VUSD starts new academic year – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

Like all the kindergarten teachers at Fairmont Charter Elementary, Janice Smith was new on the job this academic year, the first day of which began Thursday morning for Vacaville Unified’s 12,400 students across 16 campuses.

Smith, who formerly taught at Markham Elementary, welcomed more than 20 students and some parents into her room, 105, at the Marshall Road school.

The students, most of them 5-year-olds, sat at their desks, their new name tags affixed to their shirts or tops, as she revealed a few personal facts: She likes dogs, sewing, and tending her garden. Her favorite food? Broccoli, which did not elicit nodding heads or exclamations of “Yummy!” from any of her young charges and most parents. Her favorite book? “Green Eggs and Ham” by Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss.

via VUSD starts new academic year – The Reporter.

School bond moves on to uncertain fate | EdSource

By John Fensterwald

A slimmed down school construction bond measure approved by a state Senate committee on Thursday faces an uncertain future.

Even if the full Senate approves the measure next week, there is a good chance that Gov. Jerry Brown will veto it. And, even he were he to sign the bill, it may already be too late to get the proposal on this November’s ballot for voter approval.

By 7-0 vote, the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved Assembly Bill 2235, creating a bond for $4.3 billion – a little less than half of the $9 billion in the original bill. The bulk would go toward new construction ($1.23 billion) and renovations ($2.47 billion) for K-12 schools, with $600 million divided equally among the community colleges, the University of California and California State University campuses.

via School bond moves on to uncertain fate | EdSource.

Eight will seek election to three VCUSD trustee seats – Vallejo Times Herald

Times-Herald staff report Posted:

The Vallejo City Unified School District Board of Education will have eight individuals vie for three positions this November, in an old fashion face-off.

Since incumbent Adrienne Waterman did not file paperwork by the Aug. 8 deadline, the filing deadline was extended until Wednesday at 5 p.m. No new candidate paperwork was received by the Solano County Registrar of Voters before the extended deadline.

Trustees Tony Ubalde and Hazel Wilson will face challengers Ruscal Cayangyang, Burky Worel, Shelee Loughmiller, John Lewis, Richard Porter and Brisbain Pucan.

via Eight will seek election to three VCUSD trustee seats – Vallejo Times Herald.

3 trustees, newcomer vie for 3 board seats – Benicia Herald

by Keri Luiz

Unlike the City Council, to which no challengers are seeking election in November, the Benicia Unified School District Board of Trustees will have a political horse race this fall.

Three incumbents are up for re-election, and one newcomer has joined the race, meaning the top three vote-getters will earn a seat on the board.

The deadline to file for the school board race was Tuesday.

Up for re-election are board President Rosie Switzer and Trustees Steve Messina and Peter Morgan. The challenger is Diane Ferrucci.

via 3 trustees, newcomer vie for 3 board seats.

Solano College students start year with helping hand – Daily Republic

By Ian Thompson

Ivan Sinkevich of Vacaville balanced his first day back at Solano Community College on Wednesday by starting his own classes and helping a wave of new students get to theirs.

“I have been here since 7:30 a.m.,” Sinkevich said while staffing an information booth on the campus’ east side and wearing a green T-shirt with the phrase ‘Ask Me’ emblazoned on it.

A lot of students asked him.

He, along with several similarly attired educators and a dozen other students, fielded questions ranging from parking permits to where their classes were located.

via Solano College students start year with helping hand Daily Republic.

Suisun Valley School welcomes 500 to campus – Daily Republic

By Amy Maginnis-Honey

The morning was “a little emotional” Wednesday for Jamie Eikenberry as she sent her son to first grade and her daughter to fourth grade at Suisun Valley Elementary School.

“It will be the first time he’s been in school all day,” Eikenberry said of her son. “It’s a little harder on me.”

Pictures had been taken at home by the front door before leaving for school.

Eikenberry had taken the day off work. She contemplated picking up some coffee but wasn’t ready to say good-bye as the children made their way to the classrooms.

via Suisun Valley School welcomes 500 to campus Daily Republic.

