Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dual Language Academy of the Monterey Peninsula rocks on Hispanic Heritage

I decided to pay a visit to the brand new Dual Language Academy of the Monterey Peninsula -- the best decision ever taken by Monterey Peninsula Unified trustees.

Parents of the dual immersion program at Marshall West had been lobbying for more autonomy and to strengthen the program.  They were even thinking about becoming their own charter, and they sought inspiration from folks at the Bay View Academy charter.

In the end, they didn't have to spin off from the district. Administrators saw the wisdom to keep the parents in the district, so now the school remains at MPUSD and could perhaps serve a model for parental participation and enthusiasm.

Their Hispanic Heritage celebration was amazing. Children danced and sang, parents packed the multi-purpose room, and there was a great atmosphere all around. There's a lot of good energy in the school that I hope it's contagious and doesn't wane.

Here's a couple of performances, in case you missed them.

King City teacher, PG graduate, wants your help to raise $100K

Michael Jones, a 1st grade teacher at the King City Union School District, wants you to vote for his project so the district can get $100,000 from the "Thank a Million Teachers."

Jones, a graduate of PG high, MPC and CSUMB, wants the money to fund digital art classes throughout King City elementary schools.

"Our rural district is competing against two projects from highly populated areas in Nevada and Arizona. The best chance we have is finding advocates that will help us spread the word throughout California and finding believers in Arts in education," he wrote me in an email.

"My proposal is for digital arts centered after-school sessions as well as a summer session. It will benefit all of the elementary schools in my district. I am hopeful that the initial materials outlay will create sustainability for this project. We will work on mixed media projects, integrating traditional art techniques with digital photography and other digital input technologies. We will have community art shows to involve our community and show what amazing things can happen when arts are supported."

The winner will be decided by internet votes, so Jones needs people to vote early and often for his project.

The voting starts October 1 and endd on November 30. You can vote here.

 Good luck, Mr. Jones!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Madison Stander, a Monterey eleventh grader who's being home schooled through the Ocean Grove Charter School, has been nominated to attend the Congress of Future Medical Leaders in Washington, D.C., November 14-16, 2014.

The Congress is an honors-only program for high school students who want to become physicians or go into medical research fields. The purpose of this event is to honor, inspire, motivate and direct the top students in the country who aspire to be physicians or medical scientists, to stay true to their dream and, after the event, to provide a path, plan, and resources to help them reach their goal.

“The Congress is a once in a life time chance to explore what I want to do in life,” Madison said. “I am really looking forward to representing not only the Monterey Peninsula, but also the State of California in Washington, D.C."

Madison was nominated to represent California's Ocean Grove Charter, based on her academic achievement, leadership potential and determination to serve humanity in the field of medicine.

Madison intends to pursue a bachelor's degree in biology then go on to pursue a degree in medicine, to ultimately become an orthopedic surgeon.

During the three-day Congress, Madison will join students from across the country and hear Nobel Laureates and National Medal of Science Winners talk about leading medical research; be given advice from Ivy League and top medical school deans on what to expect in medical school; and a lot of other really cool activities having to do with the medical field.

Madison began participating in the Junior Auxiliary Program at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (CHOMP) this July and is already halfway towards accruing one-hundred hours of service that will make her eligible to volunteer in the emergency room.

Madison's definitely going place. We can't wait to see how far she gets!

Matsiko's back in town!

The Matsiko Children’s Choir, a group of adorable children who sing like rock stars, will be visiting the Monterey Peninsula from Sep 30 through Oct 3.

The Matsiko Orphans Choir was started in 2008 by the International Children's Network (ICN), and is comprised of at-risk children from Peru, India, and Liberia. The children tour the United States for one year, and return home to inspire their communities.

The children serve as ambassadors of their nations and share their lives and culture through song and dance. The performances often include cultural dances, dramatic performances, and drum routines. Proceeds generated by the choir's tour and merchandise sales go directly to support ICN's worldwide programs.

Matsiko will have a community performance at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 3, at the Marina Community Center, 211 Hillcrest Ave., Marina. For more information, click here.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Of 'educated' cities, national rankings and English learners

Many Salinas residents were upset by a recent analysis that ranked their city as second least "educated" in the United States. If you missed the hoopla, here's a story I wrote about it.

