Thursday, November 21, 2013

The holiday spirit of giving was showcased at the Marsh Creek Detention Facility Handcrafted toys and refurbished bikes by inmates donated to county's children-serving agencies

For the 22nd straight year, representatives from more than 28 Contra Costa County children-serving agencies were on hand at the Marsh Creek Detention Facility's woodshop to choose toys handcrafted and bicycles refurbished by the inmates. The items will be given to the children who are being served by these agencies during the upcoming holidays. The Marsh Creek Detention Facility inmates have participated in this project during the year, fixing up used bikes to look and ride like brand new and building beautiful wooden toys, such as, pull toys, doll houses, doll cradles, fire houses, fire engines, yo-yos, cars, rocking horses, rocking motorcycles, skill games, and many more. All of the toy makers and/or bike mechanics are students in the Contra Costa Adult School, an accredited school directed by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE), which is located within the jail facility. 

(Left to right): Students in the woodshop class gather around the hand-crafted toys with their teacher Khaia McGill, Principal Angela Hatter, Director of Contra Costa Adult Schools Lynn Mackey, and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ovick in the Marsh Creek woodshop.

This morning, the Detention Facility's woodshop certainly looked like Santa's Workshop, with its festive decorations and showcasing the beautiful toys and bikes. Along with the non-profit-agency representatives picking out presents, numerous county members of law enforcement and education were on hand. The morning featured remarks made by Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston and Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Ovick. Both speakers thanked all those involved and reminded the attendees what a special partnership this program has been over the past 22 years. Sheriff Livingston introduced Khaia McGill, who is the new woodshop teacher at Marsh Creek. Along with her teaching duties, she will oversee the production of the toys and bikes for next year. Dr. Ovick finished by personally addressing five inmates who were on hand for the event: “Gentlemen, numerous at-risk children in our county will certainly have a brighter holiday season due to your craftsmanship with these bikes and toys.”

Non-profit organizations participating in this special event include: the Bay Area Rescue Mission, Contra Costa County Department of Social Services, Contra Costa County Independent Living Skills Program, El Cerrito Fire Department, George Miller Center-East, International Orphan Relief Foundation, La Casa Ujima, Lynn Center, Monument Crisis Center, Salvation Army, Shelter Inc., Sheriff Station Bay, and Solomon Temple M.B.C.

During the 2012-13 school year, approximately 2,895 inmates (throughout the three Contra Costa detention facilities) were enrolled in classes ranging from academic programs, including basic literacy and GED preparation, to vocational programs, including woodshop and state-of-the-art computer training. By the end of the school year, 50 student-inmates received their GED and 36 received a high school diploma, and 13 students passed the California High School Exit Exam. In addition, there were 471 students who demonstrated learning gains in reading or math, and 786 students earned a certificate of completion in computer applications. Another course directed by the CCCOE is the DEUCE Program (Deciding, Educating, Understanding, Counseling, and Evaluation). These three-part classes (90 days) focus on substance abuse prevention. Last year, 1,436 students completed at least one of the three phases, and 311 students graduated from DEUCE. The Parenting Inside/Out class teaches vital parenting skills to women and men, with 58 certificates issued last school year. The CCCOE just opened a new re-entry class in November at West County Detention Facility. The re-entry class offers workforce readiness, career exploration, soft skills workshops and a nine-week cognitive-behavior-change program called Transitions. Currently, 54 inmates are already enrolled in the reentry course.

These classes help to provide education and skills needed for successful transition back into the community.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year named state semifinalist

Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year (TOY) Cindy Egan was recently named a California State TOY Semifinalist. Egan teaches biology and AP environmental sciences at San Ramon Valley High School, in Danville. Earlier, on September 26, Egan and Beth Levine, of Montalvin Manor Elementary, in San Pablo, were named the 2013-2014 Contra Costa County TOYs.
Cindy Egan

“What a tremendous and well-deserved honor Cindy Egan has received from the California Department of Education,” says Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Joseph A. Ovick, Ed.D. “When you visit Cindy’s biology or environmental sciences classes, you observe a perfect balance of her professional background in civil engineering, education experience, and passion for teaching that enthuses her students to learn. She has certainly earned this special recognition!  We in Contra Costa County are very proud of her, and our other newest Teacher of Year, Beth Levine, of West Contra Costa USD, as well as the additional 20 teachers representing our county’s school districts during the 2013-2014 school year. They are outstanding ambassadors of all our public school teachers.”

