Friday, October 31, 2014

Charts are beatiful. Check out this one, courtesy of MCOE

For the third year in a row, the Monterey County Office of Education has published a report to the community on the county's state of education, an effort aimed at highlighting the good things that are happening in education these days.

If you are a Herald reader -- or follow my blog -- you will find very little news in the report. Most of the articles are about issues we've already covered here. Of course, they look more nifty in a booklet all of their own.

But there are a few articles worth mentioning. The one about Common Core on pages 6 and 7. The one about new funding rules on pages 8 and 9.

And my personal favorite, the chart on English learners as they progress towards proficiency in English on page 5.

It's illuminating. Worth a story. I'll get to it one of these days.

Find the report here.

Salinas parents turn in signatures to recall Salinas City Elementary Janet Barnes

Building a Better Board, a grass-roots organization driving efforts to recall Salinas City Elementary trustee Janet Barnes, has turned in 2,621 signatures to the Monterey County Registrar of Voters.

Elections chief Claudio Valenzuela said they have 30 working days to verify the signatures. Organizers need 2,291 valid signatures for the recall to qualify for the ballot.

Building a Better Board, a group of parents mostly from Mission Park Elementary, are hoping to recall Barnes in an effort to weaken support for Superintendent Juvenal Luza. Their aim is to eventually have another superintendent take over the district.

Navigator appeal coming to the Monterey County Office of Education

Perhaps you've noticed I've been doing quite a bit of coverage about a small charter operator that wants to come to Monterey County. It's called Navigator, and you can find an article about the national controversy on charters here and a description of one the Navigator schools,  Gilroy Prep, here.

Navigator asked to open two charters, one in the Salinas City Elementary School District, and one at the Alisal Union School District. After getting rejected from both districts, Navigator administrators appealed the Salinas City petition to the Monterey County Board of Education.

Trustees with the Monterey County Board of Education will hear the appeal at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the offices on Blanco Circle. I regret I won't be there, as I have an important issue to attend to on the other side of the country. So I'll be checking in to see what happened.

Scuttlebutt, I expect a full report!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts visits Mary Chapa in Greenfield

Mary Chapa Academy in Greenfield  received a special visit on Friday, October 24, from Jacques Rodrigue and a team from the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts.

The foundation was formed in 2009 by the famed Louisiana artist better known for his images of the Blue Dog.

After a tour of the school, Rodrigue presented students with an overview of works of George Rodrigue and led them through a morning of creativity. Students painted their Blue Dog in any setting in the world that they could possibly imagine.

On Saturday, the foundation sponsored a Family Day at the Rodrigue Gallery in Carmel, where a team led students and their parents in creating Blue Dog ornaments, masks, face painting and a tour of the gallery.

The visit concluded Monday with a field-trip for all fifth grade students to Carmel, where they were led through arts integrated science projects.

In May, El Camino Real Academy in the Greenfield Union School District was selected as one of 10 schools in California for the Turnaround Arts program, a signature of the Obama administration that uses arts to helps narrow the achievement gap.

El Camino Real, which was originally split from Mary Chapa in 2011 as part of reforms aimed at increasing test score, was merged again with Mary Chapa this summer. Mary Chapa gets to keep the turnaround arts designation, principal Sonia Aramburo said.  

As part of the program, Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers will "adopt" Mary Chapa to engage with the students and motivate them to learn. One of these days he'll come visit. We can hardly wait...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Getting your teaching chops at a charter school

In case you've missed it, I've been writing about a small charter school operator, Navigator Schools, and its attempts to open two schools in Salinas.

My most recent story is here, and it addresses the charter controversy at a national level.

As you can probably imagine, it's often hard to include in a story all the information you request or come across as you research these issues. For instance, I had asked two Gilroy Prep teachers to give me their input on how's like to teach at a Navigator School. I didn't find a good place to include their views, so I'll post them here, edited.

Bri Gottlieb has been been teaching for three years, her last two at Gilroy Prep. This year, she trained new staff on classroom management styles and student culture. When I visited the school on Oct. 7, Gottlieb was teaching her students how to use cubes to measure length. She was using a very catchy song to teach units of measure, a method used frequently at the school. 

Other topics I asked her about: how does she keep up with the energy level (there's a lot of movement involved in the teaching at Navigator)? How much coaching they have? Here's more of her story, in her own words:

"We have many songs and chants so it is easier for the kids to remember steps and strategies. Some examples of math concepts we have songs and chants for are rounding, subtraction regrouping, word problems, money, fractions, time, multiplication, doubles facts, etc. The students get very into them and you can see them mouthing the songs to themselves during tests and independent practice.
"Some days are harder than others to keep up the energy because on Mondays the kids are sleepy so we ( the teachers) tend to do more of the talking. After working for this school for the second year, you get used to walking and using hand motions with instruction. I find I have more energy because I am used to moving around so much. I have joked around that I should wear a pedometer to see how many steps I walk around in a day. I find that the more I move around, the more the kids get excited and more engaged to learn.

