrians.

And when I say drivers, I actually mean "parents." Sadly, most of the complaints you'll hear are directed toward parents, those who are in such a hurry to drop their children off and pick them up they cut in front of other people, park illegally, etc. So be careful out there, not just for your children's sake but for everyone's. 

California is actually doing very well in student safety, considering how many thousands of students are transported every day -- a lot fewer than before the budget cuts, but still. So let's keep it that way.

And speaking of walking, students from Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Seaside will be walking to school on Wednesday, October 24th along with parents, teachers and community leaders to mark the occasion. So if you see a large contingent of little ones on Broadway and Noche Buena crossing the street, watch out!

Participants will receive a healthy snack, a small prize, and a modest amount of sweat.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Monterey County teachers to rally on Saturday for their favorite measures

Gov. Jerry Brown, California Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson, and hundreds of teachers and their supporters are expected to rally tomorrow in different sites throughout California.

Monterey County will join in the effort at Hartnell College, where the California Teachers Association Secretary-Treasurer Mikki Cichocki will join students and teachers at 10 a.m. in support of Prop. 30, a tax increase that would stop $6 billion in cuts, and in opposition to Prop 32, which would prevent political contributions by payroll deductions.

Ah, election time. Eighteen more days!!!!

Monterey County creative youth: make an anti-soda commercial, win $1,000

New America Media and Richmond Pulse Youth Creative want you to "Soda Sucks 2: Outsmart the Advertisers."

Imaginative high school and college students out there: New America Media wants you to come up with a creative ad as an alternative to the enticing soda advertisements that inundate our airwaves. They want you to come up with an ad that talks about soda drinking and its links to diabetes, obesity, tooth decay, and more.

The contest is open to Californians between the ages of 15 and 25. There are two categories: poster art and rap/music/video/skit. The second category is open to basically any kind of performance that can be recorded either as an audio or video file. One grand prize of $1000 will be awarded to each category. Entries must be received by November 2

For all the details click here

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Monterey County young journalists: write about food, win a prize

Enter the first "Healthy and Sustainable School Food Journalism Awards."

Students ages 13 to 18 from all over the country have until Feb. 28 to enter a story about their cafeteria food in an attempt to create a healthy food movement in schools.

“High school journalism classes and school newspapers are the incubators for tomorrow’s great journalists," Michael Pollan, the contest’s judge and food writer said in a statement. “This contest is designed to help those young thought leaders hone their investigative journalism skills and get their peers engaged on a critical issue affecting their own well-being and that of the environment.”

To enter the contest, students need to submit articles that focus on the benefits of healthy and sustainable school food, and what schools are doing to promote healthy eating habits.

The winner will receive $1,500. Second prize will be $1,000. Third prize will be $500, and three fourth prize winners will each receive $300. Teachers supervising the winners will receive a prize of $200.

Winners will be announced on or around Earth Day, April 22, 2013.

To learn more about the Healthy and Sustainable School Food Journalism Awards, click here

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Are you ready for the next bit earthquake?

Thursday's "Great California Shake Out," the yearly reminder that we have to be ready for one the big one hits.

And in addition to having the usual "drop and cover" drill, Hartnell College will host a Safety Fair and Earthquake Evacuation Simulation open to the public.

The multi-agency Safety Fair and Community Emergency Response Team training exercise will begin at 10:18 -- right when the earthquake is supposed to happen -- and include an earthquake evacuation simulation, fire suppression training, rescue training, and a test of its social networking capabilities. All will happen in the main quad.

The public is invited to observe these drills and participate in the Safety Fair, which will last from 10:18 a.m. until 1 p.m. on the quad and annex area of the main campus in Salinas. Special displays and demonstrations will include a specially trained rescue dog, a CAL FIRE mobile kitchen unit and a communications van, and safety resuscitation drills.

For more information, please Joseph Reyes at 831-755-6814, or Lindsey Bertomen at

All Monterey County high school students were invited

to a national discussion regarding the Dust Bowl and the environment at the National Steinbeck Center.

Only about 90 attended.

Monterey County was invited as part of the National Youth Summit, a discussion led by the Smithsonian Institution. Organizers believe poor participation could be owed to transportation issues. It could have been students are taking yet another exam this week. It could have been lack of communication.

For whatever reason, it was sad to think local students were missing out in a great opportunity to deepen their knowledge of history. An opportunity to make it relevant to their lives, a glimpse into what they could do to get involved. An opportunity to look at the Salinas Valley in a national, global context.

I often hear adults talk about how students learn better when the content is relevant. This was relevant. This is history directly linked to the present. This is our environment, our agriculture, our land, our future.

