Tuesday, December 8, 2015

York's Umar Momen is new outstanding youth philantropist for the Central Coast

York graduate Umar Momen was named Outstanding Youth Philanthropist for the Central Coast after raising over $15,000 to alleviate poverty in Bangladesh.

It's the eight time in the last 12 years that a student from York garners the honor, school officials said in a statement.

Umar, now a freshman at UC Berkeley, was honored at the 24th annual National Philanthropy Day of the Central Coast on November 20 at The Inn at Spanish Bay. The award is presented by the Associaiton of Fundraising Professionals.

As a child, Umar visited Bangladesh, his parents’ homeland, and was shocked by the poverty he saw, and those images stayed with him. When he reached high school he researched solutions and discovered the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee —BRAC – the country’s largest nonprofit development organization.

As a sophomore at York School in 2012, he volunteered at two schools that served impoverished children in Dhaka, Bangladesh. When he returned to the United States he launched a fundraising campaign for BRAC with the goal of providing education that would serve up to 130 children – a financial goal of $5,000. Within two months, by talking with family, friends, friends of friends, and strangers, he inspired a reaction of giving and reached his goal.

Umar returned to Bangladesh to volunteer with BRAC in 2014. He learned about Kishori clubs, which serve girls ages 11-19 living in the slums of Bangladesh, who are often neglected, abused, or sold as child brides. Kishori clubs provide health, life-skills, leadership, and professional training education. Umar again undertook a crowd funding campaign when he returned to the U.S. and raised $10,241, enough to train 222 facilitators for the Kishori clubs.

During his four years at York, Umar volunteered over 1,000 hours at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. He's now working with BRAC to start a Youth Action Network in Berkeley for BRAC’s work in Bangladesh.

Friday, December 4, 2015

TEDdy Talks coming to CSUMB

The public is invited to TEDdy Talks – CSU Monterey Bay’s version of the popular TEDx talks now coming to campus.

Students from a variety of disciplines will make three- to five-minute presentations summing up their research during the presentation at 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 14 . The program will be held in the Alumni and Visitors Center, located on the corner of Gen. Jim Moore Boulevard and Inter-Garrison Road. Driving directions and a campus map can be found here.

The event is free but a parking permit must be purchased from the machine on the lot.

For more information, to request disability accommodations or to RSVP, email psychology@csumb.edu.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

CSUMB Capstone festival coming Dec. 17 and 18

Cal State University Monterey Bay Students will once again show off what they're been up to in school. Their final projects are called 'capstones' and it's a requirement for graduation.

The capstones are research or creative projects that require students to pull together, synthesize and apply years of learning. As part of the process, students must publicly present their work. The fall Capstone Festival will be held Dec. 17 and 18 at locations around campus. The public is invited.

During the Capstone Festival, the campus takes on the feel of an intellectual marketplace. Biology and kinesiology students make poster presentations; teams of business students present strategic plans for local companies and organizations; music students give mini recitals; and students majoring in Cinematic Arts and Technology screen their projects.

 The Cine Arts students will show their work starting at 1 and again at 6 p.m. on Dec. 17 in the World Theater. For a schedule of times and locations, click here. .

Hartnell and Millennium students collaborate on "The Birds" production

Hamish Tyler, director of the Media Center for Arts Education and Technology at the Monterey County Office of Education, is excited about the new partnership they have with Hartnell.

The partnership is making possible a production of Aristophanes' The Birds, which will be performed both at Hartnell Studio Theatre and MCAET Black Box Theater.

"We're so proud of this achievement," Tyler said. "What we're doing is developing this articulated pathway" that will eventually include middle schools and summer programs in arts, media and entertainment.

"This is a sample of what we wat to see throughout the county," he said.

Check it out - here's a promo developed for it. The Birds also intends to raise awareness of Monterey County's threatened and endangered birds.

Dec. 4 and  5, 7:30 PM, K116, Hartnell Studio Theatre, 411 Central Ave., Salinas.

Dec. 12, 7:30 PM and Dec. 13, 2 PM, MCOE/MCAET Black Box Theatre, 901 Blanco Circle, Salinas.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Carmel mock trial team outdoes itself in San Francisco

Last year, in their debut participation in Empire Mock trial in San Francisco, Carmel High students took fourth place.

This year, they snatched silver.

The team, composed of Mindy Morgan, Yuan Tao, Savannah Foster, Anna Gumberg, Madeleine Fontenay, Sara Phillips, Teejan Saddy, Becca Goren, Julia Sudol, Madi Brothers, Ian Geertsen, Alex Poletti, and Sarah Morgan, was undefeated in the preliminary rounds, reports team coach Bill Schrier. After earning a spot in the final, they finished second out of 22 teams from 6 countries.

That's not all. Teejan Saddy won best witness, while Anna Gumberg won best attorney.

Congratulations, gals and guys. Maybe you'll climb in state mock trial too? ;)

Gingerbread decorating and gift giving at Washington Union School District

Order your gingerbread house kit online to be ready for the Gingebread party organized by the Parents' Club of the Washington Union School District.

The proceeds of the yearly fundraiser are used to purchase classroom supplies, host special events, and offer financial support to students who otherwise couldn't afford extra-curricular educational activities.

This year party will combine  the gingerbread decorating party with the holiday gift fair. The party will take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 13 at San Benancio Middle School, 43 San Benancio Rd., Salinas,

Families can shop for handmade gifts at the Gift Fair. Holiday music performed by student musicians will be playing and refreshments will be served. Gift prices are kid friendly and range from $1 to $20 per item, with the majority of items priced under $5. Families will have the opportunity to take pictures with Santa Claus.

Sounds like a great way to kick the holidays!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Saturday will be a girl empowerment day

More than 300 girls will take part in the sixth annual Expanding Your Horizons Conference and Career Fair for young women starting at 8 a.m. Saturday at Hartnell College.

In this event coordinated by the Lyceum Monterey, girls in grades 5-10 interested in math, technology, science, and engineering will participate in hands-on workshops that will give them an opportunity to interact with professionals and work closely with their peers. They'll have a chance to learn about careers in oceanography, dentistry, and more.What a great opportunity to learn about the wonderful world of science!

And just as these girls meet at Hartnell, another 100 students will gather at Asilomar for the fifth annual summit of the Girl's Health in Girl's Hands initiative. The summit promotes girl empowerment, healthy body image, relationships, and emotional well-being through interactive girl-led activities.

Girl leaders coordinate workshops and physical activities, discuss GHGH action led research, and rally participants to get involved in shaping their futures and creating an agenda for change. Another great opportunity for girls to become empowered!

In this day and age of education changes, emphasis is growing in making sure students are aware of careers in STEM fields. Also, experts want to make sure emotional health is address to shape  resilient children. These events explore both. Maybe next year they'll be combined! ;)

Consider donating to the Dream Academy for their busing needs

Touring college campuses may be a family activity for middle class families, but for many working class students it's not that easy.

That's why the Dream Academy has been driving students to some nearby colleges and universities so they can get an idea of how attainable they are. These academy students have great dreams for their lives and they understand that to achieve most of those dreams they're going to need a college education.

 But the buses are expensive and so is the food for the students. Each trip costs about $2,500 for meals and transportation of about 90 students, and organizer Ruben Pizarro just launched an online campaign to raise money.

These year, Pizarro is hoping to bring the students to UC Berkeley, Stanford, and UC Davis. Tax deductible donations can be made through this link. 

"Exposing our students to institutions of higher education, providing them the information regarding admissions criteria, and giving them an opportunity to meet and discuss college life with other students of color is an essential step in empowering our students to attend college," Pizarro said.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Give Monterey County foster children the gift of giving

It's that time of the year when everyone exchanges gifts. For children in foster care, the ritual is complicated by the fact that they have no money, so if they want to express their affection to loved ones, they may be in a pickle.

With that in mind, Voices for Children CASA will turn a room in its office into a "shop" in December so about 150 children in foster care can come and "buy" gifts for their loved ones.

Here's where the public (you!) comes in. Voices of Children needs items donated for the children to come and shop for. They need donations of new, unwrapped gifts. They especially need items that are appropriate for teens and adults.

