Thursday, June 27, 2013

Austin Eaton of York gets to keep his hair

Remember the hair-raising challenge York sophomore Austin Eaton put himself through last week?

It all turned out for the best.

Austin Eaton raised $3,456 with his "Save It or Shave It" campaign to aid in the reconstruction of the medical clinic in Bom Jesus, Angola. Contributors to the cause were invited to vote with their donations on whether Austin would or wouldn't shave his locks.

The vote was 2:1 to save the curls, and he obliged.

Austin was asked by his church missions team to head the fundraising effort to Build A Bridge of Love to Angola, and decided to create an event that would include his fellow York students and community.

The proceeds will benefit the Bom Jesus Medical Clinic on the campus of Methodist church that serves a rural community of 10,000 people. The church also plays a key role in supporting the Angolan people to eliminate malaria in their country.

This isn't Austin's first fundraiser to battle malaria in Africa. Last year he raised $2,700 at a luncheon to benefit "Imagine No Malaria," an effort by the people of the United Methodist Church to end preventable deaths by malaria in Africa by 2015.

Let's hear it for Janie Brunson of Carmel

Janie Brunson, who recently graduated from Carmel High, scored 3rd place in her division at The National Braille Challenge -- the only national academic competition for blind students in the country. She competed against 12 other students from across the country in the Varsity Division.

Janie is an avid braille reader and an outstanding student who is not letting vision loss slow her down. When she’s not busy reading her favorite books in braille, Janie enjoys teaching braille to elementary aged children and enjoys reading and writing. She is also a very talented singer. Her favorite TV series is Game of Thrones on HBO.

Each category of The National Braille Challenge was designed to test participants' braille skills in several areas—reading comprehension, braille spelling, chart and graph reading, proofreading and braille speed and accuracy—all of which blind students need to master in order to keep up with their sighted peers. The first- through third-place winners in each age group received awards ranging in value from $250 for the youngest group to $2500 for the oldest. In addition to these prizes, Freedom Scientific Corporation donated the latest adaptive equipment for the winners—the Focus 40 Blue—an adaptive computer device with a refreshable braille display.

This year's competition featured a diverse group of high achievers from across the country. Janie was chosen to represent the state of California at this year's competition from amongst more than 1000 blind students—representing 39 states and three Canadian provinces— at a preliminary round which are held at Regional Braille Challenge events across the country.

And now, Janie is heading to UCLA to start her undergraduate degree. Way to go, Janie! You make us proud.

Here's Janie and her parents pictured earlier in the year at the Regional Braille Challenge.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

May First Alliance vs. Alisal teachers and employees

It should come as a no surprise to anyone that a group of friends and family members of Alisal Trustee Meredith Ibarra, Alisal employee Jose Ibarra, and those who support José Castañeda and Superintendent John Ramirez have come out publicly against salary increases for Alisal teachers and employees.

And they've done it via You-Tube.

The video is exactly what you would expect from this group, AKA the May First Alliance, who are now calling themselves Red de Padres por el Respeto y la Igualdad en la Educación -- Network of Parents for Respect and Equality in Education.

First the group takes credit for changing the school board and electing the group seated now -- the people who routinely rubber-stamp Ramirez's decisions with hardly any questions. Then it takes credit for kicking out the state trustee in two years -- wasn't that what the state said it was going to do in the first place?

Then the group says the teachers should not be getting salary increases because the children of the Alisal are not doing well -- 60 percent of them are reading below level, 40 percent are below level in Math level.

But wait a minute. Hasn't Supt. Ramirez been touting how much progress the Alisal has been making? How the achievement gap has been narrowing?

So which is it? Is the achievement gap narrowing or are the children still lagging? Are the teachers doing their job or not?

While no doubt the video is a blatant attack on teachers, it makes a point that is very important. A leader of the California School Employees Association is quoted repeating several times that parents of the Alisal don't know the legal names of their children, which causes undue burden on the employees as they have to spend a lot of time searching for their records.

