Vaca High sophomore to audition for ‘The Voice’ – The Reporter

By Nick Sestanovich

The 16th season of NBC’s hit singing competition series “The Voice” premieres on Feb. 25, and scores of aspiring singers across the nation are preparing to audition for the show, go through a few rounds of training with one of the celebrity judges and ultimately be crowned ‘the voice,’ where they will win $10,000 and a recording contract with Universal Music Group.

One of these open auditions is taking place at San Francisco’s Moscone Center West on Feb. 24, which makes it a primary destination for Bay Area vocalists. Of course, this includes singers from Vacaville.

This week, The Reporter profiled Tyler James Luttrell, a Vacaville native who has been prepping for the audition with renditions of country and Southern rock songs.

Source: Vaca High sophomore to audition for ‘The Voice’ – The Reporter

Doug Ford, former SCOE trustee and Reporter columnist, dies – The Reporter

By Nick Sestanovich

Doug Ford, a former Air Force lieutenant colonel, Solano County Board of Education trustee and Reporter columnist, died in his Dixon home Thursday after a battle with prostate cancer. He was 87.

Ford was born in Georgetown, Ill., in 1931 but moved to Tillamook, Ore., with his family when he was 3. It was there that he developed a lifelong interest in aviation when his father took him to see a Soviet aircraft that had flown over the North Pole from Moscow to Vancouver, Wash., in 1937.

Ford began building model airplanes and earned his private pilot’s license in 1950. He was accepted into the Air Force’s Pilot Training Program in 1951 but was moved over to the navigator training program after failing to pass the vision test. He retired from the Air Force in 1979, having reached the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Source: Doug Ford, former Solano Board of Education trustee and Reporter columnist, dies – The Reporter

Vallejo school board makes $7.25 million in cuts – Times-Herald

By John Glidden

There was a noticeable pause and silence from the Vallejo school board Wednesday night after board President Bob Lawson asked if any of the trustees had a motion.

After a few tense seconds, Trustee Tony Gross eventually offered up a motion to approve recommendations from Vallejo City Unified School District administrative staff to cut $7.25 million from next year’s fiscal year budget.

The board’s unanimous vote ended a terse and emotional discussion Wednesday night as the district attempts to erase a $22 million deficit and stave off insolvency.

Source: Vallejo school board makes $7.25 million in cuts – Times-Herald

Solano Teens Tackle Tobacco, Alcohol, Drugs At 21st Annual Event | Benicia, CA Patch

By News Desk

On Friday, February 8th, the Solano County Office of Education took 35 students to the 21st Annual Teens Tackle Tobacco, Alcohol, Drugs and Youth Wellness Conference at UC Berkeley. Students from Benicia, Dixon, Travis, Fairfield-Suisun, Vacaville and Vallejo Unified School Districts attended workshops designed by youth for youth. Workshop topics included: healthy relationships, youth preventing violence, tobacco, vaping, and more. Students walked away with a better understanding about prevention, advocacy, cessation, and overall wellness.

Source: Solano Teens Tackle Tobacco, Alcohol, Drugs At 21st Annual Event | Benicia, CA Patch

Vallejo school board dedicates meeting to killed alpacas – Times-Herald

By John Glidden

The Vallejo school board concluded its three-hour meeting Wednesday night by adjourning in honor of the three alpacas killed during a dog attack at Loma Vista Farm last Friday.

While most of the meeting centered around the board’s need to make $7.25 million in cuts, a bulk of those reductions to district positions, Vallejo City Unified School District Superintendent Adam Clark did take time to offer his condolences for the loss.

“I just wanted to share in my condolences for the farm animals that we lost over at Loma Vista Farm,” he said during his report to the trustees. “It was absolutely tragic, I was sick to my stomach when I heard about it Saturday morning, sick to my stomach when I went by there Sunday, and still, sick to my stomach about that unfortunate event that took place.”

Source: Vallejo school board dedicates meeting to killed alpacas – Times-Herald

VCUSD Superintendent Adam Clark adamant Widenmann site ‘not for sale’ – Times-Herald

By John Glidden

Apparently, the current Elsa Widenmann Elementary School in North Vallejo is not for sale.

District Superintendent Adam Clark emphatically confirmed as much during Wednesday night’s Vallejo City Unified School District Board of Education meeting.

“It’s not for sale,” he said during his report to the board. “Do you think if I had to, that I would have shut down that program over there? Widenmann does great things.”

Clark was responding to comments made from district watchdog Robert Schussel, who argued that the district should consider Griffin Technology Academies’ offer to lease the school site for $1.5 million. The district is currently facing a $22 million structural deficit.

Source: VCUSD Superintendent Adam Clark adamant Widenmann site ‘not for sale’ – Times-Herald

School, district social media policies must tackle pitfalls as well as opportunities | Education Dive

By Shawna De La Rosa

Learning to utilize social media can be a daunting task fraught with the potential for flubs and even major missteps. But avoiding social media all together may be the biggest mistake of all.