Some of the items they would like to receive: 
• Home decor items such as photo frames, calendars, and candles
• Men and women’s clothing accessories, such as hats, scarves, gloves, socks
• Sports items, small tool kits, fun car accessories
• Toiletry items such as cologne, nail polish, lotion, makeup kits
• Gift cards for grocery stores, local movie theaters, eateries, or department stores. Suggested minimum gift card amount is $25
• Gift wrap, ribbons, bows, and cards - they set up a wrapping station for the children to wrap the gifts themselves!  Unwrapped, unused holiday wrapping paper accepted

Please drop gift items as soon as possible and no later than Friday, December 11 at any of the following locations:

Voices for Children, 945 S. Main Street, Suite 107, Salinas
Bank of America, 405 Main Street, Salinas
Dawn’s Dream Winery, San Carlos Street, Carmel-by-the-Sea
State Farm Insurance, 439 Tyler Street, Monterey (closed 12 – 1pm
Monterey Museum of Art, 720 Via Mirada, Monterey

• You can also donate cash for the Gift of Giving Campaign. Mail your contribution to the Voices for Children office at VFC-CASA, 945 S. Main Street, Suite 107, Salinas, CA. Mark you donation “GOG, 2015”

Without your donations, most of the children have no way to acquire gifts. Participating in Gift of Giving helps teach the children how to give and provides them an opportunity to express their affection for those around them.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Student hackathon coming to CSUMB

College students! Sign up for the annual Startup Hackathon Monterey Bay, which this year will be held on the campus of Cal State Monterey Bay Nov. 20-22.

The hackathon is an intense three-day mobile app development competition where students design, develop and demonstrate innovative mobile applications using Android technology.

With help from mentors, teams of students produce a real, working prototype application for a local nonprofit or small business. The event kicks off on Nov. 20 at 4 p.m., when Monterey Bay organizations propose ideas for apps. Teams come together to choose an idea and have the rest of the weekend to build a working prototype app before presenting their work to the public on Sunday afternoon.

The competition is open to students from all colleges in the region. Students may enter as individuals and join a team during the event, or enter as already-existing teams.

The event will be held in the university’s new Business and Information Technology building, located next to the Tanimura & Antle library. Cost is $20. Food will be provided during the weekend.

Organizers are also looking for app ideas from local nonprofit organizations and small businesses. Last year, apps were created for Sun Street Centers and Save Our Shores.

For more information, to register, or to pitch an app idea, click here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

"Most Likely to Succeed" screening to benefit FLAMCO

Here's a documentary no educator should miss -- Most Likely to Succeed. Here's its description from the filmmakers:

For most of the last century, entry-level jobs were plentiful, and college was an affordable path to a fulfilling career. That world no longer exists. The feature-length documentary Most Likely to Succeed examines the history of education, revealing the growing shortcomings of our school model in todayʼs innovative world.

 Directed by documentarian Greg Whiteley, the film has been named “among the best edu-documentaries ever produced” by Education Week. The Huffington Post stated that Most Likely to Succeed “delivers a message Americans need to hear, and desperately.” Film Threat said, “This film should be a required course for all parents and educators.”

A special screening Wednesday will benefit Foreign Language Association of Monterey County, FLAMCO. Proceeds will go to further fund various cultural and educational programs.

When: From 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Wednesday, November 4th.
Where: Maya Cinemas Salinas, 153 Main St., Theater 14. 153 Main Street Salinas, CA 93901
Cost: $10. Students are FREE with official school ID. Educators will host a panel discussion after the movie.

You can purchase your tickets here.

See you at the movies!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Carmel Boy Scout Eagle Project benefits Carmel High tennis courts area

Adam Morrison, a junior at Carmel High, completed his Boy Scout Eagle Project at the Carmel High School tennis courts last month.

A starter on the Carmel High School boys tennis team and a member of the Carmel Valley Boy Scout Troop 127, Adam planned, organized and led 23 volunteers in over 200 hours of a community service project benefiting Carmel High School. The project involved the restoration of the tennis court viewing area and replacing worn out railroad tie steps with concrete steps matching Carmel High Schools amphitheater.

Although the program is complete, donations are still being accepted as the total cost was paid by Adam's family, according to Ric Morrison, Adam's father, assistant tennis coach at Carmel High and assistant Boy Scout troop leader.

The cost of project materials was $2,000 and donations may be made to “Padre Parents” with a memo “Eagle Scout Project” and sent to: Carmel High School Padre Parents, 3600 Ocean Avenue Carmel, CA 93922.

Jennifer Gerard gets award for food program at MPUSD

Jennifer Gerard, nutrition chief at Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, just received a 2015 California Food for California Kids Innovation Award for the program “Bay2Tray” local seafood procurement program.

The epicurean, whose programs and ideas we've extensively covered at the Herald, worked with local fishers to identify a new protein source: Grenadier, a by-catch that is usually discarded. This light and flaky fish made its way into the lunchroom in various forms: fish tacos, a chipotle-fish and cilantro-lime rice bowl, and fresh fish & chips. Students are responding enthusiastically, according to the Center for Ecoliteracy, which bestowed the award.

“We are privileged to honor the great work of entrepreneurial leaders like Jennifer Gerard,” Zenobia Barlow, executive director of the Center for Ecoliteracy, said in a statement. “And, thanks to the California Thursdays network, these innovative ideas are ‘catching.”

The idea for Bay2Tray began when Gerard noticed something problematic in her district. The students looked out over the Monterey Bay each day and then went back to the cafeteria for lunch to eat frozen fish sticks from who knows where. “It's a disservice to our fishing community,” Gerard says.

The California Food for California Kids Awards was presented to five school districts at a ceremonial dinner in San Diego. No word if they awardees were served grenadier.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

All Saints School welcomes the fall with a festival

The annual All Saints' Fall Festival is a community event for the entire Monterey Peninsula featuring attractions, food and other surprises. The festival is both a community builder and a fundraiser for the Parents' Organization supporting the school's financial aid program.

Our Hot Lunch Dads will be cooking up burgers and hot dogs, and Hot Lunch Moms will be offering Allegro Pizza. The attractions will include Jacobs Ladder, Big Baller, Human Foosball, face painting, petting zoo, cupcake walk, zorb ball track, 27’ slide, pony rides, My Museum’s Wheelie Mobilee, train ride, bounce house, dunk tank.

Admission is free. Wristbands available for purchase to participate in the attractions.

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 24, at All Saints' Day School, 8060 Carmel Valley Rd. For more information, click here.

Monday, October 19, 2015

CSUMB gets $1 million grant to train students in biomedical data science

Cal State Monterey Bay just received $1 million from the National Institutes of Health  to train students in biomedical data science.

There is a growing demand for new ways to store, manage, analyze, and use the massive amounts of electronic data being generated, especially medical data. The five-year grant will help to train professionals for that field and will target students from historically underrepresented and low-income backgrounds.

The grant will be used for three major efforts:

• To establish a summer research program for CSUMB students at the Center for Big Data in Translational Genomics at UC Santa Cruz. The center works to help the biomedical community use genomic information to better understand human health and disease. Visiting CSUMB students will spend the summer working side-by-side with UCSC scientists and data specialists, learning research skills to manage and interpret genomic data.

• To develop new programs, such as an interdisciplinary statistics major, that will include math, statistics, biology, behavioral and computer sciences to prepare students for graduate school and careers in research or industry.

• To create opportunities to extend CSUMB faculty training and research in biomedical data science in collaboration with UCSC faculty members and researchers.

Should students stand in the classroom? Come to Pacific Grove to find out

Should students increase in-class physical activity to help their health and performance? “Kids Are Meant to Move!” a panel with several experts -- including the representative of a standing desk manufacturer -- will address this topic.


Juliet Starlett, San Francisco Crossfit Founder, StandUpKids.org: Impact of sedentary behavior on mobility, range of motion, ergonomics and posture, and the importance of NEAT (UPDATE: Starlett won't be able to attend due to a scheduling conflict)
Bob Hill, Ergotron Education Manager: Research overview as it relates to introducing standing into the classroom
Joy Colangelo, author Embodied Wisdom: · Habits for a preventative lifestyle:
Joey DiPuma, District Technology Innovation Coordinator, Flagler Schools: Real classroom experience with standing desks:

WHAT: Kids Are Meant to Move!
WHEN: 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Wednesday Oct. 21.
WHERE: Pacific Grove USD’s Robert Down Elementary School Auditorium
485 Pine Ave, Pacific Grove.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fremont Elementary gets $5,000 grant from Barona Band of Mission Indians

Assemblymember Luis A. Alejo (D-Salinas)recently presented a $5,000 Barona Education Grant to Fremont Elementary School on Sept. 24.

