Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Hartnell hosts Family Science, Health and Literacy Day

There will be the "bed of nails" physics demonstration, free fruits and vegetables, free books and parent’s tips on helping their children to become better readers, free blood pressure screening, free lunchtime hotdogs, puppet shows and Banda music during the 8th annual Family Science, Health and Literacy Day from 11 a.m. to 3 pm. Saturday, May 3 at Hartnell College’s Alisal Campus, 1752 E. Alisal Street, Salinas.

Physics demonstration featuring “The Bed of Nails”
Soccer Fun with Hartnell College’s Championship Team
Silicon Valley Turtle and Tortoise Club
Diesel and Construction Technology Demonstrations
Hands-On Computer Workshops in the state-of-the-art Tech Mobile
Math Magic and Math Games
Free Books for All Ages and Reading Activities
Live Banda Music
Free Food -- while supplies last
Time to Read Puppet Show
Farm Stand for Kids
Astronomy, Biology, Nutrition, and Healthy Living Activities
Many Hands-On Science and Family Fun Activities

The Alisal Education Foundation will hold an awards ceremony to honor special teachers and staff of the Alisal Union School District.

Admission and parking for the event are free. The event is organized by Hartnell College, the Alisal Education Foundation and the Literacy Campaign for Monterey County.

Cecilia Muñoz, adviser to President Obama, to be CSUMB commencement speaker

Officials at Cal State University Monterey Bay have announced Cecilia Muñoz will be the keynote speaker during the university's commencement ceremony on May 17.

Muñoz is an adviser to the President and director of the Domestic Policy Council, which coordinates the domestic policy-making process in the White House. Previously, she served as deputy assistant to the President and director of intergovernmental affairs.

Prior to joining the Obama Administration, she served as senior vice president for the Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the nation’s largest Latino civil rights organization.

She supervised NCLR’s policy staff, covering a variety of issues of importance to Latinos, including civil rights, employment, poverty, farmworker issues, education, health, housing and immigration. Her particular area of expertise is immigration policy, which she covered at NCLR for 20 years.

During the commencement ceremony Julie Packard, founding director of the non-profit Monterey Bay Aquarium, will be awarded an honorary doctoral degree.

Packard chairs the board of the independent Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and serves on the boards of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and The California Nature Conservancy.

"Each of these leaders impacts the world in meaningful ways," said President Eduardo Ochoa. "They represent the values that CSU Monterey Bay works to impart to its students: to find opportunities to be of service to the local, national and global communities.”

Approximately 1,450 students will receive bachelor’s and master’s degrees; about 8,000 family members and friends are expected to attend.

To learn more about commencement, click here.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Monterey County libraries sponsor Cowboy Poetry Contest for students

The Monterey County Free Libraries are inviting young poets under 18 years to submit their original poems in English or Spanish to the annual Cowboy Poetry Contest.

Deadline for entries is May 10.

Cowboy poetry is about:
Ranch work and those who perform it  -- cowboys and cowgirls!
Western lifestyle and the landscape of the West
Cowboy values and practices
Funny stories about life on the range…

Winners get fun prizes and will participate in the 27th annual Cowboy Music & Poetry Gathering on Sunday, July 13, 2014, and ride on the Cowboy Poetry tractor wagon in the Rodeo Parade on Saturday, July 12.

For more information, visit the website of the Monterey County Free Libraries here, or download the entry form here

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Seaside middle and high school students: this event is for you

B.J Dolan Youth and Education Center of Seaside will be hosting an Open House on Friday, May 16.

Highlights of the Open House will include free swimming passes for the first 50 to attended, a photo booth, rock climbing and a mechanical shark. There will also be a BBQ which includes hamburgers, hot dogs, refreshments, chips and ice cream for all. This event is for middle and high school students.

Event will take place from 4:30pm to 7:30pm at 1136 Wheeler St. Seaside CA. 93955. Fifth grade students and parents all welcome. The event is free. For more information call (831)899-6800 or (831)899-6820.

Hiring of MPUSD new superintendent won't happen until at least May 13

* Note: I've updated the blog to reflect some changes regarding who exactly traveled to Southern California to do a site visit and to clarify what trustees actions could be in each meeting. 

If you read my story in today's newspaper, you know already the much anticipated hiring of a new superintendent for the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District did not take place during last night regular board meeting. In case you missed it, here it is.

The reason for pulling the approval off the agenda? Trustees wanted more time to discuss what they'd learned in a recent trip to Southern California, home of the candidate, Board President Jon Hill told me on Wednesday.

There were too many items on the closed session agenda, Hill said, and board members wanted more time to discuss their findings and the proposed contract. From the Board of Trustees, only Hill, Tim Chaney and Bettye Lusk went to Southern California. They were accompanied by three community members, including Allyson Schweifler from the Monterey Bay Teachers Association.

