Agriculture Department Expands School Food Training, Mentoring Program – Education Week

By Evie Blad

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will expand a school nutrition training and mentoring pilot it launched this year into a nationwide program, the agency announced Monday.

The Team Up for School Nutrition Success Initiative provides “tailored technical assistance” and peer-to-peer mentoring to schools as they continue to implement heightened nutrition standards that were created as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

With assistance from the National Food Service Management Institute at the University of Mississippi, the USDA began piloting the program in eight southeastern states starting in November 2014.The agency expects the nationwide roll out, which will be done region-by-region, to be complete by September and to involve over 700 schools%2

via Agriculture Department Expands School Food Training, Mentoring Program – Rules for Engagement – Education Week.

New Era of Student Assessment – Year 2015 (CA Dept of Education)

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson launched a new era of student testing in California today, providing online exams in English language arts/literacy and mathematics to more than 3 million students based on the states more challenging academic standards.

Students in grades three through eight and eleven can now begin taking the new California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) in the first statewide administration of new tests to replace the paper-based, multiple-choice Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program. The new tests allow students to demonstrate their ability to write analytically, think critically, and solve problems along with their knowledge of facts.

“These tests reflect the exciting changes taking place in California classrooms. Instead of being asked to merely pick out multiple-choice answers, students are being tested on their ability to reason and think. They must draw logical conclusions and cite evidence from what they have read, and they must solve real-world math problems,” Torlakson said. “And now, like an academic check-up, these tests will give parents, teachers, and schools the feedback they need to help students succeed.”

via New Era of Student Assessment – Year 2015 (CA Dept of Education).

‘Spinny’ brings hoop tricks, message to Vallejo schools – Times Herald

By Richard Freedman

It could be about bullying. Or staying in school. Or refraining from alcohol and drugs. Or smoking.

The topic of the day may have changed in the 30 years Spencer “Spinny” Johnson has delivered his motivational talks and basketball tricks to America’s young students. But the kids? Still the same, said Johnson, 62, in Vallejo on Tuesday for assemblies at Lincoln, Glen Cove, and Patterson elementary schools.

“The kids really haven’t changed. The problems change,” said Johnson. “The kids now do see so much and witness so much with TV and computers.”

via ‘Spinny’ brings hoop tricks, message to Vallejo schools.

Vacaville Unified Superintendent Ken Jacopetti to retire on June 30 – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

On the job less than two years, Vacaville Unified School District Superintendent Ken Jacopetti will retire on June 30 after three decades in education, saying in an email to district staff that he and his wife “are actively working on the development of the next Chapter, our plan.”

Jacopetti, 61, who succeeded John Niederkorn on July 1, 2013, made the announcement — a surprise to all but a handful of staffers and trustees — during a special governing board workshop Monday night in the Educational Services Center.

“So it is with mixed feelings (excitement and sweet sorrow) that I step down as your Superintendent,” he read from a prepared statement, which was emailed to district staff during the meeting. “I have a true feeling of being blessed as I reflect upon the years of my career and I am honored to end my journey in education as the Superintendent of the Vacaville Unified School District.”

via Vacaville Unified Superintendent Ken Jacopetti to retire on June 30.

Travis school board leaders vote to end Spanish Immersion – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

In a roll-call vote, three of five Travis Unified School District trustees on Tuesday voted to scuttle the Cambridge Elementary Spanish Immersion program, effective at the end of the 2014-15 year, a decision that sparked audible disgust and at least one shout of “Shame on you!” from a parent-supporter of the dual language program.

The decision, marinating among trustees since last summer, was the third of three options the five-member governing board considered, and, while it discontinues the program, the district will provide an unspecified after-school Spanish language and cultural program four days per week, one hour per day, if 25 or more students sign up.