"There is a lot of coaching involved. Every week a coach will observe the classroom (sometimes tape) and then meet with the teacher some time later in the week. During the coaching meetings, we go over strengths and two action steps to work on for the following week. I have found that I have become a better teacher from the feedback from my coaches. It is a very positive coaching model that helps improve my teaching skills all around. I am more conscious about constantly learning and more focused on certain actions that I want to improve on. Sometimes it helps to get another perspective on something I want to improve on as well. Before I came to this school, I didn't realize how collaborative a school could be. Most schools are very inclusive to the teachers and teachers work independently. It is very hard to grow as a teacher in that kind of environment. If I have a great idea that works for a better grade, I e-mail my fellow colleagues and they use the idea. It is a better environment to work in and to grow as a teacher. We are all working for the kids and to help them succeed in their education which is the way it should be." 

It's Karaoke time at Salinas high schools

Tomoki Kuwana, a Japanese language instructor at North Salinas High, is organizing a karaoke contest for all students in the Salinas Union High School District.

Would you include students from other school who take Japanese? I asked him.

That's a great idea, he said. So, if you are a Japanese language teacher at any other district in Monterey County, bring your students to the contest!

When: 4:00PM, Thursday, November 13.

Where: Theater at Everett Alvarez High, 1900 Independence Blvd., Salinas.

Cost: Free Admission

For more information, call: 831-796-7500

Monday, October 20, 2014

Of the Alisal and the need for public relations

At the most recent board meeting of the Alisal Union School District, there was an item that seemed like a no-brainer. A three-month, $18,000 contract with PRx Digital, a public relations company, to help them spin a better tale about the Alisal.

This is how administrators made their case: "The District badly needs professional assistance in fairly laying out the facts of the Alisal story -- both achievements and continuing challenges. Over the past five year, the District experienced an environment where facts were distorted by sensational media reporting and politicized, extremist public comment."

To put it mildly.

So this San Jose company -- with veteran journalist Marcos Cabrera on board -- would have tried in three months to convince Alisal trustees their job was needed. And given the amount of scrutiny this contract faced, you would have thought it was $18 million, not $18,000 they were considering to approve.

A couple of trustees -- including Noemi Armenta -- did not want the job to go to consultants because union members are generally opposed to consultants. But she and other board members wanted somebody to be hired part time. Or on an interim basis, to see what kind of results it would give them. So I was wondering, wouldn't the three-month contract with PRx have done the job? To demonstrate to trustees that it may actually be a good idea to hire a professional to help with public relations?

There's a reason why this item is of particular interest to yours truly. A communications professional at an organization makes the job so much easier. This person (when they're truly on top of things, because they not always are) helps you find the appropriate administrator to answer your questions, helps you coordinate photo shoots (so much in demand in this day and age of digital media) and in general can serve a very good public relations purpose. They probably will not help you find the dirt in your organization (something that journalist must and love doing), but dogged journalist would have plenty of time to do that when a public relations expert is on board ;)

Now I hear the Alisal is actually looking for a full time director of communications. And in the meantime, all we keep getting from KSBW is stories about former trustee Jose Castañeda. I wonder if a director of communications will be successful in steering broadcast news in other directions.

And speaking of public relations, veteran communications pro and media darling Marci McFadden has jumped from the Monterey County Office of Education ship and landed on the MPUSD one. Finally, somebody who will help me set up drama-free photo shootings!!!!! I can hardly wait, Marci!

And who will land on the MCOE boat? That will be very interesting indeed. 

Marcos, you should apply!

Everett Alvarez High FFA students attend agricultural leadership conference

Twenty-eight 9th grade agriculture students from the Everett Alvarez High School FFA chapter attended in the the annual FFA Greenhand Leadership Conference in Paso Robles earlier this month.

The conference is designed to assist students with career information and with help designing a personal plan that will help them reach their career objectives.

“I had a terrific time”, said Freshmen Everett Alvarez FFA member Enrique Munoz, “I learned a lot about the opportunities that the FFA has to offer in providing us skills to succeed at school and towards a career.”

The FFA establishes various levels or “degrees” during one’s FFA experience in high school. The “Greenhand” degree is the first level a student can obtain as a first-year high school agriculture student/FFA member. The FFA provides more extensive leadership conferences for sophomores, juniors, and seniors based on the level and degree earned by each student. The Everett Alvarez FFA will be recognizing over 200 students for their FFA Greenhand and Chapter Farmer (2nd year members) degrees in December.

