Friday, March 30, 2012

CSUMB students protest Sodexo Inc.

A group of CSUMB students staged a protest against food services provider Sodexo Inc., a multinational corporation that serves 10 million consumers in 6,000 locations every day.

Students protested what they call the company's monopolistic practices. Students have no choice but to buy the meals provided by the company, which they describe as overpriced.

"We sold food in front of the library for about 30-40 minutes and passed out fliers," said Michael Fredericksen, one of the organizers of the anti-Sodexo action. "Then we sold food in front of the Dining Commons, which is run by Sodexo, for about an hour. We passed out more fliers and chanted anti-Sodexo chants such as "Sodexo, you steal! You overcharge for meals!" and "All the students, they're aware! Sodexo's monopoly is unfair!"

The action was meant to break Sodexo's monopoly for food service on campus, Fredericksen said. And they plan to have more events like this.

Carmel Unified hosts grand opening of ecologically designed classrooms

We're living in an ecologically minded community, and Carmel Unified wants to show what they're doing to try to protect the environment. Carmel Unified School District and MEarth, its partner in ecology education, invite the community to join in the grand opening celebration for the new ecologically designed classroom.

There will be live music (from local keyboard prodigy Nico Georis) and healthy snacks (grown just a few feet away by students and staff). Visitors will learn about this new community resource. Free. The multi-purpose classroom was designed to model several “sustainable living” features, including: solar electricity, solar thermal, rainwater catchment, a living roof, passive solar design, responsible waste management, sustainable food choices, energy & water efficiency and eco-interior design.

To learn more about MEarth, click here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ruth Andresen named "woman of the year"

In recognition of Women's History Month, State Senator Anthony Canella has selected former Monterey County Board of Education Ruth Andresen as th 12th Senate District Woman of the Year.

“Ruth Andresen is a truly remarkable woman. From her service to our country during World War II to the almost half-century dedicated to the students of Monterey County, Ms. Andresen is more than deserving of the 12th District’s Woman of the Year,” Cannella said in a statement. “She has been a role-model to generations of Monterey County residents.”

Andresen served on the Monterey County Board of Education from 1963 to 2011, the longest serving member in the history of the county. I had the chance to profile her in December, when I was regaled to her sense of humor and other charms.

“I am pleased to hear Ruth Andresen has been bestowed this honor,” said Monterey County Board of Education President Byrl Smith. “Ruth’s impact on Monterey County is immeasurable. She remains a pillar of our community, and I am proud to have worked beside her.”

Andresen will be feted in May at a luncheon held by IMPOWER in Salinas. Formed in 2008 under the Salinas Chamber of Commerce Foundation, IMPOWER’s mission is to Inspire, Motivate, Prepare, and Organize Women to Engage and Reinvest.

Pacific Grove High launches chapter of National Honor Society

Sixty-five students from Pacific Grove High School were inducted as new members of the national Honor Society in a ceremony held at the school Monday, English teacher Katie Selfridge said in an electronic announcement. Members were selected by the chapter’s faculty council for meeting high standards of scholarship, service, leadership, and character.

The new inductees are: Kaitlin Alt, Arwa Awan, Paige Book, Yann Brown, Jessica Bullington, Robyn Bursch, Dylan Chesney, Tyler Chisman, Wonjoon Choi, Hannah Chung, Andrew Chyo, Bryan Clark, Lilli Consiglio, Claire D’Angelo, Lauren Dykman, Isabella Fenstermaker, Samuel Goldman, Maggie Grindstaff-Snyder, Reeve Grobecker, Nicole Hage, Mele Hautau, Jenna Hively, Michael Johnson, Michelle Katz, Sara Khalil, Jamin Kim-Sanders, Cody Lee, Skyler Lewis, James Liu, Brian Long, Emily Long, Rebecca Long, Lyla Mahmoud, Samatha Maksoud, Timothy Matthews, Kory Milar, Addison Miller, Lindsey Morgan, Maya Mueller, Carol Nader, Aubrie Odell, Maggie Paddock, Kristine Pak, Andrew Paxton, Michael Paxton, Katherine Phillips, Nathan Phillips, Makena Rakouska, Brianna Rakouska, Dean Randall, Amanda Satrio, Cindy Shen, Emily Shifflet, Meagan Shih, Sonja Paige Silkey, Corinne Sohle´, Emily Stewart, Sydney Thompson, Samantha Wagner, Eugenia Wang, Lauren Weichert, and Hayoung Youn.

“We are very proud to recognize these outstanding members of our student body. National Honor Society members are chosen for and then expected to continue their exemplary contributions to the school and community,” Selfridge said, who's also the chapter adviser.

In this its inaugural year, the Pacific Grove High School chapter will sponsor several student driven service projects for the school and community. The National Honor Society ranks as one of the oldest national organizations for high school students. There are chapters in more than 16,000 high schools and, since 1921, millions of students have been selected for membership.

Kotowski launches Head Start investigation

Monterey County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Kotowski has apparently approached retired Judge Nat Agliano to preside over an investigation of Head Start.

In a letter to Head Start employees, Kotowski notified them the investigation would begin with a meeting with Angliano Thursday.