In spite of the metrics that were used for the analysis -- and its hurtful conclusion -- I believe there's value in the conversation that ensued. Particularly around trying to diversify the local economy so we don't lose our college graduates to Silicon Valley or other parts of the country. Just last week I met a smart, dedicated young woman who told me she was ready to return to L.A. this summer -- where she earned her bachelor's degree -- because she couldn't find a job in Salinas.

So yes, let's talk about what we can do to increase educational and job opportunities for our students (the study did not take into account people younger than 25, so  whether or not they're "educated" is surely irrelevant to WalletHub, right?). Let's try to find creative solutions to our budgetary problems. Let's try to increase literacy among our farmworking population.

But one thing we should NOT do is blame this issue in our English Language Learners. If anything, we have a broken system that fails to recognize what an asset it is to be able to speak more than one language. Instead, we want to blame low academic performance in our young kids who grow up speaking Spanish at home. So why have double immersion programs spread so much if they're ineffective? Why is it that children who attend bilingual schools do better than in monolingual schools? Why is it that research shows bilingual people are smarter?

Last week, a day after the WalletHub study was published, a letter writer came close to blaming Spanish language speakers for the Salinas dishonor. Michael McMillen from Salinas wrote that "extremists .. would insist on full literacy in their native language; this means that there would be no English-Language instruction until roughly ninth grade."

First of all, I've never seen anybody ask children in the United States have no English language instruction until the 9th grade. Every bilingual program you see, be it dual immersion or structure English immersion, has instruction in English. Second, children are not learning "survival English." They're being taught academic English. Maybe their vocabulary is limited and they are behind their native English-speaking peers, but not taking advantage of the fact that they already speak a universally accepted language -- spoken by 470 million people on this planet -- would be a real shame.

So instead of blaming English learners for our educational woes, perhaps a more reasonable response would be, how can we make sure all of our children speak more than one language so they can be prepared for this globalized economy? Now, that would be a conversation worth having.

Stevenson students grow, harvest, and barter their own foods

Stevenson School hosted a Harvest Festival and Farmers’ Market this week at its Carmel Campus to celebrate the arrival of fall. Students harvested vegetables and herbs from the school’s organic garden and then prepared breads, salsas and homemade treats to share with their friends and families. Instead of using money, students traded seeds, sticks and leaves for treats and crafts.

“By harvesting their own food and sharing it with our community, the kids are learning about sustainability and the many benefits of using locally sourced, fresh foods, “ said Molly Bozzo, head of the Carmel Campus. “The garden is also used an important educational tool throughout the year, and across all grades.”

From planting the seeds to nurturing the plants as they grow to turning the soil after the harvest, students care for and maintain the school’s garden. Under the instruction of the school’s garden coordinator, the garden is incorporated into the curriculum and is often used in science experiments and nature observations.

The school plans to create a cookbook, Goodies from the Garden, from the recipes created and shared from this week’s festival.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Monterey County Office of Education gets nearly $3 million to address youth violence

A day after it was announced that, once again, Monterey County leads California in youth violence, the Monterey County Office of Education says it's received $2.8 million to tackle the problem.

The money comes from three grants. A $2.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education's School Climate Transformation Grant to implement Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support -- PBIS -- in several schools. PBIS is a method that reinforces positive behavior as a way to decrease disruptions in the classroom, and therefore, student suspensions and expulsions. The funding will also address better understanding and response to the underlying causes for youth to act out and engage in violent behaviors (i.e., mental health and trauma).

A $100,000 grant comes from the National Forum to Prevent Youth Violence, also to support PBIS.

A $100,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Mental Health Services to offer a Youth Mental Health First Aid Program to train adults to identify and address the mental health problems and issues of Salinas’ students aged 12 to 18.

A cadre of politicians, educators and law enforcement officials will have an official announcement next week, with details about how it'll all work out.

Stay tuned.

UCSC gets $3.3 million Gear Up grant to work with MPUSD students

The UC Santa Cruz’s Educational Partnership Center has been awarded a GEAR UP federal grant to serve students in the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District.

The GEAR UP program is designed to help prepare middle and high school students for college through academic and financial aid advising, tutoring, college field trips and other college-going activities.  It also includes professional development for teachers as they implement the Common Core State Standards to prepare students for college and career.

The grant will fund UCSC’s outreach to local underserved students and amounts to approximately $468,000 annually and close to $3.3 million dollars across seven years.

The U.S. Department of Education funded 10 state and 31 partnership grant applications, 7 of which were in California.