This grant from the Barona Band of Mission Indians, is awarded to one school in each legislative district in California. Schools must apply and have the official endorsement of their State Legislator to be considered for the grant.

The grant is being awarded to the largest school in the Alisal Union School District, where all students participate in the free or reduced lunch program. Fremont Elementary School submitted its application underlining the need for musical instruments for their afterschool music program. Funds will be used to purchase percussion line instruments.

The Barona Band has awareded $2.6 million to 528 schools since 2006, according to Alejo. 

Hartnell students host candidate debate

Candidates running for election to represent Trustee Area 1 (Demetrio Pruneda and Manuel Osorio) and Trustee Area 4 (Bill Freeman and Aurelio Salazar) will appear to make opening statements and answer questions submitted by the audience at a candidate debate hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Salinas Valley and the Hartnell College Political Science Club.

When: 6:00 – 7:30 pm Thursday, October 15.

Where: B-208 (The Meeting Room), Hartnell College

Supported by: The Associated Students of Hartnell College

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Attention Monterey County middle and high school teachers. Want a copy of my book?

The truth comes out. Like most of my journalist brothers and sisters, I too have aspirations to write the Great American novel. "A Fighting Chance" is far from it, but it comes close ;)

All kidding aside, my first novel will be published Oct. 31 and everyone's invited to the launch on Oct. 29 at the National Steinbeck Center.

But also, I'd love for middle and high school teachers to consider giving it to their students; so if you fall in that category and would like a copy, ask away. Give me your name and address and I'll put you on the publisher's list.

"A Fighting Chance"  is the story of Miguel Angel, a 17-year-old Salinas boy who's trying to stay away from gangs by being involved in boxing. Although is purely fiction, the story is set during the time when the city was about to close its libraries, and it's one of the challenges Miguel Angel faces.

The hero of the book — named after my favorite artist of all time, Michelangelo Buonarroti — is also in love with a rich girl from the other side of the "Lettuce Curtain," which brings a fair amount of tension. It's a story that depicts many of the challenges some of the youth in Salinas face with a definite anti-gang message. If you're interested in getting a copy, send me your address so I can pass it along to the publisher. And if you can recommend other teachers or principals to get a copy that would be great.

You now where to find me! And come see me on Oct. 29!

Update: Offer ends Oct. 31. Since I'm getting so many requests for books, I'm going to have to put a limit to it ;)

Great scholarship opportunity for Dreamers!

TheDream.US provides college scholarships to highly motivated DREAMers who want to get a college education but cannot afford it. The scholarships will help cover up to $25,000 of tuition and fees for an associate’s or bachelor’s degree at one of the organization's Partner Colleges.

The organization "Partner Colleges" are spread throughout the United States, but in California are University of La Verne, UC Santa Cruz, UC Merced, San Jose State University, San Francisco State, Mt. San Antonio College, Long Beach City College, De Anza Community College, Cal State San Bernardino, Cal State Long Beach, and Cal State East Bay.

No, no Hartnell, MPC, or CSUMB.

This scholarship is available to high school seniors or high school graduates with demonstrated financial need who are first time college students and be eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA.

Deadline to apply is Feb. 15. For more information, click here.

Is the new student representative at the California State Board of Education in Monterey County?

Why not?

The California State Board of Education is accepting applications for the 2016–17 Student Board Member position. Any student who is a California resident and enrolled in a public high school, will be a senior in good standing in the 2016–17 school year, and will be available to attend a statewide student leader conference November 1-4, 2015 in Sacramento, is eligible to apply.

For more information please click here, or contact the State Board of Education by email at sbe@cde.ca.gov or by telephone at 916-319-0827.

Complete applications must be received by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, October 12, 2015.

We have a lot of talented, dedicated students in Monterey County, and it'd be great to see one serve in a state-wide capacity!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

MPUSD presents study on health care costs

For the second week in a row, officials at the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District will hear an important update on how the district spends money, this time about health care costs.

Trustees will hear from representatives of California's Valued Trust, one of the state's largest self-funded PPO public schools’ trust specializing in healthcare benefits for educational institutions. The presentation will focus on some of the factors and trends impacting the district’s medical and pharmacy costs.

Specifically, California Valued Trust will address regional factors affecting the cost of care in the Monterey Peninsula, as well as analysis on medical and pharmacy trends that are impacting the District.

It should be of interest to employees but also other people who care about how the district spends its money. Afterward, officials will hear a report on enrollment trends, also a item of great interest in the community.

Health care cost presentation starts at 6:15 p.m. at the Instructional Materials Center. 

It promises to be a long and informative meeting, as administrators will also present test results from the first round of the new generation of California assessments. Here's the agenda, in case you're interested. 

Teens wanted for Salinas Valley Fair junior fair board

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. Duties include assisting at fair events, providing outreach, event planning and coordinating events within the fair.

Candidates should be between 14 and 21 and enrolled in a high school, college or technical school program at the time they begin their service on the Junior Fair Board.

Junior Fair Board members are selected based on the information submitted in their applications. 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 selected candidates will be notified by mail.

Ideal candidates are those who have demonstrated leadership, initiative, and selflessness. The selection committee reviews the applicant’s application packet in its entirety and seeks to select the students who are best qualified and most likely to benefit from the Junior Fair Board Program. Successful applicants are resourceful individuals who have shown a clear interest in their community and the initiative necessary to pursue their goals with conviction.

Selected students participate in monthly meetings, must attend one board meeting of the Salinas Valley Fair, and assist with special projects throughout the year. An average student will commit about 3 hours a month to the JFB leadership program and must be available to work during the annual fair May 12-15, 2016 in King City.

Applications for the Salinas Valley Fair Junior Fair Board must be received by Friday, October 16th. Applications are online here and should be mailed to Salinas Valley Fair, 625 Division Street, King City 93930.

Co-founder of Black LIves Matter comes to CSUMB

Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, will make a presentation at CSU Monterey Bay on Oct. 6. Garza will talk about how #BlackLivesMatter went from a political project to a global movement and how social media served as a platform to elevate the founders’ dreams, vision, hopes and love for humanity.

Garza took to social media to express her anguish and love for the black community after the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Ending her message with Our Lives Matter/We Matter/Black Lives Matter, Garza, together with Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors, turned those last words into a Twitter hashtag. #BlackLivesMatter has evolved into the banner under which this generation’s civil rights movement marches.

An established social activist committed to challenging society to recognize and celebrate the contributions of all individuals, specifically black people and gay communities, Garza’s activism is rooted in connecting individuals and emerging social movements. Her work also involves advocating for an open Internet to provide a space for these movements to emerge.

She has earned a variety of honors, including two Harvey Milk Democratic Club Community Activist Awards for her work fighting gentrification and environmental racism in San Francisco's largest black community.

Currently the special projects director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Garza previously served as executive director of People Organized to Win Employment Rights, where she led the charge on significant initiatives, including organizing against police violence in black neighborhoods.

The talk will be held at 7 p.m. on Oct. 6 in the University Center on Sixth Avenue and B Street. Tickets are $10 and will be sold only at the door.

The Associated Students of CSUMB, the Otter Cross Cultural Center and the Otter Student Union are sponsors of the event.

For information or to request disability accommodations, contact Shanna Kinzel at skinzel@csumb.edu.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Hartnell programs recognized by the White House

Four programs housed at Hartnell College have been selected as Bright Spots by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics and will be part of a national online catalog that includes over 230 programs that invest in key education priorities for Latinos.

Alejandra Ceja, executive director of the initiative, made the announcement at the launch of Hispanic Heritage Month and in honor of the Initiative’s 25th anniversary in Washington, D.C.

“There has been notable progress in Hispanic educational achievement, and it is due to the efforts of these Bright Spots in Hispanic Education, programs and organizations working throughout the country to help Hispanic students reach their full potential," Ceja said.

The programs being recognized are:

CSin3 (CSIT-in-3), a three year bachelor's degree run in conjunction with CSUMB

STEM Internship Program, which provides internship opportunities in the sciences for students in neighboring science organizations such as MBARI.