Creating strong policies will encourage responsible behavior by students, staff and faculty. Setting the guidelines can begin by stressing the importance of personal responsibility and outlining the boundaries of communication between staff and students, as well as families, on social media. Kristin Magette’s “Embracing Social Media: A Practical Guide To Manage Risk And Leverage Opportunity” is a good resource when tackling this process.

Source: School, district social media policies must tackle pitfalls as well as opportunities | Education Dive

School Safety and Student Privacy: Betsy DeVos Seeks to Clarify Law – Education Week

By Alyson Klein

The U.S. Department of Education Tuesday sought to clear up confusion about how school privacy laws should be interpreted in the context of school safety with the release of a new frequently-asked-questions document that puts previous guidance and technical help on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act all in one place.

The new, comprehensive document, School Resource Officers, School Law Enforcement Units, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), builds on conclusions from the Federal School Safety Commission, which found that school districts seeking to bolster their safety efforts were confused about when and how they could share student information without violating FERPA. President Donald Trump established the school safety commission in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., last February.

Source: School Safety and Student Privacy: Betsy DeVos Seeks to Clarify Law – Politics K-12 – Education Week

2019 Model Continuation High Schools Announced – Year 2019 (CA Dept of Education)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced today that 31 schools were newly designated as Model Continuation High Schools for 2019. These schools are recognized for their innovative approach to instruction and helping students who have faced many challenges—including behavior issues, chronic absenteeism, and truancy—get back on the pathway to learning.

“These schools have created exemplary programs and strategies that provide students with a second chance at academic success,” said Thurmond. “The commitment demonstrated by the teachers and administrative staff, combined with a culture of caring that focuses on the emotional and education needs of the unique populations they serve, are what make these continuation high schools the best examples of how to help kids strive and reach their full potential.”

Source: 2019 Model Continuation High Schools Announced – Year 2019 (CA Dept of Education)

Fairfield High drama teacher uses handmade puppets in her classroom – The Reporter

By Joel Rosenbaum

Fairfield High School drama teacher, Elizabeth Choy, thought it would be interesting and cool to learn how to make puppets.

Using videos on YouTube and modeling her creations from images on social media, she created her first two puppets. Naming them after herself and her husband, she brought them into her classroom.

While she was building her first puppet in class five years ago, Choy noticed that one of her students who was autistic picked up one of the puppets and began to open and close the mouth and play with them.

Source: Fairfield High drama teacher uses handmade puppets in her classroom – The Reporter

Specific program, personnel cuts on Vallejo’s school board agenda – Times-Herald

By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen

The specific $7.2 million in budget cuts recommended by Superintendent Adam Clark last week are expected to be approved at the Vallejo City Unified School District meeting on Wednesday, despite impassioned appeals last week by many of those impacted.

The school district finds itself in financial trouble as a result of declining enrollment, including encroachment of charger schools, high chronic absentee rates, and rising contributions to employee health and benefits. The district is still repaying — at some $3 million per year — a $60 million state bailout loan from the last time it got into trouble.The district must maintain fiscal solvency to avoid being taken over the state again, by making appropriate revisions to the budget to eliminate structural deficits.

Source: Specific program, personnel cuts on Vallejo’s school board agenda – Times-Herald

How Teachers Are Changing Grading Practices With an Eye on Equity | MindShift

By Katrina Schwartz

Nick Sigmon first encountered the idea of “grading for equity” when he attended a mandatory professional development training at San Leandro High School led by Joe Feldman, CEO of the Crescendo Education Group. As a fairly new high school physics teacher, Sigmon says he was open-minded to new ideas, but had thought carefully about his grading system and considered it fair already. Like many teachers, Sigmon had divided his class into different categories (tests, quizzes, classwork, homework, labs, notebook, etc.) and assigned each category a percentage. Then he broke each assignment down and assigned points. A student’s final grade was points earned divided by total points possible. He thought it was simple, neat and fair.

Looking back, however, Signmon said this kind of system made it seem like teachers were setting up rules to a game. “They say these are the rules and whatever the score works out to be that is your grade,” he said.

Source: How Teachers Are Changing Grading Practices With an Eye on Equity | MindShift | KQED News

Classified School Employees of the Year Program (CA Dept of Education)

I would like to invite each County Office of Education (COE) to participate in the 2019 Classified School Employees of the Year (CSEY) Program. Presented by the California Department of Education (CDE), the Classified School Employees Association, and California Casualty, the CSEY Program highlights the contributions of classified school employees who support the education of California’s public school students in preschool through grade twelve.

The program goals are to identify six exemplary classified school employees throughout California for the CSEY award. The 2019 CSEY Program will identify and honor classified employees working in the following categories: Child Nutrition; Maintenance, Operations, and Facilities; Office and Technical; Para-Educator and Instructional Assistance; Support Services and Security; and Transportation.

