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 http://www.salinasuhsd.org/pages/SUHSD.

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.