Employees for Head Start, a federal program for preschool for low-income families, asked Kotowski to launch an investigation into the practices of the program director and her assistant, whom they accuse of nepotism among other things. They say the director has promoted people she favors over other employees, and given special treatment for better job positions.

On Monday evening, the held a candle light vigil in front of MCOE offices to press their demands.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Do we need another bill to make a teacher-student relationship a felony?

A California lawmaker announced legislation Tuesday to make it a felony for a K-12 teacher to date a student regardless of age, as reported by the Sacramento Bee. Find the entire story here.

Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, introduced Assembly Bill 1861 after news broke that Enochs High School teacher James Hooker, 41, had started a relationship with 18-year-old student Jordan Powers. Hooker left his wife, resigned his job and moved in with Powers.

According to the report, Hooker and Powers deny having started a relationship before she was 18. The bill would not affect their case, which is still under investigation.

This is one of those proposed laws that make you scratch your head. There's already many ways you can prosecute an adult that's having an unlawful relationship with a minor -- regardless of how they met, via school, church, etc. They're called statutory rape laws. Do we really need more, repetitive laws in the books? When we have our jails busting at the seams? When we are spending so much more money in the prison system than in schools?

You probably remember the case of Raul Ramirez, the former assistant principal who held an inappropriate relationship with a student in Salinas. He's looking at 19 years in prison having pleaded no contest to 18 felony counts. Eighteen. No need for another felony law. There's already enough ways to punish these people.

We don't need

La Familia conference for migrant parents coming to Soledad

More than 300 migrant parents from throughout Monterey County have been invited to participate in La Familia Conference where participants will have the opportunity to learn about community services, health and mental education, and higher education.

"The primary purpose of this opportunity is to engage families in learning about critical issues in their students' education. The ultimate goal is to assure their children's academic success in our public schools," said Rosa Coronado, Program Director II, Monterey County Office of Education, Migrant Education Program, Region XVI.

This conference is free to migrant parents. Continental breakfast and lunch will be served. Migrant Education Program pre-school teachers will provide a curriculum of child educational activities to those attending with their parents. Parents wishing to attend MUST pre-register with their school district migrant education personnel no later than Friday, April 6. For more information, contact Vicky Mora-Escobar at 831.755.6408 or Maricela Cruz at 831.755.6401.

It's not too late to donate a dress for the "Prom Dress Drive"

Although the planning committee for the 4th annual Prom Dress Drive, organized by Tony Madrigal for the Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, will be sorting out dresses today, it's not too late to donate. You can still bring your gently used dresses to several locations throughout the central coast. The dresses will be cleaned, courtesy of Classic Cleaners, and given away to any young girl who needs it on April 14, at the Santa Cruz Teen Center, and April 28 at the Casa de la Cultura in Pajaro.

Here's a list of places where you can donate:

· Classic Cleaners locations at 609 Soquel Ave & 2220 Soquel Ave in Santa Cruz, and 809 Capitola Ave in Capitola

· All Comerica Banking Centers in Santa Cruz County

· CSU Monterey Bay Alumni & Visitor Center, 100 Campus Center, Seaside, 831-582-4550

· The UPS Store at 245 Mt Hermon Rd, Suite M, in Scotts Valley

· The UPS Store at 1961 Main Street, in Watsonville

· Comcast Store at 2440 Fremont Street , Monterey

· Comcast Store at 1481 N. Davis Road, Salinas

· Comcast Fulfillment office at 106 Whispering Pine Road, Scotts Valley

· Beach Flats Community Center, 133 Leibrandt Avenue, Santa Cruz

· La Manzana Community Resources, 521 Main St. Suite Y, Watsonville

· Live Oak Family Resource Center, 1740 17th Avenue, Santa Cruz

Monday, March 26, 2012

24-hour bike-a-thon in support of Rancho Cielo

In order to raise money for Rancho Cielo and the participation of some students in the Sea Otter Classic, teacher's aide Luciano Rodriguez has organized a 24-hour bike-a-thon in the Creekbridge neighborhood from noon on April 14 to noon on April 15. Rodriguez will ride 1/3-mile laps starting at 1115 Cape Cod Way.

Rodriguez, employee of MCOE at Rancho Cielo, has organized a bike club at Rancho Cielo using the cross country trails on the property -- very suitable, it must be said. Students earn PE credit for participating in the biking class, and even head teacher Chris Devers, has offered to retire a significant number of PE credits to any student who chooses to compete in the Sea Otter Classic. So far, two students have expressed interest. Rancho Cielo students will also volunteer at the event.

So, come to the bike-a-thon on April 14. Or sponsor Luciano here. Proceeds will benefit Rancho Cielo and a study abroad trip for Rancho Cielo female students.

Date: Noon on April 14 to noon on April 15, 2012
Place: 1115 Cape Cod Way, Salinas, CA 93906
Route: From 1115 Cape Cod Way, left on Rockport, left on Boston, back to Cape Cod Way. Distance 0.3 mile.

Cheating in schools?

Following the ground-breaking work The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a few years ago -- which documented massive cheating at Atlanta Public schools -- they've just published a database including most school districts in the country, aimed at discovering whether your child's district is cheating or not. You can find the database here.

