Friday, March 29, 2013

Hartnell trustees to consider changes to child care center

Hartnell trustees will consider Tuesday whether to approve proposed changes to the operation of its child development center at the Alisal campus.

College administrators say the child development center operates at a $200,000 loss per year and they want to find a way to stem those losses.

A proposal put forth by a contractor would outsource operations of the Alisal center to an outside operator, who would take over the site in July. The existing site operator, a college employee, would be laid off along with some teachers.

The meeting begins at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the CALL building of Hartnell, 411 Central Ave., Salinas.

And the winners of the 7th annual Japanese speech contest are...

Two students from North Monterey High and one from Stevenson emerged top three in the 7th annual Monterey County High School Japanese Speech contest:

1st Place: Ray Lantaca (North Salinas High School)
2nd Place: Alejandro Nunez (North Salinas High School)
3rd Place: Evelyn Zhai (Stevenson School)

About 250 guests took part in the March 22 event, which included visitors from Japan who spoke about their experiences with the 2011 Tsunami, Japanese language instructor Yo Azama said. There were 15 contestants from Alisal, Everett Alvarez, Stevenson School, and North Salinas High School.

The 1st place winner will compete at the National Speech Contest at UC Irvine in May. We can't wait to see how far he goes!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Parenting classes, en español!

La organización Triple P pronto comenzará sus cursos para ayudar a los padres a ser mejor guías para sus hijos.

Las clases ayudan a
* promover relaciones positivas y amorosas con sus hijos.
* tener más confianza como padre
* aprender estrategias de disciplina y como lidiar con el estres

Habrá cuidado para niños de 3 a 10 años de edad

Las clases son los lunes en la noche y un viernes de 6 a 8 p.m.

El 8, 15, 22, 29 de abril, y el 3, 6, 13, 20 de mayo, y el 3 de junio.

En la escuela Mary Chapa / El Camino Real Academies, 490 El Camino Real Greenfield, School Library Room #4

Para más información e inscripciones comuníquese con Veronika Barajas, educadora de padres, al 831 674-5586 or Maria Theresa Rodriguez al 831 757-7920.

Autism awareness month is coming up

And even though San Jose is a bit far, some folks out there may want to attend the west coast conference of the Cambridge Center for Behavior Studies that will take place April 22 at the Mexican Heritage Plaza.

The topics presented are likely to appeal to parents, educators, and other experts. Lorri Shealy Unumb, vice president for Autism Speaks will give the keynote presentation “Autism Insurance 101 for Parents and Providers." Unumb is the parent advocate who started the autism insurance reform movement.

For more information about the event, click here.

Beccie Michael to lead Monterey Peninsula Foundation

Beccie Michael will be the new executive director of the Monterey Peninsula College Foundation, the arm of the school tasked with raising extra funds.

Michael, 33, previously worked as director of development at Columbia College in Sonora, Calif. Under her leadership, the Foundation tripled their annual donations and successfully completed a scholarship fundraising campaign, MPC officials say. Michael has worked as a resource development professional in the California community college system for the past eight years.

Michael attended Santa Barbara City College and earned a B.A. from University of California, Santa Barbara in 2001. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in community development from Kansas State University.

She's scheduled to take on her new position May 13.

Of Michelle Rhee and the upcoming school board elections

Michelle Rhee and her organization, StudentsFirst, are doling out a lot of dough to elect candidates that will carry out her anti-union views at school boards. Here's a really good article about her recent contribution to candidates for the L.A. Unified School District.

I wonder what her daughters think about her mom's "frank talk." 

School board elections are more than seven months away, but there's already chatter on both sides of Monterey's Lettuce Curtain about who's going to run and who's going to throw in his/her weigh behind candidates.

I expect it's going to get really nasty at the Alisal. There's rumors that anti-status quo forces (and yes, Castañeda is the status quo) are gearing up to recruit three candidates to take over the board. One of the candidates would have to run against -- yes, you guessed it -- José Castañeda.

Not only is Castañeda nowhere near giving up his seat at the Alisal board, but I hear he wants to run AGAIN for the seat come November. I'm not making this up.

Speaking of the Alisal, there's a lot of discontent brewing because administrators fired Oscar Loya Principal Dannette Bryson, who has not even been at the district for a year. Then about 15 classified employees were given a pink slip last week. Long time principal of Alisal Community School Elizabeth Armenta was also forced out. No surprise there. Castañeda and his allies have always had it against Armenta's brother-in-law, Monterey County Supervisor Fernando Armenta, and it's surprising Elizabeth lasted this long after Castañeda took over the board.

At MPUSD, several trustees have said they don't want to run again. It'll be interesting to see who throws their hats in the ring.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Speaking of MOOCs

It's one of the best parts of my job: I get to dig deep on fashionable topics. For a curious person like me, it's like being in heaven.

