Friday, November 4, 2016

Native American gathering coming to CSUMB

A Native American gathering will take place from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5 at Cal State University Monterey Bay.

Organized by the Native Advisory Council and Native American Students United, the gathering will taking place on land of the local Ohlone/Costanoan-Esselen Nation tribe. It's being held in recognition and celebration of Native American students and is the only event of its type on the Central Coast.

The first all-Native American Veterans Post in the United States, The Tule River Native Post 1987 will serve as the color guard with members who’ve served our nation dating back to 1941. The event will include powwow dancing, cultural arts-making workshops and historical exhibitions. Native craft vendors, informational booths and culturally-appropriate foods will also be available.

The event is open and free to the public. To learn more about it, click here.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

CSUMB nursing earns accreditation

California State University Monterey Bay’s  Bachelor of Science in Nursing has been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. It is the first accredited program in the Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz area.

“Achieving this accreditation is an important milestone for our nursing program. Our community needs well-trained nurses and by working with our community college partners and local health care institutions, CSUMB has developed a cost-effective program focused on meeting that need,” said in a statement CSUMB President, Eduardo Ochoa. “The students who have enrolled in this program have been outstanding, and will make major contributions to our community for years to come.”

Through partnerships and pathway programs with local community colleges, this accredidation will help address a critical healthcare gap in the region.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Social media expert Josh Ochs comes to Pacific Grove to talk to parents

Social media safety expert Josh Ochs is coming to Pacific Grove to teach parents how social media can be used to impress colleges and future employers.

His 90-minutes presentation will focus on the following topics:

What apps are unsafe (and others you should encourage your kids to use)
What apps are a waste of time for your Teens and Tweens
How to analyze your Google results to see what colleges will find
How to bury bad Google results from other users with your similar name
Examples of good and bad posts that colleges may find
Examples from real seniors that are using social media correctly
Tips you can suggest to use Google search like a college and future employer
7 Networks your kids need to be on to shine online

The presentation will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Pacific Grove Auditorium, 835 Forest Ave. Free. For more information, click here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Monterey County students and teachers: learn about the Normandy invasion in D.C. and France. Free

It's trip to Washington D.C. and Normandy, France, to study World War II and D-Day. It's for only 15 teams of one student and teacher, so get your applications in soon! National History Day is now accepting applications for the 2017 Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom Albert H. Small Student and Teacher Institute. The program accepts only 15 student and teacher pairs for an immersion program in Washington, D.C. and on the beaches of Normandy, France. The institute covers nearly all expenses for accepted students and teachers including travel, visits to historic sites, and lodging in both Europe and Washington, D.C.

The institute teaches students about the sacrifices and challenges faced by U.S. service members during and after the D-Day landings. Each student selects a single service member, called a Silent Hero, from his or her home state or territory who died in the line of duty.

Students spend months researching their Silent Heroes under the guidance of their teachers. In June 2017, all 15 teams travel to Washington, D.C. Their first event is a welcome dinner with the White House Historical Association. Then, historians and archivists guide the students and teachers through primary source material from World War II at the National Archives. Guest historians and speakers teach them about the importance of D-Day and Operation Overlord to the outcome of the war. Finally, teams journey to Normandy, France to walk in the footsteps of their Silent Hero and learn about D-Day where it happened. On the final day, students read graveside eulogies to their Silent Heroes at the Normandy American Cemetery.

Applications for this program are due by November 28, 2016 at 11:59 p.m. ET. All participants must apply as one team and must be available to travel June 17-29, 2017. Students must be either a sophomore or junior in high school as of fall 2016. All applications must be fully completed and submitted as a single PDF document. The application, and more information, can be found online here.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Santa Rita Superintendent to get a four-year contract, and a $40,000 salary increase?

Expect fireworks tonight during the Santa Rita Union School District board meeting, as trustees are expected to consider -- approve? -- a four-year contract extension with their current superintendent, and provide what's being described as at $40,000 salary increase " to more closely align with comparable districts," according to a board report.

Interestingly, the contract extension report is not included in the agenda online for tonight's meeting. And it does not provide the superintendent's current salary, so for now I can't verify whether the increase is indeed $40,000. If you want to look at the agenda yourself and see if I missed something, here it is.

I don't think I can go to tonight's meeting, but I'm certainly curious about the outcome. I'll keep you posted. Stay tuned.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Governor Brown signs bill to establish ethnic studies as an elective in California high schools

Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 2016, which will for the first time establish a model ethnic studies curriculum for use in California’s public and charter high schools.

It’s the first legislation of its kind in the nation, creating a statewide model curriculum for ethnic studies, and countering trends seen in other states that are abolishing or restricting ethnic studies courses, most recently in Arizona.

“This is historic,” said in a statement Assemblyman Luis Alejo, who authored the bill. “I thank the governor for recognizing the importance and value of having ethnic studies available to our students."

A study published earlier this year by the Stanford Graduate School of Education found that students at risk of dropping out who took ethnic studies courses improved their attendance and academic performance significantly, especially Latino students, Alejo said.

AB 2016 had bipartisan support in both houses of the Legislature. This legislation directs the California Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) and the State Board of Education (SBE) to develop and adopt a model ethnic studies curriculum, to serve as guide for local school districts to adapt their coursework to reflect the student demographics in their communities.

This curriculum will be developed with participation from faculty of ethnic studies programs at California universities and public school teachers who have a background in teaching ethnic studies.

AB 2016 directs the IQC to draft and submit a model curriculum to the SBE by June 30, 2019 and the SBE to adopt a model curriculum by Nov. 30, 2019.

Once adopted, school districts and charter schools that don’t already have a standards-based ethnic studies program would be encouraged to offer a course based on the model curriculum to high school students as a social sciences or English language arts elective.

“The development of a comprehensive ethnic studies curriculum acknowledges the diversity of California, which has the most ethnically diverse public school student body in the nation,” Alejo said. “Ethnic studies are not just for students of color. We should give all students the opportunity to prepare for a diverse global economy, diverse university campuses and diverse workplaces.”

Renown wild life photographer offering a free photography workshop for teen girls

Renowned professional wildlife photographer, Suzi Eszterhas, is offering a free wildlife photography workshop for teen girls.

Eszterhas wants to offer this opportunity to girls between the age of 13-18 in an effort to encourage more girls to enter the male-dominated field of wildlife photography.

The workshop will take place in Moss Landing, California, on November 6th, 2016.

“Wildlife photography is such a male-dominated field. It is my hope that this free workshop might spark a few young girls to make the dream of being a wildlife photographer into a reality," Eszterhas said in a statement. "Making it in this field takes confidence and persistence, which teenage girls don’t always have. When I was a teen, my life took many crazy turns - boys, family instability, etc - and there were a few landmark moments with professional women in various fields that helped to keep me from becoming totally lost and stay the course. Maybe the next generation of wildlife photographers will include more women”.

The event is part of Eszterhas new initiative to encourage more women to enter the field of wildlife photography. The day includes a photography lesson and a picnic lunch, followed by a private boat charter on the Elkhorn Slough to photograph sea otters, seals and birds.

All girls must have their own transportation to Moss Landing, and must bring their own camera (this can be an SLR, point and shoot, or even a tablet or phone). There will be two slots for low-income girls (in which camera gear and transportation will be provided).

There are 15 spaces available. Applicants must apply Oct 15th by email to For more information about the photographer, visit her website here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

MPUSD hosts town hall meetings to discuss bond projects

Administrators with the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District will host three town hall meetings to discuss projects completed with Measure P money and a proposal to spend the unspent funds.

Approximately $55 million in bond funds remains on the district's Measure P bond measure. Measure P was passed by over 71 percent of district voters in 2010. School facilities throughout the district are in need of significant modernization and upgrade due to age and programmatic need.

The meetings will take place:

Thursday, September 15 at 6 p.m. in the Cove at Marina High School, 298 Patton Pkwy., Marina.
Monday, September 19 at 6 p.m. in the library at Seaside High School, 2200 Noche Buena St., Seaside
Thursday, September 22 at 6 p.m. in the Monterey Cafe at Monterey High, 101 Herrmann Dr., Monterey

For more information, visit the district's website here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

David Kersnar becomes interim theatre department chair at MPC

David Kersnar, founder of the award-winning Lookingglass Theater in Chicago, has been named interim theatre department chair at the Monterey Peninsula College.

