Thursday, March 10, 2011

County Office of Education instructor earns distinguished award from Sheriff's Office

Due to his service as an outstanding and dedicated teacher, whose knowledge and skills are respected by students and staff alike, Contra Costa County Office of Education’s (CCCOE) adult education instructor Rick Boughton was one of 11 candidates who earned a special award given by the county’s Sheriff David Livingston (Sheriff Livingston and Rick Boughton, pictured above left). During the recent Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff’s 2010 Officer and Employee of the Year Awards Ceremony, Boughton was presented the Detention Services Division (non officer) Employee of the Year Award. The four-tour Vietnam War Navy veteran and 35-year professional woodworker, Boughton has served as the woodshop instructor at the Marsh Creek Detention Facility, in Clayton, since 2001.

In the crowed Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors Chambers, in Martinez, Lieutenant Brian Kalinowski, who originally nominated Boughton for the award, introduced him to the numerous attendees. During his introduction, Lieutenant Kalinowski said, “Thanks to the partnership of the Sheriff’s Office and the County Office of Education, we are able to deliver services, such as Rick’s woodshop class, to the inmates that make them more productive during their stay, as well as being more productive when they re-enter society.”

For the past 20 years, the Sheriff’s Office and the County Office of Education collaboration have produced the annual Holiday Toy Distribution. Lieutenant Kalinowski continued, “Because Rick’s ability to lead the inmates, they annually build between 1,000-1,200 hand-made toys and refurbish about 300 bicycles, which are then distributed to our county’s at-risk youth, through local non-profit organizations.” These county organizations include The Salvation Army, Friends Outside, George Miller Center, Solomon Temple Mission, Contra Costa Crisis Center, Bay Area Rescue Mission, La Casa Ujima, and a number of others.

When you enter Rick’s woodshop, you certainly can’t help but think of Santa’s Workshop: students busily building and painting beautiful hand-made toys or refurbishing junked bicycles into just-like-new ones. Lieutenant Kalinowski added, “There are literally thousands of children in our county whose lives have been brightened because of this program, with a big thanks to Rick and his men." (Lieutenant Kalinowski and Rick Boughton pictured above left)

Boughton is known for his “low-key” teaching style and his positive attitude. It’s obvious that he loves his job as a teacher and mentor. He treats everyone fairly and with the respect each person deserves, including his inmate students. This may be the reason why in 2010 he did not have one discipline or safety/accident issue reported to the school or custody staff.

According to the Office of the Sheriff, the application process for this award includes the bureau commanders submitting their choices to the departmental selection committee. A number of criteria are evaluated by the committee, including performance, job knowledge, judgment, relations, communications, initiative, dependability, attitude, and demeanor.

Boughton’s woodshop class is part of the Contra Costa Adult School. This educational program is a partnership between the CCCOE and the Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff, and is fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. More than 4,000 students participate in educational opportunities each year at one of the three jail facilities:

  • Marsh Creek Detention Facility - Clayton
  • West County Detention Facility - Richmond
  • Martinez Detention Facility - Martinez
Students demonstrate success by obtaining a high school diploma; passing the GED; increasing basic skills; completing a 90-day substance abuse education program; and completing competency-based certificates in computer applications, completing steps to getting a job, landscaping facility grounds, and building toys and refurbishing used bicycles for needy children.

CCCOE Adult Education Principal Tom Scruggs reports, “Rick is a talented teacher, providing instruction in safety, woodworking, and bicycle repair, while he fosters a sense of commitment, dedication, and community in his students. He has a natural way of inspiring these men to learn something new, to be responsible, and to feel what it is like to give back to the community. We are grateful for his services!”

At the 2010 Annual March Creek Detention Facility's Holiday Toy Drive, Rick demonstrates one of his toy creations... The Canjo.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mt. Diablo High School students enjoy an outstanding hands-on education on solar energy construction

Recently 12 students from Mt Diablo High School’s Academy of Construction & Mechanical Engineering (ACME) enjoyed an in-depth and up-close look at our country’s ever-increasing future in solar energy production, when they visited the Contra Costa County Office of Education’s (CCCOE) current solar construction project.

Led by a panel group, that included the solar project’s architect, contractor, solar engineer, electrical engineer, and inspector of record, as well as CCCOE’s General Services Director John Hild, the students began their day by receiving an overview presentation of the project. The presentation covered such issues as environmental studies, financing, hiring the best contractors for the job, timelines, and the cost savings benefit to the CCCOE. (Over the next 25 years, this new source of energy will save the CCCOE close to $11 million in electricity costs.)

The presenters stressed how their personal math, writing, and communication skills are so important in their line of work. Gopal Shanker, solar engineer, of R├ęcolte Energy, told the kids not to neglect their non-engineering classes: “Over the years, I have found that it’s not always the best contractor that gets the job, it’s the ones who can successfully communicate what they can and will do if they get the proposed job.” The entire panel nodded and chuckled when contractor Andy Brophy, of Roebblen Contracting, Inc., said, “I’ll tell you, in my job, I do a whole lot more writing than drawing.”

Following the presentation, the students were able to sit in, and listen to the group’s bi-monthly construction meeting – two of the students were invited to sit at the meeting table. The gathering’s agenda included future material delivery and installation dates, staffing issues, and several deadlines. The students and ACME instructors listened closely to this rare learning opportunity.

Throughout the morning presentation and construction meeting, high school senior, Jonathan Blanco (pictured above left), intensely listened to the speakers and read through the handout materials. He said that ACME has been a great program to help him find his interest in construction and engineering. “After high school, I will be enrolling into Caterpillar’s ThinkBig Technician Education Program,” said Blanco. “Where will I go after graduating the program? I’m not really sure what I’ll do next, but I do see myself working in mechanical engineering.”

Junior student, Cynthia Sandoval, (pictured left) said that she has enjoyed her enrollment in the ACME program. “I’m not sure if engineering will be the profession I choose, but I am learning a lot in this program, and I can certainly decide what career I’ll go into after high school and college graduation.”

After the construction meeting, everyone went out onto the construction site for a hard-hat tour. Wearing their hard hats and safety goggles, the students saw, up close, the massive solar-panel structures that are being installed in the CCCOE’s parking lot. Though it was pouring rain, the students had plenty of thoughtful questions they were more interested in hearing the answers to, than running back to the dry indoors.

After the site tour, the presenters, students, and teachers sat down for lunch and some more individual questions and answers. ACME’s Director Steve Seaman said, “This was certainly an outstanding opportunity for our students. We all learned quite a bit today, and really appreciate the CCCOE and the construction team providing a great learning experience!” Seaman reported that currently ACME has an enrollment of 156 students, but they are gearing up for 400 students in the very near future.