MESA/STEM Umbrella of services, which encourages students to enroll in Science, technology, engineering and math careers through extensive support.

Women’s Education & Leadership Institute (WELI), which encourages college participation for girls and women.

The Initiative was established in 1990 to address the educational disparities faced by the Latino community. To learn more about the Initiative and to view the Bright Spots in Hispanic Education national online catalog click here.

Carmel music teacher Nancy Fowler remembered

Carmel Middle School music teacher Nancy Fowler, who died in an automobile accident in Castroville on September 10, will be honored by the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra during its performance on Sept 17 at the Monterey Fairgrounds.

The Monterey Jazz Festival worked with Ms. Fowler and her jazz band students since 2004, and prior to that when she was instrumental music teacher at Walter Colton Middle School.

In honor of Ms. Fowler, the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra will close their free 45-minute set performance with a traditional New Orleans jazz funeral procession and second line. The concert will start at 11 a.m. at the Garden Stage. This is a free  event, and is open to community members who wish to pay tribute to Ms. Fowler.

Music teacher Janice Perl of Trinity Christian School will join the band to sing “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” which will be followed by a celebratory parade of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” in which everyone in attendance will be invited to play and sing.

Nancy was a great fan of the Monterey Jazz Festival, and each year she brought a huge contingent of students to Monterey Jazz Festival’s Concert for Kids featuring the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra. This year, she and her colleague Tom Lehmkuhl planned to bring 180 students and teachers to the event, according to organizers. The students attending Thursday’s concert will be coming with Carmel Middle’s principal, Ken Griest.

Ms. Fowler was a beloved teacher and remembrances of her have been popping up since her accident. This weekend, Carmel Unified Board President Rita Patel, her family and friends drew her name on the sand dunes off Highway 1. Check it out.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Hartnell to celebrate full accreditation

From 12 to 2 p.m. Friday, September 18. They'll have Strawberry Shortcake and ice cream.

Two years after being put on probation, Hartnell College regained full accreditation in July. Accreditation is granted by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, and it signified that students can trust the education they receive at Hartnell will be transferable and accepted in other institutions of higher learning.

College officials will gather at the Student Center at 12:30 p.m. They'll hear from Board President Erica Padilla Chavez; President of the Academic Senate Carol Kimbrough; a CSEA representative; and President Willard Lewallen.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

CSUMB's Jason Rodriguez gets outstanding achievement award

An aspiring physician and medical researcher from CSUMB has been chosen for a California State University Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement.

Jason Rodriguez, a senior biology major from the San Fernando Valley, was honored on Sept. 8 at the CSU board meeting in Long Beach, along with winners from each of the other 22 campuses.

The Trustees’ Awards are the highest recognition of student achievement in the California State University system and are accompanied by a scholarship. Rodriguez received $6,000. Awardees must demonstrate superior academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service and financial need.

“These trustees’ scholars are leaders on their campus, in the community and among their peers,” CSU Chancellor Timothy White said in a statement. “Their stories of drive, commitment and perseverance – often overcoming great odds – serve as testaments to the indomitable spirit of CSU students.”

Approximately 460,000 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 many other supporters has allowed the program to expand. CSU Trustees’ Scholars are nominated by their campus presidents. More information is available here.

California ethnic studies bill heads to the governor's desk

A bill that would require the state superintendent of public instruction to oversee the development of ethnic studies curriculum is headed to the governor's desk.

 Assembly Bill 101, authored by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, (D-Salinas), passed the Assembly Floor with a bipartisan vote of 61 to 15. The State Senate also approved this bill yesterday with bipartisan support, a 29 to 10 vote. This bill requires the establishment of an ethnic studies advisory committee to adopt a "model curriculum". The State Board of Education  will then adopt this model curriculum, so that schools with grades 7-12, may offer an Ethnic Studies course as a Social Science Elective.

“The passage of AB 101 in the California Legislature will be remembered as a huge victory in the history of Ethnic Studies,”  Alejo said in a prepared statement. “I am excited to have my colleagues in the Senate and the Assembly support this significant piece of legislation, further encouraging the Governor to sign this bill and ensure its implementation.”

California has one of the largest and most diverse student populations in the Country, with over 70 percent of the student population being students of color. According to the California Department of Education, after 45 years since the creation of the first Ethnic Studies courses in California, a little more than 8,000 high school students, out of 1.7 million students, have access to an Ethnic Studies course.

Assembly Bill 101 will now be considered for signature by the Governor.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

MPUSD will have a special report on special education tonight

If you're interested in special education, and you live in the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, you should not miss tonight's report.

Two former administrators from El Dorado County and leading experts in special education will provide a summary of an independent review recently conducted of the MPUSD Special Education Program, and will present an overview of the following (according to the agenda:

District’s current special education program and present recommendations about staffing, least restrictive environment programming, response to intervention and instruction, including a review of the continuum of placement options for students with disabilities and financial consideration (cost containment and maximization of income).

Make recommendations concerning issues related to operation of regional programs, previously operated by Monterey County Office of Education, and transferred to Monterey Peninsula Unified School District several years ago. The review will analyze these programs to determine if the current structure is programmatically and financially, the optimum structure.

Determine how the District compares to statewide and SELPA data with respect to pupil count, special education income, special education expenditures, and local contribution to special education. A multi-year analysis will be prepared that includes comparative data to determine trends and areas that the District may want to focus on to a greater extent to contain special education costs.

Present on how the district is developing implementation strategies, considering financial and educational benefits related to the recommendations.

The meeting's open session begins at 7 p.m. You can watch it online, although sometimes the transmission suffers from technical difficulties and you risk missing the juciest parts.

Friday, September 4, 2015

School elections are Nov. 3, and two candidate forums are on tap

The first one is being organized by the New Monterey Neighborhoood Association and will take place at 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 14, at the Hilltop Center, 871 Jessie Street at Withers.

Newcomer to politics Derrick Jory, a recent graduate of Monterey High School, is challenging Jon Hill for his position as the Monterey Peninsula School District board trustee from District 3 (Monterey). Hill stands for his first election after winning the seat four years ago. Hill, a PhD, has been involved in education for years. His seat is the only one of three being contested in the District.

The forum will also have the candidates for the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, Molly Evans and Jeffrey W. Gorman.

The second forum is being organized by the Salinas Taxpayers Association, where the seven candidates vying for two open seats will face off. It will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 12 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 1071 Pajaro St., Salinas.

See you there!

The Monterey Bay Digital Rodeo rounds up digitally curious teachers

Saddle up, Monterey Bay area teachers, and head on over to Tiburcio Vasquez Elementary in Salinas this Saturday to learn a ton about how to use technology to enhance your teaching.

Brought to you by Ben Cogswell, an academic coach at the Alisal, the Monterey Bay Digital Rodeo has pretty clever offerings that you can find here.

Topics include: Web Tools 3.0, Technology Basics, Technology Frameworks & Standards, Enhancing Lessons with Technology, Google Apps for Education, Blending Tech in Common Core, Rethinking Learning Spaces and Digital Citizenship.

The event is free and open to all educators. Bring a laptop or your favorite connected gadget and a team and make technology work for you and your school. For more information click here or email Coach Ben at william.cogswell@tvsapp.org.

The digital rodeo will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Tiburcio Vasquez Elementary, 1300 Tuscany Wy, Salinas. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Too bad John Ramirez's leaving the Alisal

John Ramirez Jr. has been around five years on the job as superintendent. If you eliminate the two years that the district was under state receivership, he’s really been in charge for about three. Judging by the reports I hear – and the standing ovation he got when he announced he was leaving – Ramirez had finally gotten the hang of the district and with the help of his team good things were happening. Plus, having been raised in the Alisal, he genuinely loves the students and cares about their success.

In my years as an education reporter I’ve come to learn many important things, but chief among them is how children are hurt by lack of consistency. Turnover matters, whether it is in the classroom, in the principal’s office, or at the district’s headquarters.

The board that’s now in charge of the Alisal seems to be working well and accomplishing great things. But old grudges are hard to let go and the bad blood that developed when the old board was in charge appears to linger. Which is too bad for the kids, who will have to endure yet another leadership style, another set of rules, another set of ideas. In the end, it’s always the kids who pay the price for the adults’ actions.