Kersnar replaces Gary Bolen, who retired from the position after having directed the MPC summer production of Evita.

“David was selected from a truly impressive pool of over 75 applicants... and comes with a series of outstanding credentials.” Bolen said in a statement.

A member of SAG/AFTRA and AEA, David Kersnar is a graduate of the Theatre Arts department of Northwestern University, which is “One of the top 5 theatre training programs in the US,” Bolen said.

Kersnar served as artistic director of the Lookingglass Theater from 1988 to 1990 and again from 1997 to 2000. He also worked at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and “will bring a wealth of teaching and "real world" experience to the students at MPC and our local theatre community,” Bolen said.

Bolen has been named professor emeritus.

Kesnar's first production at MPC will be Shakespeare’s As You Like It - in November.

For Kesnar's complete biography, click here.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Pacific Grove Unified refinances bonds

Administrators with the Pacific Grove Unified School District have refunded $16 million in bonds at a lower rate, which will save taxpayers an estimated $3 million in payments.

"No-one of our work to prepare students for lifelong success would be possible without the active, ongoing support of our community," said in a statement John Thibeau, president of the board of trustees. "We will continue to prudently manage the investment of local taxpayers in the future of our students."

Measure D, a $42 million in bonds to repair and upgrade schools, was approved in 2007 with nearly 66 percent of the vote. The refunding brings interests rates down on some of the bonds authorized through this measure from 4.2 percent to 2.8 percent.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

MPUSD to discuss building priorities

Trustees with the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District will conduct a study session Friday, Aug. 26, to develop a criteria and priorities list of its next set of Measure P bond projects.

The board will receive information on future facilities needs categories including infrastructure, school/classroom facilities, athletics, and student programs.

Approximately $55 million in bond funds remains on the district's Measure P bond measure. Measure P was passed by over 71 percent of district voters in 2010. School facilities throughout the district are in need of significant modernization and upgrade due to age and programmatic need.

The meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m. Friday in the board room of the district office, 700 Pacific St., Monterey.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Claws for a Cause returns to benefit Juvenile Diabetes research

Mom-with-a-cause Stephanie Morgan is busy organizing the 5th annual "Claws for a Cause," a fundraiser to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

I wrote about Stephanie two years ago as her son Landon was getting ready to go to school. Landon, now 11, was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes when he was 5, and he needs to have his blood sugar monitored constantly so he can take the insulin his body needs to break down food.

Through her fundraiser, which consists of a lobster dinner and a silent auction, Morgan has raised over $100,000 for Type 1 Diabetes research.

"Last years fundraising efforts was a record breaking $26,000 donated to JDRF," Morgan said in an email. "This year we have more support from JDRF, and Medtronic which is one of the insulin pump manufacturing companies that has been at Claws for the last 2 years."

The lobster dinner fundraiser  takes place  Saturday, Sept. 17 at 6 p.m. at the Amaral Barn, 23616 Parker Rd, Salinas.  Adults $90; children $50. For more information, visit the event's Facebook page here or contact Stephanie Morgan at (831)601-5721

Landon Morgan checking his insulin as his mother Stephanie watches in Aug. 2014 at his home in Salinas, Calif.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

MPUSD celebrates energy savings

Energy measures implemented at the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District have earned them more than $2.2 million in savings, a milestone trustees celebrated at a recent board meeting.

The cost savings were achieved during the last 37 months, since hiring national energy conservation company Cenergistic, a MPUSD spokesperson said.

Trustees approved a four-year, $892,800 contract with Cenergistic in Nov. 2012. The company, then known as Energy Education Inc., has been implementing cost-saving measures based on analyzing energy consumption habits and changing behaviors. The contract does not include the salary of the district's in-house energy specialist, which is also paid from the energy savings.

As part of the program, MPUSD’s Energy Specialist David Chandler tracks energy consumption — including electricity, water, sewer, natural gas and fuel oil — using energy-accounting software. He compares current energy use to a baseline period and calculates the amount of energy that would have been used had conservation and management practices not been implemented. By tracking consumption and analyzing energy use, he can quickly identify and correct areas that need immediate attention.

Stockton teachers coming to Monterey to share tips on Common Core

Stockton teachers Liz and Bill James will be signing copies of their new book, Method to the Madness: A Common Core Guide to Creating Critical Thinkers through the Study of Literature, from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, August 27 at Old Capitol Books, 559 Tyler St., Monterey.

The book was published in April by Rowman and Littlefield and is designed to help teachers develop rigorous curriculum that meets the needs of the Common Core standards, something that many teachers haven't had practice doing in the scripted, test-prep-focused NCLB-era.

The book is being described as being "ideal for the thousands of teachers who entered the profession in the last ten years and taught prescribed curriculum geared toward end of year bubble testing. Its intent is to empower districts and their teachers to create their own (free!) curriculum that will exceed the expectations of Common Core assessments, as well as create life-long learners that are college and career ready. By employing inquiry based units of study that insist on the use of iconic literature at the center, students will be more prepared for what awaits them with Common Core exams.

For more information about the event, click here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Monterey testing expert criticizes California new tests

California, like most states that have recently adopted new testing systems, will have to undergo a “peer review” a process whereby experts from around the country examine the quality of the exams K-12 students are taking to evaluate their academic gains.

In order for this review to take place, administrators in the California Department of Education have to submit thousands of documents that attempt to demonstrate how they’re complying with federal guidelines.

The tests “have to have a very structured set of elements the (U.S. Department of Education) wants to see to see for the test to have good quality,” said Doug McRae, a retired testing expert.

If the states don’t pass muster, they could be in danger of losing Title I money, which is allocated for low-income students. In 2008, California was subject to a fine because the peer review found issues with the 8th grade math test: some children were taking algebra and other general math, which did not comply with regulations, McRae said.

“You have to have one test, they were dinged on that asked and were asked to revise it,” he said. “It was a contentious issue.”

California had a July deadline to submit documents for its peer review, documents that McRae obtained through a public records act. In the documents submitted, he found more evidence of the criticism he’s been dispensing all along: that the tests were implemented too fast.

“In many schools, in many classrooms they had not been teaching according to the Common Core,” McRae said. “If kids have not had an opportunity to learn, then the test results are not valid. It’s not fair to test kids in materials they have not been taught. That’s a common sense thing.”

Another point McRae takes issue with is that the tests were was not ready to evaluate the academic performance of certain subgroups, including English learners, low income students, and students with disabilities.

“The test itself wasn’t complete for those segments in the population...and the money is intended for those populations,” McRae said, referring to Title I funds.

McRae asked that I post his comments in my blog, so here they are. If you want more, you can get his more technical comments here and here.

SBE Folks, CDE Folks, Interested Others --

Attached is an updated handout (July SBE meeting, Item # 1) on highlights from the CA Peer Review submission to the feds in June, updated to include information from the Smarter Balanced Peer Review submission that I received August 1. Also attached is an updated “Initial Observations” document on this material, to provide the detailed observations from both submissions that led to the highlights on the updated handout.

The attached material provides good context material for the upcoming release of 2016 CAASPP results that include 2016 Smarter Balanced scores. In particular, the updated highlights and observations show that

Opportunity-to-Learn issues (i.e., degree of implementation of Common Core instruction) have not been addressed by either the CDE or SBAC over the past two years, despite indications from SBAC that OTL surveys would be done for both spring 2015 and 2016 test administrations. The lack of information on OTL hampers sound interpretation of SB scores, and underscores a conclusion that it will be 2018 or so before SB test results will become truly meaningful for CA’s students and teachers, schools, districts, and public. I’d also note that the evolution of capability to take tests on computers also contaminates interpretation of Smarter Balanced results, especially for underserved students who most likely have had fewer opportunities to experience technology-based instruction.