Source: Classified School Employees of the Year Program – Letters (CA Dept of Education)

Special needs prom gives individuals a night to shine – The Reporter

By Nick Sestanovich

The walls of the multipurpose room at Three Oaks Community Center were lined with balloons. Attendees arrived dressed in tuxedos, fedoras, red velvet dresses and high heels.

Photo booths were set up for them to take pictures with friends and hit songs by Taylor Swift, The Chainsmokers and DJ Khaled filled the room while people danced.

This could have been a scene from any high school prom. What made it unique was that the attendees were all individuals with special needs and their families, giving them their own night to remember.

Source: Special needs prom gives individuals a night to shine – The Reporter

Travis School District to recognize top employees, review policies – Daily Republic

By Daily Republic Staff

Travis School District trustees will recognize the classified and certificated employees of the year when they meet Tuesday.

Connie Nichols, a Food Service worker at Vanden High School, was selected as the Classified School Employee of the Year, while Melanie Green, a teacher at Cambridge Elementary School, was selected as Certificated Employee of the Year.

They will represent the Travis district at the Solano County Educators of the Year Ceremony that’s scheduled March 30.

Source: Travis School District to recognize top employees, review policies

Mare Island academy up for Distinguished School award – Daily Republic

By Daily Republic Staff

Mare Island Technical Academy has received an invitation to apply for the California Distinguished School award, the Solano County Office of Education announced.

The secondary school earned the invitation “because they have made exceptional gains in implementing the academic content performance standards adopted by the State Board of Education for all students,” Superintendent of Schools Lisette Estrella-Henderson said in a statement.

Schools that received the invitation have met a variety of criteria, involving multiple measures on their performance and progress on the state indicators on the California School Dashboard.

Source: Mare Island academy up for Distinguished School award

Proposed Vallejo school board cuts draw tears – Times-Herald

By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen

There were long faces on the dais as well as in the crowded gallery at Wednesday’s Vallejo City Unified School District meeting. There were even tears, as some of the people in positions recommended for budget-balancing cuts took to the podium to plead with officials to reconsider.

It was reiterated that the district faces a $22 million structural deficit, and that if a way is not found to staunch the financial bleeding, the district could wind up under state control again. The reasons this has happened again to the district, which is still repaying a $60 million bailout loan to the state of California, are several-fold.

For one thing, it’s been losing students at a precipitous rate — having gone from some 20,000 just 20 years ago, to less than 12,000 today, and dropping by hundreds each year. Some of that is a result of charter school encroachment, officials said. Also, the district has among the state’s worst chronic absenteeism rates, which costs it money as well.

Source: Proposed Vallejo school board cuts draw tears – Times-Herald

T-R-I-U-M-P-H-A-N-T: Alamo, Vaca Pena students win big at spelling bee – The Reporter

By Nick Sestanovich

Erudite: E-R-U-D-I-T-E.

Definition: having or showing great knowledge or learning.

Used in a sentence: Boy, those kids in Vacaville sure are erudite when it comes to spelling.

A student from Alamo Elementary School and another from Vaca Pena Middle School proved themselves as this year’s top wordsmiths in their respective levels of schooling. Nash Martinez and Alexis Abadiano were the big winners at Wednesday’s Grace B. Powell Citywide Spelling Bee.

Hosted by the Vacaville Rotary Club at Will C. Wood High School’s Catwalk Theater, the bee is named after a former Vacaville High School principal who was dedicated to the education of students.

Source: T-R-I-U-M-P-H-A-N-T: Alamo, Vaca Pena students win big at spelling bee – The Reporter

School unlocks students’ potential by doing something radical – Daily Republic

By The Washington Post

Patrick Cox, a junior at Quaker Valley High School in the Pittsburgh suburbs, has learning disabilities, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder – ADHD – or what he calls “not giving two licks.”

Like most special-education students in this country, he has an individualized education program, known as an IEP. It is supposed to help him overcome his disability. Such programs have mixed results, but Cox’s experience has been different because of the unusual character of his school.

Educators are often reluctant to put students like him into challenging college-level courses, such as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate. They legitimately fear that children with disabilities will gain nothing but stress and anxiety from the experience.

Source: School unlocks students’ potential by doing something radical: Listening to them

Solano County 4-H members earn showmanship awards – Daily Republic

By Kathy Keatley Garvey

Seven 4-H’ers, covering such diverse topics from “how to make a chocoflan cake” to “how to reel in channel catfish,” won showmanship pins for their presentations at the Solano County 4-H Project Skills Day that took place Saturday at Sierra Vista Elementary School.

The annual event is an opportunity for 4-H’ers to show what they’ve learned in their projects and demonstrate their showmanship skills, according to Solano County 4-H Program representative Valerie Williams. Evaluators, all 4-H volunteers, scored the youths on their display, presentation, knowledge and interaction.

The showmanship winners included three from the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club in Vallejo, three from the Suisun Valley 4-H Club in the Fairfield-Suisun City area; and one from the Tremont 4-H Club in Dixon.

Source: Solano County 4-H members earn showmanship awards