I've been wanting to find out more about MOOCs and what the buzz was about. The opportunity to learn more came when Sebastian Thrun, founder of a Massively Open Online Course company, spoke about launching his company during the President Speaker series at CSUMB on Wednesday. I wrote a story about the event, but naturally, you can't even begin to touch the surface of MOOCs on a 20-inch story.

So if you're curious, here's more. Enjoy!

For a good primer on what MOOCs are, click here.

Five education providers offering MOOCs

The Year of the MOOC -- New York Times

Beware of the high cost of online course (New York Times)

How the embrace of MOOC's could hurt Middle America here (subscription only)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Accreditation team visit to Hartnell College completed

A team from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges concluded a visit to Hartnell last Thursday, and before departing, they issued five commendations and 12 recommendations, according to Spokeswoman Terri Pyer.

The college was commended for its cooperative spirit in making necessary changes, for offering unique and innovative programs, for providing architecturally interesting and inviting learning spaces, and for the innovative use of physical resources in King City and at the Alisal Campus. Its foremost commendation went to the president of the college, Willard Lewallen, who was praised for assessing the institution's needs immediately upon arrival on July 1, 2012.

Among the team's recommendations to the college were to develop processes to evaluate its mission regularly; to develop comprehensive planning processes, including strategic and annual plans; to standardize student learning results, service learning results and program-level results, and provide training for staff on how to accomplish this; to improve staff evaluation processes; to develop and implement a stable administrative structure; and to evaluate its participatory governance model. The team noted that much of this work has been started at the college, but that the college must continue this work and complete the planning and assessment cycle.

Over the next few months, the team will provide its commendations and recommendations to the college in a written report, inviting the college to respond to any factual errors. Then the report will be forwarded to the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. The commission will meet in June to consider all of the evidence submitted to it, including the college's self-evaluation and the report of the visiting team, and will issue its decision on the college's accredited status.

Accreditation is a voluntary system of self-regulation of schools and colleges developed to evaluate overall educational quality. The process provides assurance to the public that each accredited college meets the standards for a degree-granting institution of higher education. Every six years, institutions renew the process, which includes completing a self-evaluation and being reviewed by a visiting team to determine whether the college meets standards related to institutional mission and effectiveness, student learning programs and services, the effective use of resources, and leadership and governance. The accreditation cycle requires reaffirmation of accreditation every six years.

The Matsiko Children’s Choir returning to Marina

The Matsiko Children’s Choir will be visiting the Marina area from March 30 through April 8. They are a group of 25 orphaned African children who sing and dance a hope-filled message about the power of education to transform their lives. Their tour is sponsored by the International Children’s Network, and when they go home they try to make a difference in their communities.

The community concert will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 6, at the Marina High School Auditorium, 298 Patton Parkway. For more information, contact Darlena Ridler at 384-1968.

Or click here or here.

AmeriCorps seek reading tutors for South Monterey County

The Monterey County Office of Education’s AmeriCorps is kicking off its annual “Monterey County United for Literacy” program by seeking qualified tutors to read with K-4th grade students.

The program begins August 27, 2013 and runs through July 31, 2014. Readers must have experience working with children and/or education with a bachelor’s degree preferred (those without a bachelor’s degree must pass a proficiency exam). Tutors are expected to volunteer 1,700 hours of tutoring and community service during the 11-month program.

AmeriCorps provides a living stipend of $1,100 a month during the 11-month term. Additionally, tutors will receive a Segal Education Award of $5,550 upon successful completion of the 1,700 tutoring hours. The program also offers health insurance for AmeriCorps members, childcare assistance, if eligible, and student loan forbearance.

Training is provided. Interested parties should create an account at and search for Monterey County United for Literacy to submit an application for consideration. Questions may be directed to Erin Ortiz at or 831.755.0375.

Pacific Grove student takes first prize in California Poetry Out Loud

Arwa Awan, a senior at Pacific Grove High School, took first place in the 2013 California state finals of Poetry Out Loud and will represent the Golden State in Washington DC at the national finals this spring. Connor Ricketts, a freshman at Charter University Prep in El Dorado County, was the first runner-up and would represent California in the national finals if Awan was unable to attend. Shane Anderson, a sophomore at Bear River High School in Nevada County, was the second runner-up.

"The California Poetry Out Loud state final is an extremely competitive contest, and all the county champions are remarkable young men and women," said Craig Watson, Director of the California Arts Council. "The width and breadth of California's diversity and creativity is well represented in these talented young men and women who participated today, and we are delighted that Arwa will represent California in the national finals."

This year marks the eighth time the California Arts Council has produced the annual competition -- the largest of its kind in the nation, with over 40,000 students in approximately 35 California counties participating. The program encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. The California state final is the culminating competition in California between county winners who have shown their merit in the classroom, school, district, and county (a pyramid competition structure similar to the spelling bee).

Awan, as the California Poetry Out Loud champion, receives $200 from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). She will go on to compete in Washington, DC, later this spring, and her school will receive $500 for books. Ricketts, as the runner-up, receives $100 from the NEA, and $200 for books at his school.

For more information about the event, click here.