UCSC's Educational Partnership Center currently oversees two other GEAR UP grants: one in South Monterey County and the other in the Pajaro Valley region. The EPC coordinates new and longstanding student academic preparation efforts of the University of California, Santa Cruz with the goal of increasing access and opportunity to postsecondary education for students across the Monterey Bay and Silicon Valley/San Jose regions.

Other recipients of GEAR UP grants in California include, YPI Charter Schools, Humboldt State University, Los Angeles Unified School District, CSU Monterey Bay, and Cal State San Bernardino.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"12 Years a Slave" now available for high schools nationwide

As part of a national educational initiative, the acclaimed film, book, and study guide “12 Years a Slave” will be available to America’s public high schools.

This nationwide educational effort was the brainchild of director Steve McQueen and Montel Williams, and now “12 Years a Slave” educator toolkits are available to all public high school teachers timed to the 2014-15 school year.

Educators who gain permission to teach “12 Years a Slave” to their students will receive a free kit which includes: a DVD copy of the film (edited version with disclaimer/parental consent requested); a paperback copy of the Penguin book; the “12 Years a Slave” printed study guide; and a letter from Steve McQueen. Any U.S. public high school teacher with permission to add this to the high school curriculum can go  here click on the button for teachers to opt in and request an educators’ toolkit for their school.

Let's face it, "12 Years a Slave" is a brutal movie. But it's also an important part of our history that should not be forgotten, so it'll be great to see high school teachers include it in their curriculum when teaching American history. Plus, it's edited to make it more suitable to younger audiences. I hope many teachers bring it into their classrooms.

Monterey Peninsula College trustees are scheduled to extend the contract for President Walter Tribley until 2018.

His original contract approved in 2012 was for 3.5 years, an annual salary of $205,000, minus a 2 percent wage concession for 2012-13, for a total of $200,859.

Salinas City Elementary raises salaries for teachers and everyone else

Trustees with the Salinas City Elementary Union School District approved late Monday a five percent salary increase for teachers (starting Aug. 1), classified employees (starting July 1 for those employed for at least a year with the district), and effective July 1 for supervisors, superintendent and assistant superintendents.

Yes, Superintendent Juvenal Luza gets a five percent raise, like everyone else. Jerry Stratton, associate superintendent of business services, likes to remind people that Luza is one of the superintendents in the area who makes the least amount of money: $168,000 per year -- plus $11,223 in health benefits and an annual vehicle stipend of $900.

Most employees in districts throughout Monterey County got raises after new moneys came in with the Local Control Funding Formula. One of the stories I'll get around writing one of these days.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Millennium: the little charter that's producing videos

Students with the Millennium Charter High, a school tasked with providing hands-on learning for students, it's debuting its very first documentary.

It's called "Del Monte Express, The Little Train That Did," and it's the first of a 10-part series titled “People and Places."

For the first episode, students and teachers together researched, wrote the script and with the help of the Monterey County Office of Education Media Center for Art, Education & Technology produced it.

A live screening will be held Friday at 7 p.m. in the Black Box Theater at the Millennium Charter High School at 901 Blanco Circle in Salinas. It will also be aired on Comcast 26, LPTV Channel 38, and Charter Channels 17, 19 and 21. The screening will be preceded by a refreshment hour at 6 p.m.

“This first episode of People and Places will not only entertain and inform, it will show our viewers the caliber of work Millennium Charter High School students produce. We are thrilled to have this premier and are looking forward to our next episode, “Old Man Rivers,” which is already in pre-production,” said Principal Peter Gray.

You can watch a one-minute promotional trailer of the documentary here.

Top Monterey County education officials gathered in Hartnell

And they were not talking about the WalletHub study.

Officials from the Salinas Union High, Salinas City Elementary, Alisal Union, Monterey Peninsula Unified, and likely other district that I failed to notice gathered Tuesday at Hartnell to hear about existing partnerships and programs going on at the college.

They heard about the CSIT-3 program, designed to give students a bachelor's degree in three years. Read all about it here.  They heard about the NASA partnership now bringing STEM education to some schools in the Salinas Valley. Read all about it here. They heard about Hartnell's health professions partnership.

And they seemed to get a lot out of it.

"We all thought the summit was excellent," said in an email Monterey Peninsula Unified Trustee Debra Gramespacher. "The college administration has a well organized program to deliver career technology degrees to its students. I am especially impressed with the condensed 3 year Computer Science degree, the equivalent of a 4 year college degree, which is awarded in partnership with CSUMB."