The Smarter Balanced Peer Review information “revealed some gaps in item coverage at the low end of the performance spectrum” that clearly led to compromised reliability (or accuracy) of results for low wealth students, EL’s, and SWD’s, especially for the Math tests and especially for the secondary grades most prominently for the HS Math results. This information needs to be taken into account when interpreting 2016 Smarter Balanced scores, particularly comparative information for subgroups across content areas and grade levels.

The concerns that scores from roughly 30,000 students who participated but responded minimally to test questions were excluded from 2015 public aggregate results were not addressed in the Peer Review material. These concerns led to inflated performance level percentages for selected schools and districts for the 2015 results.

-- Doug McRae

Monday, August 8, 2016

Assemblyman Alejo graduates last cohort of Young Assemblymembers

Thirty-two Central Coast high school students graduated last week from the sixth and final Young Assemblymember Program offered by Assemblyman Luis Alejo. The four-week program, which Alejo has held every year in the district since taking office, concluded with a mock legislative hearing Friday at the Monterey County Government Center in Salinas. A graduation ceremony followed. This will be Alejo’s final Young Assemblymember Program. He is leaving office in December.

“Meeting and working with these hard-working and motivated young people from our community every summer has been one of the highlights of my service in the Assembly,” Alejo said in a statement. “It has been my honor and privilege to mentor them and give them a taste of civic involvement and leadership. More than 160 students have completed this program over the past six summers. Graduates from this program have gone on to become stellar students at top universities, including UC Berkeley, UCLA, Stanford and St. Mary’s College.”

The Young Assemblymember Program was open to high school and first-year college students who reside in or attend a school within the 30th Assembly District. The program offered workshops on legislation, community organizing, debate skills, team building and conflict resolution. The graduates have been able to interact with business professionals, attorneys and community leaders throughout the program.

Students who have completed the program received a Certificate of Recognition, a letter of recommendation from Alejo and a tour of the California State Capitol, where they observed an Assembly Floor Session and interacted with lawmakers. The program was provided at no cost to the students or their families.

Will it continue with the next assemblywoman? (and since there are two women in the race, it for sure will be a woman in that post) Stay tuned...

Friday, August 5, 2016

Trustees, students and community members of the North Monterey County High School held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the school's new library on Monday, Aug. 1.

The new Library/Media Center was made possible with funds from Measure H, approved in November 2013. Measure H provided $23.8 million for renovations and upgrades for the schools within North Monterey County.

The upgraded facility includes a College & Career Center, a teaching computer lab, a training/professional development lab, and a Family Outreach/Migrant Education room with computers. The building also has multiple computer stations for students to work on projects and conduct online research, in addition to Chromebooks which students and teachers can check out to use.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Migrant education programs wrap up summer activities

Monterey County is home to a large population of migrant students, and summer programs designed to enhance their education wrapped up in the last couple of weeks to make way for the regular school year. 

At the Alisal Union School District, the Migrant Education Summer Academy concluded a four-week summer enrichment program for more than 350 students held at Fremeont Elementary School. The children had projects to learn about colleges and universities, play instruments, enhance their science knowledge with a curriculum designed by NASA, and had a Mexican teacher for students to learn about art, music and history of Mexico.

Research “tell us the great majority of migrant kids feel a disconnect to their school. What that tell us, as practitioners, is the kids don’t feel they belong. They don’t see themselves within mainstream schools. They are at a loss for identity.” said Ernesto Vela, director of migrant education services at the Monterey County Office of Education. “The bilingual teacher message is be proud of who you are, your roots, your language. What we’re finding is that the self esteem the students who participate in the summer grows tremendously. We see the impact academically in many of the students who participate in the summer program.”

At Cal State University Monterey Bay, the Junior Otter Program graduated over 300 students on July 29. The program focuses on language arts, mathematics, computer science, and an enrichment component that introduces students to university campus life and fine arts, including theater, music, drama, dance, art and, video editing.

This year’s theme was the Olympics, where students explored the importance of the summer games, the countries and athletes set to participate this year.

“Junior Otters is an outstanding opportunity to expose students to the university environment and provide access to performing arts and technology programs,” said Monterey County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Nancy Kotowski. “For some of these students it’s the first time they are introduced to college life. We hope this program encourages and provides them the tools needed to successfully attend college.”

On to next year!

Students during the closing ceremony of the migrant education program at Fremont Elementary in Salinas

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Salinas Union High administrators at an impasse with teachers

The Salinas Valley Federation of Teachers, which represents teachers at Salinas Union High School District, is at an impasse in negotiations. Both sides are expecting word on notification for fact-finding. Both the union and district administration have drafted updates about the situation, and I'm going to post them both here.


Update on Negotiations with the Salinas Valley Federation of Teachers

July 31, 2016

Dear Families and Community Members,

As you may know, the Salinas Union High School District (District) and the Salinas Valley Federation of Teachers (SVFT) have been involved in a series of good-faith contract negotiations for the 2015-2016 school year.

In each year that the current bargaining agreement is in effect, the District and SVFT are allowed to negotiate over salary and benefits and each party may request negotiations on up to two additional articles of the contract. The District chose to reopen on Article XIV – Reduced Work Load Program and Appendix O – Salary Formula. SVFT chose to reopen Article XVI – In-Lieu / Compensation for Substitute Service. The District and SVFT have reached tentative agreements on the Reduced Work Load Program and In-Lieu Substitute Service. The District and SVFT have not reached agreement on Appendix O – the Salary Formula in the bargaining agreement.

Appendix O – Salary Formula is a compensation formula that is intended to ensure that SVFT members receive a “fair share” of increases from new unrestricted revenue received by the District from the state of California. The formula has been in place since the 2011-2012 fiscal year. The District remains committed to providing competitive salaries to attract and retain quality teachers. Over the course of the past five school years, SVFT members have received cumulative, noncompounded salary increases of 13.61%. This percentage is among the highest such cumulative increase for any teachers in Monterey County or area comparable districts.

The District, in partnership with SVFT, has taken steps to make the District more attractive to prospective as well as current teachers. New teachers receive signing bonuses for up to $5,000, payable over the first two years of employment. Teachers hired by the District now receive up to 15 years of credit for prior teaching experience (an increase over previous maximum allowable service credit of 7 years), thereby making the District attractive to mid-career teachers considering a change in school districts.

The District pays for and provides the New Teacher Induction program which enables teachers with preliminary teaching credentials to clear their credentials, saving them a cost of $3,000. The District has, in agreement with SVFT, increased the pay rates for substitute teachers and added incentives for frequent service. The District has added time for teacher collaboration by adding minutes to the instructional day and paying teachers for the additional time. In partnership with SVFT, the District is implementing an Educator Effectiveness grant which will provide resources for supporting new teachers throughout their first years of teaching in the District.

The District believes that our hardworking teachers deserve a raise. We also know that to ensure fiscal solvency, the District’s budget must be able to sustain any salary increases without deficit spending. SVFT members receive salary increases based upon the Salary Formula. Basically, the Salary Formula is calculated using the total increase in base revenue from the State of California (State), subtracting the cost of step and column (the year-to-year increases SVFT members receive on the certificated salary schedule), and adding in savings from the hiring of lower cost new teachers to replace those teachers who retire or leave the District. The District and SVFT do not agree whether the Salary Formula allows or should allow the District to factor in the cost of hiring teachers to new teaching positions due to an increase in student enrollment.

When the number of students enrolled in the District increases, the District receives additional funds from the state for those new students. A significant percentage of those new funds must be spent on new teachers to serve the additional students. However, the Salary Formula requires that the District apply all of the new revenue to the Salary Formula. As a result, the District is forced to spend the same dollar twice, once when the new teachers are hired and then again when the same funds are applied to the Salary Formula and are paid out in the form of a raise.

The District’s most recent proposal keeps a revised Salary Formula in place and includes the cost of new teachers due to enrollment growth in the calculation. The District’s proposal would result in an increase in salary of at least 6% retroactive to July 1, 2015. This increase would keep the SUHSD teachers’ salary schedule competitive with other area school districts.