So now it's parents who don't know the names of their children? How about parents living in a system that practically eradicates the existence of one of them in their children's lives? How about the system being disrespectful of people's right to give their children two last names -- the mother's and the father's?

Unfortunately, these are the type of comments that May First Alliance, Red de Padres, the Ibarras, the Castañedas, seize on to demonstrate how Alisal teachers and employees disrespect them. It's unfortunate. The district is not moving forward by having one group attack the other, and viceversa. An eye for an eye does make the world go blind.

It will be interesting to see how the unions respond to this video. Maybe with another one, with fewer inaccuracies? Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

California education buffs: Arne Duncan meets PPIC Mark Baldassare

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will talk about improving the nation's education system with Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California.

Duncan and Baldassare will talk about about a variety of critical education issues, including the importance of early learning, the coalition of California school districts seeking a federal waiver from No Child Left Behind, and the future of higher education.

The talk promises to be illuminating, particularly at a time when California is implementing crucial education reform like the local funding formula and the Common Core Standards.

The event will take place in San Francisco, and it's full. But you can watch the webcast! Sign up for it here

High school students: wanna know how much more you can make with a community college degree?

In this day and age of "job satisfaction," I hear professionals advice students to follow their passion when choosing a career -- instead of letting the potential earnings be the guide.

While probably many students are following their bliss these days, for those who want to learn more about their potential earnings, the  California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office has just put out a nifty tool. It's called the "Salary Surfer" and it provides an estimate of how much students could expect to earn before and after they complete a program. Say, for instance, you want to learn how much you'd make with an administration of justice degree: median annual salary before $20,000; two years after receiving the degree, about $35,000; five years after, about $42,000.

The tool could provide a good incentive for high school graduates who are on the fence about going to college. Check it out here. I didn't find it very user friendly because it's grouped by area of study, not by community college. Thus, if I want to find a specific area of program at Monterey Peninsula College or Hartnell, I'd have to find the majors at the community colleges first, then find them in the salary surfer. Still, it's fun to check it out. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

York student Austin Eaton willing to put his hair where the money is

Here's an innovative way to raise funds for a good cause. Austin Eaton, a 15-year-old Aptos resident and student at York School, can be recognized from afar by his head of curly hair. Well, his mane could come down -- or not -- depending on how much money he raises one way or another.

Money raised will go to rebuild a medical clinic in Angola.

Eaton and his family are organizing the “Save It or Shave It” concert and picnic for Friday, June 21 from 6 until 8pm on the lawn of the Aptos Community United Methodist Church. There will be live music and food for purchase -- which can be pre-ordered here.

Admission is free and guests will be asked to donate to the Angola clinic rebuilding cause, and say whether they want to see Austin's locks come down or stay.  At around 7:30pm, the will of the donors will be revealed and stylist Julie Rasmussen of Seaweed Hair Design will be on standby, razor in hand, ready to oblige on the will of the donors. 

Austin was asked by his church missions team to head the fundraising effort to Build A Bridge of Love to Angola, but he seized the opportunity to expand his efforts beyond his congregation. The Bom Jesus Medical Clinic, which will be helped by the "Save it or Shave it" campaign, serves a rural community of 10,000 people and plays a key role in supporting the Angolan people to eliminate Malaria in their country.

Donations can be mailed to the United Methodist Church, 221 Thunderbird Drive, Aptos, CA 95003 or brought to the event Friday. Checks should be payable to ACUMC with the words “Save It-Angola” or “Shave It-Angola” written on the memo line.

For more information call 688-2210 or find the concert and picnic here.

I'm curious to see which was the hair goes. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Alisal teachers, administrators bury the hatchet -- for now

Ah, it's going to be a long, boring summer.

Or not.

Teachers and administrators with the Alisal Union School District have agreed not to return to negotiations table until Sept. 6, after all the uncertainties with the California budget have been clarified.

That means, no protests outside board meetings, no tense encounters between José Castañeda and Fernando Armenta. What's KSBW going to do???????