Trustees have scheduled a special meeting on May 1 to discuss said findings and the contract. They will not be able to approve said contract until their next regularly scheduled meeting, which happens May 13. But I'm told by Board President Jon Hill they could decide on May 1 whether to offer a contract and perhaps even announce who the candidate is.

Stay tuned.

Salinas City schools to host music festival, fundraiser

The Salinas City Elementary Education Foundation will host its First Music Festival on Saturday, May 3, 2014 at Boronda Meadows Elementary School, where students from the district's thirteen elementary Schools will be performing.

The Festival will be filled with live music, good food, and many activities for the entire family. Some performers included are: Monica Botello (Recently on La Voz Kids!), The Pacific Brass Band,The Sand Dabs (Oldies but Goodies), The Flat Rock Boys (Americana), Militia of Love (Reggae), The Lightfighters (Indie Rock), Joe Johnson (Salinas High Group), Valley Roots (Reggae), Sherwood School Fokloriko, Royal King Academy, Boronda Meadows Dancing Hawks, and more.

The event is free for all ages. Boronda Meadows is located at 915 Larkin Road, Salinas.

BBQ tickets are selling for $10 at all schools. Volunteers are needed! To sign up to volunteer, fill out the form here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Trouble ahead in MPUSD appointment of superintendent?

Apparently, Scuttlebutt's been busy this weekend with grumblings about the salary MPUSD new superintendent is going to get -- just about the same amount Marilynn Shepherd was getting when she left, about $224,000 a year. Trustees appeared to get the message, and before going into closed session on Tuesday's meeting, Diane Creasey asked if an appointment could be made without a contract being signed.


Then, MTBA President Allyson Schweifler expressed some concerns about the board moving forward too quickly, without checking into some issues brought forward to the board. Schweifler was one of the community members traveling to Southern California to vet the new candidate.

Who should be unveiled shortly after 7. Stay tuned.

Monterey Robotics clubs heading to national competition

Monterey Peninsula leaders stepped up to help the students of Carmel, Seaside, and York high schools so they could all go to the national FIRST robotic competition this weekend in St. Louis.

Donations came in big and small, and among the largest ones were $2,500 from Seaside Rotary going to their high school and $2,000 from the Yellow Brick Road Foundation to Carmel High School. An online fundraiser also raised about $2,500.

All schools are sending their teams to Missouri this weekend. Good luck, guys and gals! Can't wait to hear how you all do!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Carmel High students to be honored by Rotarians

The Rotary Club of Carmel Valley will hold its 36th annual dinner honoring "Top 100" Carmel High School students on Tuesday, April 22, at Rancho Cañada Golf Club.

The 6 p.m. dinner recognizes the top 25 students in each of the four Carmel High classes – senior, junior, sophomore and freshman -- for high academic achievement.

The Rotary Club of Carmel Valley/Carmel High Citizenship Awards will also be presented to a boy and a girl in each grade.

Guest speaker will be Sue Malone, president of Strategies for Small Business. Malone has funded over 30,000 small business loans and works to ensure that the voices of small businesses are heard in Washington, D.C.

Will MPUSD have a new superintendent by tomorrow evening?

Representatives with the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District -- including trustees and community members -- traveled last week to an undisclosed location in Southern California to vet their final candidate for the job of superintendent.  The contract he or she has been offered is up on the district's website -- minus the name -- for the public to vet. Here's a quick link to it, in case you're interested. Final approval will take place in closed session Tuesday.

There's no red flags in it, except for the amount the superintendent will be paid, but given the conversations I've heard with the consultant, they really aren't.

Trustees have been saying all along they want someone with experience, someone with a proven track record -- and that they're ready to pay the price. If the contract is approved, the new superintendent will earn $226,000 a year, including a $2,000 "doctoral stipend." Salary increases are not embedded in the four-year contract, but could be granted if also given to other employees. He or she will receive the same health benefits given to other employees, no car allowance, and no gym membership.

Board President Jon Hill told me the COSCA group gave trustees data for 17 comparable districts, where superintendents earn between $195,000 and $301,000, and that the salary they'll offer the new trustee is "below mid point."

"It’s competitive with other district and I know it’s a big number for people," he said.

See you mañana at the board meeting!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Winners of the U.S. Constitution project earn trip to D.C.

Sixteen Monterey County students from four middle schools throughout Monterey County were  recognized on March 11 by the Monterey County Office of Education and the Dan and Lillian King Foundation for their participation in the second annual Monterey County United States Constitution Project.

The project was launched by the Monterey County Constitution Project Committee two years ago to enrich the lives of Monterey County 8th graders through greater knowledge of the U.S. Constitution. The primary goals of the project include curriculum development, materials and demonstration lessons.

In its second year, the program was expanded to include four middle schools. The 8th 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.