The problem with this database is the methodology used is flawed, says Gary Miron, a professor of education at Western Michigan University who has extensive experience evaluating school reforms and education policies. In this piece published in the Washington Post blog on education, Miron says the analysis used is based on schools, not on individual student data, which means different students could have been measured in different years. And if the data used is flawed, well, the conclusions cannot be trusted.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

CSUMB Dianne Harrison going to Northridge

The California State University Board of Trustees Thursday named Dianne F. Harrison, president of California State University, Monterey Bay, as president of California State University, Northridge. Harrison has been CSUMB president since 2006.

“I am excited and honored to be selected as president of another fine institution within the California State University system, and look forward to working together with the entire campus community on the many opportunities for the future," said Harrison.

Harrison was among the finalists for the position to succeed retired President Jolene Koester, who served as CSUN president since 2000. She is expected to begin her new position as president sometime in June. CSUN Provost Harold Hellenbrand has been serving in an interim capacity as president since Koester's retirement in December 2011.

“Dr. Harrison brings an outstanding portfolio of administrative experience, academic credentials and student-focused approach to her new position as president of Cal State Northridge", said CSU Trustee Bob Linscheid, who was chair of the presidential search committee. "She has an impressive record of accomplishments, a commitment to scholarship, and will provide strong leadership as the campus moves forward."

Harrison came to Monterey Bay following a 30-year career at Florida State University where she served in various capacities starting as a faculty member, dean of social work, associate vice president for academic affairs, dean of graduate studies and vice president for academic quality and external programs. She holds a Ph.D. in social work from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's of social work and a bachelor's in American Studies, both from the University of Alabama.

-- Joan Weiner, CSUMB

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Soren Diaz, education advocate

I was a little surprised to see the name of Soren Diaz, an attorney with Lombardo and Giles, LLP, listed as an "education advocate" among the invited speakers at the Assembly Subcommittee on School Financial Takeovers that will take place in King City Friday. As some of my readers know, the King City High School District was taken over by the state in 2009 when it looked it wasn't going to be able to pay its bills, appointed a state trustee, and life hasn't been the same ever since in the bucolic town.

But back to Mr. Diaz. I've been covering education in Monterey County for three years and I've never seen him at any school related event, so maybe I'm not as plugged in as I though. Plus, his name is listed with about a dozen people I've spoken to or at least heard about.

Also, education is not Mr. Diaz's expertise. Among his areas of practice, listed in L&G website, are "construction defect litigation, contract litigation, insurance litigation, product liability, real estate litigation."

I'm so curious. I hope Mr. Soren replies to my email soon to find out what I've been missing.

Why bilinguals are smarter

Having witnessed the immigration/cultural battles for a long time, I'm not surprised when people tell me to "speak English" when speaking Spanish, or when people accuse me and other Latinos of not wanting to "integrate" into the fabric of the U.S. just because I hold on to my mother tongue.

What's baffling is encountering education professionals who believe that children who learn Spanish have a hard time learning English. As if the brain was a vessel with just one liter capacity for languages, and if you fill half of it with Spanish, well, English won't have the room it deserves.

But it doesn't work that way. Languages, I've come to imagine, are like love: you can't have enough of them.

It's been great to see more and more reports come out detailing the effects of bilingualism in the brain. I experience it. I'm talking to my mother in Spanish one minute, answering my boss in English the next, and it's like my brain has flipped effortlessly, like a ballerina at the Bolshoi. It's beautiful.

My mother's learning American Sign Language, and she tells me now she understands more English as a result. Languages: you can't have enough of them.

State committee on financial takeovers arrives in King City

Assemblymembers Luis A. Alejo and Sandré Swanson of the Assembly Select Committee on State School Financial Takeovers will hold a hearing in King City about the state takeover of the South Monterey County Joint Union School District and the impact the state receivership has had on the local community.

South Monterey County Joint Union School District received a $13 million emergency loan in 2009 after the Monterey County Office of Education predicted the district was veering towards insolvency. As a condition of the loan, the district was assigned a state-appointed administrator to run it.

The presence of the state administrator, John Bernard, has been the source of discontent among the community. Following a meeting in the fall, Alejo and Sen. Anthony Canella introduced legislation to reduce the terms of the $13 million loan, which is expected to save the district about $300,000 a year.

Parents, teachers and members of the community are encouraged to attend and provide comments.

The hearing starts at 3 p.m. Friday, at the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds Expo Room, 625 Division St., King City.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

CSUMB honored once again for Service Learning program

Cal State University Monterey Bay was a finalist for the Presidential Award as part of the 2012 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to community service.

The Corporation for National and Community Service received applications from more than 640 colleges and universities. Five received the Presidential Award; 14 were named finalists.

In 2006, the program’s inaugural year, CSU Monterey Bay was one of three recipients of the top award. It has been named to the Honor Roll each year since then. The university earned the top honor again last year, making it the only two-time recipient of the President’s Award.

"Not only is service learning woven into our curriculum," President Dianne Harrison said, "it also is part of our university's ethos of engaging with and contributing to our surrounding communities."