According to Susan Midori Jones, a representative with the California Teachers Association, both parties made significant progress at their last meeting on June 6, and they both agreed more information was needed before returning to the bargaining table. The district withdrew its proposal to discontinue health benefits for retired teachers, but the parties still have not reached an agreement regarding class sizes and transfer of teachers from school to school or grade to grade. To read the joint statement of the Alisal Teachers Association and the district, click here.

"Alisal (Teachers Association) still feels that class sizes are important for student achievement, especially for English Learners," Jones said in an email. "The current Alisal contract language forces the district to keep class sizes low. They would have no stipend costs if they abided by the class size limits in the contract. Teachers feel the required stipend is the only pressure on the district to keep class sizes below 30 students."

Leon Panetta, CIA Director, Defense Secretary and Commencement Speaker

If you're not as lucky as I am and bump into Leon Panetta just about every week, check out this video with his remarks at last week's Santa Clara University graduation.

He's supposed to be back home, but he still gets around...

Tiburcio Vasquez lands Salinas in the L.A. Times

Ah, the media. How we love conflict. One day, Salinas may land on the front pages of a national publication because of local, amazing efforts to promote science and technology education in schools.

Until then, we have Tiburcio Vásquez to thank for the honor.

Check out the front page, Column One article the L.A. Times did on our rambunctious little town and its imbroglio featuring Jose Castañeda, Joe Gunter, and the outlaw KSBW loves to hate. It's actually a nice piece of writing (publication gets minus points for not using accents and tildes. Alas, it's the mainstream media).

Ah, if only I were given a month to work on a piece. I'd take a week, really.

I know folks in Salinas hate it when they get bad press, and national coverage about our local troubles is as bad as it gets for some. But last week, when I was covering the latest dust up on the naming of the Alisal school, it occurred to me there's a bright side to the controversy.  As I was trying to interview Councilman Tony Barrera, I met José Córdoba, an Alisal resident who had never heard of Tiburcio Vásquez. So he decided to do some research, and now he's practically a doctor in the life and times of Vásquez and California's founding.

Anything that inspires people to learn should be a good thing, in the end. So here's to learning, to finding out on your own what really happened two centuries ago. Good luck!

And if you need any guidance, check out the classes David Serena, MPC lecturer on Chicano Studies, is offering on Mexican American history in California. The classes take place every Saturday at the Cesar Chavez Library from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Here's another gem I dug out from last week's meeting. Debora Long, a life-long resident of the Alisal of Irish ancestry, said we all belong to the human race, and as such we should try to get along.

I'm with you, Ms. Long.  Here's to learning. And healing.

And a six-minute video from last week's meeting. Enjoy.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Trouble in Seaside paradise

A little revolution is brewing at Seaside High after administrators apparently cut the school's digital media classes: Digital Photography, Multi-Media-Video Production, and Cinema Arts.

Instructor Hayward Perez was told the classes were being cut because student enrollment was not strong enough.

Perez was surprised because students were enthusiastic about producing "Spartan Vision" a digital magazine that turned out to be very popular in the school, she said. "It was a huge hit with students," she said.

So students did what any digitally creative person would do. They made a video.

They are also planning to protest at Monday's school board meeting. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Local soccer champions heading to Hawaii

Members of the Salinas Pumas Soccer Team are heading to Honolulu to compete as Northern California representatives in the 2013 US Youth Soccer Far West Regional Championship Series.

The team of boys ages 13 and 14, who have been playing together for about five years, are scheduled to compete starting June 17. They’re actively fundraising for the trip, which is expected to cost $25,000.

And they’re taking donations! Call Alex Reynoso at 831-235 9569 for details, or send your checks to El Camino Real FL, PO Box 4384, Salinas, CA 93912.

Support our local youth!

Carmel's Jane Margaret Brunson heading to UCLA with $10,000 scholarship

Jane Margaret Brunson of Carmel is heading to UC Los Angeles in September with a scholarship from Jewish Guild Healthcare. She is one of 16 legally blind, college-bound high school seniors throughout the United States to receive scholarships of $10,000 each from the Guild for this upcoming academic year.