Way to go, Arwan! Good luck in the national competition. We'll be cheering for you! Arwan's photo by Brian Baer

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sebastian Thrun, creator U

Sebastian Thrun, former Stanford professor and creator of Udacity, an online learning channel, will make a presentation at CSUMB as part of the president's speaker series.

Thrun will talk about the very latest on how Udacity and MOOCs have taken education by storm. His first Massive Open Online Course or MOOC enrolled over 160,000 students.

For more information and to RSVP, click here.

Moss Landing Marine Lab professor Erika McPhee-Shaw earns Stanford fellowship

Erika McPhee-Shaw, San Jose State University Associate Professor at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, has been selected as one of 20 recipients of the next generation of Leopold Leadership fellows. The fellowship was created to provide successful midcareer scientists in Canada, Mexico, and the United States with tools to communicate their science beyond the scientific community more effectively.

McPhee-Shaw is the chair of the Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System and a member of Center for Ocean Solution’s coastal hypoxia working group. She's interested in presenting complex oceanographic and environmental issues to policymakers, resource managers and legislators. Her specific plans are to use this fellowship to contribute to a greater understanding of nitrate pollution, ocean acidification, and the ocean’s role in storms and forecasting weather and climate.

The Leopold Leadership Program, named for famed early environmentalist Aldo Leopold, is administered by Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment.

Moss Landing Marine Laboratories is the graduate program in marine science for California State Universities East Bay, Fresno, Monterey Bay, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose and Stanislaus.

Celebrating Foreign Language education at MIIS

The Monterey Institute of International Studies will host “Celebrating Foreign Language Education: A Monterey Bay Symposium,” its second annual student-organized conference on language teaching and learning.

The symposium will take place Saturday, March 30, and it will feature local teachers, students, administrators and other professionals from throughout the Monterey Bay area. The conference will examine innovative ways of thinking about foreign language education, with particular focus on using technology as a tool to enhance language learning outcomes. The conference will also address the importance of intercultural competency for achieving language fluency.

Participating speakers include representatives from local institutions such as Stevenson School, North Salinas High School and the Defense Language Institute. The symposium will provide a venue for students in the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and Teaching a Foreign Language programs at the Institute to share ideas with local teachers, bringing their learning outside the classroom and into real-world practical applications.

For more information and a full conference schedule, visit the conference website here. Registration is available online at and tickets are $15.

Eggstravaganza at Natividad Creek Park this Saturday

The city of Salinas will host an eggstravaganza, a chance for children to hunt for eggs starting a 9 a.m. Saturday, March 23, at Natividad Creek Park.

Registration starts at 9 a.m.

Egg Hunt Times

0-2 year olds 10:00am
3-5 year olds 10:15am
6-9 year olds 1130 am
10-13 year olds 11:45 am
14- older 11:00

There will also be Easter themed crafts and games, egg hunt and visit with the Easter Bunny.

For more information call 758-7306

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Monterey Bay Charter raising funds and helping the environment

Folks at the Monterey Bay Charter have raised $17,000 with the Plant-a-thon they held March 9. They have $12,200 to go to reach their goal, and they continue to collect pledges until the end of March.

"It’s the students that do most of the planting along with their parents," Monterey Bay Charter secretary Kristi Heath said. "A representative from Return of the Natives talks to each class ahead of time giving them information about the planting and the benefit to the land and environment."

The plant-a-thon is done in partnership with CSUMB’s Return of the Natives Restoration Education Project and the Bureau of Land Management. RON gets five percent of the school's fundraising proceeds and provides the plants and location set up. All of the Monterey Bay Charter families get pledges supporting the school and this program and then, on planting day, go out to the site and plant over 2,000 seedlings of native plants. Then they have some fun with a party, a picnic and music!

For more information about the school, click here.

For more information about Return of the Natives, click here.

Marina High students spend their spring break doing service

Last month, Marina High students spent a Saturday planting native plants and beautifying the school all around. It was all part of a service learning component the school has been developing with CSUMB, and the stars and several community members have aligned to bring this project to the school.

The project continues this week when students devote their week off to more service learning in ecologically-oriented project. They've been to the MEEarth Campus in Carmel Valley, helped serve meals at Epiphany Church and renovate their garden, and tomorrow, they'll help build an organic garden that will provide food for the school's cafeteria.

What a thoughtful way to spend spring break! Mariners rock!

A team of Salinas-based Riptide All Stars earned a spot in the 2013 Cheerleading Worlds Event in Orlando, Florida, to take place the end of April.

The team competed this past weekend at the PacWest Cheerleading and Dance Championships in Portland, OR and walked away with a second place finish.

You can view Riptide Rage’s performance here.

The Cheerleading Worlds competition takes place April 27-29, 2013 at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL. Riptide All Stars is in its 9th year, and many of the kids on the team have been cheering with gym owner Sarah Diehl since the inception of Riptide All Stars. The team consists of 24 athletes and 3 alternates from as far away as Sacramento, however most athletes are from the Monterey/Salinas area.

