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

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!

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Family Science, Health and Literacy Day is back at Hartnell

An educational and fun-filled day awaits Salinas parents this Saturday during the Ninth Annual Family Science, Health, and Literacy Day at Hartnell College.

The event is free and open to the public, and will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Hartnell College main campus, with free parking in the garage off of Central Avenue and food for the first 500 attendees.

The Family Science, Health, and Literacy Day will offer a wide range of activities and demonstrations for children of all ages, which include:

· Robotics, Chemistry, Physics, and Astronomy demonstrations
· Live Reptiles
· Planetarium shows
· NASA SEMAA and Coder Dojo
· Nutrition and Healthy Living activities
· Blood pressure screening
· Free children’s books
· Kids Play area
· Live Music and Theatre Arts
· Prizes and giveaways

Carmel High again named among country's top high schools

Carmel High School has once again received the highest ranking as a Gold Medal Winner in the U.S. News and World Report list of the best high schools in the nation.

Carmel High moved up this year to 33rd place in the state and 196th in the nation. The list considers more than 21,000 U.S. schools for the list, making Carmel High place firmly in the top 1 percent of all schools in the country.

Carmel High was awarded the Gold Medal “based on their performance on state assessments and how well they prepare students for college” according to the U.S. News & World Report article. “A great high school must serve all of its students well, not just those who are college bound, and it must be able to produce measurable academic outcomes to show it is successfully educating its student body across a range of performance indicators,” the article reads.

“This reinforces the fact that the work we are doing is paying off for all students" departing Superintendent Marvin Biasotti said in a statement. “We are particularly proud of our ranking in the state."

School officials analyzed the schools that placed ahead of Carmel and found only eight comprehensive high schools ahead of them -- the others are magnet schools, academies, or charter schools that have selective enrollment processes.

"Of the eight, none of them have as high a ratio of socio-economically disadvantaged students as Carmel High," Biasotti said. "In fact, their percentages of disadvantaged students are less than half the level of (Carmel High School). It appears that no comprehensive high school with a population that approximates our demographics is doing a better job of preparing students for college.”

Find the U.S. News and World Report here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Happy California Teachers Day!

A shout out to all my favorite teachers -- you know who you are!

I see you dealing with twenty or plus souls at the same time, all eager for your attention even at inappropriate times.

I see you grading papers during board meetings.

I see you cutting shapes and bending pipe cleaner at coffee shops after your full day in the classroom.

I see you wiping your children's tears and reassuring them things will work out. And they are all your children.

I see you fundraising for books, field trips, computers, and anything your children could use to improve their chances for better learning.

I see you leaving a piece of your soul every day in the classroom. And I salute your dedication, your selflessness, your knowledge and strength.

Go teachers! Happy teachers day! You're my every day heroes and heroines!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

CSUMB's Capstone Festival, a chance for the public to see what students are working on

CSUMB students must complete a capstone project in order to graduate, and they will present them to their parents, peers and general public on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Capstone projects represent the skills, knowledge and abilities developed over the course of a student's education at CSUMB. They include research presentations, original poetry, oral histories, installation art, photography, tabletop exhibits, films and videos, multimedia works and computer visualizations.

Presentations will be held all day on Wednesday and Thursday and until noon on Friday at various locations around campus. A schedule is available here.

The Cinematic Arts and Technology students will show their work in the World Theater at 1 p.m., Thursday, May 14. The show will be repeated at 6 p.m. Twenty short films will be screened. Admission is free.

I love the capstone projects. They give you a sense of what students have been working on, a truly inspiring experience. Catch some if you can!

MCOE hosts the 2015 STEM Expo

Over 50 Monterey County science teachers took part in the 2015 STEM Expo organized by the Monterey County Office of Education last weekend. The expo gave teachers an opportunity to meet and network with local scientific groups, research organizations and non profits to learn what’s available for their students as they pursue scientific knowledge.