“I enjoyed the opportunity to meet students from other schools”, said EAHS 9th grader Rebecca Wells. "The  event was a lot of fun and I learned a little more about what I might want to do in life.”

Participants at this year’s Greenhand Leadership Conference included: Sabrina Avilia, Nathaniel Conner, Guillermo Dorado, Rebecca Gonzalez, Esmerelda Huerta, David Juarez, Amanda Linsey, Enrique Munoz, Juan Perez, John Ramirez, Yesenia Ramirez, Haley Ramirez, Aiden Reyes, Adileiny Suarez,Samantha Tiscareno, Rosario Zepeda, Monica Gonzalez, Angel Hernandez, Rebecca Wells, William Acuna, Omar Montejano, Andrew Person, Juan Baltazar, Victor Guerrero, Nelly Perez, Rogelio Peinado, Jamie Quezada, and Ricardo Yniguez.

FFA members at Alvarez have been busy this month. Its officers also attended a leadership conference in Hollister a couple of weeks ago. The officers attending the conference included Julissa Marroquin, Javier Garcia, Marisol Lopez, Anthony Ortiz, Edgar Becerra, and Rodrigo Ramirez.

Thanks Nathaniel Conner, Everett Alvarez FFA Greenhand Reporter, for giving us the scoop. And thanks to Travis Wyrick, FFA advisor, for letting us know about your travels.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Monterey County teachers: this one is for you

The State Board of Education is recruiting experienced teachers now practicing in science, history–social science, world languages and/or health to apply for membership on the Instructional Quality Commission. The commission is responsible for advising the State Board of Education on matters related to curriculum and instruction. Appointed members serve four-year terms.

I can think of a few good teachers in the area that I'd love to see join this commission! To find an application, click here.

For questions, contact Thomas Adams, Executive Director, Instructional Quality Commission and Director, Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Resources Division at 916-319-0881 or

Applications must be received by 5 p.m. on Monday, October 20.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Andre LaMothe of Carmel, Robert Andersen of Seaside, and Laurencia Walker of Marina are this year's recipients of the Investment in Community Fellowships by the Willis W. and Ethel M. Clark Foundation.

The Investment in Community Fellowship is awarded to deserving graduate students who were born, raised or live on the Monterey Peninsula and intend to be of service to the local community after completing their graduate degrees.

Andre is pursuing a Doctorate in dentistry at UC San Diego with emphasis on dental/oral surgery, and is attending dental school at UCLA.  Being born and raised in Carmel, Andre’s goal has always been to return to the Peninsula after graduation. He says the $10,000 fellowship award brings him one step closer to helping people on the Monterey Peninsula discover the joy of healthy teeth.

Robert Andersen is pursuing a Master of Healthcare Administration and Inter-professional Leadership through the UC San Francisco School of Nursing. He earned a $5,000 fellowship. He intends to return to the Peninsula after graduation to be near friends and family in his hometown of Pacific Grove.

Laurencia Walker is pursuing a PhD in Higher Education Administration and Policy at UC Riverside, and was the recipient of a $5,000 fellowship.

She plans to research the experiences of low-socioeconomic students participating in academic retention programs at the community college level.

Monterey County students: enter an essay contest, win an award.

Mission Mortuary in Monterey is sponsoring the first  youth essay contest titled, “What Does Thanksgiving Mean to You?”

“Thanksgiving Day is so much more than turkeys and pies. Our hope is to provide an experience for the young people in our communities to strengthen their writing, research and interviewing skills while enriching their understanding of the meaning of Thanksgiving," said Nick Bermudez of Mission Mortuary. The contest is open to all Monterey County middle and high school students. 

Deadline to submit entries is October 31.

Entrants will be accepted from middle or high school students in Monterey County, regardless of whether they attend public, private, charter or home schools.

Entries must be a personal essay, between 500-525 words. Six prizes will be awarded. A $500 cash prize will be awarded to one each middle and high school first place winner; $200 will be awarded to one each middle and high school first runner-up winners and $100 will be awarded to one each middle and high school second runner-up winners.

Results will be announced at 6 p.m., November 6, during the awards ceremony to be held at at Mission Mortuary, 450 Camino El Estero, Monterey, CA 93940. Winners and their parents or guardians must be present to receive their prizes.

For more information, call Nick Bermudez at 831-375-4129.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Naval Postgraduate School celebrates Hispanic Heritage month

Members of Yaocuauhtli Danza Cultural were the guest performers during the Naval Postgraduate School celebration of Hispanic Heritage month on Wednesday.