“Our season started in disarray with a robbery at the gym where thieves stole over $10,000 worth of equipment,” said Diehl, “But it’s ending on a high note and we couldn’t be prouder of all our athletes and entire Riptide family.”

Go Riptide athletes! Good luck in Florida!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Another fight brewing at Hartnell College

Ron Chesshire of the Building and Construction Trades Council asked Hartnell College trustees to consider a Project Labor Agreement for the construction of their new science wing, a project that's expected to cost about $25 million.

Word got around to the Northern California Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors, who say these type of agreements make projects more expensive. Expect a lively debate tonight during the Hartnell Board meeting, when trustees will hear from both sides.

Monday, March 18, 2013

MPUSD to revisit superintendent's qualifications again

Monterey Peninsula Unified trustees could not decide last week if the wish list put together by consultant K-12 Insight was a direct mandate or just a "it'd be nice" list.

 About 400 people participated in the survey, and while the percentage of participation seems small to me, trustees appeared happy with it. About half of the survey respondents were teachers or district employees.

rustees are scheduled to approve the profile for the new superintendent at a special meeting Tuesday.

And time keeps moving on...

If you're curious, find the proposed profile here and the results of the survey here.

Accreditation team visits Hartnell College

** UPDATE **

The accreditation team has changed the time it will present its preliminary findings. The presentation has been changed to noon on Thursday, March 21, at noon, in Steinbeck Hall in main campus.
As part of the normal six-year accreditation cycle of the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), Hartnell College will host a site visit by an accreditation team from March 18 through March 21, 2013.

The site visit is one part of the accreditation process for making sure schools and colleges are doing their job.

The process also includes a detailed self-evaluation report. Hartnell’s self-evaluation report is online and can be accessed here.

The team will host several open forums to provide an opportunity for employees, community members, and students to share information or ask questions. These open forums are scheduled as follows:

Tuesday, March 19
4-5- p.m.
Steinbeck Hall, Main Campus

Wednesday March 20
9:30-10:30 a.m.
Center for Advanced Technology (room C107), Alisal Campus

1-2 p.m.
Merrill Hall (room M-1)
Main Campus

2-3 p.m.
King City Education Center

The team will present its preliminary findings at a public forum on Thursday, March 21, at 2 p.m., in Steinbeck Hall in main campus.

Tom Torlakson publishes list of recommended books

And they look a lot like the old recommended books.

Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson unveiled today a search engine that contains lists of recommended books for every age level. You can find it here.

After a quick perusal, it doesn't seem very different from previous lists. Which leads me to think, is the Common Core as different as proponents are making it to be?

Or is it going to take a while before old literature catches up with new trends?

Friday, March 15, 2013

All Saint's School recognized for its ethical education program

The Center for Spiritual and Ethical Education has recognized All Saints’ Day School for excellence in ethical education.

"We are deeply honored to receive this award,” said Michele Rench, head of school. “We continuously strive to inspire All Saints’ students to build lives of purpose and service, and we greatly appreciate CSEE's recognition of our program.”

All Saints’ is private, Episcopal school with grades Pre-K through Grade 8. Tuition costs $19,000 a year for grades 1 through 8. About 220 students attend. The school committed to developing character with both depth and breadth.

The Center for Spiritual and Ethical Education noted three facets of the school's commitment to character:

• Commitment to professional development

• The Bean Program, now in its 20th year at ASDS, is integral to life at All Saints’. This service learning project involves a well-organized group of students breaking down large bags of pinto beans into 4-pound parcels to be distributed to needy families in the Salinas Valley.

• The All Saints’ buddies program pairs older students with younger ones. The program fosters relationships, gives younger children an older student to look up to, and encourages older students to play a meaningful role in the furthering of All Saints’ culture.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Summer's upon us -- and so are summer programs!

If you're already thinking how your little ones are going to spend their summer, here's a few ideas.

Monterey State Historic Park hosts "Los Niños de Monterey" history camps, for children in third through sixth grades to “step back in time” and experience Monterey, California of the past.

Registration opened March 4, 2013, offering 4 camp programs from June 17 to July 19. Cost ranges from $145 to $200 per camp per child. For more information, click here.

The Monterey Bay Charter School will host a six-week summer camp for ages six to 13 at its forested grounds. Cost for a full week from Monday to Friday 9am to 4 pm is $275. For more information, click here.

And if you don't want to wait until summer, the SPCA is now offering its animal camp during spring break.

Animal Camp is a unique mix of fun, exciting, and educational hands-on experiences that build self-esteem and nurture compassion.

For children in third through sixth grades. Sessions held on March 25-29, April 1-5, and April 8-12.

Summer sessions: July 15-19, July 22-26, July 29-Aug 2, and Aug 5-9 Cost for each session: $250. Call 831-264-5404 or click here for more information.

Women's History Month at Hartnell College

If you missed past presentations by fabulous women at Hartnell College in celebration of Women's History Month, don't miss the one coming up on March 20.