CSUMB was honored in the category of general community service, which recognizes the quality of and commitment to community service initiatives, and emphasizes long-term partnerships and measurable outcomes as a result of the service.

CSUMB is the only public university in California, and one of the few nationally, where service learning is a requirement for all students. Each year, nearly 50 percent of CSUMB’s students enroll in service learning courses contributing more than 65,000 hours of service to more than 250 schools, non-profit organizations and government agencies in the tri-county area. And service learning is an academic department, where issues of service, diversity, social justice and social responsibility are linked to the core curriculum.

--- Joan Weiner, CSUMB

Monterey County schools get grant to visit missions

The California Missions Foundation has presented an $8,046 grant to Monterey County schools for fourth graders to visit the San Antonio and San Juan Bautista missions.

“We are delighted to expand our All Aboard the Bus program from Southern California to Monterey County and are grateful to the Monterey Peninsula Foundation and the Upjohn California Fund for making this possible,” said Dr. Knox Mellon, Executive Director of the California Missions Foundation.

The $8,046 will be distributed among 15 schools in Monterey County. The funds will allow 1,065 students, and more than 60 teachers and chaperones in 38 classrooms to visit the missions this spring.

The “All Aboard the Bus” Program also provided classroom kits of materials (cd resource for teachers, mission collector cards, glossary of mission terms) that will aid teachers in presenting the history of the missions, as well as helping students complete assigned mission projects.

Fifteen elementary schools that serve disadvantaged children in Monterey County applied for the money last fall. The monies will cover 80 percent of the estimated total cost of transportation and admission for students, teachers and chaperones. The schools had to raise the remaining 20 percent of the money through fundraising and other means.

Captain Cooper School: $208
Cesar Chavez Elementary: $1,261
Chualar Union Elementary: $120
El Gabilan Elementary: $776
Highland Elementary: $462
Los Padres Elementary: $660
Marina Vista: $350
Monterey Bay Charter School: $420
Prunedale Elementary: $240
Roosevelt Elementary: $660
San Antonio Union Elementary: $70
San Lucas School: $128
San Vicente School: $1,350
Santa Lucia School: $680
Sherwood Elementary: $7,387

Marina resident and Stevenson School graduate wins national competition

Abigail "Abby" Hoffman, now a freshman at UC Berkeley, tweeted her way to a $5,000 scholarship for her message about the First Amendment.

On Dec. 15, Bill of Rights Day 2011, more than 17,000 contestant tweeted their praises to the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. Hoffman's was one of only eight entries to be chosen in the Tweet category. There were 22 scholarship winners total in the graphics, video, essays, blogs and poetry categories.

"The 45 words remain the same, but they've certainly caused a lot of change. #FreeToTweet"

The winning entries were announced this week.

"The "Free to Tweet" competition saw students nationwide reaffirming the value of the First Amendment and expressing themselves creatively through social media," said Ken Paulson, founder of 1 for All and president of the First Amendment Center and American Society of News Editors. "We're pleased to recognize Abigail Hoffman for her thought-provoking entry in an extraordinarily competitive field."

Other winners range from 15- to 22-years-old and hail from 15 states: California, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Virginia . A total of $110,000 in scholarships is being awarded.

Click here to see all the winning messages.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Dylan Bird wins Monterey County Spelling bee for second time

Students from throughout Monterey County tested their spelling knowledge Sunday at the Hartnell College stage, when returning champion Dylan Bird won in the 18th round with the word indubitable.

It is the first time in Monterey County one contestant wins two years in a row.

Dylan, who is home schooled, correctly spelled the words: macaroni, excise, cadenza, notochord, maladroit, glasnost, indigenous, batik, trepak, trattoria, novillero, jacamar, ruefully, jeopardize, iambist, lenitive, aberrant

Winning word: indubitable

As champion, Dylan will represent Monterey County at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., May 28 – June 2, 2012. Airfare, hotel and expenses for Dylan and a parent are sponsored by Monterey County Office of Education community partners. Other prizes included the Merriam Webster Third New International Dictionary, $100 savings bond and champion trophy.

Second Place: Emma Finch, York School, 8th grade

Emma correctly spelled the words: karma, imperative, cedilla, herpetology, ostentatious, langlauf, gauche, punctilio, charlatan, Madeleine, glockenspiel, hemerocallis, coincidence, umbilicate, reparations, moratorium

Emma was the 2010 Champion and represented Monterey County at the Scripps National Bee. Emma placed third in 2011.

Third Place: Cecilia Trujillo, Chualar Elementary School, 7th grade

Cecilia correctly spelled the words: henna, abdicate, amphibious, mediocre, olio, ecru, innocuous, commensurate, keest, Quixote, balalaika, rejoneador, tenement, suggestible

Cecilia was a returning champion. She placed 4th in 2011.

Fourth Place: Kevin Zamzow-Pollock, Pacific Grove Middle School, 8th grade
Fifth Place: Michaelangelo Delangpan, Bardin Elementary School, 6th grade

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A thrift store or a parcel tax for MPUSD?