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 Capital and Philadelphia to witness the documents, buildings and monuments that have shaped our history with their own eyes.What an opportunity for these youngsters! Way to go!

The winners are:

Los Arboles Middle School
Monterey Peninsula Unified School District
Kailani Gilbuena
Drake Johnson
Zena Lababidi
Alexander Soria

Main Street Middle School
Soledad Unified School District
Jesus Enrique Cuevas
Michelle Reyes Ortiz
Elena Rose Meza
Robert Wayne Santa Ana

North Monterey County Middle School
North Monterey County Unified School District
Isidoro Barragan Mendez
Andy Chhoun
Cassady Healy
Katelyn James

Washington Middle School
Salinas Union High School District
Sophia Arredando
Darcy Davis
Edward Trujillo
Andy Zheng

History Day Winners move on to State Wide Competition

Monterey County History Day was held for at Los Arboles Middle School on Saturday March 8 from 9 am to 5 pm.

The theme for this year was Rights and Responsibilities, and dozens of Monterey County students completed exhibits, websites, documentaries and composed research papers on the topic. The following are the winners who will go on the represent Monterey County at the state finals in Riverside on April 26-27.

Junior Individual Website:
Isidoro Cosentino: Inalienable Rights Lost: Italian-American Relocation
James Gonzales: The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949

Junior group Website:
Alex Brody & Noah Silverstein: Jews in the Holocaust
Jordan Banon, Gabrielle Arreola & Marianne Tuazon: Emilio Aguinaldo: The Phillipines Independence

Junior Historical Paper
Tara Mann: Watch What you Breathe- A Fictional Letter from a Concerned Mother to the EPA
Katherine Hewitt I.D.E.A: Protecting Children with Disabilities in Education

Junior Individual Documentary
Kyle Worcester-Moore: Rights and Responisibilites in Outer Space
Molly Mancina: The Rights and Responsibilites of Photographers: The History of Photo Manipulation

Junior Group Documentary
Rohan Bhushan & Christopher How: The Salt March
Talia Awerbuck & Annika Uemura Japanese-American Internment: Tragedy of the West Coast

Junior Individual Exhibit
Natalie Lobo: The Fight for Black Voting Rights
Sophia Davies: The Rights and Responsibilities of Smoking and Anti-Smokers

Junior Group Exhibits
Quynh Stanoff, Thai Stanoff, and Primrose Waranimman: Garments in Flames
Grace Padgett & Arya Puar: Japanese Internment Camps

Junior Group Performance
Tara Smith, Gabriella Gallo Rodriguez, and Gabriella Flanders: From Brain Buckets to Racing Helmets: Rights and Responsibilites of Motorcycle

Monterey County girl leaders combat bullying with "smile" campaign

Girl leaders from different high schools throughout Monterey County have been busy this week plastering their schools with tiny bright papers and words of encouragement.

They call it the "Post-a-smile" campaign, the work of Girls' Health in Girls' Hands leadership network, a group of girls who are trying to take charge of their prospects in life.

Students from Alisal High, Everett Alvarez, Pacific Grove, the Boys and Girls Club, Marina High, and other sites are taking part of this event. The girls have been writing anonymous positive messages on sticky-notes and post them at their school campuses. The girls have been taking pictures and tag #ghghmonterey to enter to win a prize for the most creative post.

The idea behind the campaign is to spread positive messages to combat bullying.

The Girls Leadership Network has also created a public service announcement about suicide prevention to raise awareness about the campaign and the serious issue of bullying and suicide in Monterey County. The Suicide Prevention PSA can be seen here. The site has also information about the Post-A-Smile campaign.

Thanks for the smiles, girls! Love and kindness make the world go round!

Monterey Peninsula Robotics teams need your help

The news has spread like wildfire. Three robotics teams from the Monterey Peninsula earned a pass to the national competition by showing how good the students are with engineering and science. You can read my story about it here. The teams from Carmel, Seaside, and York are raising funds to fly to St. Louis, Missouri, later this month and compete in the national FIRST robotics tournament.

And they're turning to the community for help. You can contribute to their efforts by sending a check to their respective schools, or by pledging funds to this joint Indigogo campaign .

Carmel High ASB
PO Box 222780
Carmel CA 93922

Seaside High School
Attention Robotics Club
2200 Noche Buena St
Seaside, CA 93955

York School
Attention: Robotics Team
9501 York Rd
Monterey, CA 93940

Go teams! I can't wait to see how far you get.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Of winning awards and telling sad, emotional stories

So I won a national reporting award this week from the Education Writers Association. I'm deeply honored and touched. The EWA folks are a tough nut to crack -- I've been trying for several years to get their recognition -- so I'm ecstatic about finally have gotten their attention.

And to be in the company of such distinguished colleagues. It sure is special. 