Regarding the District’s reserve: The state requires the District to maintain a minimum of a 3% reserve and District Board policy requires that the District maintain an additional 1% in reserve, for a minimum mandated reserve of 4%. While the current reserve exceeds this 4% minimum, the Salary Formula, if left as is, will result in the reserve falling below the required minimum within three years.

At the July 19, 2016 Board of Trustees meeting the Board participated in a budget study session. At the session, School Services of California (SSC) representatives presented their review of the District’s budget as well as an overview of the current state education funding in California. There is a link to the full SSC presentation on the District web page. SSC concluded that the current budget is sound. SSC also presented sample multi-year projection scenarios showing that increases of compensation of 6% and 7.5% for all employees could cause the district to go into deficit funding.

The District acknowledges that our teachers, counselors, nurses, speech pathologists, therapists, and all other unit members are critical partners in achieving our mission of developing educated learners to the highest standards, preparing them to achieve their life’s aspirations and to be productive citizens in a global society. To that end, the District believes that its Salary Formula proposal fairly compensates our teachers for their hard work and dedication to the District.

The interest of the District is to ensure that the terms of the Salary Formula do not cause the District to deficit spend and that the formula truly operates as a “fair share” formula, applying the fair portion of “new money” to the salary schedule. Not including the cost of new teachers to accommodate student enrollment growth in the Salary Formula calculation causes the District to deficit spend. If the Salary Formula is left unchanged, the deficit spending could impact student programs and materials. Through negotiations with SVFT, the District is seeking to reduce this deficit spending while maintaining the assurance that SVFT members receive fair share increases in compensation.

The District opened negotiations seeking to address these cost concerns. Its intent all along has been to revise the formula to address the cost issues. It has never proposed that the Salary Formula be eliminated. The District values its teachers and their hard work on behalf of the District’s students.

As Superintendent, I am committed to a fair and transparent negotiations process, and want parents and community members to have accurate information. The District will provide additional updates during the negotiation process, which can be found by going to the District website at

The District looks forward to continued productive negotiations.


Tim Vanoli,



Salinas Union High School District and the Salinas Valley Federation of Teachers are at impasse and await notification to file for fact-finding. The Salinas Valley Federation of Teachers met with the District Administration on Thursday and, again on Friday, to attempt to resolve the calculation of the salary formula, but was unsuccessful. At issue is the agreed upon salary formula that calculates a fair percentage, based on increased revenue.

For 2015-16, the District enjoys a significant reserve in the general fund, in addition to an additional $16 million in a special fund, Fund 17. Their finances are strong!

Classes begin on Wednesday, August 3 rd for the District’s 14,000 students, and at this time they continue to have 24 teacher vacancies, and the number continues to grow. In fact, each week, the District has lost credentialed, well- qualified teachers to other Districts for higher pay. The sad reality is that the youth of the Salinas community will have classes on Wednesday, without qualified teachers.

The Salinas Valley Federation of Teacher demonstrated good faith to address the looming California State Retirement System obligation; however, the District maintained their position that they couldn’t afford the salary formula calculation, even with a substantial reserve.

Our children and our community deserve to have the best educators creating opportunity and inspiring the dreams of our youth. Please support your educators as they return to work without a settled contract, or salary increase since 2014- 15.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Hartnell gets $2.3 million grant to help migrant students get high school diploma

The U.S. Department of Education has just awarded a five-year, $2.3 million grant to Hartnell Community College for its High School Equivalency Program, which helps seasonal farmworkers and their children to obtain the equivalent of a high school diploma.

The grant will also fund programs to help graduates gain employment, receive job training, and apply for postsecondary education.

“A good education is the pathway to success,” Congressman Sam Farr (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “Farmworkers and their families are incredibly important members of our Central Coast community and I’m very pleased to support this program to help them better their lives.”

Hartnell’s high school equivalency program was recently ranked in the top five best performing programs in the United States with an above 90 percent graduation rate.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

MPC trustees hold special meeting

And there are only two items on the agenda: whether to place a bond in the November ballot and whether the board approves the self-evaluation report that's to be delivered to the Accrediting Commission for Junior and Community Colleges. The accrediting team is scheduled to visit MPC in October.

It's still unclear how much would the college be asking in bonds or what the money would be used for, so attending the meeting could help to find out. Stay tuned.

The meeting takes place at 2 p.m. at the MPC library.

Stuff the Bus still short of backpacks!

The United Way, the driver of the Stuff the Bus campaign, is reminding community members of the great need there is to help needy children go back to school.

The campaign needs an additional 800 backpacks to meet their goal to provide new, fully stocked backpacks for local students who are homeless and cannot afford the required school supplies. $20 buys a new, fully stuffed backpack.

You can donate online here
You can text "StuffBus" to 313131 to donate - $20 buys a fully stuffed backpack.
And to spread the message, share your support of Stuff the Bus on social media and challenge your friends to help. Use #StuffBus.

Helping kids stay in school is the best way we have to promote a peaceful, educated community.  Backpacks will be distributed throughout the county by the homeless liaisons for each school district in partnership with the Monterey County Office of Education.

Soledad parents want different leadership

Trustees with the Soledad Unified School District will hold a regular meeting on Wednesday, when they're schedule to discuss routine matters -- such as approving minutes -- and not so ordinary, such as discussing the FCMAT report on possible fraud by top administrators.

If you're not quite caught up with what's happening, here's links to my previous stories here, here and here.

Trustees are also scheduled to discuss possible terminations, resignations, etc, during closed session. Unlike their previous meeting, no administrators are being named for possible evaluation.

In the meantime, we've received a letter that describes the community's unhappiness with the board's selection of Jorge Guzman to remain at the helm of the district. Here it is, for your reading pleasure.

Dear Editor,

We, the parents of students of Soledad Unified School District, are requesting an interim superintendent that is NOT a current employee of the district. We believe is needed to begin the rebuilding process not only with the community and staff but the school board as well. Clearly you were misleading as we were. We believe that Mr. Guzman is not the person for the job. He may not be named in the investigation, but we feel he either had knowledge and did not act or was a willing participant by not stopping it or alerting personal of the problem. It is difficult to rebuild relationships with staff and parents when there is no trust. An interim superintendent outside of the Soledad district can begin to build trust and begin to put procedures in place in order to rectify the problems and “status quo procedures and attitude towards staff and community.” This outside person also would also be able to make sure hiring procedures and qualifications for jobs were also met and terminate all personnel who were involved in the misappropriation of funds or covering up for those who did.

We also feel independent audits are needed on all accounts including general fund, LCAP, Main Street Middle School building, College and Career pathways grant etc so the board and the entire community can be assured of no other irregularities. We have learned that our current CBO left his former district where the superintendent and CBO were accused of financial fraud and that district was left almost bankrupt. The similarities between the district of San Ysidro and our district are haunting San-Ysidro- Superintendent-Emails- To- Staff-217482801.html Ysidro-Superintendent- Manuel-Paul- Sentenced- 288478541.html embattled-superintendent/ 

Linkedin Profile: a407708?authType=NAME_SEARCH&authToken=gG0f&locale=en_US&trk=tyah&trkInfo=clickedVerti cal%3Amynetwork%2CclickedEntityId%3A25776336%2CauthType%3ANAME_SEARCH%2Cidx%3A 1-1- 1%2CtarId%3A1468619173676%2Ctas%3Acesar%20vega

In order to rebuild and go forward, we must know and the board must know where we stand financially. Transparency will be the key to rebuilding trust. Unfortunately too many left in charge in the district office are still part of the problem. Until what part they played is known, an independent audit needs to be done as well as hiring an interim superintendent who is not an current employee of the district can begin the changes needed to rebuild this district. Our children only get one chance at a quality education they so deserve. Monies need to be spent on programs and resources they need to be successful in the future.

While the financial issues are the main concern, it not our only concern. We believe that many of the changes Dr. Boyd made have been detrimental to our students and their education. This includes the loss of highly skilled teachers, quality district staff, and support staff that have left us to and gone to other districts. We are concerned with the lack of discipline on several of the school sites and lack of support for teachers, the lack of progress with our ELL learners, the lack of data to support if growth was made or even if a target goal was used. We have so many people at the district office paid from LCAP with no data to support if they are even needed and what they are truly in charge of. We want to be part of the process to help decide LCAP instead of waiting for it to be approved to see what was written. We must work together to make this district what it was and can be again. We are here to work and get involved. We are asking our elected officials for help in making sure this happens.