Honestly, when I saw that MPUSD administrators are considering placing a parcel tax on the ballot, I almost choked. They just got a bond approved. Many parents and some teachers disapprove of the administration and the way they seem to run things. Asking for more money under these circumstances seems best than ideal.

But after thinking about it some more, it made sense. Hiring more teachers for smaller class sizes, art lessons, and extra support, is going to require more money -- healthy reserves notwithstanding. Lots of more. Bond funds cannot be used for operations, unlike a parcel tax, which can be used for general operations. A parcel tax would raise the funds a thrift shop never could.

Now, it'll be interesting to see if all the interested parties can overcome the deeply seated distrust that exist and reach consensus. Getting 67 percent of the vote would be another mountain to climb.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Pacific Grove High hosts open house

Tour the new facilities of the Pacific Grove High School beginning at 4 pm this Wednesday, March 21, at the concourse between the tennis courts and gyms.

The new facilities, which were built with Measure D funding, include a new dance room, fitness room, locker room and small gym. Measure D, a $42 million bond measure, was passed by Pacific Grove taxpayers in 2006 for capital improvements of school facilities throughout Pacific Grove Unified School District. Previous projects completed at the high school that were financed through Measure D include upgrades and improvements to the science wings, school-wide technology and lighting upgrades, the stadium renovation, Student Union upgrades, and art, photography, and woodshop room renovations.

The Open House tour will feature welcome comments by school and city officials, with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 4:10 p.m. and a group tour at 4:15 p.m.

Budding filmmakers, get to work!

Young filmmakers eager to see their work on a screen bigger than YouTube will get the opportunity this fall, when CSU Monterey Bay holds its fourth annual Teen Film Festival.

The Teledramatic Arts and Technology Department is accepting applications for the festival, which will be held at CSUMB's World Theater on Sept. 29. The deadline to apply is April 29.

Filmmakers between 13 and 19 years old are invited to submit films and videos up to five minutes in length. Entries may be in English or Spanish and there is no entry fee. Entries may be submitted online here.

The competition is open to teenagers from around the world, and young people from Monterey County and the California Central Coast are strongly encouraged to apply.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mea Culpa

Breaking news: reporters make mistakes. Ok, I'm sure that didn't surprise anybody. What may surprise some folks is that we feel horrible about them -- I do. But I want to hear about my mistakes, to avoid them next time.

Not too long ago, I identified a college president by the wrong last name. Twice. Horrors.

I don't seem to be on my best game these days. Who knows. Too much pressure to make videos?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about an MPUSD board meeting where teachers and community members were presenting their requests to the trustees. The district will end this budget year with about $24 million in reserves and Jill Lowe, former MTBA president and teacher extraordinaire wanted to know: "What’s a reasonable ending fund balance? Is 3 million a reasonable reserve? Now I’m looking at $24 million as an ending fund balance. That’s 8 times (as much). It seems exorbitantly high."

I write so many notes I'm getting a serious case of carpal tunnel. So Lowe's quote is there, in my electronic notes -- and I know it's correct because at this Monday's board meeting, she approached me to tell me I misquoted her -- and handed me a piece of paper with the message she delivered that night. To make sure I quoted her accurately.

In my haste to get the story done, not only did I write the meeting took place Monday -- it was actually a Tuesday, Monday was a holiday (thanks, Board President) -- but also I paraphrased Lowe's request incorrectly. And I shortened a long quote by a very passionate, very caring Justine Hochstaedter, making her sound whiny and defeated -- nothing further from the truth.

Yes, we're facing increasing pressures, and deadlines are always deadly. That's not an excuse, it's an explanation. But it shouldn't get in the way of accuracy, so I'll try harder.

And please, continue pointing out my inaccuracies. Hopefully you'll find fewer and fewer.

Attention Monterey County 8th graders

The Millennium Charter high school, which will have an emphasis on media production and the arts, will open up this fall, and now is the time to sign up.

As with every charter school, only the lucky ones will get in if there's more demand than space, so sign up early. Only 50 9th graders will be accepted in its inaugural year. For more information, click here. Or watch their video!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Is the country's top youngest scientist in Monterey County?

Let's find out.

Discovery Education and 3M are looking for students in grades 5-8 who are enthusiastic about science. The top 10 students will receive a trip to the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, MN to compete for the chance to win $25,000!

To enter the 2012 competition, students must create a 1-2 minute video describing a new innovation or solution that could solve or impact an everyday problem related to the way we move, keep ourselves healthy or make a difference. One student will win the coveted title of "America's Top Young Scientist."

To find more information, click here.

An MPUSD thrift store?

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Plus, it's not unheard of.

MPUSD mom extraordinaire and thrift shop connoisseur Joanna Greenshields has proposed an idea to help the district come up with additional funds in these times of financial trouble. Open up a thrift store.

The idea wasn't welcome by an outburst of hysterical laughter, so maybe Joanna is on to something. Plus, there's a precedent: the Magic Hat Thrift Shop in Massachusetts supports the Marblehead Public Schools since 2008. Check it out!

Yes, the district has financial issues. But I also hear parents very willing to help, and tired of hearing excuses. They want to come up with creative solutions. IMHO, a thrift shop is as creative as it gets.