Ask the MPUSD superintendent

If you missed the latest (the second?) installment of "Ask the Superintendent," the electronic newsletter of the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, I highly recommend it. You can find it here.

I like the tidbits about the food services department -- the largest restaurant in Monterey. I'd never thought about it that way. Pretty impressive, if you think about it. 

I also enjoyed the superintendent's video message. This is really a good way to give the public a look to what's going on behind the scenes, directly from the horse's mouth as it were. So the auditors are in town, huh? I can't wait to see their report. 

The fuzzy feeling and PK's willingness to become a transparent figure makes me doubt the results of a recent report by the The Brookings Institution. The report concludes that superintendents, while quite visible, appear to make no difference in student achievement. Superintendents stay on the job for a short period of time (we already knew that) but student achievement does not appear to improve the longer they stay on. If you want to take a look at the report, here it is.

Now, what the report does say is that "in the end, it is the system that promotes or hinders student achievement." And it is the system that both PK and Board President Jon Hill have been saying need to be changed.

Let's see how that goes.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Hartnell College to host summit with K-12 leaders

Hartnell College trustees will hold a summit along with elected officials from the K-12 districts in its feeder area.

The summit will include a review of existing partnerships and collaborative efforts focused on student achievement and success. There will also be time to explore additional partnerships and collaborations that will contribute to student achievement and success. The Monterey County School Boards Association is co-sponsoring the event.

The Summit is scheduled to take place at 5 p.m. Tuesday, September 16, 2014, at Hartnell College Main Campus, Building C, Room 124 (Steinbeck Hall) 411 Central Avenue, Salinas.

Monterey alumna recovers yearbook, diploma

It was her good deed of the year. Monterey High Principal Marcie Plummer delivered Kathleen MacNeill a duplicate high school diploma and a copy of her yearbook, which MacNeill lost in a fire in 1989.

MacNeill, who now lives at The Ridge Rehabilitation Center in Salinas, called Monterey High asking to see about getting a copy of ther yearbook for her senior year. MacNeill was class of 1965 and is hoping to attend the high school reunion -- if one's being planned.

"She contacted us to see if we had a yearbook," said Monterey High Principal Marcie Plummer. "Through conversation we learned that both her yearbook and diploma were lost in the fire years ago."

And now she has them back.

Monterey area high school junior and seniors: this one's for you

Want to travel to our nation's capital with all expenses paid to study the federal government in-depth? Here's your chance.

High school principals have until Oct. 1 to nominate students for the United States Senate Youth Program, which sends students to Washington, D.C. to learn about the federal government.

The California Department of Education coordinates the competition in California. Students must be nominated by their high school principal to participate and they have to be juniors or seniors currently enrolled in any California public or private secondary school. In addition, they have to be serving in an elected or appointed capacity in student government or a civic or educational organization.

California Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson will select four finalists, including two delegates, a first alternate, and a second alternate. The two delegates will participate in an intensive study of the federal government as guests of the U.S. Senate from March 7–14, 2015, in Washington, D.C. The Hearst Foundation, which sponsors the program, will pay all expenses for the delegates, including transportation, hotel, and meals. In addition, each of the delegates will receive a $5,000 college scholarship from the Foundation. Alternates attend the events only if the delegates are unable to participate. The two delegates and two alternates will be introduced at the State Board of Education meeting in Sacramento next January.

For more information on the nomination process, go to the United States Senate Youth Program Web page of the California Department of Education here or contact David Carriker in the Office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction at 916-319-0173 or dcarriker@cde.ca.gov. I'd be great to see delegates

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Laura Markham comes to Carmel

The Parent & Teacher Lecture Series of the Carmel Public Library Foundation will host Early Childhood Psychologist and Parent Educator, Dr. Laura Markham for a presentation and book signing.

Markham is the author of "Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids" and founding editor of AhaParenting.com. Markham assists parents in transforming their relationships with their children. She has appeared on the Morning Show and speaks to parent and school groups across the country.

Proceeds from the evening benefit the Carmel Public Library Foundation whose mission is to fund 100 percent of the collections, programs, equipment and services for Carmel Public Library, ensure free library service perpetuity.

The event will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept, 16, at Carpenter Hall, Sunset Center, Lincoln St & 9th Ave, Carmel.

Cost: Free and open to the public. $10 suggested contribution. Proceeds benefit Carmel Public Library.