After several parents spoke in favor of retaining the program, especially restarting the discontinued SI kindergarten class at the Cambridge Drive campus in Vacaville, Jim Bryan, the district’s assistant superintendent for educational services, detailed the three options. (At the same time, he noted the program’s declining enrollments over the years, from more than 120 in grades K-6 at its height several years ago to 74 students in grades 1-6 today.

via Travis school board leaders vote to end Cambridge Spanish Immersion, sparking parental outrage.

Vallejo school board set to update goals and approve quarterly financial report

By John Glidden:

The Vallejo City Unified School District Board of Education will hold two special meetings Wednesday to deal with various items.

At 9 a.m., the board will update district goals and review Board Bylaw 9223, filing vacancies.

In late January, the board appointed Ruscal Cayangyang to fill a vacancy on the board after Richard Porter, who was elected last November refused to be seated on the board.

Porter — who filed candidacy papers in August 2014 — suspended his campaign in early September to teach. Despite halting his campaign, more than 7,000 Vallejo voters decided to elect him, placing him second out of three available seats.

via Vallejo school board set to update goals and approve quarterly financial report.

Jesse Bethel students learn coding and earn money for school resources – Times Herald

By Dianne de Guzman

Students at Jesse Bethel High School are learning computer coding, all the while helping their high school earn money for more student resources.

Thanks to a company called Codecademy, the students are learning the code required to build websites. A web-based program, Codecademy teaches users computer coding skills, teaching HTML, Javascript and other coding languages. In 2014, the company partnered with, and through a $1,000,000 grant from, they’re offering schools a chance to earn $100 per student in DonorsChoose rewards.

Each student that completes a 12-hour Javascript coding course by March 17 can earn rewards. Underrepresented groups in computer science, such as girls or African American, Latino, American Indian or Alaska Natives can earn more funding credits for their class.

via Jesse Bethel students learn coding and earn money for school resources.

March focus on nutrition is a chance to educate people on food choices – The Reporter

By Larry Sly

March is National Nutrition Month, which focuses on educating people to make informed food choices and creating comprehensive dietary habits.

Struggling families in Contra Costa and Solano counties often aren’t able to select healthy options.

Many turn to less expensive foods that are higher in fat, salt, calories and sugar, which can contribute to chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is committed to providing nutrition to local families that otherwise might be out of reach.

We all know that eating fresh fruits and vegetables is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but not everyone is able to afford such nature’s nutritionally-packed food.

This is why the Food Bank distributes a million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables each month. In fact, our second biggest distribution program is our Community Produce Program, which focuses solely on produce.

via March focus on nutrition is a chance to educate people on food choices.

Spanish Immersion, CSEA proposals on TUSD agenda tonight – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

Three options for the Cambridge Elementary Spanish Immersion Program for kindergartners and a public hearing about the “sunshining” of contract proposals from classified, or school-support, employees are on the agenda when Travis Unified leaders meet tonight in Fairfield.

District administrators last summer discontinued the Cambridge kindergarten Spanish Immersion class when only a dozen families expressed interest in enrolling their children in the program in the fall of 2014. District officials, citing declining enrollments in SI, maintained that a minimum of 24 students was needed to justify the hiring of a full-time teacher.

It is the first of the three options, that is, according to agenda documents, if enough students sign up by May 1, then the class will be formed and a teacher hired. Additionally, attendance will need to be maintained at 24 students through the first 15 days of the school year, which begins in August, or the students will be assigned to an English-only class and Option No. 2 would take effect.

via Cambridge kindergarten Spanish Immersion, CSEA wage proposals on TUSD agenda tonight.

Trustees meet to discuss superintendent selection process – Benicia Herald

by Keri Luiz

The Benicia Unified School District Board of Trustees met two hours early Thursday in a special workshop with Bob Ferguson of Omaha, Neb.-based McPherson & Jacobson LLC to discuss criteria and desired characteristics of a new superintendent, and to establish a timeline for making the new hire.

In January Superintendent Janice Adams announced she will retire after the current school year, which ends in June.