Monday, March 12, 2012

CSUMB receives biggest grant in its history

NASA has awarded $137 million to a team of research institutions – including CSU Monterey Bay – to study climate change and ecosystem processes over a 10-year period.

CSUMB's share will be $32 million, the largest in its history, according to university officials.

The award was given to the Bay Area Environmental Research (BAER) Institute of Sonoma. The institute will collaborate with three universities – CSUMB, the University of California, Davis, and the University of North Dakota – to conduct research on critical areas such as basic climate processes and how they impact global ecosystems. Some of the work will involve satellites and unmanned drones.

CSUMB’s share of the award will support 20 full-time research scientists and five to 10 student researchers each year. Most of the scientists will work at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in Mountain View. Collaborations with campus-based faculty members will be developed as part of the research.

Susan Alexander, professor in the Division of Science and Environmental Policy, heads the project for CSUMB. Scientists will study changes in ecosystems, climate and biodiversity, and will develop products to help land managers, agricultural producers and water managers throughout the U.S.

Projects include wildfire and natural disaster monitoring, flood forecasting, crop yield predictions and fog detection. Scientists will apply satellite data to study environmental conditions and ecological processes that affect agriculture, public health and vector borne disease.

Specific areas include daily or near real-time mapping of crop productivity and crop water demand in California; disease vectors and disease transmission risk across the U.S.; and coral reef health in the tropics.

Alexander has already been collaborating with NASA Ames since 1997 researching ecological and watershed systems.

Graduate students in CSUMB's master's program in Coastal and Watershed Science and Policy and advanced undergraduates in the Environmental Science, Technology and Policy program will have the opportunity to work with researchers at NASA Ames. They will learn advanced geospatial technologies, conduct hands-on research activities in earth systems science, and participate in internship and career development programs at NASA.

--- Joan Weiner, CSUMB

MPUSD board meets with "Operation Educate"

Following a presentation made by parents, teachers and community members to the MPUSD board three weeks ago, the district scheduled a special meeting a 6:30 today to dialogue with the group and talk about their requests.

There's an email circulating from "Operation Educate" folks urging community members to attend.

"The board will not listen to just the handful of us. Your presence is the only way to make a difference. When you don't show up the assumption is that you are not concerned and are completely content with the the way things are being run," writes Tammi Suber, president of the 20th District of the California State PTA.

The board will also hear from district administrators who've done the math. To hire enough teachers to reduce class sizes, hire instructional aids for combo classes, and hire two intervention teachers per each program improvement school, the district would have to spend an additional $6.1 million.

The district will end up with $24 million in reserve, but it's spending $6 million more than it's taking in income, so that reserve could dry up if no cuts are made. Now, if spending is increased, and the governor's tax measure is not approved...

Plus, the district's in mediation with the Monterey Bay Teachers Association over a $8 million past due bill the district still owes the teachers. The union wants the district administrators to include the debt with the rest of their liabilities, something that appears they haven't done. At the board meeting where the district's audit was reviewed, the auditor seemed surprised to hear there was this outstanding debt not on the books. Now teachers and administrators are in negotiations to get the debt --which goes back more than a decade -- repaid, and also how to reflect it in the books.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Sergio Montenegro leaving North Monterey County Unified

The board of trustees of North Monterey County Unified has selected Wendell Chun of Education Leadership Services to assist in the search for a new superintendent. Sergio Montenegro's resignation is effective June 30, and it's for personal reasons, he said in an email.

The trustees are seeking input from the community to determine the qualities desired in the new superintendent. To complete the survey that will gather these traits, click here.

La encuesta tambien se encuentra en español.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Nobel Laureate James Heckman packs Monterey

About 300 people gathered at the CSUMB's University Center Thursday to hear James Heckman expound on his studies that call for greater investment on little children instead of waiting until they're older to invest in programs that don't provide as much return.

The skills a child learns as an infant are skills that will be difficult to compensate for later in life if he or she doesn't acquire them. It's not that people shouldn't try, but it's just that the "return" on the investment won't be as high.

And the skills needed are not just cognitive skills, he said. Character, self esteem, are essential ingredients for success, and they're easier to acquire at the earliest stages of life.

"Invest in prevention, not remediation," was Heckman's message.

Because children in better-off families already receive the attention they need, it's children in low-income families who need the greatest help. They're the ones who statistically need more help later in life: they attend lower performing schools that will not be able to compensate for their shortcomings. Even if the skills gap doesn't grow any wider, it's persistent as children grow and begin attending schools.

An official meeting of the Rotary Club of Monterey, the meeting was attended by a slew of educators from all over Monterey County. Kathy Lathrop, director of early childhood education at Pajaro Valley Unified School District made an impassionate plea to the attendants to vote for proposed ballot measures that would fund education at all levels. As is, Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed budget is calling for massive cuts to early childhood education, including one extra year of kindergarten.

"We need the support of the business (community) opposing these cuts," she said. "We don't want to dismantle what's already in place."

Hartnell receives a waiver from the 50 percent spending rule

Hartnell administrators applied for an exception to the spending rule that dates back to 1959 in November, and President Phoebe Helm announced this week the waiver had been granted.