Carmel's Marvin Biasotti has left the district, but not the area

The summer came and almost went and I didn't get a chance to write about former Carmel Superintendent Marvin Biasotti and his marathonic nature at the district. Yeah, in this day and age of superintendents lasting no more than five years, being at the helm for almost 16 is quite possibly a record. Biasotti, 63, plans to stay in the area, which has been home for 35 years, he told me in an email. His wife plans to continue working for another five years and "most importantly, we can't think of anywhere place we'd rather live," he said.

When I wrote about incoming Superintendent Scott Laurence, I quoted a teacher in the district remembering Biasotti fondly, which made his day.

" It felt good to know that I am being remembered in positive terms," he wrote. "I also appreciated her comparison of teaching in the district to Disneyland; i.e., the happiest place on earth. As superintendent, I always considered it my most important function to promote working conditions that allowed our teachers and support staff to give their all to our students. That quote warmed my heart."

Biasotti plans to remain involved in education, perhaps through mentoring new administrators.

"It's too soon for me to know where the next chapter of my life will take me, but I'm certain that it will include volunteer work. In the coming months I plan to explore a number of the many charitable organizations that do important work on the peninsula.  I liken my current situation as my second adolescence in the sense that the possibilities are many and varied."

It'll be great to see what adventures await Mr. Biasotti. Keep me posted!

Monday, August 24, 2015

AmeriCorps struggling to get reading tutors

As the school year gets underway, there is an urgent need for reading tutors in Monterey County. AmeriCorps Monterey County United for Literacy is seeking tutors to read with students at schools in Salinas, Soledad, King City and Greenfield.

Jamie Valenzuela-Mumau, assistant superintendent for educational services, said there are still eight positions left to be filled -- out of 30. Four of those positions are in the Alisal Union School District, three in Soledad, and one in King City.

Tutors serve at least 40 hours a week, providing one-on-one or small group reading instruction to students in kindergarten through fourth grade. Tutoring sessions take place during and after school.

The program begins September 1, 2015 and runs for 11 months, ending July 31, 2016.

Valenzuela-Mumau said the program struggles to find candidates every year, and he believes it could be due to the size of the allowance -- $13,000 a year is not much. And the teacher shortage is probably not helping.

"We’re just looking for people qualified and willing to do the help," he said. "But it also sheds light (on the fact that) finding good people to work with our kids is difficult, not just in Monterey County but across the state."

AmeriCorps members receive a monthly living stipend of $1,210  for 11 months, a Segal Education Award of $5,550 upon successful completion of 1,700 tutoring hours, and student loan forbearance while serving.

Applicants must have graduated from high school or received a GED certificate. A Bachelor’s or Associate's Degree is preferred. Experience working with children or in education is helpful, although tutors will receive training and orientation.

AmeriCorps Monterey County United for Literacy is a program operated by the Monterey County Office of Education. The program’s mission is to enable Monterey County children to read well and independently by the end of the third grade so they can read to learn in the fourth grade and beyond.

Candidates may submit an application by visiting the program website here or here. Email Ginny Brown at gbrown@monterey.k12.ca.us for further information.

* This post was updated on Aug. 25 to include comments from  Jamie Valenzuela-Mumau.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

CSUMB's Ochoa to deliver state of the university address

At 3 p.m. today at the World Theater. He's expected to talk about the university's agreement with the National Steinbeck Center. 

If you can't quite get to the university, you can watch it online here

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

As it's the case of meany great leaders, Hartnell's a Leo

Hartnell Community College officials are celebrating today the 95th anniversary of the college.

On August 18, 1920, the Salinas Junior College opened its doors as California’s 13th junior college serving 28 students, according to the local newspaper, The Battery. Salinas High School principal E.L. Van Dellen was the main promoter, Hartnell College officials said in a statement.

“The junior college is no longer an experiment; it has been successfully conducted in many communities in California and other states and is part of a nationwide movement to give an equal opportunity for education to all the children of all the people," The Salinas Daily Index said.

In 1948, the school was renamed Hartnell College to honor William Edward Hartnell, who is credited with bringing the first educational institution to California in 1834, El Colegio de Hartnell (which translates Hartnell’s School). It became Hartnell Community College District in 1949.

“For 95 years, Hartnell College has been actively engaged in ensuring that students have the opportunity and support to fulfill their dreams. During this time, the college has gone through various chapters and over the years many stories have unfolded,” said Boar
d President Erica Padilla-Chávez. “From the student who wanted to take a PE class to the student who returned to complete their AA degree in their 7th decade of life, Hartnell has been here to support one and all, and it will continue to do so.”

 A community celebration is being planned. For  a visual history of Hartnell, click here.

The Salinas Junior College, Circa 1920

Bardin Elementary in Salinas has new turf

In addition to welcoming the new school year, students at Bardin Elementary in Salinas welcomed new turf for their soccer field. And they began using it right away.

"It looks great," said Felicia Escobedo, mother of two current students and two who graduated more than a decade ago. "Kids used to play soccer on the asphalt and when they fell their knees were all scraped."

Alisal Union officials held a ceremony to celebrate the new field. Children then kicked the ball around. Alan Garcia, 6, even won a participatory wreath for it.

"We're excited for the new field," Board President Noemi Armenta said.

Monday, August 17, 2015

CSUMB gets money for program to train school psychologists

CSU Monterey Bay has received $1.2 million from the U.S. Department of Education to develop a program to train school psychologists.

University officials say this program will meet the state and national chronic shortage of school psychologists, who support K-12 students in a variety of ways.

The school-age population of the Central Coast includes large numbers of English language learners and students from migrant backgrounds. With that in mind, the new program will ensure that the school psychologists trained at CSUMB will have specific expertise in supporting those students.

Students in CSUMB’s new credential program will work in partnership with the university’s school social work program, also in development. They will be cross-trained to work within the context of culture, specifically with Hispanic and Latino families. CSUMB will partner with more than 100 area schools that have been identified as high-poverty and with a majority of English learners. T​he hope is that the experience of working in those schools will encourage credential students to stay in the area and serve local schools.

When students complete the three-year program, they will have earned a master’s degree in education; a Pupil Personnel Services: School Psychology credential; and a certificate in Behavior Analysis.

The program is in development and will be offered once all appropriate approvals are secured. The first two classes will consist of 30 students; 24 of them will receive scholarship funding. The program has funding for five years.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Matsui Foundation recently presented 33 checks for $30,000 a piece to all the students joining the "Computer Science in 3" program run by Hartnell College and Cal State Monterey Bay.

The three-year program provides graduates with bachelor’s degrees in computer science. The first cohort will graduate in 2016.

Both the Matsui Foundation and CSin3 target underserved students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college. Starting with one $40,000 scholarship awarded in 2004, the Matsui Foundation has granted more than $5 million in scholarships to nearly 200 students in Monterey County during the past 11 years, according to a foundation spokesperson.

Alonso Mendoza, a student from CSin3 Cohort 1, originally began his studies with an eye toward a degree in engineering or math. However, he was intrigued by CSin3. “I had no idea what computer science was, but I applied and got in. Right away I knew that I had gotten into a good program. It has changed my life," he said.

Mendoza also starred in the documentary about the CSin3 program shown to the audience of more than 200 students, faculty, staff, parents and other family members at a recent foundation event.

It's going to be fun to profile the first graduating class of CSin3! I can hardly wait.

Nursing students settle against Soledad Unified

Monterey Superior Court Judge Robert O'Farrell approved a class action settlement last week in which the Soledad Unified School District agreed to refund 16 students their tuition paid plus interest for the failed vocational nursing program operated by the Soledad Adult School, according to the Law Offices of John Fallat, who represents the students.

Catalina Zendejas filed a class action on behalf of herself and 15 other vocational LVN nursing school students when the Soledad Adult School lost its accreditation from the State of California Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians in May 2012. The program lost accreditation after it lost its program director. The students filed a lawsuit when the district refused to refund their tuition.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Friday is the last day to file for the upcoming school election

And there's already some interesting surprises. For instance, not one but three people are running against Janet Barnes in the Salinas City Elementary School District. I suspected Barnes would face at least one opponent, but three? 

Former Hartnell Trustee David Serena is coming back for seconds. He's filed for the Trustee Area 4 seat, now occupied by Elia Gonzalez-Castro. Now word yet if Gonzalez-Castro plans to run, in which I would suspect it would be a very nasty contest given the past history between them.