And there were so few of us there to see it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mungers v. Brown v. education

Whenever I watch squabbles among trustees in small school districts, I like to believe this only happened in small, provincial places. Surely, more enlightened people would know what's best for everybody, agree to disagree, and work together toward common solutions.

Not so. Just watch Molly Munger in a mud fight with Jerry Brown. Munger, who's sponsoring a ballot measure that would increase taxes on most Californians and give it mostly to education, has begun running negative ads against Brown's Prop. 30. Munger's determined to have Brown's proposition defeated, and hers come out triumphant. The end result, Prop 30 is now sagging in the polls and not really helping Prop. 38, Munger's initiative.

This is good news for the anti-tax cruzaders, as both initiatives will likely go down in defeat. For education folks, who will see a really bad dip in their moneys come next year, it's really bad.

Even the PTA, which sided with Munger's initiative, is urging her to make peace with the governor. 

Sad. Nobody seems to be talking about the issues anymore, just about who's more right than the other.

Can the real adult please step up?

Monday, October 15, 2012

So many schools in Monterey County, so little time

California officials handed score cards to all state schools last week, as you probably remember from this story. Many schools went up, some went down, and overall, academic performance at Monterey County public schools declined for the third year in a row.

This trend deserves further examination, something I hope to get around to in the upcoming weeks. Also, another trend that's been brought to my attention and deserves further scrutiny is the increased use of "alternative" testing for special education children -- something that data crunching guru Doug McRae believes is "inflating" test results statewide. Here's his story on EdSource, in case you're curious.

At the local level, there are several local districts that are using high proportion of alternative testings. I'll be looking into that sometime in the near future.

But I'd also love to look into high performing schools. Bay View Academy, for instance, hit its scores off the park by scoring 849 in its inaugural year -- three points ahead of Monte Vista Elementary, which, given Monterey demographics, is actually not very surprising.  I'm sure folks at both schools are very pleased, as they should.

Also noteworthy is the Monterey Bay Academy, which also went up by 21 points in the API scale. I'd love to explore what the school's doing, how they're tackling the challenges other schools have with low income, English learners, and other "subgroups." Stay tuned.

Finally, two schools of the Greenfield Union School District made impressive gains. Mary Chapa went up by 108 points. Its sister campus, El Camino Technology Academy, went up 73 points. And nearby Cesar Chavez went down by 33 points. Why the discrepancy?

So many stories...

Friday, October 12, 2012

School Bytes is on TV!

And so am I. Adela Micha, watch out!

It's a sign of the times. Reporters now have to be more versatile. We have to take photos, produce video, and hosts our own TV shows!

Take a look at my debut on TV. I hosted a forum on California Prop. 30 and 38, the competing, vastly different ballot measures that would increase taxes to fund education. I'm afraid now the issue is getting muddled by the rancorous debate taking place between their sponsors -- Jerry Brown and Molly Munger -- so this may be a good opportunity for you to find out the basics of the two and how they'd affect education in Monterey County.

The program will air on the Media Center for Arts, Education & Technology Channel the following dates. All showings are both A.M. and P.M.

Monday, October 15 at 2 and 8
Saturday, October 20 at 1 and 7
Monday, October 22 at 2 and 8
Saturday, October 27 at 1 and 7

MCAET can be seen on Comcast Cable Channel 26 in the Salinas/Monterey area. MCAET also transmits over the air on Digital Channel 38.2 in the Salinas/Monterey area. In North Monterey County, MCAET can be seen on Charter Cable Channel 17.

Or watch it here!

Mission San Antonio de Padua

is a treasure that Monterey filmmakers Terri DeBono and Steve Rosen believe deserve to the preserved. Open to the public.

But the state will close its doors if it can't find money to retrofit its adobe walls. DeBono and Rosen hope their film "An Island in Time" will inspire rescue efforts.

Missions are important elements of our history -- an important project for fourth graders! The film premieres at the Carmel Film Festival on Saturday, Oct. 13 at noon at in Youth Center Theater, 4th and Torres in Carmel.  

Take your fourth graders along!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Monterey County libraries want your input

Monterey County residents: help the Monterey County Free Libraries create a new, useful plan for their future.

Click here  to  to fill out an online survey and help plan the future of the County library system. The survey takes just about 10 minutes to complete and will remain open through November 10th 2012. Survey results are anonymous.

Help is needed from

• People of all ages
• People from all parts of Monterey County
• Library users
• Non-Library users
• People of all interests and backgrounds

If you don't have a computer, you can find the surveys at any of the 18 library locations throughout the county.  

For more information, call 883-7573.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Monterey Peninsula College trustees settle on final finalist

No final decision has been made, MPC trustees caution, but after careful deliberation, they have scheduled a visit to....