The GuildScholar Program was launched in 2005 and awards each student a scholarship to help assure that more students with vision impairments are able to enroll in a college or university that might otherwise be out of their reach financially. While there are other scholarships available for such students, this is the largest program of its kind in the country. It was created, in part, through a generous grant from the Jeannette A. Klarenmeyer Trust. As many as 16 students are selected for scholarships each academic year. For information on the GuildScholar Program’s scholarships for the 2014 academic year, contact Gordon Rovins at 212-769-7801 or e-mail

Monterey County High School students: become a young assemblymember

The third Annual Young Assemblymembers Program for local youth sponsored by Assemblyman Luis Alejo is receiving applications until July 1. The four week program is focused on developing leadership skills and empowering high school student to become leaders in our community.

On the first week, Young Assemblymembers Program students will participate in a two-day leadership development training to sharpen and learn leadership skills.

After the leadership training, students will work on community events, tour local facilities where they will learn about important issues in our community for the remaining weeks. Students that complete the training and their projects will receive a special recognition certificate and a letter of recommendation from Assemblymember Alejo at a Young Assemblymembers Program Graduation Reception scheduled for August 2, 2013.

The Young Assemblymembers Program will include training on:

· Leadership Development
· Legislative Process
· Project Planning
· Community Organizing
· Professional Etiquette

The Young Assemblymembers Program application deadline is on Monday, July 1, 2013. You can download the application form here, by request by emailing, or for pick up at the District Office located at 100 W. Alisal Street, Ste. 134, Salinas.

For more information contact Laura Cabrera, Young Assemblymembers Program Coordinator at (831) 759-8676 or via email at

Filipino Women's Club awards scholarships to six students

The Filipino Women's Club of Salinas in Monterey County held its 64th Scholarship Luncheon on June 8, 2013 at the Harden Foundation Estate. The following students were awarded scholarships this year.

Elizabeth Rocamora Kamine- Sacramento, CA
Aya Aycalar Chato- North Salinas High School
Michael Olivas- North Salinas High School
Pricilla Viray Edwards- Grand Prairie, TX
Caryssa Galindo Brandt- Fairfield, CA
Andrea Lynn Lim- Salinas High School

The club was founded in 1930 to support struggling Filipino-American farm workers. Scholarships are awarded to students every year to encourage the pursuit of higher education.

"We wanted our children to have a better education and a better life here in the States," said Susan Valeriano, Scholarship Chair and a former club president. Through various fundraisers and events, the club is able to raise funds for the scholarships, as well as share their Filipino cultural heritage with the community.

In the picture, from left to right: Erasmo Jr. Olivas (accepting on behalf of his son Michael Olivas), Scholarship Chair Susan Valeriano, Elizabeth Rocamora Kamine, Caryssa Galindo Brandt, Andrea Lim, Aya Chato, Raymond Rocamora (accepting on behalf of Pricilla Viray Edwards)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Ciclovia coming to Salinas -- youth interns wanted!

Bicycling enthusiast extraordinaire Mari Lynch's helping promote an exciting event coming to Salinas soon.

Ciclovía Salinas

There's been five successful Ciclovías in Los Angeles -- they call it CicLAvias down there, just to be cute -- and everyone reports they're way fun. Basically, people get together to ride their bikes among city streets to make them safer and promote better communities and neighborhoods.

There's already a Bike Party, so Ciclovia sounds like a natural next step. And organizers are looking for a youth intern! Deadline to apply is June 15.

The first Ciclovía Salinas is tentatively scheduled for August 25, 2013. For more information or an application, click here.

Does education in the United States need a complete overhaul?

A sweetheart reader told me she liked the story I wrote about the dual language program that will be expanded at Monterey Peninsula Unified School District. Children need to begin learning multiple languages when they're young, she said. And education in this country needs to be overhauled, beginning with how we treat our teachers.

I will agree with my reader about the need to value our teachers more.What I'm not so sure about is the need to completely overhaul the education system.

Yes, I know the complaints are abundant and loud. And I don't believe the system is perfect.