In the 2010-11 budget year, Hartnell spent 48.79 percent of its $35 million budget on teaching salaries and benefits. Had the exception not been approved by the Chancellor's Office, Hartnell would have had to make up the percentage difference and spend 51.21 percent in the classroom this school year.

While most of the Salinas college's spending goes toward student services, the formula enacted in 1959 does not take into account instruction that takes place outside the classroom, administrators say. And it does not contain "categorical funding" designated for specific programs that many administrators consider vital to instruction, such as student outreach or support for students with disabilities.

Confessions of a "bad" teacher

In case you've missed it, there's a really good opinion piece in the NYT by William Johnson, a special ed teacher who tells it like it is when it comes to the pressures of teaching:

"The truth is, teachers don’t need elected officials to motivate us. If our students are not learning, they let us know. They put their heads down or they pass notes. They raise their hands and ask for clarification. Sometimes, they just stare at us like zombies. Few things are more excruciating for a teacher than leading a class that’s not learning."

All this outcry about "public schools being failures" fail to recognize, like Johnson points out, that we'll always have different outcomes if we have different inputs. Children in wealthier schools, with more educated parents, do better. Look in our county, who are our winners in the math and science competitions? You can't blame poverty on the teacher. So far, all it's done is create an antagonistic -- and completely undeserved -- culture of blaming teachers.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Salinas high school teacher leads roundtable discussion about the teaching profession

U.S. Department of Education Teaching Ambassador Fellow and Salinas High School biology teacher Juan A. Govea will lead a roundtable discussion by Salinas Valley teachers on elevating the teaching profession, at Salinas High School Wednesday

The roundtable will offer an opportunity for local teachers to share with the department their ideas, experience, feedback and insight on how to elevate the teaching profession and support student learning.

Govea is one of 16 teachers selected to be a 2011 Teaching Ambassador Fellow after a rigorous competition among hundreds of applicants across the country. He continues to teach fulltime while serving as a resource to the U.S. Department of Education, helping local school districts understand federal policy, while representing the needs and interests of his community to policy officials in Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Monterey County migrant students debate and speech winners

UPDATE: An earlier version of this blog contained erroneous information about the winners of the high school extemporaneous speech.

The talent of Monterey County students was in full force this weekend, not only in the science competition, where Carmel freshman Ailis Dooner took top honors, but also at the migrant education speech and debate contest, where about 200 students demonstrated their oratory skills.

As one of the judges in the speech competition, I was impressed: these young men and women are poised, articulate, and dedicated. They came prepared with one speech and had to write a second speech on the spot. They overcame the nerves that were obviously eating them up and delivered their speeches with confidence. Not everyone won, of course, but in my book, they all shinning stars in Monterey County's firmament.

Here's a list of the winners


High school, English

1st place: North Monterey County High

2nd place: North Salinas High

3rd place: Salinas High School

High school, Spanish

1st: Soledad High

2nd: King City High

3rd: Alisal High

Middle School, English

1st: Chualar School

2nd: North Monterey County Middle School

3rd: Chalone Peaks Middle School



High School, prepared speech,

1st: Yvonne Dorantes, Notre Dame High

2nd: Yareli Vargas, Soledad High

3rd: Carolina Mundo, Alisal High

High School, extemporaneous speech

1st: Yareli Vargas, Soledad High and Yvonne Dorantes, Notre Dame High

2nd: Alondra Catalan, Soledad High

MIDDLE SCHOOL, Prepared speech

1st: Marlyn Sanchez, El Sausal

2nd: Everly Arce, Fairview

3rd: Alexa Pena, Fairview

Middle School, extemporaneous

1st: Marlyn Sanchez, El Sausal

2nd Adriana Vargas, Main Street

3rd: Maximino Jardines, El Sausal

6th Grade, prepared

1st: Getsemini Puga, Gabilan Elementary

2nd: Veronica Gutierrez, Chualar

3rd: Esmeralda Rivera, Oscar Loya

6th Grade, extemporaneous speech

1st: Paulina Quintero, Frank Paul

2nd: Abel Pacheco, Cesar Chavez

3rd: Esmeralda Rivera, Oscar Loya


Middle School, prepared speech

1st: Yesenia Aguilar, Vista Verde

2nd: Aldair Merlin, Vista Verde

3rd: Mayra Calderon, Chalone Peaks

Middle School, extemporaneous

1st: Maritza Villanueva, Chalone Peaks

2nd: Rosalba Vasquez, Vista Verde

3rd: Mayra Oliveros, Chalone Peaks

6th Grade, prepared speech

1st: Omar Vega, Fremont Elementary

2nd: Luis Alvarez, Alisal Community

3rd: Tania Diaz Rangel, Martin Luther King

6th Grade, extemporaneous

1st: Gilberto Vargas, Martin Luther King

2nd: Ana Huerta, Steinbeck

3rd: Luis Alvarez, Alisal Community

Monday, March 5, 2012

CORAL returns to the Monterey County Office of Education

Petitioners to launch another charter school in Monterey County will hear their fate Wednesday, when Monterey County Office of Education trustees hear whether their petition will be approved or denied.