The Wenatchee Valley College District in Central Washington to gather more information about Walter Tribley. Tribley is currently vice president of instruction at the district, as well as the administrator of the Omak campus.

Tribley was interviewed by the MPC community last Thursday, and some believed he was the least likely to make the final cut because of his lack of knowledge of California community college system and the Monterey region in particular. Other candidates in the running were Larry Buckley, interim president of San Bernardino Valley College; Angela Fairchilds, president of Woodland Community College; and Kathryn Jeffrey, president of Sacramento City College. 

The results of the site visit will be discussed at the regular board meeting on October 24, 2012.

That one came out of left field for me. I wonder how others in the MPC communities see it. 

MPC employees are a bit miffed...

because they were promised they'd be able to see the candidates via video, but alas, the video did not work for the first candidate, so no video was offered for any of them.

A good 90 people showed up for each forum, but many instructors were away with teaching obligations, thus could not see who's in the running for the post.

Naivete whispered in my ear the decision would be fairly straightforward, easy to reach. Well, board members have been meeting for hours now -- Friday, Monday and today -- trying to whittle down the list to two candidates.

I hear there may be an announcement this afternoon. Stay tuned.

Monterey volleyball players to raise breast cancer awareness

Monterey High Girls Volleyball will charge an extra dollar at their game on Oct. 25 to raise funds for breast cancer awareness. It's their "DigPink" night, the official name for fundraisers that benefit the Side-Out Foundation for medical research.

Many of the volleyball team members have a family member or a close friend touched by breast cancer, said Michelle Hazlett, volleyball mom extraordinaire.

"Last year, one of our Team Moms from Boys Volleyball, Debbie Hodgson, passed only two weeks prior to the DigPink which is what motivated the girls to start their annual DigPink," Michelle wrote in an email. "This year, we have another mom battling, but chooses to keep it private as many often do. We have a player whose great aunt is a survivor, which of course always gives hope. We have asked the girls to all announce who they will be playing for this year, and none will have trouble coming up with a name. It definitely makes your heart rip out; this game’s dedication wasn’t started because of a bunch of adults thought the kids should do this, it started because the girls found this was something they could do to help, when often they feel like they can’t."

 Admission to the Oct. 25 game is $6 for adults, $4 for seniors and youths. Junior Varsity starts at 5pm, and Varsity at 6:30pm. At Monterey High School Randal Gym, 101 Hermann, behind the Football field.

York opens its doors for fall fair

The yearly celebration, organized and hosted by the students, features food, games, student performances, farmers market, used book sale, and more. Proceeds benefit the private school’s student financial aid and the various activities and charitable causes of participating student clubs.

The celebration will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13.

For more information, call 372-7338 or click here

Monday, October 8, 2012

Bilingual bird walk for kids in Seaside

The Monterey Audobon Society is organizing a bird walk for the young ones -- in English and español!

It will take place on Saturday, Oct. 13, at the Laguna Grande Park. Meet at 10 a.m. at the Seaside Library and then walk to Laguna Grande park from there, returning some time between 11:00 and noon.

For more information, contact Celia Bosworth at 375-5002

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Monterey Peninsula College professor shares his views on superintendent candidates

David Clemens, English professor, coordinator of the Monterey Peninsula College Great Books Program, and blogger extraordinaire, attended the presentation of all four candidates for the job of superintendent.

I asked if he would share his impressions with me -- and the readers -- about the candidates, and he wrote a detailed analysis of each. Too good to reduce to a two-sentence quote, I told him, and he graciously agreed to let me share it in my blog.

Astute observations, indeed. Here they are:

The sad part is that all the candidates are in economic survival mode, and that could lead to the extinction of all small classes as well as our nationally renowned Great Books Program and our new Creative Writing Program. Literature classes are already being rationed and eliminated. Losing the traditional curriculum, I believe, is ultimately suicidal but in survival mode, no one looks past the present crisis 

Each candidate was asked to describe where they saw the community college in five years. This question was suggested by Clemens.

As (Larry) Buckley noted, the Board of Governors president doubts Proposition 30 will pass and that will mean possibly 25 colleges closing. And if the BOG provides relief by suspending regulations, that could make it even worse because it will be easier to pink slip full time, tenured faculty and replace them with adjuncts, para-educators, tutors, and software.

Angela Fairchilds
Pros: Personable, used humor, energetic, somewhat connected, some candor
Cons: Often described a problem rather than provided a solution, e.g., “we need to build back FTEs.” How? “We’ll have no money without Prop 30.” And so . . ... ? “We are no longer the institution that we were.” What are we? How do we establish criteria for filling positions? “Set priorities." Lacked experience with program discontinuance.