SCC district to save money this November – The Reporter

By John Glidden

Faced with a $2.6 million deficit for the 2014-15 fiscal year, Solano Community College officials received a bit of good fiscal news when three of the four trustees seeking re-election this fall were removed from the November ballot.

California law states that when an incumbent for a community college district board is the only individual to file candidacy paperwork, then the contest is removed from the ballot by the county registrar of voters.

Incumbents A. Marie Young, Denis Honeychurch and Sarah Chapman were automatically given four additional years after they were the only individuals to file candidacy paperwork for their respective races before the Aug. 8 deadline.

via SCC district to save money this November – The Reporter.

Dixon Unified welcomes back students – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

Gretchen Higgins Elementary kindergarten teacher Penny Casalegno sat in a chair in her sunny room, C-1, and looked out at more than 20 of her students sitting cross-legged and quietly on a rug in front of her.

“Did anyone dream about school last night?” she asked but got no definitive replies.

Then she began to read, in English, a story about a student’s first day of school, the text touching on the same things that her mostly 5-year-olds were experiencing Wednesday, the beginning of the 2014-15 academic year in Dixon Unified School District.

Casalegno (pronounced “CAHSAH-lee-no”) quickly finished the story, with the main character humorously telling his parents, “Don’t cry mom and dad — kindergarten is cool.”

via Dixon Unified welcomes back students – The Reporter.

Obama Administration Unveils New Preschool Grant Program – Education Week

By Alyson Klein

Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia, which have already won federal grants to bolster their early-learning systems—or have robust early-childhood programs in place—could tap into even more money to improve preschool programs, under a new, $250 million “preschool development” grant competition announced by the Obama administration Wednesday.

And 15 states and Puerto Rico, which are just getting started on their early-learning programs would be able to compete, on a somewhat separate track, for a portion of those funds.

The preschool development grant program, which will be jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, represents a relatively modest down payment on the Obama administration’s much broader, $75 billion request for matching grants to help states cover the cost of a major expansion of early-childhood education programs. The bigger program is likely to go absolutely nowhere in a tight-fisted Congress, so this scaled-back version may be all the extra early-learning money states see from the feds for quite a while.

via Obama Administration Unveils New Preschool Grant Program – Politics K-12 – Education Week.

Fairfield High opens year with ‘a really good day’ – Daily Republic

By Ryan McCarthy

Kristen Witt, the new principal at Fairfield High School, remembers her first day of high school and the mix of anxiousness and excitement that came with it.

Credit, perhaps, completing at least a school year for the welcome with which several Fairfield High School sophomores and juniors greeted the first day of classes Wednesday.

“I like school and learning,” Courtney Franklin said. “I’m a nerd,” she added with a smile.

Franklin, 16, a junior, wants to attend Columbia University in New York and become a cardiac surgeon.

Aubrianna Glynn, 16, who hopes to study child psychology at the University of California, Davis, said going back to school, “means I have something to do all day.”

via Fairfield High opens year with ‘a really good day’ Daily Republic.

Bethel grad hopes to inspire college dreams in Vallejo – Vallejo Times Herald

By Tony Burchyns

Considering his grueling math and physics double-major, leadership activities and summer abroad doing astrophysics research in Italy, it’s hard to imagine Lewis Johnson was almost on the wrong path in high school.

But the 20-year-old University of the Pacific junior, who graduated from Vallejo’s Jesse Bethel High School in 2012, said he had to “beat the odds” to overcome stereotypes and other challenges that go with being an African-American male from a single-parent family.

“I was getting into fights … I got suspended … but even though I had difficulties, I still took honors classes,” Johnson said.

via Bethel grad hopes to inspire college dreams in Vallejo – Vallejo Times Herald.

Local tea party group sets VUSD candidate forum – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

The Vaca Valley Tea Party will hold a public forum in mid-September for the nine candidates seeking four trustee seats on Vacaville Unified governing board.

Organizers said the forum will 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 17 at Pietro’s No. 2, at 679 Merchant St., Vacaville. Pizza and salad will be served.