Salinas resident Jesus Ochoa Perez wins CSU Trustees' Award

Cal State Monterey Bay sophomore Jesus Ochoa Perez has been chosen for a CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement. He and the other award winners were honored on Sept. 9 at the CSU board meeting in Long Beach.

The award is among the highest student distinctions in the CSU and is accompanied by a scholarship. Awardees must demonstrate superior academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service and financial need. Many of the honorees have prevailed in the face of disability, language and cultural barriers, intense personal loss or homelessness.

“The compelling life stories of these extraordinary student scholars are a testament to the transformative power of public higher education,” said CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White. “Through the generous support of our donors, many of whom are first-time contributors to the Trustees’ Award program, we are able to help these scholars create a bright and successful future.”

Jesus lived with his parents and three siblings in one room during part of his childhood, leaving him no quiet place to study. His parents, farmworkers from Mexico, were determined that their children would not face the financial hardships and the physical ills of working in the fields.

This semester, Jesus is starting his second year at CSUMB, where he is a math major with a 4.0 grade-point average. A service learning requirement led him to an elementary school where he tutored first-graders in math – and discovered his passion for teaching. He volunteered far more than the number of hours required and continues to tutor elementary school students. He also found time to be a volunteer youth soccer coach.

Jesus is determined to be a success story from his East Salinas neighborhood by earning a teaching credential and returning to his high school to teach math.

Almost 450,000 students attend the 23 campuses of the CSU system. Only one student from each campus is honored with the Trustees’ Award. The program began three decades ago with scholarships endowed by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. Since then, the generosity of current and emeritus CSU trustees and other supporters of the university has allowed the program to expand.

CSU Trustees’ Scholars are nominated by their campus presidents. For more information about the program, click here.

Carmel High on the top one percent of U.S. high schools

Carmel High School continues to reap accolades. The most recent award comes from the Daily Beast, an online offshoot of Newsweek, which ranked Carmel High 247th on their list entitled "Top High Schools 2014."

It's been a good year for Carmel High (dare we say, a decade?) So far, Carmel has been named among the top high schools in the nation in:

· U.S. News and World Report's "2014 Best High Schools" (#286 in the nation, #52 in the state)

· Newsweek’s "America's Best High Schools" (#191 in the nation)

· Washington Post's "America's Most Challenging High Schools" (#196 in the nation, #24 in the state)

“This validates that our conscious efforts to make college an option for all students are paying off," Superintendent Marvin Biasotti said in a statement. "Receiving recognition from multiple respected publications gives the students and faculty reason to be proud of their hard work.”

To identify the top schools in the nation, the Daily Beast first surveyed a pre-qualified group of over 700 top-performing schools. It then assessed each school on six factors, with graduation and college acceptance rates weighed most heavily. Other criteria included college-level courses and exams, percentage of students with free or reduced lunch, as well as SAT and ACT scores.

To read more about the Daily Beast's Top High Schools 2014, click here. (Come for the top schools, stay for the charters)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Monterey Peninsula College trustees hold special meeting on early childhood education center

Trustees for the Monterey Peninsula College will hold a special meeting at 2:30 p.m. on Monday to talk about the future of the early childhood development center.

There has been a lot of changes in the center in recent years due to budget cuts, and more changes are expected for the same reasons. Find out what's ahead during this presentation and information session.

No decisions will be made. The meeting will take place at 2:30 p.m. at the Library and Technology Center, Sam Karas Room 980 Fremont Street, Monterey, California. See you there!

Monterey County libraries need litercy tutors

Did you know there are more than 100 people in Monterey County waiting for a literacy tutor?

Help change someone's life by becoming a tutor with the Monterey County Free Libraries Literacy Program. Find out more about being a tutor on the library website here and attend new tutor training sessions September 8th and 10th.

Or call 831 883-7597 for more information.

Navigator Charters will have open hearings in Salinas next week

If you read the article I wrote for the paper last week, you probably already know Navigator Schools, a Gilroy-based system of charters looking to expand, has applied to open two charters in Salinas. You can find the story here

Next week, Navigator officials will have a chance to make their case. Their first hearing will take place Tuesday at a special meeting of the Salinas City Elementary School District board of education. The meeting will start at 5 p.m. in the district's main office, 840 S. Main St., Salinas.

The second meeting will take place on Wednesday during the regular meeting of  the Alisal Union School District board of trustees. Open sessions begin after closed session (which starts at 5:30 p.m.) Alisal trustees meet at Bardin Elementary, 425 Bardin Rd., Salinas.

See you there!