But -- I've said it before and I'll say it again -- it's not a failure either. Just last week it was announced that graduation rate in the United States is near 75 percent, the highest it's been since 1973. And according to an analysis by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, the most notable gains come from traditionally underserved groups --namely Latinos and blacks. For more on the topic, click here.

 Do we need to improve our educational system? Absolutely. Do we need a complete overhaul? I doubt it. There are signs that things are already getting better, specially in California, where a new school funding formula proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown is likely to have won legislative approval as we speak.

If things aren't broken, you don't fix them. That doesn't mean they don't need fine tuning and maintenance.

25 young women earn a spot in Hartnell's Women's Education Leadership Initiative

The Hartnell College Foundation's Women's Education Leadership Initiative has named a new crop of WELI scholarship recipients. Each WELI scholar will receive a $2,000 scholarship after completing a leadership skills workshop this summer, and will be matched with a career mentor before starting the Fall 2013 semester at Hartnell College.

The 25 WELI Class III scholars are: Blessing Anih, Sonia Avila, Maria Berber, Anita Casarez, Tammy Curtiss, Artemia Martinez DeJesus, Anjelene Esteban, Nancy Farfan, Shannon Hernandez, Jin Kim, Elia Martinez, Rocio Mendoza, Nancy Nuno, Nonna Quizon, Samantha Rico, Alicia Rivera, Diana Rivera, Nadia Rodriguez, Andrea Ramirez Sanchez, Stephanie Sanchez, Stephanie Sanchez-Flores, Cossette Surye, Edna Valdez, Daria Villasenor and Kristina Webster.

WELI is a program designed to increase the leadership capacity, workforce skills, college enrollment, and college completion rate of women, single parents, and re-entry students in Monterey County. The program provides three keys for success: Resources, Knowledge, and Mentorship.

For further information on the WELI program contact Karen Hagman at 831-755-6810 or

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Monterey High School Music Boosters wants your old, usable instruments

Do you have a used but playable musical instrument that you don't want anymore? Donate it to the Monterey High School Music Boosters! Donations of good quality instruments are tax deductible under our 501(c)(3) non-profit tax ID.

Your donations will help to ensure continued success for the instrumental Music Students at Monterey High School.

Email Lara Levy for more information!

or call 650-823-9706

Summer Algebra Institute at Greater Victory Temple

Have you finished fifth, sixth, seventh or eight grade? Are you interested in preparing for an Algebra I course? Then the Summer Algebra Institute is for you.

Students will explore algebraic concepts through culturally based hands-on activities and the integration of technology. The Institute is suggested for student enrichment and/or strengthening concepts. It is not a substitute for an Algebra I course.

The course will explore:
Algebraic Thinking Using Multi-Representational Math Approach – The Fourfold Way
Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice
Overview of Mathematics/Mathematicians of the African Diaspora
Polygonal Numbers
Online Technology to assist understanding

Classes run Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. June 17 through July 26. There will be summer mentor/tutor program at Highland Elementary from noon to 4:30 p.m. following algebra institute classes.

Parent information meeting and pre-screening testing on Monday and Tuesday, June 10 and 11, at Greater Victory Temple, 1620 Broadway, Seaside, CA 93955.

No cost to students for the Summer Algebra Institute Program. Mentor/tutor program at Highland is $30.

Call Claudette Lockhart, CSU Summer Algebra Site Coordinator, 394-2774, or Martha Henry, Greater Victory Temple Director of Christian Education, at 394-0520 or for more information.

More on graduation requirements at MPUSD

If you read today's edition of The Herald, you no doubt saw the story about a few students at MPUSD who will not be able to participate in graduation ceremonies even though they say they were previously told they would. You can find the story here.

Apparently, it wasn't only high school students who were affected by late notification of graduation requirements.

Scuttlebutt tells me some middle school students were also told this week they would not be able to participate in their promotion ceremonies because their GPA wasn't up to par. Either the rules were changed so late in the year that nobody was properly notified of them, or the major communication breakdown that seems perennial at MPUSD now affected graduating students.

It's very sad, really. To think that these hard working and earnest students have been planning for this day for so long only to have their illusions shattered. Administrators and school officials make exceptions all the time, why wouldn't they this time? 

