Friday, March 27, 2015

Salinas students help Alejo's ethnic studies bill move forward

A law that would require California public high schools to offer an ethnic studies course was approved in the Assembly Committee on Education this week. And several students from the Salinas Valley Dream Academy were there to testify in support of the bill.

The bill would require the development an A-G educational curriculum for Ethnic Studies, and then require that Ethnic Studies courses be available as an elective for students at all California high schools.

Alejo, who proposed a similar bill in 2014, is being joined by several assemblymembers from different ethnic backgrounds and a Republican to co-sponsor the bill, which makes it for a stronger effort that's likely to gain more support this time around.

Students from Alisal High School in Salinas and the Salinas Valley Dream Academy testified in Sacramento in support of the bill. Ruben Pizarro, director of the academy, sure likes to take those students everywhere!

The bill will next be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, where it will be analyzed on a fiscal basis.

Hartnell College publishes yearly report

If you haven't had a chance to keep up with Hartnell College, their yearly report just came out and it's very glossy. It also has some interesting tidbits, namely, did you know the college has the fifth largest percentage of students in California who are first in their families to go to college? Who knew.

It also has a really cool rendition of the science building, and other interesting stuff. It doesn't have the $5 million the CST-in-3 the college received in conjunction with CSUMB, but I'm assuming the 56-page booklet had already gone to press when the announcement was made.

Here it is, if you're curious.

Salinas City holds meeting to give input on new superintendent

The search is on to find a new superintendent for the Salinas City Elementary School district, and a meeting will be held from 2 to 4 pm Sunday to help identify the most desirable characteristics in a new leader.

The meeting will take place in the multi-purpose room of Lincoln School, 705 California St. For more information call (831) 222-0680.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Another charter proposal, scheduling changes for middle schools, and more at MPUSD

If you missed Tuesday's regular meeting of the trustees for the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, you missed a good one. A lot of changes taking place, and it's hard to keep track. I may get to write stories about these later, but in case some other stuff yanks my chain. Like parents at La Mesa or thereabouts....

Darrick Jory, a 2014 graduate of Monterey High, presented a proposal to open a charter school at the district. It's called the Keystone Academy, and it would focus on technical education, the type that Jory insists his peers can't get at Monterey High.

I'm fascinated by Jory and his efforts. The district's not been very eager to accept charter proposals, but it's too early to say whether Jory's has any merit. And even though I've seen my share of proposals, I'm hardly an expert so I don't know how solid his is. If you want to take a look and give me feedback, here it is for your pleasure.


Remember the $2 million cost over run to fix the heating system at Seaside High? Well, trustees and other interested parties remember it well. And during Tuesday's meeting, they hired a contractor to coordinate all the maintenance work that needs to get done over the summer, namely repairs on carpets, ceilings, playgrounds, windows, and any other item that needs to get done in the district's 18 schools.

CM Construction Services of Carmel will charge $230,000 to coordinate the work, which is expected to last through August 31. Who knows, if district officials find the agreement to their liking, they may continue using a contractor in the future.

Trustee Tom Jennings captured the sentiment well: "Not to cast doubt on past saff members, but we tried to do this in house and it has not worked out so well. Let's give it a shot for the summer projects, it may be the better way for our district to go forward. It may work beyond summer project."


District administrators are exploring the idea of changing the eight-period day at the middle schools to a six-period day. The idea of having more periods during the day was to give students an opportunity to have more electives, but that never materialized, district officials said. The six period day would give students the same amount of instruction but with fewer transitions from class to class.

The idea of reverting back to days with fewer periods has been floating around for a while, namely because it's supposed to be more economical -- fewer classes, fewer teachers, lesser costs.

The district is still in exploration mode, but there appears to be curiosity and some buy in from teachers so far, said Allyson Schweifler, president of the Monterey Bay Teachers Association.

"Overall, based on conversations I've heard, people are amenable to the change. They're a little worried but if done right, it should be fine," Schweifler said. "Having teachers be part of the conversation helps alleviate some of those worries."