Ferguson presented a draft calendar outlining the process of selecting candidates, and he said discussion with stakeholders — including staff, teachers and parents, as well as students and community groups — will take place on March 16, 17 and 18 to get input on the district and the new superintendent.

via Trustees meet to discuss superintendent selection process.

Vallejo school board approves new PR consultant – Times Herald

By John Glidden

In a 3-2 vote Wednesday night, the Vallejo City Unified School District Board of Education approved authorization for the district administration to begin negotiations with Joe Wolfcale as the district’s new Public Relations Consultant Specialist.

According to district staff, the consultant will work as an intermediary between the public and district to publish positive media coverage.

“With the successful implementation of various school programs, including our Full Services Community Schools, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) programs and Wall-to-Wall Academies, it’s important that the public is continuously informed about the positive work that the district accomplishes on a consistent basis,” according to a staff report.

via Vallejo school board approves new PR consultant.

Vallejo school district sixth-graders learn about forests – Times Herald

By John Glidden

The chorus of “ewww” was drowned out by one brave Vallejo school district student who exclaimed “Awesome!,” as a group of 20 students were told Friday afternoon at Solano Middle School that they would be able to see taxidermy bugs up close.

The bugs, contained in protective cases, were part of a learning lab, “Talk About Trees,” sponsored by the Vallejo City Unified School District’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) program.

The sixth-grade students took part in the hour-long lab, exploring and learning about various aspects of trees and forests, even learning about the bugs which can damage trees.

Jeanne Tomascheski, a registered professional forester with The Forest Foundation, a group which teaches students about forests areas, conducted the lab.

via Vallejo school district sixth-graders learn about forests.

Child Start Awarded Early Head Start/Child Care Partnership Grant – The Reporter

During the Early Education Summit at the White House it was announced that Child Start was preliminarily awarded an Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership grant.

They have since been told that they will receive a $1.4 million grant and have started hiring staff and recruiting child care partners.

The grant also will fund collaboration between Child Start and local child care programs like Napa Valley Adult Education’s Teen Parent Program and Solano Community College Children’s Programs.

The goal is to expand high quality early learning opportunities for Napa and Solano Counties’ most vulnerable infants and toddlers.

“This grant will empower Child Start to build on long-standing community relationships and work with local child care providers to address the desperate need for high quality care for infants and toddlers in Napa and Solano Counties,” said Debbie Peralez, executive director for Child Start. “We look forward to strengthening these partnerships and continuing to lay a foundation for success for our community’s at-risk children.”

via Child Start Awarded Early Head Start – Child Care Partnership Grant.

Controversial PLAs on Vacaville school board agenda Monday – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

It was inevitable: The November passage by Vacaville voters of Measure A, the $194 million school bond, has prompted a Vacaville Unified board meeting to air the pros and cons of project labor agreements.

PLAs are construction contracts awarded exclusively to unionized firms by a public entity, such as a school district or city council.

They will be the subject of discussion — some of it sure to be sharply opinionated — during a special governing board workshop at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the Educational Services Center, 401 Nut Tree Road.

At least two scheduled presenters will urge the board to steer away from PLAs. They include Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employement in Construction, and Colleen Britton, leader of the Vacaville Tea Party. They likely will assert that PLAs are more about empowering unions, not workers, and considerably increase the costs of construction projects paid for by taxpayers.

via Controversial PLAs on Vacaville school board agenda Monday.

Will C. Wood High School to stage ‘Aida’ the musical – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

At the back of Vacaville Performing Arts Theatre, parent volunteer Al Pemberton of Vacaville buzzed a belt sander on a small wood platform, smoothing the edges. A stage technician applied black paint to risers on the main stage. And nearly 75 Vacaville teenagers, actors, singers and musicians, queued up for a light lunch outside the back of the city-owned theater on Ulatis Drive.

All the activity Saturday was in advance of a noontime run-through of Act 1 of Wood High’s staging of Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Aida,” the school’s spring musical, set to open Wednesday night for a four-day run.

via Will C. Wood High School to stage ‘Aida’ the musical.