Pacific Grove "Parent's Place" seeks community input

Parents’ Place, an award winning parent support and education program of the Pacific Grove Unified School Districts’ Adult School, has sustained major funding cuts over the years, and a new organization formed to keep it open is seeking community input to accomplish its goals.

Friends of Parents' Place will host a community forum on Friday, June 7 from 12 to 1 p.m. at the Pacific Grove Community Center, 515 Junipero. Everyone is welcome.

Parents’ Place has a 25 year history in Pacific Grove, is loved and respected for the support it offers parents, the tools it provides for building healthy families, and the excellent start it gives children in life. In 2011, Friends of Parents’ Place embarked on a strategic planning process to explore the long-­term sustainability of the program. That process resulted in the development of a “Parachute Plan” –a plan that proposes a transition of the program from the existing Adult School structure to the non-­profit, Friends of Parents’ Place.

Friends of Parents’ Place is advocating for full funding by the School District of the Parents’ Place program (at or above the 2012-­‐2013 funding levels) or for PGUSD to work with us to execute the Parachute Plan. Ultimately, our goal is to ensure that continued services and supports to families are available.

The community forum’s goal is to explore the questions: “What value does Parents’ Place bring to Pacific Grove?” And “How can we ensure the program’s long-term sustainability?“

For more information, contact Colleen Beye at 816-401-9268 or

Monday, June 3, 2013

Salinas library presents Chicano studies seminar series

Beginning Saturday, June 6, the Cesar Chavez Library will present a series on Chicano studies with instructor David Serena.

The series of lectures and documentaries will cover the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the history of confrontations between the Mexican and the U.S. Governments, factors that led to the U.S. Mexican War, the Chicano movement, and land grants with an emphasis on Monterey County land grants.

The class is free and ideal for high school students, and other people interested in learning more about U.S.-Mexican history.

From 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every Saturday beginning June 6 at the Cesar Chavez Library,
615 Williams Rd., Salinas. For more information or to sign up, contact David Serena at

Allen S. Griffin Award honors nine Monterey Peninsula area teachers

Nine Monterey Peninsula area teachers were honored last month for demonstrating a high standard of sustained excellence in teaching. They each received the Allen S. Griffin Award for excellence in teaching at the High School through Post Secondary School levels including a check for $1,000 from the Allen S. Griffin Fund of the Community Foundation for Monterey County (CFMC). The Allen S. Griffin fund is one of 28 scholarship and award funds of the more than 300 charitable funds held by the CFMC.

The 2013 Allen S. Griffin Award recipients are:

For High School:

Brenda Burran (Carmel High School – EL and Strategies)
Gary Childs II (Monterey High School – English)
Christine Berry (Seaside High School – Chemistry)
Kathy Buller (Pacific Grove High School – Spanish)

For Post Secondary School:

Kate Lockwood (CSU Monterey Bay – Computer Science)
Alice Lyman Miller (Navy Postgraduate School – Senior Lecturer)
Peter Ambler Shaw (MIIS – Applied Linguistics and Cross-Cultural Communication)
Haesook Han (Defense Language Institute - Korean)
Andres Durstenfeld (Monterey Peninsula College - Biology)

Established in 1982, the Allen S. Griffin Award was created by a bequest from the late Col. Allen Griffin, founder and former publisher of The Herald, soldier and civic leader, and one of the founders and former board president of the Community Foundation for Monterey County. The Griffin awards honor teachers with a record of sustained excellence in the classroom and significant impact in the community. The recipients are selected by a committee at each participating Monterey Peninsula school and the awards are given every two years.

Only one person wants to be next MPUSD trustee for Marina

Trustees with the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District will interview today the only candidate who filed to fill a vacancy on the board. Tom Jennings, a fire security technician, ran against Diane Creasey in the 2011 election, largely by attacking Creasey's record.

It seems like a foregone conclusion that he'll be appointed, seeing that no other candidates filed to be considered. Then again, these are strange times. Stay tuned.