And there's more changes coming, with the district moving away from math classes such as Algebra I, Trigonometry and the likes and shifting to "Integrated math" which brings together those pesky concepts in a more cohesive way. It was about time!

And... stay tuned...

Want to help California develop a way to evaluate how districts spend Local Control Funding Money?

Here's your chance.

As you probably already know, California is in the midst of transforming education. One of the big changes underway is the method through which schools get their money. Districts now have to plan ahead how to use extra funds designated for children who are low income, English learners, or in foster care, and how those moneys will be used to improve achievement for students who fall in those categories.

At the behest of the California Department of Education, WestEd is organizing a third series of input sessions to provide all interested parties with an opportunity to offer local insights to the evaluation rubrics development process.

These sessions will be focused on gathering insights on the current draft version of the evaluation sheet.   The "evaluation rubrics" are an integral part of the Local Control Funding Formula performance and accountability system.

Once developed, the rubrics will serve as tools to ensure schools and districts are able to align resources to make sure students improve their academic performance. The rubrics will also direct attention to areas in need of additional support to meet standards.

One of the regional sessions will take place at 4 p.m. on April 1 at the Monterey County Office of Education, 901 Blanco Circle, Salinas.  To register for the event, click here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Carmel's Harrison Bolton headed for California's geographic bee

Harrison Bolton, an eight grader at Carmel Middle School, will be participating in the 2015 California National Geographic State Bee in Fresno this Friday.

A total of 111 students ages 10 to 14 will take part of the state's tournament, which will be held at Cal State Fresno.

Harrison is a top student at Carmel Middle, earning a 4.0 GPA for his entire tenure, his dad, Christopher Bolton says. Harrison will be attending Carmell High School this Fall.

The state Bees are the second level of the annual National Geographic Bee. The state champion will receive $100, and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to represent California in the national championship of the 27th annual National Geographic Bee at National Geographic Society headquarters May 11-13, 2015

 Good luck, Harrison! Your  fans in Monterey County will be cheering for you!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Carmel mock trial team places 6th in California tournament

Speaking of remarkable guys and gals, the team members of the Carmel High mock trial team placed 6th in California's tournament, competing against 33 other teams from all over the state.

The tournament took place Sunday in Riverside. 

"It's actually a much bigger deal than Empire because every team at state is already a champion," wrote the team's coach, government and politics teacher Bill Schrier. If you've read my previous stories and posts, you'll remember that Schrier credits "Empire" a prestigious, invitation-only mock trial tournament, with giving Carmel the edge. The team prepared over the summer to compete in Empire in the fall, which Schrier help them better prepare for the countywide competition.

And the statewide.

 "California is widely recognized as he best state for mock trial in the country,"  Schrier said.

California Mock Trial officials "award medals to the top 8 teams. We came in 6th, and that hasn't ever happened to a team from Monterey County," he wrote!

Way to go, team. You make Monterey County proud!

Hartnell's speech team improves performance at state competition

It's the third time that Hartnell Speech Team competes at the state level, and the guys and gals did not disappoint. They competed with 27 other colleges and universities at the California Community College State Championships March 11-15 in Woodland Hills, California, and two of the team members got second-place rankings in the preliminary round.

Victoria Garcia and Joy Jubane received 2nd place rankings in the preliminary round. Garcia competed in Communication Analysis on the current trend of women and men seeking surgeries to become ‘Human Barbies,’ attempting to look like the iconic dolls Barbie and Ken. Jubane competed with her interpretation of the humorous prose, “The Pony Problem.” She portrayed a young New York woman with a secret collection of ‘toy ponies.’

“The team was excited for Joy and her performance,” said Coach Jason Hough. “This was the highest ranking she had all year, and for it to happen at state was a great way to end the season.”

Front L to R: Tanaya Landry, Lourdes Tinajero, Andrea Cervantes, Adrian Flores, Victoria Garcia, Joy Jubane. Back L to R: Christopher Rendon, Marc Dover, coach Jason Hough, Meritzy Ayala, Sarina Atkins.