Thank you

Parents of Soledad

CSUMB hosts "Better Together: California Teachers Summit" this Friday

Cal State Monterey Bay will host the Better Together: California Teachers Summit for the Monterey Bay region from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday in the Tanimura and Antle library.

CSUMB is one of 38 universities statewide that will host the summit. Thousands of pre-kindergarten to 12th-grade teachers will convene across multiple locations in a statewide effort to help them learn from each other and share best practices in implementing the new California Standards. A team that includes CSU faculty experts on the new standards is planning the resources, tools and strategies to be presented.

The following speakers are included for the CSUMB summit location:

Kelly Gallagher, teacher, author, coach and the summit’s first keynote speaker. Gallagher has been dedicated to helping students become better readers and writers since 1985. He is considered one of the leading voices in literacy education.

Jilian Epstein, science educator at El Sausal Middle School in Salinas. Epstein also serves the Educational Director for the Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education. Her passions include constructing hands-on bilingual science and social justice activities for her students and community.

Alessandro Tani, resource teacher, case manager and department chair for Special Education at Marina High School. Tani’s highest priority is bringing together families and educational communities to develop individualized educational plans.

The free summit is a California State University partnership with the New Teacher Center and the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities and its member institutions. It is supported by $3.5 million in grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. CSUMB’s College of Education is coordinating the local event.

All California teachers, teacher candidates and school administrators are invited to participate. Registration is available online here.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Stanley Uchiyama honored for his teaching career

Stan Uchiyama, retired agriculture education teacher from North Salinas High School, was recently inducted into the California Agriculture Teacher's Association Hall of Fame.

The California Agriculture Teachers Association has 800 teachers and 95 members permanently featured in the Hall of Fame at the organization's headquarters in Galt, Calif.

Known as Mr. U among students, Uchiyama spent 41 years teaching at North Salinas High. He was also recognized in 2014 with the Steinbeck Center's Valley of the World Awards in the education category  for his teaching and efforts to inspire life long learning.

Congratulations, Mr. Uchiyama!

Boys & Girls Clubs to showcase STEAM projects

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Monterey County will have on display projects produced by its members at a STEAM Showcase at 4 p.m. on Thursday, July 28.

Both Salinas and Seaside Clubhouses are participating in the STEAM Showcase at their respective locations. The showcase is a culmination of the clubs’ summer programming; curriculum designed to prevent summer learning loss and keep kids on track to succeed in school.

The showcase will feature projects focused on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math), which includes member artwork, interactive games, tech and science projects, and more. Parents, educators, and community members are invited to attend the showcase.

The Seaside club is at 1332 La Salle Ave, Seaside.

The Salinas club is at 85 Maryal Dr, Salinas.

For more information about the STEAM Showcase click here or call (831) 394-5171 ext. 229.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Hartnell President Willard Lewallen honored by Salinas administrators

Hartnell College Superintend/President Willard Lewallen was presented with the "Forbes Impact Award" during the Forbes AgTech Summit in Downtown Salinas on July 14.

Lewallen was recognized for his leadership in education, as exemplified by the Computer Science in three years program in partnership with CSUMB.

The Forbes Impact Awards are granted each summit to individuals who are leading, innovating, and pushing boundaries in their given field. Previous recipients of the Forbes Impact Award include Malala Yousafzai, Bruce Taylor, Liz Scott, Alex’s Lemonade Stand, Veronika Scott, The Empowerment Plan, and Brian Antle.

This is the second year the Forbes AgTech Summit is held in Salinas. This year, it drew more than 600 attendees from all over the globe and offered a number of talks and seminars, Innovation Showcase, tours, film screenings, and more.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Soledad Unified to hold special meeting Thursday

And there are only two items to be discussed. An evaluation of the superintendent and the release or dismissal of an employee.

It does not  bode well for the superintendent, who was portrayed in a very unflattering light a few weeks ago when the Fiscal & Crisis Management Team issued a report that declared fraud had  possibly been committed.  If you want to read my story in the Herald, click here.

Futher complicating the matters for this woman is the fact that there are some top educational officials -- and I mean, TOP -- actively lobbying to displace Rupi Boyd, according to my very reliable source, Scuttlebutt. S/he tells me the votes are already lined up to get rid of her: 3-2. Do I smell a Brown Act Violation? Oh boy, will that be a fun Public Records Request.

Scuttlebutt also tells me a second story I wrote about the matter, detailing the fact that Boyd inherited a somewhat messy district, is ruffling the wrong feathers (as evidenced by an email I got from a very discombobulated councilmember).  Top county officials knew about the  less-than-sterling Soledad Unified School District, as a report was written only six months after Boyd took office, detailing what problems needed to be addressed. But according to another top county official, the district was "exemplary" before Boyd took office.

That should make another interesting story.

It'll be fascinating to see how Boyd reacts if she indeed gets fired, without haven't gotten her due process through the District Attorney. Scuttlebutt is just going nuts about the political machinations going on behind the scenes. I think I should take a peek.

Thursday's meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. I wish I could be there, but I'll be relying on Scuttlebutt to learn all about it. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Host families sought for visiting children from China and Korea

International education company Education First is seeking families in Monterey County to host children ages 10-13 from China and Korea for a few weeks from July 28 – August 16. There will be a weekly stipend of $100 for each Host Family and 24/7 support. Students will be involved in education and other activities from 8:30 am – 5:30 pm Monday – Friday and can be dropped at one of many bus stops. They will also take a field trip to Los Angeles on one of the weekends.

There is a special Host Family orientation at the Portola Plaza Hotel, after a home visit has been made, on July 24 from 2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Host families get a chance to have a unique cultural experience and showcase their community to the visiting students. They will also play an important part in the students' cultural experiences abroad. Students come here in hopes of improving their English skills through language courses and by speaking with their host families on a daily basis.

To host a child or for more information about Education First, call Russell Stearns at 831-205-9729 or email

CSUMB and MPUSD receive grant to prepare new teachers

Cal State Monterey Bay and Monterey Peninsula Unified School District have been awarded a grant by the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation to expand training for new K-8 teachers in implementing the state’s math and science standards.

CSUMB will get $600,000, and is among 11 California State University campuses earning S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation grants.

The grant will support CSUMB and Monterey Peninsula Unified School District in developing a shared vision for teacher preparation and professional growth. It will serve to support candidates, inductees, and new teachers’ understanding and implementation of research-based practices in Common Core State Standards - Math (CCSS-M) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) classroom instruction.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Marina youngsters going to the World Series!

For the first time in the history of Marina Pony Baseball, the Shetland Division (6 and under) won the West Zone Coast Regional Championship and earned a berth to the NorCal World Series and Shetland SoCal World Series Finals in Simi Valley, California.

The fourteen players (all five and six years old) worked incredibly hard to achieve their goals both on the field and in the classroom. Early on these players bought into the goal and learned that they could achieve more together as a team than alone as individuals.

Now the team needs the community's help to pay for travel expenses and lodging during the Shetland World Series Finals in Simi Valley on July 15-18.

When the youngsters are not playing, Coach Alade is planning to take the children visit colleges in Southern California.

"Introducing our players to college campuses at a young age is important to their development as young men and women and will help them become excited about college at a young age," team organizers wrote in their GoFundMe page. "We emphasize the connection between the hard work on the baseball field and the commitment necessary to be equally successful in the classroom."

These youngsters's hard work deserves to be recognized! Help spread the word to help them on their journey! To donate to their cause, click here.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

CSUMB Director of Admissions Recognized for Efforts in Diversity Recruitment

A Cal State Monterey Bay administrator was honored recently month for his efforts to increase student diversity during recruitment and admission.

CSUMB Director of Admissions David Linnevers was awarded the Joseph P. Allen Human Relations Award from the Western Association of College Admissions Counseling on June 2. The award was announced during the organization's annual conference at Loyola Marymount University. The honor is presented to an individual who has encouraged and supported traditionally underrepresented students in the transition from high school to college.