Each candidate will have an opportunity for a short statement, three to five minutes.

In a brief press release, Colleen Britton, president of the organization, said that candidates can expect to be called upon to “address the following areas of interest to our members and the community”:

What are your qualifications and why are you interested in becoming a school board member? What are your top three priorities for the district? What is your assessment of Common Core and its future? What is your position on the $194 million school bond, Measure A, that will be on the Nov. 4 ballot?

via Local tea party group sets VUSD candidate forum – The Reporter.

Ready for the first day of school – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

Ages roughly 5 to 11, they filed into Target Fairfield, one by one, looking a little sheepish at 7 a.m. Saturday, nearly all from low-income Solano County homes, some of them eager to finish the morning’s generally happy business but most not knowing quite what to expect.

Escorted by their parents, who turned them over to dozens of Salvation Army volunteers who, in turn, helped some 100 children navigate the huge Cadenasso Drive store’s departments, the back-to-school shopping spree began.

Thanks to the Salvation Army, generous donations by Jelly Belly, Vallejo rapper E-40 (aka Earl Stevens), and others, the children picked out $100 worth of free clothes: pants, shirts or tops, shoes, socks, underwear, hats, belts and jackets. The Salvation Army also donated backpacks filled with school supplies, and the Target corporation provided a 10 percent discount for all purchases.

via Ready for the first day of school – The Reporter.

Central American kids to join Bay Area classrooms – Vallejo Times Herald

By Matt O’Brien

Three months after President Barack Obama declared their mass arrival an “urgent humanitarian situation,” thousands of children who fled Central America are about to take a seat in U.S. classrooms for the first time.

Some Bay Area schools are bracing for an influx. Others don’t know what to expect or haven’t thought about it. The Oakland Unified School District, more prepared than most, is anticipating so many newcomers that it is hiring a privately-funded consultant to cushion their landing.

“Moving anywhere is one of the most stressful things any kid can do. Compound that with moving countries, moving cultures,” said Carmelita Reyes, co-principal of Oakland International High School.  “It’s the most stressful situation. And you’re 15. It’s incredibly hard.”

Many are landing in cities that already had a large Central American community, such as Oakland, San Francisco, Richmond, Concord and Redwood City.

via Central American kids to join Bay Area classrooms – Vallejo Times Herald.

Special Education Evaluation Process Under Fire From Senate Republicans – Education Week

By Christina Samuels

Senate Republicans on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee are upset about the U.S. Department of Education’s recent decision to evaluate states’ special education systems based on the academic performance of students with disabilities.

“This is clear influence and coercion, if not direct control,” the GOP committee members wrote to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a letter dated Aug. 4. “It is troubling that the department made unilateral changes to the [Individuals with Disabilities Act] compliance framework without seeking legislative approval, disregarded congressional intent, and appears to have violated the clear letter of the law.”

In June, the department rolled out of a revised evaluation process. The 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, requires that states submit data to the Education Department about how students with disabilities are doing. But before this year’s annual report, states were only graded on what are called “compliance” indicators, such as whether students were evaluated for special education in the appropriate amount of time, or whether due process complaints were resolved in a timely fashion. Now, states are being checked on factors such as test scores from the National Assessment of Education Progress, or NAEP, and the gap between those scores and the scores of children in the general population, in addition to compliance.

via Special Education Evaluation Process Under Fire From Senate Republicans – On Special Education – Education Week.

Districts split on high school math choices | EdSource

By John Fensterwald

In moving to the Common Core State Standards this year, California school districts had to choose between serving up high school math as one big stew or as the curricular equivalent of separate courses. That option has created strong, sometimes passionate disagreements among parents and teachers who argue that a blended or “integrated” approach offers a clearer method of instruction and those who prefer sticking with a familiar sequence of courses. The latter group includes high-achieving districts in Silicon Valley.

A second look at accelerationThe adoption of Common Core and switch to local control have renewed the debate on when students should accelerate to take Calculus in high school and who should take advanced courses. See accompanying article.