To reach the finals and qualify for the national tournament, students must earn a combination of 1st and 2nd place rankings in all three rounds. “Last year we had one student come close to qualifying for the national tournament,” said Hough. “This year, we had two. We now have our sites on next year’s state tournament and our goal of attending the national tournament.”

The following students received a 3rd place ranking in preliminary competition:

Adrian Flores, Poetry Interpretation
Andrea Cervantes, Communication Analysis
Christopher Rendon, Dramatic Interpretation
Christopher Rendon and Lourdes Tinajero, Dramatic Duo Interpretation
Lourdes Tinajero, Prose Interpretation
Meritzy Ayala, Informative Speaking

Also competing for the team were Marc Dover, Sarina Atkins, and Tanaya Landry. The Hartnell Speech Team will host a showcase performance from 7 to 9:15 p.m. on Wednesday, March 25, at Steinbeck Hall and is open to the general public.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Carmel Unified selects Scott Laurence as new superintendent

Scott Laurence, now the superintendent of the San Mateo Union High School District, has emerged as the finalist to replace Marvin Biasotti as Carmel Unified School District when he retires at the end of the year.

The Board will conduct a site visit with other members of the Carmel Unified community to Laurence place of current employment on March 23. The board expects to vote on a contract for Laurence at its April 1 regularly scheduled Board meeting.

“Scott Laurence’s experience and personal qualities are exactly what the board and our community stakeholders wanted to see in the next leader of Carmel Unified," Carmel Unified Board President Rita Patel said in a statement. "For the past 15 years, Marvin Biasotti has led our school district on its path to become one of the top school districts in California and the nation. We look forward to the next chapter under the stewardship of Mr. Laurence.

For more information on Laurence and Carmel Unified's announcement, click here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Teacher recruitment fair coming to Hartnell College

Sixteen school districts and charter schools will be on hand to screen and interview potential teachers during a teacher recruitment fair coming to Hartnell College.

The fair, presented by the Monterey County Office of Education, will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Steinbeck Hall in the student center, 411 Central Ave., Salinas.

Little Hands, Big Possibilities now open to the public

The artistic creations of Head Start students of the Monterey County Office of Education are  now on display. "Little Hands, Big Possibilities," will be on showcase until Friday, March 20.

Ryan Escobar poses with his creation

The art show, sponsored by MCOE’s Early Head Start program, is aimed at raising awareness about the Early Head Start program and the learning that happens during the infant and toddler years.

More than 70 pieces are included in the show, including several group projects produced by Early Head Start parents.

“In the Early Head Start program, the parents are equal partners,” said Dora McKean, EHS educator. “We wanted to give parents an opportunity to work in groups, be creative, and reflect on what is meaningful for them.”

The Monterey County Office of Education is at 901 Blanco Circle, Salinas.

Monday, March 16, 2015

And the winners of History Day are...

Students representing six schools throughout Monterey County took place in the 25th annual History Day,  brought to you by the friendly folks at the Lyceum of Monterey County and Monterey County Office of Education.

The theme for this year was Leadership and Legacy in History. The following students will represent Monterey County at the State Finals in Rocklin, Calif., in May.

Junior Historical Papers:
Dominic Encerti : The Freemasons and Their Contributions to Society
Nora Butler: Best Work of the Century, the Nakaz of Catherine the Great
Honorable Mention:
Chloe Scheid: In the Face of Discrimination, the Poetic Influence of Langston Hughes

Junior Group Performance:
Gabriella Gallo-Rodriguez, Tara Smith and Gabriella Flanders: Julia Morgan, Leader for Women in the Workplace and Her Legacy in American Architecture

Junior Individual Websites:
Gwyneth Rider: Anna Pavlova
India Gonzales: Alan Turing
Honorable Mention:
Sophia Herro: Alice Waters

Junior Group Websites:
Mariana Rico, Karle Reyes, and Hoan Le: The Beatles
Connor Adams and Ryan Nielsen: Steve Jobs, Innovating Engineer
Honorable Mention:
Angelica De Guzman, Sabrina Henry-Hunter: Dolores Huerta Leader with a Legacy