In 2009, Linnevers initiated a partnership with the CSUMB Early Outreach and Support Programs, the Region 16 California Migrant Education division, the CSUMB College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), the Salinas YWCA and migrant education programs in local school districts to improve college attendance rates for Spanish-speaking migrant families. The outcome was increased communication and “Dia De Los Padres,” a reception and information session specifically for Spanish-speaking parents of incoming and prospective students.

“To be recognized for the work I've poured my heart and soul into over the last 20 years and to be in the company of so many previous award winners, is truly humbling,” Linnevers said in a statement. “The students’ hope for a better future, a desire to achieve greatness and fortitude in the midst of sometimes overwhelming obstacles continues to motivate me to work even harder to ensure they will attend a university, get a degree and seek their own fortunes and happiness.”

Friday, July 1, 2016

Salinas Union High Dan Burns heading to Daly City

Dan Burns, associate superintendent of instructional services in the Salinas Union High School District, will become the next superintendet at Jefferson Union High School District in Daly City starting July 1.

Burns, 46, spent most of his educational career at the Salinas district, serving in a variety of positions as teacher, assistant principal, principal, and most recently in the district office. He worked at Seaside High School for a year before coming to Salinas 25 years ago.

"As I’m reflecting on leaving the area grew up in -- Seaside and Marina -- I can’t believe what we’ve done in last 26 years," Burns said. "I had a lot of people inspiring me to grow professionally. That helps. I learned from my parents that you get involved in the community and you serve other people. We’ve been active in athletic programs, dance programs and all kinds of staff through the years. I'm Looking for a new adventure and I’m sure the city will allow us to venture."

Among the accolades he's earned, Burns was recognized by the Association of California School Administrators as the High School Principal of the Year in 2011 and as the Curriculum and Instruction Superintendent of the Year in 2016. Burns has been a presenter for WestEd, the Central Coast Section Sportsmanship Committee, and the Association of California School Administrators.

Additionally, Mr. Burns is an all-around cool guy who returns my phone calls promptly and feeds me cool stories about the kids. Plus, he doesn't take it personally when I have to report on the nasty stuff.

Good luck, Mr. Burns. Salinas is sure going to miss you.


Dan Moirao to stay as superintendent of South Monterey County Joint Union High School District

Starting Friday, the South Monterey County Joint Union High School District has returned to local control.

But that does not mean the district will lose its state-appointed administrator. Dan Moirao, who has been at the helm of the district since 2012, will remain as superintendent for a year.

“It’s been a lot of work but we finally regained local control,” Moirao said. “We’re fiscally solvent, we graduated more students from our two comprehensive high schools than in the (previous) decade and we’re very pleased with that. More students have reclassified from English learners, the drop out rates are falling significantly. Those are good indicators. Maybe we've done something right.”

South Monterey County, formerly King City Union High, was placed under state receivership in 2009, after the district needed a $13 million loan to cover its future debts. The state appointed an administrator and it was supposed to remain under its control until the debt was fully paid.

Although the debt has not been fully repaid (there are still about $11 million outstanding), the district has a good repayment plan, Moirao said. The district will remain under trusteeship until the debt is paid, but the newly appointed state trustee will only have veto power over financial decisions. The local board will be able to make non-financial decision independently of the trustee.

Newly appointed Linda Grundhofher, who has been in King City before, “could rescind any decision the board makes that has the potential to put the district into financial trouble again,” Moirao said. “But just on the finances. As state administrators I was in complete controls of everything.”

Moirao said the local board will begin looking for a permanent superintendent within the next year.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

MCOE's Ester Rubio takes part of Washington's Women's Summit

Esther Rubio, school climate coordinator for the Monterey County Office of Education, was nominated to attend the first-ever White House Summit on The United State of Women.

The summit brought together thousands of people working to change the future of women. Held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on June 14 and 15, females from across the world came together to celebrate the progress made and turn their focus toward the future with the goal of gender equality.

Rubio said her biggest takeaway from the experience was confirming that, no matter the situation a girl is in, education is the way out.

“Creating a positive school climate for girls is essential so they feel good about going to school and continuing their education,” she said in a statement. “Women and girls, if they are going to be successful and independent, education has to be a part of their life The schools in Monterey County will be better places for students and I am proud that I will have been a part of that.”

To watch the Summit in its entirety, click here

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Soledad credit card fraud allegations report

A fabulous reader just called to ask if there were any reports tied to the allegations of credit card abuse at the Soledad Unified School District. There is. You can find it here.

My apologies for not attaching it to the actual story. I'll try to get that corrected as well.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Monterey area students take part in Californial leadership conference

Montana Sprague, a homeschooled junior, and Michelle Vu, a sophomore at York School, attended the Edge Youth Leadership Conference at UC Berkeley earlier this month.

About 160 high school sophomores from all over California attended the three-day conference, designed to cultivate students’ communication skills, foster their capacity for teamwork, and help them build resilience in the face of obstacles.

Prague is a member of the board of directors for Star Riders, Aria Monterey Women’s Choir, and the Sea Sweepers underwater robotics team. She also works part-time at the Riding Academy and as a math tutor at Monterey Peninsula College.

Vu was chosen to represent York School by teachers and administrators as EDGE allows only one student per high school to attend its conference.

Over the past 14 years, EDGE has trained and encouraged thousands of young leaders in the region.
Each year, EDGE students participate in a variety of leadership exercises, including hands-on activities and opportunities to engage with well-renowned speakers.

Michelle Vu

Montana Sprague

Monday, June 20, 2016

Former Alisal administrator heads national education conference

If you've ever wondered what Carmella Franco is up to these days, wonder no further. She's helping put together a conference on women en education.

Franco, 65, is a search associate with Hazard, Young & Attea, where she assists with superintendent searches. She served as state-appointed administrator of the Alisal Union School District from May 2010 to May 2012 after the then board hastily removed its previous superintendent and appointed a new one without doing a search.

Franco teamed up with Darline Robles, and Maria Ott two write a book, A Culturally Proficient Society Begins in School: Leadership for Equity. This conference is the outgrowth of the book, which itself came out of years of having served as advisors and mentors to women working in a wide variety of school settings.

The conference will take place on July 31 and August 1 in Boston, and it's designed for K-12 education professionals to share strategies, learn from experts, and connect with colleagues. For more information, click here.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Monterey officials ready to rule on Greenfield Unification

The Monterey County Committee for School District Organization is preparing to issue a decision regarding the Greenfield petition for unification, which would enable the Greenfield Union School District to take over jurisdiction of the local high school.

Greenfield High is now administered by the South Monterey County Joint Union High School District. If the unification is approved, it would create the Greenfield Unified School District.

The county committee will meet on Wednesday, June 15, 2016 at 6:30 PM at the Monterey County Office of Education to discuss the process.

Its members will issue a decision on the unification petition on Monday, June 27, 2016, at 6:30 p.m. at the Monterey County Office of Education.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Students Learn to “Think Like a Scientist” in STEM Camp South Monterey County

South Monterey County students will explore science on projects such as windmills, robots, and hovercrafts at the second annual Monterey County Office of Education STEM Camp, a week-long summer learning program that will be held Monday, June 13 through Friday, June 17, 2016 at San Ardo Elementary School, 62428 Center Street, San Ardo.

During the camp, students in grades 3-8 who are looking to strengthen and expand their scientific knowledge and have fun will get hands-on experience in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math
(STEM), using a variety of science and engineering concepts introduced through hands-on experiments.

To register a student from Bradley, King City, San Ardo, San Antonio, or San Lucas (for free), click here.

STEM camp is funded through a donation by Chevron, in partnership with the Monterey County Office of Education, and school districts in South Monterey County. Chevron’s donation is part of its initiative to invest in education in areas where the company has operations.

Young readers recognized for the work helping their siblings

The Read to Me Project recognized more than 500 students throughout different schools in the Alisal Union School District for their work reading to their siblings at home.