And if Gonzalez-Castro decides to seat out, then the balance of the board would change to have four males and three females -- who have voted along gender lines in some specially tough decisions. It would make for an interesting dynamic.

We'll see what other surprises the Aug. 7 deadline brings. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tutors Needed for AmeriCorps Monterey County literacy project

AmeriCorps Monterey County United for Literacy is seeking tutors to read with students at schools in Salinas, Soledad, King City and Greenfield. The program’s mission is to enable Monterey County children to read well and independently by the end of the third grade so they can read to learn in the fourth grade and beyond.

Tutors serve at least 40 hours a week, providing one-on-one or small group reading instruction to students in kindergarten through fourth grade. Tutoring sessions take place during and after school.

The program begins September 1, 2015 and runs for 11 months, ending July 31, 2016.

AmeriCorps members receive a monthly stipend of $1,210 for 11 months, a Segal Education Award of $5,550 upon successful completion of 1,700 tutoring hours, and student loan forbearance while serving.

Applicants must have graduated from high school or received a GED certificate. A Bachelor’s or Associate's Degree is preferred. Experience working with children or in education is helpful, although tutors will receive training and orientation.

AmeriCorps Monterey County United for Literacy is a program operated by the Monterey County Office of Education.

Candidates may submit an application by visiting the program website here and or here. Email eortiz@monterey.k12.ca.us for further information.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Apply for reduced-price meals, enter a raffle for a bike at MPUSD

In an effort to reach more families, the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District will host a "Food and Fuel Round-Up" to help them apply for their student's bus pass and to submit an application for free or reduced-price meals, in advance of school starting. Families who apply during the Round Up will be entered to win one of several Huffy bikes.

Parents and/or guardians may complete applications for a bus pass and/or free/reduced-price meals on the following dates, times and locations:

July 23, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Seaside Middle School, 999 Coe Avenue, Seaside
July 28,  9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Instructional Materials Center, 540 Canyon Del Rey, Del Rey Oaks
July 29, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.,  Instructional Materials Center, 540 Canyon Del Rey, Del Rey Oaks
July 30,  9 a.m. to 1 p.m., District Office,  700 Pacific Street, Monterey

Families applying for bus passes applications need to  bring proof of income (e.g., pay stub) and proof of residency (e.g., property tax bill, rental agreement, utility bill, etc.)

Participation in the "Food & Fuel Round-Up" allows the district to process applications sooner which in turn will help students receive meal benefits in the most timely manner.

The third annual summer teacher recruitment fair is taking place Friday

The third Annual Summer Teacher Recruitment Fair will take plade from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday, July 24, at the Monterey County Office of Education, 901 Blanco Circle, Salinas.

School districts throughout Monterey County have reported a shortage of qualified teachers in the last couple of years, and there appears there are still many openings to be filled.

"We are offering this recruitment fair in hopes of finding qualified teacher candidates for these remaining open positions,” said Dr. Rosa E. Coronado, assistant superintendent of human resources for MCOE.

Salinas High teacher takes part in White House Summit on school discipline

The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice are hosting teams of educators from across the country today for “Rethink Discipline,” a day-long conference at the White House on improving school climates and implementing discipline practices. The conference is part of a nationawide effort aimed at reducing the number of youth of color who get suspended and expelled from school.

Expulsions and suspensions are a great concern of education, not only because schools lose funding, but also because absenteeism begins to create a path for truancy. Some locals districts are already making inroads in this area, that's the reason why Juan Govea, who served as Teacher Ambassador Fellow for the U.S. Department of Education in 2012 was invited to take part in the gathering.

"This invitation stems from the good work being done in the Salinas Union High School District surrounding positive based interventions and supports in an effort to reduce suspensions," Govea wrote in an email. "My hope to be able to speak honestly from the teacher perspective on our triumphs and challenges. I think it’s a tremendous honor for our schools and acknowledgement of what teachers are doing here in Salinas."

We can't wait to hear your report, Mr. Govea. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Salinas Valley Dream Academy premieres on the big screen

A documentary about the Dream Academy, a leadership program for Salinas Valley high school students, will be screened on Wednesday, July 22 at 6:45 at the Maya Cinema. Admission is free. The students and community will be reliving and celebrating the growth and journey the Dream Academy students experienced last year.

About 100 youth make up the Salinas Valley Dream Academy, most of whom live in east Salinas. The central mission of the Dream Academy is to inspire, engage, and empower high school students to become leaders. This is done through numerous community service activities, community impact projects, a speaker's series and the fundraising that students do to take a year-end educational trip to the east coast. Throughout the last several years, the Dream Academy students have been able to witness both of President Barack Obama's inaugurations, visit with United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta inside the Pentagon, experience a first-class tour of Columbia University and NYU (New York University), and at the end of this past school year, students were able to experience a briefing at the White House and another briefing at the United Nations.

This is an important experience for the students and they need your support. Hope you can join them!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The November election is upon us...

So I will be sharing interesting tidbits from time to time about who's running and what not.

For starters, if you're considering to run for a seat in the Monterey Peninsula College governing board, President Walter Tribley will be conducting an orientation at 7 p.m. on Monday, July 20, in Room 106 of the humanities building of the college.

At the orientation, Tribley will provide information about the college district, the state community college system, and the role of the governing board. For additional information, call Vicki Nakamura, at 646-4114.

The seats up for re-election are Trustee Area 3 (Monterey/Del Rey Oaks), Trustee Area 4 (Pacific Grove/Pebble Beach), and Trustee Area 5 (Carmel/Carmel Valley/Big Sur).

Any registered voter interested in running for office in the November 3 election can file the required paperwork by the August 7 deadline . Candidates for schools or special district offices file with the Monterey County Elections Office. Find more information about this election, including available seats here or call (831) 796-1499 toll-free at (866) 887-9274.

Deadline coming up to comment on pesticide use near California schools

Last year, the Department of Public Health published a report on the use of pesticides near California schools. The report documented 144 different hazardous pesticides being used near schools — chemicals that can cause cancer and derail the development of a child’s brain and nervous system.

Last month, about a hundred teachers from the Central Coast packed a hearing of the California Department of Pesticide Regulations, demanding that stricter guidelines are established to prevent children from inhaling toxic chemical fumes. If you missed it, here's a story I wrote about it.

If you wanted to voice your opinion and couldn't make the meeting, you still have a chance. July 31 is the deadline for public comments on pesticides use near schools. You can write to Brian Leahy, director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation, and let him know your thoughts. He can be reached at (916) 445-4000 or Brian.Leahy@cdpr.ca.gov

You can send a letter to: 1001 I Street, P.O. Box 4015, Sacramento, CA 95812-4015

Or you can join the action organized by the United Farm Workers. Here's their link.

Many teachers had been asking the Department of Pesticide Regulations to impose a mile-wide buffer zone between schools and areas where pesticides are applied. A supporter with the Californians for Pesticide Reform has started a petition online for this cause. You can access it here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Got four minutes to support a CSUMB's college-preparedness program?

Educational Talent Search, a federally funded program that helps first-generation, low-income students prepare for college, is turning 50 this year.

To celebrate the occasion, ETS programs across the nation created videos to highlight the impact they've had on students, families, communities and schools. The video created by CSUMB, where the local Educational Talent Search is based, was selected as a finalist.

“Please take the time to watch our students’ stories,” said Clementina Macias, ETS program coordinator at CSUMB. “We will have until Friday, July 24, to get as many people as possible to LIKE our video on YouTube.”

Here's the video.

Talent Search gives first-generation, low-income students and their families information about college admissions and resources, provides students with academic advising, helps them explore careers, exposes them to cultural events and helps students become college-ready.
The federally funded program was part of President Lyndon Johnson’s Higher Education Act of 1965, established with the goal of seeing that “no American talent is wasted.”

Nearly 1,200 high school students start down the path to college each year through the Educational Talent Search program based at CSUMB. The students come from seven high schools in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.

The winning video will be announced Aug. 5 and highlighted at the Council for Opportunity in Education’s annual conference Sept. 16-19 in Atlanta.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Standing room only at Kennedy Center for Monterey County High School All-Star Band

The talented musicians of the Monterey County High School All-Star Band had a standing room only performance on the Fourth of July at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, reports mom extraordinaire Katherine Wenglikowski.