Junior Individual Documentaries:
Noah Conklin: Queen Lili’uokalani
Grace Deakyne: August Piccard, Leadership and Legacy on Land and Sea
Honorable Mention:
Alyssa Stegall: Leadership and Legacy of Kim Il Sung

Junior Group Documentaries:
Susanna Hoffman and Ellie Yamashita: Julkia Morgan
Stefan Hubrich, Chase McCrystal and Jesse Ruediger: Shakespeare
Honorable Mention:
Margo Ezcurra and Anna Wheat: Julie Packard- Driving Force for Ocean Conservation

Junior Individual Exhibits:
Matthew Galloway: Marie Curie
Emily Hansen: Martha Graham, Leadership in Dance and a Legacy of Beauty
Honorable Mention:
Mariah Trinity: Why We Still Read Mark Twain

Junior Group Exhibits:
Julia Sexton and Tess Franscioni: Diana, Princess of Wales: The Legacy She Left and the Leader She Was
Samantha Hiura, Maeve O’Connor, and Jesse Merenda: Coco Chanel

The most amazing Kapil Sinha wins the science fair. Again.

For the third year in a row, Kapil Sinha, a junior at Salinas High School, earned top honors at the Monterey County Science and Engineering Fair, which was held this past weekend at CSUMB.

Sinha won with his Plant Biology project: "Characterization and Utility of Resistance Sources against Resistance-Breaking Rhizomania in Sugar Beet."

Second place went to Rohan Bhushan of Monterey High School, for his Environmental Science project: "Gravitactic Effects of Copper Pollution on Glucose Metabolism in Euglena gracilis."

Third place went to Chaitra Subbarao also of Salinas High School, for her Biochemistry/Molecular Biology project: "Molecular Detection of Spinach Downy Mildew before Symptom Appearance."

The three winners will advance to the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair, to be held in Pittsburgh, Penn., in May.

About 330 projects with nearly 500 student scientists from public and private schools across the county took part in this year's event.

Twenty-two  top projects will advance to participate in the California State Science Fair, May 18 and 19 in Los Angeles. They are, in alphabetical order:

• Isabella Allen, All Saints’ Day School
• Finn Barry, York School
• Nick Batterman, York School
• Rohan Bhushan, Monterey High School
• John Chapman Caddell, Stevenson School
• Grace Davis, All Saints’ Day School
• Fletcher Gaucher, International School of Monterey
• Caitlyn Giannini, All Saints’ Day School
• Kyle Groves, Salinas High School
• Gabriella Gutierrez, San Carlos School
• Jack Hayes, Carmel Middle School
• Edhel Marie Joseph, Salinas High School
• Magnus Lauer, International School of Monterey
• Molly Mancina, All Saints’ Day School
• Riley Mann, International School of Monterey
• Trinity Mobley, International School of Monterey
• Danya Novak, International School of Monterey
• Tyler Onciano, International School of Monterey
• Cherrie Mae Paghasian, International School of Monterey
• Nahomy Pinedo, Salinas High School
• Madeleine Powley, Salinas High School
• Maya Pruthi, All Saints’ Day School
• Rohan Sethi, International School of Monterey
• Kapil Sinha, Salinas High School
• Chaitra Subbarao, Salinas High School
• Eve Wharton, International School of Monterey
• Kyle Worcester-Moore, York School

Kapil, who's grown like a mile since I interviewed him eons ago, also took top honors at the 2014 Science Fair, and teamed with his sister, Aradhana, to win top project in 2013. Aradhana was top finisher in 2012.

Kapil Sinha, second from right, has won the science fair three times.

Amber Hess from Stevenson School was the only other student to have the top project two years, in 2004 and 2005, according to project coordinator Ginny Brown. She said she doesn't know if  any other student has garnered top honors more than three times.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Meet Raven Thomas, future journalist

The best part of my job is the chance it gives me to meet new, neat people. That's exactly what happened on March 2, when I was writing about Read Across America at La Mesa Elementary in Monterey and I met Raven Thomas.