Last October, more than 500 4th, 5th and 6th grade students in  Oscar F. Loya, Martin Luther King Jr., Alisal Community, Bardin, Monte Bella and Virginia Rocca Barton elementary schools made a commitment to read aloud to their siblings ages 8 months to five years at home throughout the 2015-2016 school year. The students were taught about the early brain development, the importance of reading to young children and were coached on “The 9 Best Ways to Read to Young Children.”

Classroom teachers were provided with guidelines and information to help motivate student participation and facilitate the Project’s success.

Read to Me Project students received a certificate and books to encourage continued reading to their siblings during the summer. The goal for every student is to read to younger brothers and sisters at least one hundred days during the school year. Students who achieved the goal received a “Super Star” medal in addition to the Certificate during the ceremony.

Research has shown that the more language and vocabulary children are exposed to at an early age, the greater their academic success in school. Read to Me has been developed in order to increase exposure of low income young children to books and the love of reading.
Hartnell College administrators and Community of Caring Monterey Peninsula welcomed 1,200 Alisal Union School 4th graders on June 3 for a one-day event introducing them to the possibilities of post-secondary education.  

This is the second time that Hartnell partners with Community of Caring early career and college exploration to expose the younger generations to college life and careers offered locally.

  “What we have enjoyed seeing is the impact made when elementary students interact with Hartnell College students throughout the day," said Romero Jalomo, vice president of student affairs at Hartnell.

Seaside native Terry Maurice Poole, an offensive tackle for the Seattle Seahawks, returned home on June 2 to encourage and motivate graduates as the keynote speaker for the Monterey County Office of Education Alternative Programs Commencement Ceremony. Poole’s message focused on how students can create a positive image of themselves, become active, positive citizens, and find their place in society.

A 2010 graduate of Monterey County Office of Education’s Alternative Program at Salinas Valley Education Center for incarcerated youth, Terry has returned to Monterey County several times to meet with at-risk youth, tell his story, and provide encouragement. His message – that teens who make poor decisions can recover – is a personal one, mirroring his own high school struggle with incarceration.

After graduation from Salinas Valley Education Center, Poole attended Monterey Peninsula College and San Diego State University, majoring in Criminal Justice with the intention of working in a career to assist at-risk youth in turning their lives around. In 2015, he was drafted in the fourth round by the Seattle Seahawks.

Garth Brooks co-manager Randy Bernard gives commencement at King City High

Randy Bernard, co-manager of country superstar Garth Brooks, was the keynote speaker for the King City High Graduation on June 3 at the school's War Memorial Stadium.

Bernard, 49, grew up in San Ardo and graduated from King City High School in 1985. Prior to co-managing Garth Brooks, Bernard was the Chief Executive Officer for Professional Bull Riders, INDYCAR and RFDTV. He was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2014.

A total of 203 students graduated from King City High during the celebration.

Chili Cook-off Competition to Benefit MPUSD Teachers

The Monterey Peninsula Sunrise Rotary Club will host its “Chili for Children” Benefit Cook-off to raise funds for 2017 grants for teachers in the Monterey Unified School District. The event  is intended to help defer costs of special projects, class trips and other “extras” so teachers don't have to reach into their pockets to pay for them.

Funds from last year’s fundraising event enabled the Monterey Peninsula Sunrise Rotary Club to award in modest education grants to more than 35 teachers in January.

“Our Rotary Club is pleased to support education, and especially our local teachers, through these grants, which will help enrich the learning experiences of many students on the Monterey Peninsula,” John Byrne, the club’s president, said in a statement.

The event will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, June 11, at the YMCA in Monterey, 600 Camino El Estero, at the corner of Webster Street. Tickets are $25, and include a gourmet chili dinner, two beverages and more. Everyone's welcome. There will be live and silent auctions, a 50/50 drawing and prizes. For tickets, contact John Byrne at (831) 884-3944, or click here

Friday, June 3, 2016

Mission Park raises money for art with Color Run

Students and teachers of Mission Park Elementary in Salinas held their first ever Color Run on May 27, an event to raise funds for the school's arts program.

When children donated $25 they were given a Color Run shirt to color, as well as sunglasses to wear during the event.

 "The event was a huge success as we were able to raise enough money to fund our art teacher/program for the entire 2016-17 school year," said Christine McCuistion, one of the parents in the school.

And the kids had fun doing it.

Dual Language Academy promotes first graduating class

A big shout out to the first graduating class of the Dual Language Academy of the Monterey Peninsula. It seems like yesterday when a group of parents stood strong to keep their bilingual school together, and fought to extend it from a K-6 to K-8. And here you have it, the fully bilingual students heading to Stevenson, York, Marina High, Seaside High, Monterey High and the MAOS program at MHS.

Congrats to you all! And to all the Monterey County graduates, high school, community colleges and four-year universities. Your talents make our community strong. I wish I could go to every one of the ceremonies... if only I could clone myself and not forget to write dates down on my daybook...

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Steinbeck Elementary hosts annual art show

Like they're been doing for 18 years, teachers and students at Steinbeck Elementary in Salinas held their annual art show on Wednesday, a chance for parents to see their children's creations displayed gallery-style.

"We're one of the first schools with a full-time arts teacher," said Marissa Miranda, art instructor for six years.

All students starting in transitional kindergarten through sixth grade take an hour of art every other week. At the end of the year, they pick two of their favorite pieces, which is on display for the art show. Since the school has nearly 700 students, nearly 1,400 are on display.

"Our whole cafeteria is almost wall-to-wall," Miranda said.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

MPUSD superintendent headlines Monterey County Business Council luncheon

PK Diffenbaugh, superintendent of the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, will be the featured speaker during the monthly luncheon of the Monterey County Business Council.

Luncheons organized by the council are for members only. Find an application for membership here.

Diffenbaugh will be talking about recent district accomplishments and plans to continue moving the district forward.

The lunch will take place from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday, June 10, at Bayonet Grill, 1 McClure Way, Seaside. Cost: $25 advance, $30 at the door. For information call  (831) 216-3000.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Foster care organizations honored

Four organizations that provide services for children in the foster care system were honored by the Monterey County Board of Education for their support of these young people and their role in their development. Voices for Children CASA, Peacock Acres, Door to Hope, and The Epicenter told their mission, success stories, and personal connections to the foster care children and youth in Monterey Count during a ceremony on Tuesday. Two high school students who have been in foster care shared their emotional stories of experiencing numerous home placements and overcoming obstacles as they found self-confidence and success.

National Foster Care Awareness Month is a month set aside to acknowledge foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors, policymakers, child welfare professionals, and other members of the community who help children in foster care find permanent homes, healthy connections, and the resources to lead a successful and rewarding life.

Teressa Jimenez, Director of Development and Jasmine Flanagan, Therapeutic Learning Center Educational Coordinator from Peacock Acres share their mission and success stories during a ceremony on Tuesday at the Monterey County Office of Education.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Soledad performance of "The Woman who Outshone the Sun" not to be missed!

Don't miss the last performance of "The Woman who Outshone the Sun," a cautionary tale of Zapotec origins adapted to the stage by Luis Xago Juarez of Baktun 12 and set it in the Pinnacles region near Soledad.

The play captures the spirit of the original cautionary tale and celebrates caring for the land and creatures of this unique environment, and it's performed by Soledad students from the 4th, 5th and 6th grades.

Two hundred twenty students from five after-school sites in Soledad worked with a special Arts Council for Monterey County interdisciplinary teaching artist team for several months to create the original musical. They also created backdrops and costumes as part of the program. Many will participate in the final show presented at Frank Ledesma Elementary School on Thursday at 7 pm.

“This has been such a great year - thanks to all of our partners. Now that we are ready to showcase their talents, we are so excited that all these elements have come together so well!” said in a statement Ellen Berrahmoun, arts education director of the Arts Council. Team teaching artists include Emily Morales (theater), Carlos Cortez (theater), Jose Ortiz (visual arts), Orlando Castro (music) and Christy Sandoval (dance).