Unlike previous charter petitions (like Millenium or Bay View) administrators did not write on the agenda whether they're recommending approval or denial, so sounds to me it'll be up to the trustees to decide whether CORAL becomes a reality.

The hearing starts at 1 p.m. at the Monterey County Office of Education, 901 Blanco Circle, if you want to check it out.

John Steinbeck Library celebrates Hina Matsuri

March 3 is a celebration for Japanese Girl’s called hina-matsuri. People display a set of hina dolls and props in the house, wishing girl’s healthy growth and happiness. Traditionally parents or grandparents of a newborn girl buy a set of gorgeous hina dolls unless they have special dolls, which are inherited from generation to generation. Traditionally, on this day, girls in Japan invite their friends to a home party. A special meal is prepared such as chirashizushi, clam soup and sakura-mochi. Come fold Origami, sing Japanese songs and tasting of Japanese food as we celebrate this special day.

From 4 to 5 pm. Thursday, March 8, at the John Steinbeck Library, 350 Lincoln Av. Salinas

Lady Gaga: every person matters

Thanks to Jose Hernandez from East Salinas, a piece of everyone of us was present for the launch of Lady Gaga's Born this Way Foundation last week in Harvard. So when I encountered this podcast about the event, featuring Oprah Winfrey, I had to listen.

This is how celebrity should be used: both women are trying to use their notoriety to promote worthy causes, and Gaga's cause is particularly noteworthy. Every person matters. Be kind to one another. It's not an anti-bullying message, she told Winfrey, because she also cares about the bullies. It's about caring for people. I hope this message of kindness spreads far and wide.

Here's Oprah's message.

Coming to a CSUMB near you

Speakers, an-all day conference, and environmental concerns coming to Cal State Monterey Bay

Tuesday, March 6: Activist, writer, and renown member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg nation Winona LaDuke will speak about Environmental Justice from an Indigenous Perspective

LaDuke has written extensively on Native American and environmental issues and is a leading voice on environmental action, sustainability, economic and social justice, indigenous rights, and the rights and empowerment of women.

The free event will get under way at 7:30 p.m. in the University Center ballroom.

Wednesday, March 7: “Sustainability and Social Justice” is the topic to be addressed on
when CSU Monterey Bay’s annual Focus the Region teach-in and Social Justice Colloquium jointly present a program of speakers, films and panel discussions.
All events will take place in the University Center on Sixth Avenue.

The day’s highlights include:

At 1:20 p.m.: Graciela Tiscareno-Sato, a graduate of the School of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley and a former military aviator, will talk on Latinnovating: How Creative Latino Culture is Sparking the Green Economy.

At 3:30: Frank Bardacke will speak on farm work and justice. His most recent book is the award-winning Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers

At 5:45: Showing of the Emmy-nominated film, A Village Called Versailles, about a Vietnamese American community near New Orleans and their efforts to rebuild their neighborhood after Katrina, and then their fight to overturn a government decision to put a toxic landfill near their homes.

At 6:45: For International Women’s Day, panels will examine women’s rights around land, work, health, culture and education.

A complete schedule is available here.

For more information, please contact Dr. Daniel Fernandez at (831) 582-3786 or

Friday, March 2, 2012

El Sausal battles illiteracy on Read Across America day

There was much happening in Monterey County schools on Read Across America day, but I only made it to two schools.

In the morning, I witnessed the ceremonial painting of teachers and students warriors at El Sausal Middle School in Salinas: English teacher David Wirth organized a group of his peers to pound the drums as they marched across campus early in the morning. The painted ones -- including yours truly -- pledged to battle illiteracy and read a lot. A lot!

For seventh grader Carlos Rodriguez, it was a good way to start the school day.

"I like that lots of us got together," he said.

Later on, I read at Ord Terrace in Seaside. That was lots of fun too.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

MPC English teacher David Clemens

wrote a very provocative, insightful essay for the National Association of Scholars about the recommendations of the Student Success Task Force about how to revamp community colleges. In it, Clemens rips the recommendations as nothing more than "a power grab by the Chancellor and a profit center for software peddlers."

"The recommendations ... in fact have nothing to do with either real students or real success but if implemented, they will fundamentally retool the largest higher education system in the world. Their adoption by the BOG puts California in a familiar place: on a collision course with reality. Simply put, the reform scheme is pure behaviorist claptrap based on fictional students being taught in fictional ways by fictional teachers."

I've reported in the past how Monterey Peninsula College administrators, faculty and students opposed the recommendations, which would effectively discourage offering life-enrichment classes in favor of more academic courses such as remedial math and English. Both President Doug Garrison and Board President Lynn Davis wrote impassioned letters to the Board of Governors, opposing adoption.

Well, the recommendations indeed have been adopted and now are on their way to the Legislature for consideration. How and when will they become a reality will take some time, given how our bureaucracy works.

In the meantime, Prof. Clemens essay has brought the debate to the national arena: his essay was blogged about in The Hechinger Report and now is being discussed in the public forum of the National Education Writers Association.

To call these recommendations a sore spot is an understatement. And they'll remain so for a long time to come.