And she sent a photo to prove it. Here it is.

You may remember I wrote a brief story previewing the trip, you can find it here. I watched a portion of the program on Saturday, so I can attest to these kids abilities. So good! But you can check it out yourself in the Kennedy Center's archived performances here

And they sent a photo holding the story! How awesome's that?

Keep rocking, Monterey cats!

Stuff the Bus and help Monterey County homeless children with school supplies

There are more than 7,000 students considered homeless in Monterey County, and the yearly "Stuff the Bus" campaign helps collect school supplies to make sure they are ready for classes come August.

The campaign is spearheaded by the Monterey County Office of Education and United Way Monterey County, and it asks community members to donate school supplies or money to buy those supplies for needy children.

Donations of paper, pens, pencils, notebooks and backpacks will be received at any of the school collection "buses" placed in banks, credit unions and other local businesses during the month of July. There's also collection "buses" in most libraries. For a complete list of drop-off sites, click here.

All the collected school supplies will be sorted, and stuffed into backpacks on Aug. 1 at MCOE for distribution during the first week of school.

For the first time, people may make donations via text. Text STB15 to 71777.

And for more information, click here.  You can also volunteer to help stuff the backpacks.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

California Assembly committee will hold special hearing on the status of boys and men

Members of the California State Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color will host a hearing to discuss issues young men in Salinas are facing.

The hearing will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. Friday, June 26, in Building K of the Performing Arts Center of Hartnell College, 411 Central Avenue.

Participants will include:
Assemblymember Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, SR., Select Committee Chair;
Assemblymember Nora Campos;
Marc Philpart, PolicyLink;
Jerry Tello, National Compadres Network
Andrea Manzo, Building Health Communities—East Salinas
Ray Bullick, Monterey County Health Department
Brian Goldstein, Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice
Frank Guzman, National Center for Youth Law
Ray Corpuz, City Manager, City of Salinas
Gary Petersen, City of Salinas, Salinas GRE Committee
Kelly McMillin, City of Salinas, Salinas Police Department

A special book sale for educators coming to Marina

It's that time of the year when students and teacher take a deep, deep breath and stock up in energy and good humor.

While you're at it, why not stock up in books?

The Friends of the Marina Library will host a "special educator's sale" at their sorting location in Marina. Cristina Medina Dirksen, former Herald reporter and mom extraordinaire is organizing the event, so come by check out their goodies.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at 3195 Tallmon St. in Marina. For more information text 277-8586, email booksfoml@gmail.com,  or like their Facebook page here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Helping shape the next generation of journalists

For the next couple of weeks, I'll be a staff member with The Mosaic, a  workshop that brings together some of the brightest aspiring journalist in Silicon Valley.

And boy, they smart! During the first day of the workshop, our young reporters came up with really good story ideas, all based on what's making headlines these days and their own life experiences. Like, how frustrating it is to take the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests, the new way California will evaluate how students learn. They were time consuming and scheduled right after AP testing, which means they took a toll on the students. Were they worth it? I'll find out when my reporter gets don with his story.

Another reporter is writing about counselors-for-hire. And yet another about race relations in this country. And these are only my reporters: the other newsroom staffers are writing about the drought, the ban on plastic bags, the Warriors epic season, and more. So much meaty stuff.

The Mosaic San Jose High School Journalism Workshop began in 1993 when a group of San Jose Mercury News journalists put into practice their idea to inspire the next generation of journalists. Participants complete a rigorous application process, and during the two-week workshop they develop their journalistic skills by hitting the streets for news stories and opinion columns that reflect the community from a teenage perspective while meeting professional standards.

I'd been asked to teach journalism in high school before, but haven't been able to for  complicated reasons. If I'd known how fun and rewarding this could be, I would have done it sooner.

Seaside students get a taste for higher education during "Imagine College."

It’s 9:30 a.m. on a Friday – early for many teenagers on summer vacation – and a group of Seaside High students are hunched over worktables in a chemistry lab, thick plastic goggles protecting their eyes. 

Beneath a Periodic Table of the Elements, the students are making biodegradable plastic from vinegar, glycerin and tapioca starch.

The class is part of the Imagine College Summer Scholar Institute at Cal State University Monterey Bay. The program's goal is to give students a taste of campus life and encourage them to think that college is a realistic possibility. During the weeklong program, the students take a class of their choosing, go on field trips, tour campus, and attend a panel where first-generation college graduates tell their stories.

This summer, they could choose to take a class in kinesiology, chemistry or SAT test preparation for those who are entering their senior year.

Giselle Duenas chose the chemistry class. The junior said she’s interested in science, took biology at Seaside High, and was eager to try a different subject.

“I thought it was going to be in a classroom, with lectures,” she said. “But, every day we have done experiments. It’s been fun.”

Friday’s experiment followed from their visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium the previous afternoon.

“They learned about the problems with plastics and the environment when they visited the aquarium. The experiment we’re doing today makes them aware of their use of plastics,” said Crystal Gonzalez, a CSUMB instructor who is teaching the class.

A lesson earlier in the week involved cosmetics and chemistry, where students made their own lip balm and lotion. Other lessons involved the chemistry of crime science investigation, where they learned about DNA extraction and fingerprint analysis.

“It’s a great program. We’ve gotten to do some cool things I wouldn’t have had a chance to do otherwise, said junior Justin Doolittle.

Imagine College is a local collaborative with some school districts to bring high school students experience a taste of college. As an additional bonus, a local resident donated money to provide a $4,000 scholarship to any student who graduates from Seaside High with a 2.5 grade-point average, attends two weeks of Imagine College while in high school and gets accepted to a college or university.

-- Joan Weiner, CSUMB

Alisal students take part in Hartnell's "Panther Day"

About 1,200 fourth graders from the Alisal Union School District took part of “Panther Day,” a one-day extravaganza at Hartnell College that introduced them to their local community college and the possibility of higher education.

Administrators and staff welcomed the “future college graduates” in the Gymnasium. The fourth graders were treated with a special skit by The Western Stage staff, demonstrations by robotics, student-athletes presentations, information about accessibility to college, financial aid and more. Hartnell College students served as tour guides and introduced their young peers to specialty facilities that included the nursing simulation lab, science labs, library, athletic facilities and others.

Organizers hope this type of events hope it becomes a staple and help inspire more students to pursue higher education. Looks like students had a great time!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Election season is upon us

It's school board election season, and several trustees are up for re-election -- Jon Hill, Debra Gramespacher and Diane Creasy among them.

For the would-be candidates out there, the Monterey County Elections Department is hosting a candidate seminar and invites anyone interested in running for office in the November 3 elections to attend.

The seminar is scheduled from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, June 13 at the Schilling Place Building, 1441 Schilling Place, Salinas.

Personnel from Monterey County Elections will provide an overview of:

Requirements for office
Filing procedures
Important deadlines
Campaign finance reporting obligations

Attendance is free. To RSVP call 831-796-1499 or email Greta Arevalo at arevalog@co.monterey.ca.us. For more information click here.

Salinas Valley Dream Academy returns from East Coast tour

Whether it's Hernandez v. Texas, Brown v. Board of Education, or Gideon v. Wainwright the Supreme Court is where these landmark cases were all decided. And last week, a group of hardworking Salinas teens had a chance to visit where it all happened.

Members of the Dream Academy, a club started by Alisal High School teacher Ruben Pizarro, took a week-long tour of Washington D.C. and New York City, where they had the opportunity to visit monuments, universities, and even had a debriefing at the White House.

"Academy students are learning that if they fight for what they want, even if it takes some time, justice will prevail," Pizarro said in an email.

During the briefing students from different high schools across Salinas learned about loans and college finances, education, health care, advocacy, immigration reform, among others topics.

Students in the mostly low-income community fundraise for the entire school year to be able to pay for the trip. Although the academy focuses on scholastic efforts such as touring colleges and learning about civic engagement and career opportunities, the main thrust of their efforts is to tour the East Coast and expand their horizons. 

A total of 96 students left for the trip on May 31 and returned June 7. Judging by their photos on Facebook, they had a blast.

Congratulations on another successful trip, Mr. Pizarro. Next time I'm going to have to join you!