Kathryn Jeffrey 
Pros: Smart and funny. 
Cons: Too much flattery. (She went on and on about how great MPC is and how well the college functions) Seemed to lose steam halfway through, fuzzy response (on some contracts and financial models), not astute about online—my notes say “getting really confusing.” 

Larry Buckley 
Pros: My choice. Academic Ph.D. He was honest and candid as well as well-connected in Sacramento... He said what I’ve been saying, “what is most important to us with the resources we have?” “We have to have a new deal” (finance model). 
Buckley was straightforward, didn’t mince words, and had cogent ideas. He didn’t seem to be applying in hopes of retiring in Monterey. He was light years ahead of the other candidates in his grasp of the political and educational situation. He seems to have the guts to make the cuts. 
Cons: I doubt I would like all his decisions, especially convening a committee to do curricular triage. We did it before, the Instructional Priorities Committee, and it featured “the usual suspects,” the faculty identified as reliable who are on every important committee. It was very powerful and very political. 

Walter Tribley 
Pros: Academic Ph.D. Good scientific knowledge, apparent support of liberal arts. 
Cons: Nervous. Simply not enough knowledge of California and MPC landscape. Support for liberal arts seemed to evaporate with “funding will play a large and disproportionate role” in prioritizing. Referred to “para-educators.” Maybe too dazzled by educational novelties?

Monterey County celebrates Latino Heritage Month

Fifty-six percent of the population in Monterey County is of Latino origin. In our public schools, 74 of students are of Latino background.  

Hispanic Heritage month ends Oct. 15, to celebrate this and other nifty facts and figures about Latinos in the county and the county, the Monterey County Board of Education invited over Roberto Melendez, chair of the media committee of the League United of Latin American Citizens to receive a resolution to the effect. Trustee David Serena was in charge of the honors. Thanks, Marci McFadden, MCOE spokeswoman extraordinaire, for sending the picture along.

For the record, Mr. Melendez is not related to yours truly.

For the record, I'm of Latino origin. Who knew, huh?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Turn off the TV and go play in Monterey

Come use your limbs on Saturday, Oct. 6, during the "Day of Play" sponsored by the 20th District PTA at the Monterey Sports Center.

There will be Zumba classes, swimming, volleyball, basketball, ping pong, and more. Free!

 Bring appropriate clothing, and towel if you plan to swim.

 From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday at the Monterey Sports Center, 301 E. Franklin St. Monterey, CA 93940.

For questions, contact Tammi Suber at

Can you judge a presidential candidate by its theatrical prowess?

And I'm not talking about Obama or Romney.

Today was day three of presidential candidate forums at Monterey Peninsula College, and like Trustee Rick Johnson said "having four qualified candidates to choose from is a good problem to have."

Not to say they're all exactly alike. How could they be? Yes, they're all highly qualified. Angela Fairchilds, Kathryn Jeffery, and Larry Buckley have all shown they have strengths. They all seemed to have done their homework about MPC. Another candidate will be interviewed tomorrow, and I expect his abilities will at least be comparable. 

They all have performed differently before a large audience, though. And you won't find anybody who tells you who's the strongest in their mind so far. They'll have to work with the winner, no matter who s/he is.

But after witnessing the forums, I wonder: will stage performance translate into good leadership?

In other words, if a candidate performs less stellarly than another, does that mean she or he is less qualified to lead?  Can a good leader be a poor stage performer?

Or is "charming personality" another characteristic we're seeking in a leader?

And I'm not talking about Mitt or Obama.

of overweight TV anchors, bullies, and the people who influence them

It's National Bullying Prevention month, and I came across an eloquent video that touches on the subject. It's been making the cyberrounds, so you've probably seen it too.

TV anchor Jennifer Livingston  took a moment of her morning show to address an offensive email she received in which she's called fat and a bad example for youth.

To which she responded: "You don't know me. You are not a friend of mine. You are not a part of my family. And you have admitted that you don't watch this show. So you know nothing about me but what you see on the outside. And I am much more than a number on the scale."

I have to admit, I almost cried when I watched this woman standing up not just for herself, but for millions of people who get bullied every day, including children. To me, she's an example of people who want to achieve their dreams. If you want to be a TV anchor, even if you're not meeting society's idea of what's "right" for television, you can still do it. Bravo, Ms. Livingston.

But the most important message I heard from Jennifer was this:

"If you are at home and talking about the fat news lady, guess what? Your children are probably going to go to school and call someone fat."

Yes, bullying could begin at home, so we should be setting the example for our children. Let's not forget that.