Raven, 9, is a fourth grader who wants to be a journalist. So she's been asking questions about how to create a newspaper for her school; and for days she asked Richard Radtke, her school principal, to meet with her to talk about her idea. She finally sat down with him on March 2, just as I was walking out the door. 

Raven is inquisitive and persistent, two of the most important qualities a journalist must have. I can't wait to have you in the profession, girl!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Salinas City Elementary wants input for superintendent search

Education Leadership Services of  Oakdale returns to Monterey County to conduct a superintendent search. This time, they're tasked with finding the next superintendent of the Salinas City Elementary School District.

The last time Education Leadership Services was in town they conducted the search for the MPUSD superintendent that ended with the selection of Alain Guevara in April 2013. Guevara, as some of you may recall, was named in a sexual harassment lawsuit and ended up withdrawing his name from the search.

Trustees with the Salinas City Elementary School District have selected John Cruz of Education Leadership Services to conduct the search for a new superintendent. They'll be paid $23,500, and they were the second to highest firm of the five the board considered.

Trustees want to to determine the specific traits, skills, abilities, and experience desired in the new superintendent as the first step of the selection process. They are inviting members of the staff and community to meet with Cruz on March 19, March 20, or March 21 to offer what they consider to be the criteria desired in the new superintendent.

Appointments can be made by calling Lydia Miranda at 784-2201.

Community members can also submit their input via Internet. A survey is available on the district's webpage here. Printed copies are available at the district's office, 840 S. Main St. Salinas. 

Deadline to submit the survey is March 19, 2015.

Charles Page will receive 2015 President’s Award by Monterey Peninsula College

Charles Page, former Monterey Peninsula College trustee and long time community activist, has been chosen to receive the 2015 President's Award by Monterey Peninsula College and its foundation.

The President’s Award is presented annually to a community leader who has made significant contributions to the Monterey Peninsula and has helped fulfill the college’s mission of providing educational opportunities to diverse communities.

Page was selected to receive the award because of his work as an attorney, his service as Monterey city councilman and a longtime member of the Board of Trustees at Monterey Peninsula College, MPC President Walter Tribley said in a statement.

"But that’s not all. Charlie, along with his late wife, Caroline Page, and other community leaders, began meeting in 1994 with the idea of starting a foundation to support Monterey Peninsula College," Tribley said. "Even then, before a rash of budget cuts, these community leaders realized MPC would never have enough money to reach its full potential unless the community stepped up. They understood that a foundation would bring additional money to help the college thrive - and it has done exactly that.”

The award will be presented May 1 at the 9th annual president’s address to the community at the Monterey Conference Center. 

Library at Martin Luther King Elementary to be named after Mae Johnson

Trustees with the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District considered late Tuesday to name the library at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary in Seaside after the late Mae Carol Johnson.

The item was just for consideration and will be voted on March 24. (My earlier post implied the voting had already taken place.)

Ms. Johnson, who died Feb. 24, worked for MPUSD for 35 years as a substitute teacher, teacher, principal and mentor. She was the first female principal at Monterey High, where she served from July 1986 to June 1993. At Tuesday's meeting, several people who were touched by her   -- including Board President Bettye Lusk and Seaside Middle School Principal Joan Nugent -- spoke about their experiences and how much Johnson meant to them. MPUSD was a better district because of her years of service.

If you want to read the obituary I wrote, click here

A celebration of Johnson's will take place from noon-2:30pm Saturday at Shoreline Community Church, 2500 Garden Road, Monterey, CA. For more information, click here

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hartnell educator in residence talks about depression

Hartnell Community College's educator in residence Anne Benvenuti will hold a series of workshops this week that are open to the public.

Benvenuti draws on her experience from 24 years as a psychology and philosophy professor at Cerro Coso Community College to build her conversations.