If you want more information about the award, click here

It's a bit ironic that I received an award for the stories I wrote regarding the superintendent search at Monterey Peninsula Unified School District -- specially now, when the district seems closer than ever to finally have found a new top leader. Frankly, it gives me no pleasure to have contributed to such a painful episode in the district. On the other hand, I believe the board is emerging stronger for it -- and that's really a good thing.

That's the nature of our business, I suppose. Or it's the nature of me, to try to look at things from all angles. Yeah, it's like having Picasso living in my head. It's no fun sometimes.

But I sure appreciate the award, and the congratulations I've been getting from colleagues and friend. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Mum's the word on the MPUSD superintendent search

And perhaps that's a good thing.

Scuttlebutt's eerily quiet about the superintendent's search at Monterey Peninsula Unified School District. By now, trustees have likely zeroed in their preferred candidate, but who he or she is, nobody's saying.

Five members from the community -- Allyson Schweifler from the Monterey Bay Teacher's Association, Deborah Maxwell from the California State Employees Association, Debbie Weiss representing Monterey, Juan Sanchez representing Seaside, and Terry Seigrist from Marina -- were present to interview the final candidate or finalists. Ruthie Watts was scheduled to represent Seaside, but she had to pull out because of a death in the family.

The fact that I haven't heard anything yet -- or nothing I can report on, I'm not saying anything -- could be a good thing. It means the finalist has not raised enough red flags to warrant the watchful eye of the press take a look. Which means that come April 22 we could have a new superintendent at MPUSD. 

That would be something, wouldn't it? Stay tuned.

Friday, April 4, 2014

MPUSD getting closer to finding a new superintendent

Trustees with the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District will be holed up this weekend at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Seaside interviewing candidates. They're scheduled to interview seven on Saturday -- if all of them show up. On Sunday, they'll do follow up with two or three candidates, depending on how Saturday interviews go.

On Sunday, the candidates will also be interviewed by representatives from the Monterey Bay Teachers Association, by the California State Employees Association, and a representative each from Marina, Monterey and Seaside learning communities.

Trustees will not be hosting community forums to interview candidates, and I doubt they'll tell me who the finalists are. But if you find yourself with nothing to do on Sunday, and want to take a stroll by the Embassy Suites, be sure to let me know what you find. Or who you find. Scuttlebutt, I'm counting on you. You know how curious I am.

Monterey County Public Officials: think about it before you flip the bird


I got a fascinating photo this week of a public official flipping the bird. I won't say the name, or which city this person lives in, but I'll say the politician works with children. The offending party was caught in the birdy act while walking towards an event at the National Steinbeck Center last week.

And that's why I'm writing this. If you're working with children, and you're trying to set an example to them, and one of these values you're trying to demonstrate is to be respectful to others -- even if they're promoting ideas you don't believe with -- do you think flipping the bird is a good way to show respect?

Specially in this day and age of ubiquitous cameras. You never know when you're going to be recorded, when your photo will appear on Facebook.

Tst tst tst tst. Bad kitty.

Monterey County students take part in Japanese speech contest

The 8th annual Monterey County High School Japanese Speech Contest took place Friday, March 28, at the Salinas High School auditorium.

Twenty Japanese language students at six high schools participated in the contest. In addition to presenting their speeches, those in advanced level courses held a Q&A with the judge and impromptu speech presentation, all in Japanese.

“The evening was not only students learning a new language, but it was also a cultural event. I enjoyed observing the Kendo demonstration, dancing, and singing with everybody. As a former foreign student, I know how hard it is to express your thoughts to others in a non-native language. I hope the students keep learning and become bridges between the US and Japan in the future," said Minako Kamimura, mother of a Salinas High School student.

Ms. Kamimura not only alerted us to this heartwarming event, but she also sent us this photo and great video. I highly recommend it, and it's only three minutes long. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Vergara v. California: a case to be watched

In case you haven't noticed, there's been a bit of an upheaval here at the Monterey Herald, so I have not been as diligent with my blog as in the past.

But now that the redesign is behind us -- I know how much you all love our new type -- we can go back to our regular craziness.

 And among the craziness I've missed, of statewide and possibly national importance, is a lawsuit that recently wrapped up in Los Angeles aimed at striking down five California laws governing public schools:

- one which says that all teachers must be considered for tenure within two years;
- one which says that when school districts lay off teachers due to budget cuts, they must do so in order of seniority (often called the "last in, first out" law);
- and three different laws that make firing a bad teacher in California a long and costly endeavor.

One fact about this story peeks my interest:  the fact that the suit is being financed by Silicon Valley-based telecom magnate David Welch. Somehow, it reminds me of Proposition 227, which "overturned" bilingual education nearly 16 years ago. And we know how well that's worked.

Because it's a complicated case and I have not been following it at all, I'm not even going to try to summarize Vergara v. California for you. But I found a very good story that wraps it up nicely. Here it is. Enjoy!