Egan is beginning her ninth year of teaching, all at San Ramon Valley High. Prior to entering into education, she earned her bachelors and masters degrees in civil engineering from the University of California, at Berkeley. Following college, she had a very successful 25-year career as a civil engineer, where she worked all over the world – but at the same time, she often thought about teaching. During her last 10 years of her career, Egan was a managing principal-in-charge of an environmental engineering office with more than 120 professional engineers and scientists. After this time period, she left her job, obtained her teaching credential, and began her new career as an educator at San Ramon High.

Egan will be joining the five 2014 California Teachers of the Year, the six finalists, and her fellow seven semi-finalists, as they are honored by California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson at a gala in Sacramento, to be held February 3, 2014. For more information on the award program, please visit the California Department of Education’s California Teachers of the Year Web page.
2013-2014 Contra Costa County Teachers of the Year
Cindy Egan and Beth Levine

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Very Successful Shelter-in-Place Drill Held at Marchus School

On November 6, it was a very pleasant and quiet autumn Wednesday morning at Contra Costa County Office of Education’s Marchus School, in Concord, when all of sudden, the County Warning System siren went off! Immediately following, a campus PA system directed all students and personnel into their classrooms and offices, and to close the doors behind them.  The Marchus School was participating with nearly 200 other Contra Costa County schools and day-care centers in the 12th Annual Countywide Shelter-in-Place Drill to practice safety procedures in the event of a nearby hazardous material release or other incident requiring them to shelter-in-place. 

This countywide drill is directed by the Contra Costa County Community Awareness and Emergency Response (CAER). CAER’s Executive Director, Tony Semenza, who was on the Marchus campus during the drill, said, “Each year we are encouraged with the increased number of participating schools CAER works with.  CAER will continue to work with all the schools and childcare centers in our county to be sure that they know how and when to shelter-in-place. Teachers and students should all know shelter-in-place procedures just as they are trained about what to do in case of a fire or earthquake.  I encourage everyone to join us in preparing for the worst so that we may do our best during an emergency.”

This annual safety event gives children and their caregivers an important opportunity to practice responding to the Community Warning System (CWS) alerts, which includes a series of sirens along the waterfront from Richmond to Antioch. The CWS sounds a siren when there has been a dangerous chemical release or other disaster that requires a shelter-in-place. These alerts are also sent via radio, TV, and Social Media postings.
Hazardous material releases can result from many sources in Contra Costa County, including accidents at chemical treatment plants, wastewater treatment facilities, facilities that store and/or manufacture hazardous materials, refineries, but also from collisions involving trucks or trains that transport chemicals. The possibility of accidents, make it important for the county’s youngest members to recognize and respond correctly to shelter-in-place alerts.

Tony Semenza of CAER & Jack Grossman of Marchus School
Long-time Marchus School teacher and campus emergency coordinator Jack Grossman said, “The kids are always so cooperative when we hold our drills.” No argument from the members of CAER who were on hand to monitor the drill. As soon as school Administrative Assistant Michelle Kiernan gave the announcement over the PA, doors began closing up tight, and the few students and staff that were outside quickly followed into their classroom. At the same time, the school’s HVAC system went immediately into shutdown (so no dangerous air would pump into the campus buildings).
During the ten-minute shelter-in-place drill, the CAER people were able to check the entire campus to make sure all specific emergency measures were taken. After everything was checked, it was then back to business.

Semenza also reported, “This was a very successful drill, and I am so impressed with the different emergency plans that Grossman has generated for all types of emergencies this school could encounter: fire, bomb threat, earthquake, chemical spill or air quality, and intruder. Jack has each emergency readied with a campus-wide warning signal and specific procedures.” Grossman says that the school practices one of these drills a month.

Thanks to Grossman, Marchus School was able to secure an emergency grant from CAER earlier this year.  He used the money to purchase portable toilets, emergency supplies, and canopy tents. “We are equipped to safely stay on campus for three days, if needed,” says Grossman.

It was a very impressive drill, and quite notable how Grossman and other Marchus employees work so hard to keep their students and fellow employees safe.