Wednesday, March 11
Nursing and Allied Health students, Building K-Mainstage, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Topic: Preventing Burnout and Building Resilience for Health Care Professionals

Thursday, March 12
Building K-125 at 6:00 p.m.
Topic: Gender, Depression, and Social Change

* Blog Update: Depression is currently the third-ranked non-communicable disease, according to the World Health Organization. Although there are many differences in how depression manifests and is treated around the world, gendered patterns of coping and depression are broadly similar across most cultures, and therefore provide an excellent opportunity for intervention. In this series of events, Benvenuti will draw from her six years of experience as a member of the United Nations NGO Committee for Mental Health and Education, and her practice and teaching in the field of psychology in order to provide a broad perspective on these issues, inclusive of self-care practices to build resilience and prevent depression.

The session will be streamlined. To register for the webinar, click here. After you register, a confirmation email will contain information about joining the webinar.

Benvenuti will return the week of April 16-17, 2015 with the topic Spirit unleashed: reimagining human-animal relations; and May 29, 2015 with Educator in residence closing activity.

For more information about her work, click here.  

Monday, March 9, 2015

Carmel high students host event to address hunger

For the second year in a row, Carmel High students will host "Empty Bowls," an event to alleviate hunger at the local level.

The “Empty Bowls” Soup and Bread Supper, along with the Carmel High Art Show, and open house will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 30.

Empty Bowls is an international grassroots effort to alleviate hunger. It starts with a group of craftspeople creating handcrafted bowls. For a $20 donation, guests are invited to enjoy a simple meal of soup and bread, and are welcome to keep their bowl as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world.

All the money raised at the Carmel High event will be donated to Ag Against Hunger, a local non-profit dedicated to providing fresh produce to schools and food banks. Tickets are available in the CHS ASB Office or online here. at . For more information, or to donate to this cause, contact Diana Vita: (831) 624-1821, ext. 2780.

Marina teens (and beyond): this photography workshop is for you!

Monterey County Free Libraries will be holding a five-day photography mini-camp for teens during the spring break of the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District. The workshop will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. the week of March 30 to April 3rd at the Marina Branch Library.

Local professional photographer Steve Zmak will be leading the mini-camp. Steve is a native Californian who has been capturing the natural beauty of Monterey County for many years. His book“A Year in the Vineyard” captures the beauty of one of the largest industries in the county.

This camp is free and space is limited. Teens interested in participating should apply at the Marina branch. Participants will learn essential and advanced photography skills using personal cameras, cell phones, and DSLR cameras. Photo editing skills using Adobe software will also be taught. The camp will include walking field trips to take photographs at local parks and Marina State Beach.

Following the workshop the Marina branch will host an artist reception and art show highlighting the works created by participants on April 11th at 4pm. Light refreshments will be served.

For more information contact the Marina branch library at (831) 883-7507.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Sofia Chang is Pacific Grove's young entrepreneur of the year

About 123 Pacific Grove Middle School students entered the Pacific Grove Young Entrepreneurs Award.

And the top honor went to Sofia Chang, with her business "Solely Sofia," through which she designs, manufactures and markets tiny crocheted animals.

Sofia, you rock. And your tiny animals too.

Second place went to Matthew Rivera, for his business idea "Pinch Pot Party" which brings arts and crafts  parties where guests leave with a souvenir of their making to take home.

The third place went to Chris Matthews, whose business essay "Red Wedge" proposes how a small idea can have big potential with a smart marketing program.

Students earning honorable mentions were:

Fiorin Ballerini, "Fiosters" Coasters mad from used Legos.
Camryn Wood, "Bee Chill Beauty," A Beauty Product Line.
Jacob Alt, "CA Bike Cam," A website for mountain bikers to sample the trails via GoPro video before they go.
Luke Herzog, "Bookmark it," Custom bookmarks made on-line.
Max Afifi, "Dryer Dryer Scent Pillows," Lavender sachets sturdy enough for the dryer.
Beckett Sobok, "Kits for Kids," Kits filled with activities and smiles for kids in the hospital.
Madeline Ericson, "Comics for a Cause," A series of comic books geared towards teaching valuable lessons about nature.
Freddy Albert, "Doggie Packs," Custom made dog back packs.