Last month, Hartnell hosted Janet Tighe, president of the Naval Postgraduate School. Today, Hartnell trustee Erica Padilla-Chávez spoke about her journey from the Pájaro Valley to UC Berkeley.

Next week, the college will host Norma Ambriz-Galaviz, an alumna and former employee of Hartnell who was recently named the president of Merritt College.

Ambriz-Galaviz will speak to the college community at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, May 20, at the Steinbeck Dining Hall in the Student Center on the main campus. The presentation is free and sponsored by the Associated Students of Hartnell College.

For more information contact Delia Edeza, student life coordinator, at 831-755-6825.

Japanese culture at North Salinas High

North Salinas High will celebrate Japanese culture with an speech contest and a presentation by Japanese students regarding the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The 7th Annual Monterey County High School Japanese Speech Contest will be held at the North Salinas High School on Friday, March 22, 2013. The event begins at 4:00 P.M. and is open to the public. Twenty high school contestants from local schools will be competing for a chance to attend the National Japanese Speech Contest in Los Angeles in May 2013.

In addition to the competition, there will be cultural entertainment such as Japanese music, dance, and games. The event is free. There will also be a special presentation on the recovery of Tohoku region by Japanese high school students from Miyagi, Japan.

The following day, the students will again share their stories of their experience from the 2011 disaster. The power point presentation will start at 10 a.m. at North Salinas High School in the Multi-Purpose room at 55 Kip Drive on Saturday, March 23 at 10 A.M. An informal panel discussion will follow. The free event is open to public. All questions may be directed to Tomoki Kuwana at 796-7500 or e-mail him at

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Seaside's Martin Luther King teacher arrested on child pornography charges

Administrators at King Elementary announced Wednesday that teacher Nathan Forstell was arrested by the San Jose internet Crimes Against Children Task Force as part of an on-going investigation concerning child pornography.

"MPUSD is committed to the safety of our students," the school announced in its website.

Principal Laurie Bloom-Sweeney and district staff will be available to parents throughout the day tomorrow to address any concerns. You may also call the School office at 392-3970 between the hours of 7:30 am and 3:30 pm if you have any questions.

Teacher of the year: could it be you?

Assemblymember Luis A. Alejo (D-Salinas) is seeking nominations for the 2013 Day of the Teacher award. Nominees must work within the 30th Assembly District which includes San Benito County, Monterey County, South Santa Clara and City of Watsonville in Santa Cruz County.

Nominees should demonstrate outstanding contribution to academic achievement, community service, dedication and commitment to students.

Honorees will be recognized at a special Day of the Teacher ceremony on Saturday, May 11.

“I personally know and understand the work and dedication that is required to be a teacher, and I want to dedicate a day for teachers to be recognized for their outstanding work with students,” Alejos said in a statement.

To confirm eligibility, go to click on “Find my Representative” and insert the school address.

A nomination form can be found here.

Nominations must be submitted to Leticia Perez by 5pm on Friday, April 19. Email: or (831) 759-8676.

Of Bill Gates, the four C's, and privitazing public education

The League of Women Voters of Monterey County hosted today a very well attended talk about ongoing efforts to privatize public education. The topic has been on my radar screen for a while, but it's one of those really hard to tackle with a news story.

I'm writing an article about the presentation for tomorrow's paper (I'll link to the story when it's finished) but one of the issues presenters discussed was the growing influence of corporations in public education. The Common Core Standards, for instance, was developed by a consortium of states and top industry leaders. Same with the Partnership for 21st Century Learning, whose early efforts were led by Apple Computers, Cisco Systems and the like.

By the Bill Gates of the world and their "charitable" foundations.

I wrote about the Partnership a couple of days ago, and a New York State teacher had some issues with my coverage. He wrote a thoughtful letter that I'll share with you here, because he asks some provocative questions not being asked elsewhere. Questions that seldom can be well addressed in a news story. I'm posting it also because they go to the crux of the privatization matter.

Here's the letter. Enjoy!

I am a New York State teacher who recently read your article "Schools partnership aimed at helping teachers." I noticed that you didn't quote any teachers in your article, which doesn't mean of course that you didn't talk to any, just that they didn't make the final draft of your article. Your article put me in mind of a speech that Bill Gates gave in 2005. As you probably know, he has been instrumental in spearheading education reform in this country. The speech was about his years at Lakeside High School, an expensive private school. Below is a link to it. Notice in the text his references to learning, or his 3C's, and ask yourself some basic questions as you do so:

1. Why is it so fantastic that Lakeside had a 16:1 student to teacher ratio, while reformers like Mr. Gates continue to say that class size doesn't matter?

2. If his definition of rigor is having teachers demand that he read their favorite books, why is it costing him a billion dollars in educational philanthropy to bring rigor and change to American schools?

3. If "unleashing" him and Paul Allen worked so effectively, why can't public schools try this method, and unleash students to pursue their talents as Lakeside did for him. Instead Mr. Gates advocates for tough standardized tests and simply harder curriculum, which will require by definition more seat time for students and thus more direct instruction, leaving little or no time for student self-directed learning?

