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 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.