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.