Vacaville teacher earns top district honor -Daily Republic

By Susan Winlow

Third-grade teacher Valerie Blanchard has done a full circle with closure, of sorts.

Raised in the Vacaville area, she went to Alamo Elementary School and Vacaville High School. When Blanchard, 55, began her teaching career 29 years ago, she started at Orchard Elementary School and has been there ever since. Just recently she was chosen as the site Teacher of the Year for Orchard, and then chosen the Vacaville School District Teacher of the Year.

It’s a “wonderful surprise” she said she didn’t see coming at all.

“It’s an unbelievable honor to represent the Vacaville Unified School District, my hometown, where I grew up,” she said. “I work with so many great teachers so it’s hard to . . . even accept this honor.”

via Vacaville teacher earns top district honor Daily Republic.

Why Some Parents Are Sitting Kids Out Of Tests : NPR Ed

By Claudio Sanchez

Meet Jenni Hofschulte, the 35-year-old mom whos one of the parents leading the charge against testing in Milwaukee.

“I have two children in Milwaukee Public Schools,” Hofschulte says over coffee at a cafe near her home. “The oldest one is in eighth grade.” Shes interrupted by her fidgety 4-year-old son, Lachlan.

Hofschulte quiets him down, furrows her brow and begins again.

via Why Some Parents Are Sitting Kids Out Of Tests : NPR Ed : NPR.

Republicans’ bills would change teacher tenure, layoff laws | EdSource

By John Fensterwald

Assembly Republicans announced bills Wednesday that would change state laws that establish teacher tenure and a layoff system based on seniority – two employment protections for teachers that a California Superior Court judge threw out in his sweeping Vergara v. the State of California ruling last year.

The legislation was among a suite of bills that the 28-member Republican caucus announced. Included is a bill to strengthen the law on teacher evaluations, which hasn’t been changed in four decades, and one to eliminate a cap on school district budget reserves that has angered school education groups. Another bill requires school districts to provide more details on spending in their annual budget accountability plans, the Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs) that the State Board of Education requires. Civil rights groups also have called for more budget transparency.

via Republicans’ bills would change teacher tenure, layoff laws | EdSource#.VPnsAmctHGg#.VPnsAmctHGg.

Vaca Unified CBO: District in ‘healthy’ fiscal territory – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

Gov. Jerry Brown’s so-called “May revise” state budget likely will affect local governments across California, but, in the meantime, Vacaville Unified, according to the school district’s chief business officer, will be able to pay its bills this year and for the next two, through 2017.

Speaking Thursday during a governing board meeting, Jane Shamieh updated trustees on the district’s second interim budget for the 2014-15 year, a routine matter required by state law.

Using a computer-aided slide presentation, she noted some $2.7 million more in expenditures have been tacked onto the budget that trustees adopted last year, raising expenses to $91.3 million, a 3 percent increase.

Shamieh pointed out that expenses will exceed revenues, resulting in “deficit spending,” but an ending balance and “carry over” money of $9.7 million places the district in “healthy” fiscal territory.

via Vaca Unified CBO: District in ‘healthy’ fiscal territory.

College’s auto technology project moves along timeline – Daily Republic

By Susan Winlow

Solano Community College is another step closer to showing some visible movement on two major Measure Q projects, most notably of late, the new auto technology building slated for the Vallejo Center.

During a lengthy meeting Wednesday that involved a three-part presentation on Measure Q, and the approval of the revised bond spending plan to allow for the additional money needed for the two projects, trustees threw in their collective hats for locating the auto technology program on the Northgate Marketplace property located on the corner of Ascot and Turner parkways.

The location, already purchased by the college, is a short distance from the college’s current Vallejo Center. To locate the building at this site would add another $5.2 million – $3.1 million to come from Vallejo site project reserves – to the original $19.6 million project budget.

via College’s auto technology project moves along timeline Daily Republic.