Launched in 1996, the Young Entrepreneurs Award stimulates Pacific Grove students’ interest in business and serves to better prepare them for entering the work force or college. The awards presentation was held this year on Tuesday at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History in Pacific Grove. The presentation acknowledged approximately 123 Pacific Grove Middle School students who entered this year’s competition. The top three winners earned $300, $200, and $100 respectively, and each honorable mention $25.

Montrey County seeks judges for speech and debate tournaments

The Migrant Education Program of the Monterey County Office of Education is seeking volunteers to serve as judges for two upcoming speech and debate tournaments.

Volunteers do not need to have previous experience in speech and debate. Bilingual skills are helpful, although not mandatory.

Judges must commit to attending one of two scheduled training sessions:

March 12 (5:30 pm – 8:30 pm)
March 16 (5:30 pm – 8:30 pm)

Both training sessions will be held at the Monterey County Office of Education, 901 Blanco Circle, Salinas.

The tournaments will be held:

March 21 (8:00 am – 5:00 pm) Regional Tournament at Salinas High School
May 16 (8:00 am – 5:00 pm) State Tournament at Monterey High School

The tournaments give students a opportunity to practice the skills they've learned in the classroom and grow from them. Students research topics and practice after school to prepare. 

Anyone interested in serving as a judge should contact Summer Prather-Smith at (831) 206-4448 or Robin Cohen at (831) 261-9694.

David Flink coming to Chartwell School

David Flink, co-founder and CEO of Eye to Eye, and author of "Thinking Differently: An Inspiring Guide for Parents of Children With Learning Disabilities," will talk about his book and sign copies  at 6 p.m. March 12 at Chartwell School, 2511 Numa Watson Road, Seaside.

The presentation and book signing is open to parents, students of all ages and educators.
Free and open to the public. RSVP here or call 394-3468, Ext. 1003 for more information.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Once again, Read Across America was a blast!

I've come to love "Read Across America." There's something magical about everyone wearing silly hats in celebration of an author. There's something awesome about people all over the country coming together solely for the purpose of reading.

It's really special to see children excited about books, about community members coming to their schools to read to them. As many students with Stephanie Bemboom combo 1st and 2nd grade class put it: I love it when I'm read to out loud.

As many of you know, Read Across America was launched 18 years ago by the National Education Association. It's celebrated the first week of March, which coincides with the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, the famous Dr. Seuss.

It's an opportunity for people to read his beloved books, and that's what retired Ord Terrace teacher Carla Wright did when reading at her former school.

 Len Foster, president of the board of the Literacy Campaign for Monterey County, took part of the celebration.

Japanese speech contest coming to North Salinas High

The community is invited to the 9th annual Monterey County High School Japanese Speech Contest, which this year will be accompanied by a special cultural presentation by 24 visiting high school students from Tokyo, Japan.

Twelve local high school students who are studying Japanese will vie for the top speech prize. Light refreshments will be served, followed by a presentation in English by the visiting Japanese high school students.

Both events take place at North Salinas High School’s Multi Purpose Room and admission is free. From 4 to 7 p.m. March 25 at the multi-purpose room of North Salinas High School, 55 Kip Dr, Salinas. For more information, call Yo Azama at 831-796-7500.

Emma Morgan of Stevenson wins national MIT competition

Three U.S. high school students were recognized as winners of the 2015 MIT THINK Scholars Program, one of the only student-run high school research competitions in the country.

Among them was Emma Morgan, an 11th grader from Stevenson School.

Emma was one of six finalist who got an all-expenses-paid trip to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and give a presentation of their projects. Emma emerged as one of the top three winners, earning a $1,000 scholarship, a $2,000 grant to carry out her project.

In her project, "Artificial Musculature: A New Approach to the Linear Solenoid" Morgan proposes to redesign linear solenoids to improve motion in prosthetics. From her proposal:

"Advancement in biologically based robotics is the key to better prosthetics and more lifelike robots. This requires linear motion like that of natural musculature. Currently, the major types of electromechanical linear actuators are solenoids and pneumatics, which are not well adapted for use as musculature. This paper proposes a redesign of the linear solenoid to form linear actuator cells. Consisting of a permanent magnet and an electromagnet, these modular cells will expand and contract based on the direction of the current through the electromagnet. Each cell can connect to another identical cell and form a chain or “muscle”. I will test several sizes of cells, types of electromagnets, and materials for the outer membrane to determine which has the most contraction capacity and efficiency. Later research will focus on miniaturization of the most efficient model.