Surely the answer can't be that public school students are somehow, by nature, intellectually inferior and can't be trusted to follow their own muses and pursue their dreams (as they apparently can for 28,000 per year at Lakeside). But if not that, then what's the answer? What is truly driving education reform in the country, when great schools like Lakeside seem to possess the right ingredients already, ingredients that could be transferred to any school with little or no added cost?

Thank you for reading this and have a nice evening,

Dave Smith

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Marina, Seaside JROTC students, a casualty of secuestration

For the first time in years -- ever? -- Marina and Seaside JROTC students qualified to compete in the Army National Drill in Louisville, Kentucky. Twenty student cadets were going to compete with other teams from around the nation and stay in the barracks at Fort Knox.

Imagine the excitement. The first time Marina and Seaside students make it to the national competition. Out of town. All expenses paid. A chance to show your stuff.

Except sequestration happened, and the trip will be no more.

Ruben Zepeda, assistant superintendent of secondary education, made the announcement at Monday's board meeting. Apparently, not even Seaside High Principal Mary White had heard about it.

 I have a feeling there's some very disappointed students right now :(

FOIA shaming coming to a school district near you?

I have to admit it, the school districts I cover are generally very good. They provide the information I request on a timely manner, hardly ever even complaining.

Except for one or two. Recently, I was asked to put in an ADVANCED request to see RECENT board agendas and meetings minutes, documents that should be available to the public AT ANY TIME, according to the California Open Records Act.

So when digital editor Lisa Mitchell passed along this new website,, I jumped for joy. Would public shaming of a local school district force them to provide the records they need to provide ANYWAY?

I'm going to have to find out. And you know how much our local schools hate bad publicity ;-)

Stay tuned.

Monday, March 11, 2013

York luminaire gets another award

York School senior Kendall Ronzano, selected last year as the young philanthropist of Monterey County, was selected by the National Center for Women & Information Technology for the 2013 NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing. The award which recognizes high school girls for their ambitions and achievements in computing and technology. Ronzano received her award at a ceremony in Charlotte, North Carolina on March 9.

The award encourages young women to succeed in technology. Despite their advances in academia and the workforce, women are disproportionally underrepresented in computing fields: they hold only 25 percent of all technology occupations, earn 18 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in computing, and represent just 19 percent of all Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science test-takers. The Aspirations in Computing program encourages young women to persist in a field where women traditionally have been underrepresented.

The 35 award winners were selected from more than 1,800 applications from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and overseas U.S. military bases. Each winner will receive $500 cash, a laptop computer, an engraved award for both her and her school, and mentoring opportunities with Bank of America employees.

Ronzano, who was featured in the Herald last year, credits her interest and aptitude in computer science to early exposure and encouraging teachers starting with Mr. Jacobs at Mission Hill Junior High who taught students coding in sixth grade. She pursued that interest and turned it into a passion at York School where she learned programming languages and how to apply them in project-based learning. “York is a safe place for girls to take their technology interests to a higher level. Once we learned the practical application of something we were encouraged to experiment by going beyond our comfort zone with the tool.

Ronzano was selected by her peers to serve as this year’s Technology Officer, one of the positions on the executive student council. In considering her college options, she plans to pursue a major in Computer Science and minor in Latin.

Unifying Salinas schools under one super-school district

It's one of those issues that likes to rear its head from time to time, like the Loch Ness monster.

Whether or not to consolidate Salinas schools into one monstrous district.

There's been quiet chit chat about the topic recently, some say spurred by people at the Alisal Union School District. I've yet to find exactly who's spreading the rumor.

Then again, maybe it'll be come apparent at the taxpayer mixer aptly titled “Unifying Salinas Schools."

According to the Salinas Taxpayer's Association Website: Salinas has more than a half a dozen school districts and is continuously criticized for administrations plagued by top heavy management, duplication of services & inefficiency. The last time unification was seriously considered was in the 1970’s.

This mixer will feature a panel presentation led by none other than -- brace yourself -- former Board President, Jose Castaneda of the Alisal School District.

Guests can count on lively discussion and debate surrounding all aspects of this topic. Come prepared with questions and ideas.

The event will take place at 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 29, at the Grower's Pub,227 Monterey St., Salinas.

For more information, contact the association's president Bob Perkins at or click here.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

It's not too late to catch 'Girl Rising' tonight

Women for Women International, a student club at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (BCM), will host the world premiere of the feature film "Girl Rising" — the centerpiece of the “10 x10” global campaign to educate and empower girls — at 7 p.m. March 7 in the Irvine Auditorium, 499 Pierce St.

Directed by Academy Award nominee Richard Robbins, Girl Rising tells the stories of nine extraordinary girls from nine countries. It was written by nine celebrated writers and narrated by nine renowned actresses. Girl Rising showcases the strength of the human spirit and the power of education to change the world. Explore the film in detail here.