Twenty intrepid climbers go up Mt. Shasta for foster youth

Next week, 20 climbers will brave Mt. Shasta to raise funds for two organizations that lobby on behalf of foster youth.

One of the climbers is my kid, the brave and tenacious Heidi Moran. But that's not the only reason I'm writing about this.

Over the years I've learned about the difficulties children in foster care have to endure, chief among them having to be separated from their families -- as bad as they could be, it's all these children know, and often it's an ordeal for them to start anew with a different family or a group home.

But having to be away from their families is just the beginning of a long journey. Many face tremendous challenges to graduate from high school and college; much higher than the hurdles faced by youth who have the support of their next of kin. Yet, many go on to successful, fulfilling careers.

Organizers say they chose climbing Mt. Shasta as a fundraiser not just because one of their leaders is a climbing enthusiast. Going up a volcano is a good metaphor for the mountains foster youth have to conquer.

“You get to see people experiencing the mountain for the first time, putting on crampons, wearing a headlamp,” said Heather Matheson, outreach associate for Fostering Media Connections and a coordinator for the climb. “As an adult you don't get to do this often, and it gives our youth climbers a chance to channel their drive and resilience to overcome a mountain metaphorically and in reality. They’ve overcome so much and it's an exciting thing to do to build confidence.”

Matheson, who will be on her third climb, said the “Questival” is also a great chance for the adult climbers to be around foster youth, something they may not usually have the opportunity to do. Interestingly, it’s the youth climbers who have more success reaching the top, she said.

“It comes down to resilience,” Matheson said. “It's a huge mental battle and the youth climbers are more than ready for that kind of things.”

The California Youth Connection, a youth-run and led legislative advocacy organization, is composed of hundreds of current and former foster youth who embody the inspirational story of foster care children succeeding. Fostering Media Connections is a non-profit organization that harnesses the power of journalism and media to improve the foster care system. Together, CYC and FMC are helping to give foster youth a platform to make their voices heard. These are the two organizations that will benefit from the "Questival", the fourth annual Mt. Shasta fundraiser

Please consider supporting  these brave souls and their worthy cause. You can find their link here.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Junior scientist Kapil Sinha takes top honors at state science fair

Kapil Sinha, a junior at Salinas High School, was awarded first place for his plant biology project on sugar beets at the 64th annual California State Science Fair held May 18-19 at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

Sinha’s project examined factors related to increasing a plant's resistance to Rhizomania, a disease that poses a major threat to sugar beet production worldwide.

Sinha designed and conducted the experiment himself, with the assistance from researchers at the U.S. Agricultural Research Station in Salinas.

Two other students from Monterey County who were top finishers at the California State Science Fair were:

Kyle Groves, a senior at Salinas High School, received a second place award for his physics and astronomy project on solar flares.

Roha Bhusha, a freshman from Monterey High School, took third place in the microbiology classification for his project on a freshwater microorganism.

CHP names Greg Perez school bus driver of the year

Since joining the Monterey County Office of Education in 1981, school bus driver Greg Perez has logged over 780,000 accident-free miles, while transporting special needs students around the county. That’s roughly the equivalent of circling the globe 31 times without an accident.

On Friday, the California Highway Patrol named Perez its School Bus Driver of the Year at a ceremony held at the Monterey County Office of Education in Salinas. The CHP award is given annually to a school bus driver who has shown outstanding performance and exceeded expectations.

“This is a big deal,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “I don’t think many people realize what Greg and the state’s 34,000 other bus drivers are asked to do. We entrust them with our children’s safety. It’s a huge responsibility, and Greg does it quietly, efficiently and safely, every single day.”

Perez attends monthly training sessions on safety, first aid, fire equipment, bus evacuation, and procedures specific to transporting special needs students.

In addition to being named School Bus Driver of the Year, Perez received the Commissioner’s Medal of Distinction, the CHP’s highest honor, and a resolution from the California State Senate.

Congratulations, Mr. Perez! And thanks for your hard, safe work.

Story contributed by Barry Brown of the Monterey County Office of Education.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Salinas City Elementary trustees zero in candidate for superintendent

Salinas City Elementary trustees interviewed several candidates for the superintendent position Friday. By day's end, the voted 4-0 to offer the job to the top candidate, and the consulting firm is now tasked with negotiating a contract.

"In our interview process and selection we worked very hard all day," Board President Roberto Garcia said. "The idea was to come out with the strongest, most experience candidate. We had a good (field) and our consultant gave us advice."

Board member  Nathan Larison was excused from the meeting. His mother, retired teacher and Salinas Union High Trustee Cheryl Larison died last week, according to The Californian

Superintendent Juvenal Luza announced early February he will retire at the end of the school year. 

Garcia said he expects the new superintendent will be announced on June 8. 

Monterey County names teacher, employees of the year

Kevin Dufault, a AVID and GATE science teacher at Harden Middle School in the Salinas Union High School District, was chosen as the 2016 Monterey County Teacher of the year. He will represent Monterey County in the California Department of Education 2016 Teacher of the Year program.

Six classified school employees were chosen as Monterey County Classified School Employees of the Year. They are:

Grace Bobian in the child nutrition category from King City Union School District. 
David Gaboni in the maintenance, operations and facilities category from the Monterey County Office of Education.
Diana Curtice in the support services and security category from the Carmel Unified School District.
Stephanie Domingos in the para-educator and instructor assistance category from the King City Union School District.
Ruben Parra in the transportation category from the Monterey County Office of Education.
Anita Ayala in the office and technical category from the Salinas Union High School District.

All Nominations were submitted by Monterey County school districts and reviewed by a selection committee. All the winners were recognized at an awards ceremony on Monday.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

It's been a good month for young Víctor Damián Hernández Gonzalez

I met 11-year-old Víctor Damián Hernández Gonzalez on May 10, when he was visiting the Museum of Monterey with his family and  the painting he made of his mother, which was briefly hanging on the museum's stairwell.

Víctor, a student at Roosevelt Elementary in Salinas, has been studying painting with Maestro Jose Ortiz since he was six, so by now he's quite accomplished. I made a note to keep an eye on this talented youngster so I could write about him later.

Well, here's a good opportunity to do it. Víctor was just named one of the winners of a contest sponsored by the Monterey Unified Air Pollution Control District to illustrate a calendar for next year. Víctor earned $100 and the right to have his illustration featured in the agency's 2016 calendar.

Congratulations, Víctor, and Maestro Ortiz for inspiring young people to become artists. You both rock!

Applications are being accepted for the 5th annual Young Assemblymembers Program for local high school and first year college students. The four week program focuses on developing leadership skills and empowering students to become the leaders of the community. The program takes place from July 7 to July 30 and will meet every Tuesday and Thursday from 2:00p.m. to 5:00p.m. at the Salinas District Office of Assemblyman Luis Alejo.

The program lasts four weeks and is open to high school and first year college students who live or attend a school within the 30th Assembly District. The program offers workshops on legislation, community organizing, event planning, team building and conflict resolution. Students who complete the program will receive a special recognition certificate and a letter of recommendation from Assemblyman Alejo.

This program is available at no cost to the participants or their families.

Application deadline is June 19, 2015. Application form is available here at  or at the Salinas District Office, 100 W. Alisal Street, Ste. 134, Salinas.

For more information please contact Gilbert Ramos, Young Assemblymembers Program Director at (831) 759-8676 or via email at Gilbert.Ramos@asm.ca.gov.

Luis Alejo represents the 30th District in the California State Assembly, which consists of the Salinas Valley, Monterey County, San Benito County, South Santa Clara County and the city of Watsonville in Santa Cruz County.

The Sea Sweepers team of the Highway 68 ROV Club is gearing up for an international competition in Canada after being named “All Around Champion” in the annual Marine Advanced Technology Competition held on May 9 in Aptos.

The team, comprised for JP O’Dell, Tyler Allen, Michael Georgariou and Kyle Nishimoto from Salinas High School; John Yeager and Kaden Agha from York School; and Douglas Jackson from Palma High School; was formed in 2010, and three of the members have been part of it since then.

Since the club was established by Kurt Yeager it has achieved first place overall in all three classes the regional MarineAdvanced Technology Education (MATE) ROVcompetition offers.

The international contest takes place June 25-27 in Newfoundland. Go Sweepers!