Some of the organizations that participated were the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Save the Whales, Rocket Mavericks and more. Hopefully, teachers got many ideas for jazzing up their classes and get more students interested in science!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Carmel High receives "Gold Ribbon" award

Carmel High School has been honored with California's new "Gold Ribbon Schools Award" program, which is temporarily taking the place of the California Distinguished Schools Program.

The California Distinguished award is on hiatus while officials create a new accountability system. The awards go to schools that are academically successful and innovative. A total of 193 middle schools and 180 high schools received the Gold Ribbon Schools Award this year.

The schools "provide great examples of the things educators are doing right—embracing rigorous academic standards, providing excellence and creativity in teaching, and creating a positive school climate," California Superintendent of Public Schools Tom Torlakson said in a statement.

Schools applied for the award based on a model program their school has adopted that includes standards-based activities, projects, strategies, and practices that can be replicated by other local educational agencies. The new award is recognizing middle and high schools this year and elementary schools in 2016.

The Gold Ribbon schools will be recognized later this month during regional ceremonies held in Sacramento, San Diego, Visalia, and San Francisco.

Hartnell College tops California for transfers to UC system

Hartnell College is leading in transfers of underrepresented minority students to the University of California, Hartnell officials announced Thursday.

The top three community colleges in the state to transfer minority students to UCs are: Hartnell College, Rio Hondo and West Los Angeles College, according to an analysis by UC.

“We are being asked by other colleges about our successful practices,” said Superintendent/President Willard Lewallen. “We have many, but the first thing I tell them is this: at Hartnell College we believe that our students are UC material. We lift them up in small and large ways.”

Lewallen was invited to moderate a panel in Los Angeles this week to talk about best practices Hartnell has implemented to have higher percentages of minority students transferring to UCs.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

CSUMB wins big on National Science Foundation grants

Four members of this year’s graduating class at Cal State Monterey Bay and an alumna have won National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.

Josh Smith of Clovis, April Makukov of Fresno, Christina Villalobos of Salinas, Andrea Valdez of Ripon and Lydia Jennings of Santa Fe, New Mexico, were awarded the fellowships, which provide $138,000 to support three years of graduate education.

All five participated in research through CSUMB’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center (UROC) and demonstrated a high level of scholarship while at the university.

Smith, mentored by James Lindholm, researched fish habitat in submarine canyons. His summers were spent at the Center for Coastal Marine Science at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and at Long Marine Lab at UC Santa Cruz. A marine science major, he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz.

Working with Cheryl Logan, Makukov, a biology major, is investigating the impacts of ocean acidification on rockfish. She has had summer research placements at San Diego State, Hopkins Marine Station and at CSUMB. She will enter the Ph.D. program in biology at the University of Vermont.

Villalobos, a marine science major, was mentored by Corey Garza. She is studying how certain small crustaeans may be affected by climate change and how that may impact the fish population. Her summers were spent at Friday Harbor Labs at the University of Washington, at Horn Point Labs in Maryland, and at the Shannon Point Marine Center in Washington. She hopes to attend the University of Washington.

Aparna Sreenivasan mentored biology major Andrea Valdez. Her research focuses on sea stars with wasting disease, work she plans to continue in graduate school. Her summers were spent at the University of Missouri, Moss Landing Marine Labs and at UC Santa Barbara, where she combined her skills in molecular biology with her passion for marine science in studying sea stars.

Lydia Jennings, a CSUMB alumna, is now enrolled in a Ph.D. program in the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science at the University of Arizona. Her research centers on finding ways to improve the environmental and public health issues associated with copper mining in Arizona.

The NSF graduate research fellowships went to 2,000 students – from more than 16,500 applicants – across the country; 500 of them were awarded to undergraduates. CSUMB was the largest recipient of undergraduate awards in the California State University’s 23-campus system.

Fifteen CSUMB undergraduates and three first-year graduate students have received NSF fellowships since UROC started in 2009.