The Women for Women International Club is hosting the screening to support efforts surrounding International Women’s Day (Feb. 25) to bring global attention to the enormous benefits of educating girls. The screening is free and open to the public.

Hail to the Alisal champions!

Alisal High School is hosting a special recognition in honor of the boys soccer and wrestling teams, CCS champions.

First, the champions will have a victory parade through East Salinas, then they'll be feted to a rally in the stadium. The rally will take place Friday, March 22, at 2:15 p.m.

The parade is expected to begin at 2 p.m. at the intersection of Bardin and Williams roads leading to Alisal High.

That should be a fun afternoon, so plan ahead!

Carmel High honored with the Civic Learning Award

Carmel High School was recognized with the 2013 Civic Learning Award for California public high schools for its U.S. government and politics class, its mock trial club and team, and its student leadership.

The award is co-sponsored by California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. It spotlights successful efforts to engage students in civic learning and identify models that can be replicated in other schools.

The announcement was made Feb. 28 at the civic learning summit in Sacramento. For more information, click here.

Teacher's Depot looking for a new site

After a year of sharing resources with the community of teachers, the Partners for the Advancement of Teaching at CSU Monterey Bay is again looking for a home.

Thanks to Orosco Group, veteran educators Linda Turner Bynoe and Jennifer Colby had a house at Seaside for a year. They had to close in November, and now are hoping to find a new donated site -- perhaps in Salinas? there are many store fronts closed over there.

I wrote about the Teacher's Depot last year. Check it out

In the meantime, Turner Bynoe and Colby are focused on writing grants.

"Teachers responded well to the Depot and we want to open again."

The Teachers Depot offered teachers ideas and materials for teachers free of charge. Also, they held workshops on new teaching ideas. For more information, click here.

And if you have some space to donate to them, give them a buzz!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Monterey County visually impaired students win on regional challenge

Students of the Monterey County Office of Education Program for the Visually Impaired competed on Saturday, March 2 in the Regional Braille Challenge held at California School for the Blind in Fremont.

Students competed in the areas of spelling, reading comprehension, dictation and interpretation of tactile graphics during the all-day competition.

“We're extremely proud of our Monterey County students and staff," said Martina Sholiton, Assistant Superintendent, Special Education. "Our students have had many wins in the Regional Braille Challenges in past years. Two of our students, Janie Brunson and Monserath Espinola, have scored high enough to compete against top winners in the National Braille Challenge."

The 2013 Monterey County winners are:
Janie Brunson, senior at Carmel High – 1st place, Varsity
Alejandro Aguilar, 5th grader at Cesar Chavez in Greenfield – 2nd Place, Sophomore
Rocco Romeo, 4th grader at Washington Union Elementary –1st Place, Freshman
Monserath Espinola, 3rd grader at Del Rey Woods, Seaside – 2nd Place, Freshman
Melina Mendoza, 2nd grader at Marshall Elementary, Seaside –2nd Place Apprentice

Student scores will be compiled with scores from other regional competitions, and the top winners will compete in the National Braille Challenge.

Janie Brunson also won in 2010 and 2011, and Monserath Espinola won in 2012. Janie won 2nd place nationally in 2010.

Janie and her parents

Rocco and Alejandro

Constitution Project recognizes 12 Monterey County Students

Twelve Monterey County students representing Los Arboles Middle School, Main Street Middle School, and Washington Middle School were recognized on Monday, March 4, for their participation in the inaugural Monterey County United States Constitution Project.

The project was convened by the Monterey County Constitution Project Committee to enrich the lives of Monterey County eight graders with the great achievements of the Constitution that frames the United States. The primary goals of the project include curriculum development, materials and demonstration lessons. The efforts also deepened students’ understanding of the constitution through persuasive writing and debate.

In this initial year, this three middle schools piloted the project. The eight grade U.S. History teachers implemented the curriculum, activities and U.S. Constitution writing competition. Students were challenged to express their ideas through various U.S. Constitution writing and speaking projects, including short persuasive essays, spoken word poetry, and small group and individual debates. For their final test, the students had to write a persuasive essay to express the impact the U.S. Constitution had on our country and on their lives personally.

The top essay winner from each school has been awarded a scholarship for a trip to Washington, D.C. Students have the opportunity to visit the nation’s Capitol and Philadelphia to witness the documents, buildings and monuments that have shaped our history with their own eyes. They will also walk in the same steps as James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and the framers of the U.S. Constitution.

The winners are:

Los Arboles Middle School, Marina.

Lauren E. Dimaggio
Michael Howard Dronet, Jr.
May A. Khalil
Sebastian Soria

Main Street Middle School, Soledad

Omar Gallegos
Eric Martin
Cassandra Esteban
Maribel Ramirez

Washington Middle School, Salinas

Jason Haejoon Jung
Alexa Eusebia Villalobos
Enrique Vazquez
Corrina D. Lee

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

MPC students to lead bone marrow registry drive

The Associated Student body of Monterey Peninsula College will conduct a bone marrow registry drive from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 6, at the MPC Library rooms 203 and 204. Registrants must be between 18 and 44 years old.