“We’re excited to have been invited to your beautiful campus today,” said Carol Ruvalcaba, a dancer with Yaocuauhtli. “We’re dedicated to promoting healthy living to our dancers and participants. We focus on strengthening the identity of the Mexican community through the teachings of indigenous traditions of their ancestors.”

Along with the performance, NPS’ Multicultural Heritage Committee gave a presentation highlighting influential Hispanic/Latino leaders—civilian and military alike.  Astrophysicist, researcher and university administrator France A. Córdova was honored as the youngest person to ever be named the chief scientist at NASA. She is the first Latina to be sworn in as director of the National Science Foundation.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Total recalls at the Alisal, Salinas City Elementary districts

Well, the attempt to recall recently elected Alisal trustee Guadalupe Guzman appears to be going nowhere.

Relatives of former Trustee Meredith Ibarra took out recall papers against Guzman early September, but the effort did not qualify and nothing more has happened since then, Monterey Registrar of Voters Claudio Valenzuela said Thursday.

I decided to get updated information because there's rumors a recall movement is brewing against Salinas City Elementary Trustee Foster Hoffman. Hoffman frequently votes against the majority who votes with Trustee Janet Barnes, now facing a recall attempt herself. Supporters of her recall need to collect nearly 2,300 signatures by Oct. 28 to submit it to the voters. 

Valenzuela tells me his office has received inquiries for a potential recall against Hoffman, but no paperwork has been turned up yet. Stay tuned.

Salinas youth ages 13 to 18: this one is for you

The City of Salinas is seeking applications from teens who are interested in serving on the Youth Commission.

The Youth Commission is comprised of twenty-eight members, ages 13to 18, who help identify and promote concerns of the youth in Salinas. The commissioners make recommendation to the city council regarding recreation programs and activities affecting youth and give opportunities to young adults to learn about and participate in local government.

The commission generally meets the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 6:30pm. Term of office commences at time of appointment. Applicants need to be a resident of Salinas and between the ages of 13 and 18 years of age.

Interested parties may obtain additional information or an application at the Salinas City Clerk’s office or the Library and Community Services Department, 200 Lincoln Ave. Salinas; or by calling  758-7381 or 758- 7217, Monday through Thursday, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Or you can download an application from here.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Alisal administrators say no to Navigator Charter

As you probably remember, Gilroy-based charter schools operator Navigator wants to open two schools in Salinas, one in the Alisal and another in the Salinas City school districts. You can read more about it here.

As could have easily been predicted, the unions that represent school employees showed up in force to express their concern with Navigator. Here's the story I wrote about it here.

So it wasn't very surprising to see that Alisal administrators are actually going to recommend trustees deny the school.  They're expected to vote on this on Wednesday at their regular school board meeting.

Navigator's scheduled to have its hearing at the Salinas City Elementary School District on Monday.

It won't surprise me if Navigator decides to appeal the decision to the Monterey County Board of Education.

What comes after that is anybody's guess, although I may want to venture an educated guess. Hit me up if you want to hear what it is.

Friday, October 3, 2014

South Monterey County Youth: the Salinas Valley Fair wants you

The Salinas Valley Fair is seeking young adults for its Junior Fair Board. As many as twenty-five members are selected to volunteer throughout the year on behalf of the Salinas Valley Fair. Their efforts include assisting at fair events, providing outreach, event planning & developing and coordinating events within the fair.

Salinas Valley Fair  is seeking junior board members between the ages of 14 and 21 and enrolled in a high school or equivalent program at the time they begin their service.

Candidates must demonstrate an interest in leadership by showing examples of where they have taken initiative at school and within their communities. The selection process includes an interview and winners will be notified by mail.

Ideal candidates are those who have demonstrated leadership, initiative, and selflessness. Selected students participate in monthly board meetings as well as special projects throughout the year. An average student will commit about 3 hours a month to the JFB leadership program.

Applications are due October, and can be downloaded from the fair's website here. They should be mailed to the Salinas Valley Fair, 625 Division Street, King City 93930.

Pacific Grove residents inform community about Measure A school bond measure

The Yes on Measure A committee will be holding an information event at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, October 7.

The event will feature speakers discussing how Measure A, an $18 million bond measure to be used for updating  technology needs at the Pacific Grove Unified School District. Proceeds will be used to buy computers, laptops, and update the districts internet infrastructure to give students the tools they need to succeed in the modern educational landscape.

Refreshments will be served. The event will be held at Peninsula Christian Center, 520 Pine Avenue, Pacific Grove. Free and open to the public. For more information, click here.