The performance takes place at 7 pm. on Thursday, May 26, at Frank Ledesma Elementary School: 973 Vista De Soledad, Soledad. Not to be missed!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Deadline to apply to Young Assemblymembers Program is June 17

Assemblyman Luis A. Alejo (D-Salinas) is accepting applications from high school and first year college students who reside or attend school in the 30th Assembly District for his 2016 Young Assemblymembers Program. The four-week program focuses on developing leadership skills and empowering students to become leaders in the community.

This year’s program is scheduled for July 5-29, with meetings every Tuesday and Thursday from 2-5 p.m. at Alejo’s Salinas District Office. The program is available at no cost to the participants or their families.

Students who complete the program will receive a special recognition certificate and a letter of recommendation from  Alejo, and have an opportunity to tour the California State Capitol.

This will be the final year for Assemblymember Alejo’s Young Assemblymember Program. Alejo will be leaving the Assembly at the end of this year. Alejo founded the program in 2011 to provide young people of the Central Coast region an opportunity to learn leadership skills the importance of civic participation and higher education.

The Young Assemblymembers Program application deadline is June 17, 2016. The application form is available online here or at the Salinas District Office, located at 100 W. Alisal Street, Suite 134.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Monterey County high school graduation rates on the rise

High school graduation rates in Monterey County are up, a trend that can be seen across all groups. In some cases, graduation rates are even higher than California's rate overall, according to the California Department of Education.

The graduation rate for all students went up from 80 percent in 2013 to 84.5 percent in 2015, a 4.5 point increase. California went up only 1.9 points to 82.3 percent in the same period.

Biggest increases were seen among English Learners, who went up from 67.3 percent to 73.1 percent the same time period, a 5.8 point increase. In California as a whole, 69.4 percent of English-language learners graduated in four years.

Students with disabilities also saw increases: 65.5 percent graduated in 2015, compared with 59.2 percent in 2013, a 6.3 point increase.

So much to to day about this data, but I will not have time to dig into it this week. More to come. Stay tuned.

MPC trustees to receive preliminary report by consultant

Monterey Peninsula College Trustees will hear a preliminary report by Sacramento-based Collaborative Brain Trust Consulting; a firm hired in November to conduct a comprehensive audit of the college. Said study was meant to include analyzing current enrollment practices and develop a finance plan.

The report will take place at 2 p.m. Friday, May 20, a Lecture Forum 103 on the school's Monterey campus, 980 Fremont Street, Monterey. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Teens express their views on social justice -- through art

Carmel High students were prompted to react artistically to the racially motivated killings in Charleston, North Carolina when nine churchgoers were killed by a white supremacist last summer.

The result will be on display at 2 p.m. Sunday, during the opening of the "Teens, Art and Social Justice"  exhibit at the Monterey Peninsula Justice Center, 1364 Fremont Blvd.

Art and graphic design classes were inspired to react to the tragic event and other issues such as Black Lives Matter, bullying, the environment, LGBTQ rights, and mental health, which are important to teens. Students created art pieces expressing their ideas about social justice, using various mediums, including digital graphic art and oil painting

The works displayed are from the classes of art teacher, Steven Russell and graphic design teacher, Holly Lederle.

The MPJC Art Gallery is open 1 – 5:30 Wednesday and Friday. The exhibit may also be viewed during events at the Monterey Peace and Justice Center, 1364 Fremont Blvd., Seaside.

The exhibit will be on display through June. 

Hartnell to honor two alumni during commencement ceremony

Gary Tanimura and Jeff Nessen Schmidt will be honored as this year’s Distinguished Alumni during Hartnell College graduation ceremony on May 27 at Rabobank Stadium in Salinas.

Tanimura will be the commencement speaker and Schmidt will be recognized posthumously.

This honor is conveyed to former students of Hartnell College who have made significant achievements in their field or in service to the community.

Gary Tanimura, vice president of production at Tanimura & Antle, graduated from Hartnell College in 1969 with an associate’s degree. He has remained involved in the college and is a founding member of the Ag Steering Committee and was President of the Foundation Board. Jeff Nessen Schmidt graduated from King City High School in 1941 and attended Hartnell College (then called Salinas Junior College). In January 1942, a few days after turning 18, Jeff enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He went on to attend the University of Texas and Midshipmen's School at Columbia University, and was the top student in his M.I.T. Radar Academy. Jeff ended the war studying at Bowdoin University in Maine and returned to California to earn his engineering degree from U.C. Berkeley. Mr. Schmidt died on January 2. For more information about the 2016 commencement for Hartnell College, click here.

Monday, May 16, 2016

MPC refinances one of its bonds, saves money in the long run

Monterey Peninsula Community College District officials have refinanced a portion of its bonds to get lower interest rates. Which means that taxpayers will end up paying less for them in the long run.

The bonds will now carry an interest rate of 2.8 percent, down from 5 percent. The rate will begin in 2017 and will continue until 2034. By refinancing its bonds, college officials say they have saved the community about $30 million since 2005.

“The Measure I Bonds have literally transformed our Monterey campus and allowed the district to serve our communities better by adding centers in Marina and Seaside," College President Walter Tribley said in a statement.

Approved in 2002, Measure I brought $145 million into MPC that was used to renovate old facilities and build new ones. Some of the projects financed were the renovation of the pool, the students services center and the Marina campus.

Math pays for Will Calciano during the Mathletics competition

Will Calciano of York School earned the $1,000 Richard Morgantini Scholarship for being the top-scoring student taking the advanced calculus exam during the 48th annual Mathletics Competition Saturday, May 14, at Salinas High School.

Mathletics is a math contest held annually to encourage excellence in math, and recognize the achievements of individual students and the schools they represent.

Nearly 300 upper elementary, middle and high school students from 36 Monterey County public and private schools participated in the event, which tests students in one of ten levels: fifth grade math, sixth grade math, seventh grade math, eighth grade math, integrated math 1, integrated math 2, algebra 2, math analysis, calculus AB and calculus BC.

First, second, and third place winners in each level received an Olympic-sized medal and gift card. In addition, top-scoring schools for each of the ten tests were awarded certificates.

More than 100 students were recognized for the top-scoring abilities, be it with a medal or an honorable mention. You can get the full list of the winners here.

Friday, May 13, 2016

AAUW Monterey awards $9,000 in scholarships

The American Association of University Women -- Monterey Peninsula Branch just awarded $9,000 in scholarships to six students, including MPC graduates Joy Johnson and Zulema Cortez Cuevas and CSUMB students Adriana Lopez-Romero, Karina Pizano, Sandra Cervantes, and Vanessa Tejada.

For more information about the organization and its programs, click here.

All Saints' J.T. Byrne wins at California History Day

*UPDATE: I'm correcting a previous version of this post by adding a student who was left out from the finalists list and to change the status of the students. 

All Saints’ Day School student J.T. Byrne, a seventh grader, was named California State co-champion for his project “Exchanging Baseball Diamonds for Sand Lots During World War II: Nisei Baseball and Internment” in the individual junior documentary category.

A total of 1,215 students from all over California participated in the National History Day state contest on May 6-7. J.T. will represent California in Maryland June 12-16, 2016, at the National History Day Competition at the University of Maryland, College Park.

J.T. is the fourth All Saints’ student in six years to advance to the National History Day competition. Two years ago Molly Mancina won the National History Day competition for her documentary on ‘The Rights and Responsibilities of Photojournalists.’

Fellow All Saints’ students Graziella Cosentino, Courtney Hand, Heidi Hansch,  Nina Harmer, and Kat Popky were also finalists.

“My passion has always been baseball and I saw this as an opportunity to not only show the important role baseball played for the Japanese American community but also to put a spotlight on a part of American history that is not yet very well known," J.T. said in a statement. "Talking to local historian Tim Thomas and later Mr. Miyamoto, who played baseball right here in Monterey on a Nisei team, was eye opening and made me want to educate the public. The National History Day Program is the perfect vehicle for that.”

National History Day (NHD) is a yearlong academic program focused on historical research for 6th to 12th grade students. Each year, more than half a million students participate in the NHD contest. Students choose historical topics related to a theme and conduct extensive research through libraries, archives, museums, oral history, interviews, the Internet, and historic sites.

Congratulations, J.T.! Have fun in Maryland!