MIIS student wins U.S. State Department award on arms control challenge

Lovely Umayam, a graduate student at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, was awarded the $5,000 first prize in the Innovation in Arms Control Challenge sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance. The competition invited members of the public to submit innovative approaches to using commonly available technologies to support arms control policy efforts, and drew more than 500 submissions.

Umayam developed “Bombshelltoe", a website that examines the intersection of popular culture and nuclear issues to better inform the public about nuclear and arms control-related issues.

“In the nonproliferation field I’ve noticed that we take for granted some basic knowledge, like the difference between uranium and plutonium,” said Umayam. “But the public is starting with zero knowledge, and usually they get their knowledge from movies and TV shows and so forth.”

Umayam, a student in the master of arts in nonproliferation and terrorism studies program, describes the goal of Bombshelltoe as being “to foster a more meaningful conversation about arms control issues” by exploring the intersection between nuclear policy and pop culture.

“Lovely is an amazing young woman, whose is equally adept in nonproliferation and social media,” MIIS Professor William Potter said. “She has found a creative way to marry the two subjects, and by so doing, help to combat ignorance and complacency about one of our greatest security challenges.”

The Innovation in Arms Control Challenge is aimed at “exploring new ideas to help reshape its approaches to the security challenges in the 21st century," according to the State Department. "In creating opportunities for public participation, we aim to harness the networks, technologies, and human potential that can help of combat the threats in our increasingly interdependent and interconnected world.”

Real estate broker John Mahoney will receive 2013 MPC President's Award

Monterey Peninsula College and the Monterey Peninsula College Foundation have announced that John Mahoney will be the recipient of the 2013 President’s Award.

The President’s Award is presented annually to a community leader who has made significant contributions to the Monterey Peninsula in general and the college in particular.

According to his bio on Mahoney & Associates Commercial Real Estate, Mahoney has been a real estate broker for forty years, specializing in commercial investments. During his tenure he has completed transactions with an aggregate value in excess of $1.5 billion. He has been very active in the local community, including United Way, All Saints Episcopal Day School, past president of the Monterey Rotary Club, and currently serves on the board of the Monterey Peninsula College Foundation.

The award will be presented at the 7th Annual President’s Address to the Community on May 3 at the Monterey Conference Center. The program will also include an address by MPC President Walter Tribley on the state of the college.

Past President’s Award recipients are Bert Cutino in 2007, Peggy Bates in 2008, Sherman Smith in 2009, Jim Tunney in 2010, Peggy Downes Baskin in 2011, and Kip and Jay Hudson in 2012. The annual selection is made by the college president on recommendation of a group of Monterey Peninsula College and MPC Foundation leaders and past honorees.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Seaside teen named Youth of the Year for Boys & Girls Clubs

Korina Garcia, a 17-year-old high school student, has been named Youth of the Year by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monterey County, the highest honor a Boys & Girls club member can receive.

As a recipient of both the Ron MacIntyre Memorial Scholarship and the Davis Love III Scholarship for her academic successes, Korina has earned this title an ambitious young lady. In May, she will be the first female in her family to graduate from high school. Until then, Korina will keep busy at the club planning fundraisers through Keystone leadership club, working on her college applications in the Teen Center, and speaking on behalf of BGCMC as she competes against other Youth of the Year honorees across California for the state title and a $1,000 college scholarship.

Youth of the Year recognizes outstanding contributions to a member’s family, school, community and Boys & Girls Club, as well as the member’s ability to overcome personal challenges and obstacles. Youth of the Year encourages club members to reach their full potential by achieving academic success, leading healthy lifestyles and contributing to their communities.

If Korina wins at the state competition, she will compete for the title of Pacific Region Youth of the Year and an additional $10,000 scholarship. Five regional winners will advance to Washington, D.C. to compete for the title of BGCA’s National Youth of the Year. The National Youth of the Year will receive a scholarship of up to $50,000 and will have the opportunity to meet with the President of the United States at the White House.

Bay View Academy heading for another five years

Looks like Bay View Academy is here to stay. At least for a while longer.

Monterey County administrators are recommending the charter be re-authorized for another five years, and given the enormous support it's enjoyed, I see no reason why the Monterey County trustees would deny it. So I expect another lovefest this Wednesday at 3:30 at the Monterey County Office of Education.

See you there!.

Battle of the Bands in Salinas coming up

Would your band like the opportunity to perform for a live audience, earn bragging rights and show off in a head to head competition?

Local bands are being sought for a Battle of the Bands event. Participants must be 21 years of age or younger and have content appropriate for middle and high school students.

Audition DVD/ CD and printed written lyrics must be submitted to the Library and Community Services Department, 200 Lincoln Avenue, C/O Youth Commission, no later than Monday March 18, 2013 at 5:30 p.m.

For more information call: 758-7476

The Battle of the Bands will take place April 26.