In the “traditional” sequence, Algebra I will be taught in 9th grade, followed by Geometry, then Algebra II in the junior year, leading to pre-calculus, Advanced Placement statistics, or, if students are more advanced, Calculus in their senior year. In “integrated” math, as the name implies, the same standards for algebra, geometry, trigonometry and statistics are reassembled and woven together to show their interrelationships in three yearly courses of increasing difficulty. Proponents are also calling this Mathematics I, II, and III or International I, II and III, because, they point out, math is taught this way in most high performing nations.

via Districts split on high school math choices | EdSource.

Spanish immersion program at Cambridge Elementary on TUSD agenda – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

The status of the Spanish Immersion Program at Cambridge Elementary in Vacaville will be on the agenda when Travis Unified leaders meet tonight in Fairfield.

Due to a sudden decline in enrollments, the kindergarten-grade-level class has been suspended for the 2014-15 academic year. School district officials made the announcement last month during a regular governing board meeting, sparking protests from a series of parents wanting the kindergarten class, which had enrolled about a dozen students, to be reinstated.

According to agenda documents, Jim Bryan, assistant superintendent for educational services, has recommended the continuation of support for the program and students in grades one through six.

via Spanish immersion program at Cambridge Elementary on TUSD agenda – The Reporter.

For Public Schools, the Long and Bumpy Road to Going Digital | MindShift

By Kathy Baron

Ryan Imbriale had a quick and concise answer when asked whether his school district, Baltimore County Public Schools, received enough state funding to pay for its transition from textbooks to software: “No.”

As executive director of the district’s innovative learning department, Imbriale is overseeing a five-year project, called BCPS One, to move its entire curriculum online and make it available to teachers and students. He estimates that the district will spend more than $1 million a year on digital resources for its 108,376 students. The district was “lucky enough,” he said, to get one of the governor’s innovation grants.

On the other side of the country, the San Francisco Unified School District pays about $800,000 a year for software licenses and maintenance. Even with discounts from the companies, “the price tag is beyond the budget we get from the state” for technology, said Chief Technology Officer Matthew Kinzie. He said the district is seeking grants and donations to cover the costs.

But depending on these occasional infusions of money and continuing to look for outside resources isn’t practical.

via For Public Schools, the Long and Bumpy Road to Going Digital | MindShift.

“What Did You Call Me?” – How to Remember Students’ Names | Edutopia

By Todd Finley

It’s a common predicament for educators. They familiarize themselves with students quickly, but can’t easily retrieve names on demand. The crush of first week stress compounds the problem by redirecting blood for a fight or flight response, dulling teachers’ focus. And biology does us no favors by storing visual information and names in separate parts of the brain.

Some teachers turn to awkward work-arounds. But “Hey, Boss!” or “Good to see you!” are obvious giveaways, and “Can you spell your name for me?” might be answered with “M-i-k-e.”

Here’s the secret: take the same enthusiasm you have for baseball statistics, or civil war battles, or Christian Louboutin shoe prices, or Kardashian trivia, and apply it to learning students’ names. Everybody has a good memory for things that interest them, according to Richard Harris, a Kansas State University psychology professor. So instead of kicking over your inner shame bucket, take a fanatical interest in connecting with your students and their names.

via “What Did You Call Me?” – How to Remember Students’ Names | Edutopia.

Fairfield-Suisun school staff eye Arizona trip – Daily Republic

By Ryan McCarthy

Two staff members from B. Gale Wilson School and two staff members from the Matt Garcia Learning Center plan to attend the Flippen Teen Leadership Certification Professional Development in Phoenix, Ariz., according to a staff report that Fairfield-Suisun School District trustees will take up Thursday.

The Flippen Group training prepares instructors to teach teen leadership, notes the report. Cost for the Oct. 24 trip is $4,800.

Capturing Kids’ Hearts training is a prerequisite for the teen certification. A $128,900 contract for Capturing Kids’ Hearts training won school board approval in July.

via Fairfield-Suisun school staff eye Arizona trip Daily Republic.