Yeah, she's an eleventh grader.

The THINK program, which stands for Technology for Humanity guided by Innovation, Networking,and Knowledge, accepts applications from high school students around the country every year. THINK aims to make science and technology research accessible to all motivated high school students by providing the resources needed to complete a project. Since the program started in 2008, it has helped tens of students in the past several years complete innovative and creative projects in the STEM field.

I'd so love to see more Monterey County students take part -- and win awards -- from this program. Emma's a really good start. Congratulations again!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Constitution project winners head to Washington D.C.

Twenty Monterey County students were honored on Tuesday for their participation in the  third annual Monterey County United States Constitution Project.

The students, representing five Monterey County middle schools, will now  visit Washington D.C. and Philadelphia, Penn., to experience the buildings, monuments, and documents that have shaped U.S. history. Each student also received recognition from the U.S. House of Representatives, the California State Senate, and California State Assembly.

Now in its third year, the goal of the project sponsored by the Dan and Lillian King Foundation is to enrich the lives of Monterey County 8th graders with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights which frame our country.

Students studied the Constitution in their 8th grade U.S. history classes, and were asked to write an essay about the document’s impact on both the country and their personal lives. The essays were submitted to the Dan and Lillian King Foundation, which selected four winners from each school.

The winners are: Main Street Middle School, Soledad Unified School District: Graciela Chavez · Jordy Ramos · Robert Guillen · Denise Virgen.

North Monterey County Middle School, North Mtry County Unified: · Archie Chicano · Anthony Macias · Jayden Clay-Diaz · Naomi Hernandez.

Washington Middle School, Salinas Union High School District: · Grace Gonzales · Anthony Tarazon · Israel Cardenas · Maya Mendoza.

Los Arboles Middle School, Monterey Peninsula Unified: · Amadeus Soria · Yawar Yousofzai · Vy Dang · Isela Casas Garcia.

Chalone Peaks Middle School, King City Union School District · Jose Luis Torres Jr. · Nicholas Potts · Esther Hales · Diana Hernandez.

Congratulations eight graders! Hard work does pay off, right? 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Carmel's practice on "Empire" gives them edge in Monterey County mock trial

If you read the story that my fine colleague Peter Funt wrote a few weeks ago, you already know Carmel emerged champion of the Monterey County high school mock trial. If you missed the story, here it is.

It had been a few years since Carmel won the tournament. In fact, Pacific Grove had been the winner for the three previous consecutive years. So what made the difference? Carmel High government and politics teacher Bill Schrier credits "Empire."

 "Empire" is a selective mock trial competition that's been taking place in New York since 2007, and it was held for the first time in San Francisco last fall. It was the first time Carmel participated, and the team earned forth place among 24 teams that came from different parts of the United States and abroad. 

And that gave them the edge, Schrier said.

" Empire was instrumental in providing the students experience in a high level competition prior to County.  It also allowed the team to bond earlier.  I honestly don't know how we'd have done it without Empire," Schrier wrote in an email.

So there you have it. Carmel is now getting ready for the statewide tournament, after getting some deserved recognition by the Carmel City Council. Way to go ladies! Can't wait to hear how it goes in Riverside. 

"Thinking Out Loud" students art exhibit opens March

Thinking Out Loud, an exhibit of artwork by Monterey County High School artists opens Saturday, March 7th at the Carl Cherry Center for the Arts.

The artists will have a reception from 3 to 5 on Saturday, March 7. The exhibit is free and open to the public and can be seen Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Student art-work in a wide-range of media--from painting, drawing, ink-relief, sculpture, photography and collage--by students from throughout Monterey County will be on display through April 3rd.