Thursday, October 4, 2012

Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration Broadcast Schedule

The 2012-2013 Contra Costa County Teachers of the Year
The recent (September 20) Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year (TOY) Dinner Celebration was taped and edited into a one-hour- and 30-minute program. The first five TV broadcasts are now scheduled. In addition, the entire program is currently posted on the City of Walnut Creek's YouTube channel. 

For complete broadcast details, please visit Contra Costa County Office of Education's TOY Web page. 

The San Francisco-Bay Area Common Core State Standards SUMMIT

Dr. Joseph A. Ovick
To assist local educators in transition and implementation of the California Common Core Standards in their schools, Dr. Joseph A. Ovick, president, California County Superintendents Education Services Association (CCSESA), and Contra Costa County superintendent of schools is convening the San Francisco-Bay Area Common Core State Standards SUMMIT on October 29-30, at the Concord Hilton. This thought-provoking two-day workshop will feature numerous noted speakers and practical breakout sessions.

 “The Contra Costa County Office of Education [CCCOE] is dedicated to supporting schools and districts as they begin transitioning to the California Common Core Standards,” reports Dr. Ovick. “With the implementation of the Common Core, educators will work collaboratively to implement curriculum, assessment, and ongoing professional development. Our goal is to support districts as they build capacity at all levels to support teachers, students, and school communities. The Common Core provides a means for all students to be college and career ready and to thrive in the 21st century workforce.”

Visit this Web site to review the SUMMIT’s presentations and breakout sessions. In addition, attendees will have tremendous opportunities to network with colleagues and other professionals who can share personal knowledge about Common Core State Standards.

The SUMMIT registration fee is $110.00 per participant. Continental breakfast and lunch will be provided on both days.  For more information about the San Francisco-Bay Area Common Core State Standards SUMMIT, please contact Marsha Tokuyoshi at (925) 942-3385. Participants can register online at Eventbrite. The Concord Hilton is located at 1970 Diamond Boulevard, Concord.

About California Common Core State Standards
The mission of the California Common Core State Standards is to provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Vicente Martinez High Teacher Named County’s Teacher of the Year

Contra Costa County 2012-2013
Teacher of the Year Dr. Rona Zollinger
Concluding an energy-driven and exciting evening at the Concord Hilton, Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Joseph Ovick, Ed.D., announced the night-long anticipated naming of the county’s next Teacher of the Year – it was Vicente Martinez High School’s Rona Zollinger, Ph.D.   The 14-year teacher has been teaching her environmental studies academy (core subjects) course at Vicente Martinez High for the past 11 years.

After being named by the Martinez Unified School District as their district Teacher of the Year (TOY), this past March, Dr. Zollinger successfully proceeded with the other 19 eligible county candidates through a rigorous county-wide selection process, which included an application screening, classroom evaluation, interview, and speech presentation.  Her fellow finalists were Mona Keeler, San Ramon Valley Unified SD, (Iron Horse Middle) and Terryl Miller, Moraga SD, (Los Perales Elementary).

More than 400 attendees were on hand for an evening that will certainly not be forgotten.  The audience was made up of the TOYs’ family members and friends, as well as numerous local educators, business partners, and officials.  Kicking off the festivities was an incredible performance by the Bristow Middle School Choir (Brentwood), led by 2009 Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year Mark Morello.  Dr. Ovick introduced the TOY class of 2012-2013 by sharing to the audience of his visit to each of the teachers’ classrooms.  This was followed by speeches of the three TOY finalists, their topic: “What I have learned from my students.”   After the three speeches were given, Dr. Zollinger’s announcement was made.

Dr. Zollinger created the Environmental Studies Academy (ESA) in 2003, as an alternative learning experience for high school students in the Martinez Unified School District who are interested in schooling outside the box.  The ESA was part of the environmental efforts of the Alhambra Creek Restoration Environmental Education Collaborative, which is a community-based network of partners that help organize and facilitate unique hands-on learning experiences for ESA students.  In 2009, a large grant was received from Contra Costa Mental Health Services to expand the ESA program.  At this point, the ESA became New Leaf: A Sustainable Living Collaborative. New Leaf is organized around the ecological principles of sustainable education.  The curriculum utilizes transdiciplinary strategies and practices of project and place based learning, ecological service learning, and a rites of passage curriculum all done through participation in a small learning community.  

Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools 
Dr. Joseph A. Ovick and Dr. Rona Zollinger
In announcing Dr. Zollinger’s name, Dr. Ovick mentioned how a former neighbor (John Muir), just up the road from New Leaf, would be happy about this year’s winner.

Dr. Zollinger will now compete with the other county representatives in the California State TOY competition. The California State Teachers of the Year are expected to be announced in late October. The county TOY program is produced by the Contra Costa County Office of Education. (For additional TOY info, visit the CCCOE’s Teacher of the Year page).

The 2012-2013 Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year Representatives

Vanesa Arreola-Navarro, Pittsburg USD, Foothill Elementary

Dan Auza, John Swett USD, Carquinez Middle

Michael Buchel, Acalanes UHSD, Acalanes High

Kim Burris, Orinda USD, all five OUSD Schools

Erin Carson, Walnut Creek SD, Indian Valley Elementary

Marina Chinchilla, Knightsen ESD, Knightsen Elementary

Kathy DeRenzi, San Ramon Valley USD, Quail Run Elementary

Rochelle Gardiner, Oakley Union Elementary SD, Vintage Parkway Elementary

Heather Harper, Liberty UHSD, Freedom High

Joshua Hastings, West Contra Costa USD, Richmond High

William Hyres, CCCOE, Golden Gate Community School Rodeo

Mona Keeler, San Ramon Valley USD, Iron Horse Middle

Kevin Lindell, Byron USD, Excelsior Middle

Cynthia McGrath, CCCCD, Los Medanos College

Terryl Miller, Moraga SD, Los Perales Elementary

Naomi Phillips, Brentwood USD, Edna Hill Middle

Mona Lisa Ricard, Mt. Diablo USD, Sequoia Elementary

Tracey Singh-Poole, West Contra Costa USD, DeAnza High

Mette Thallaug, Lafayette SD, Burton Valley Elementary

Stacey Wickware, Antioch USD, Dozier-Libbey Medical High

Dr. Rona Zollinger, Martinez USD, Vicente Martinez High

Note regarding eligible participants:
  • Seventeen of the eighteen Contra Costa County school districts represented (plus the CCCOE) are participating in this year’s TOY program.
  • Each year, one instructor from Contra Costa Community College District is submitted to the TOY program for his/her outstanding body of work with their designated college.  The colleges rotate each year between Diablo Valley, Los Medanos, and Contra Costa.  This year, it is Los Mendanos’ turn.  Due to the larger number of students in their districts, West Contra Costa USD, Mt. Diablo USD, and San Ramon Valley USD are allowed to select two TOY candidates.  (This year, Mt. Diablo USD only submitted one District TOY.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

California Preschool Instructional Network

Attendees participate in painting activity during breakout session of the
Annual Bay Region 4 CPIN Network meeting in Berkeley.

California Preschool Instructional Network    

The California Department of Education's California Preschool Instructional Network (CPIN) is an initiative designed to close the "school-readiness gap" for three- to five-year-old children, including English learners and children with special needs, by providing all children with opportunities to begin kindergarten ready to succeed.  The Contra Costa COE (CCCOE) is the lead educational agency that houses Bay Region 4 CPIN, serving Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Solano Counties.

CPIN provides evidence-based resources in social-emotional development, language and literacy, English language development, mathematics, visual and performing arts, physical development, and health.  In 2012-2013, CPIN will be adding history/social science, and science components.  The Network provides onsite support and technical assistance to preschools feeding into the highest need elementary schools, along with professional development and networking opportunities based on CDE publications: 
  • California Preschool Learning Foundations
  • California Preschool Curriculum Frameworks
  • Preschool English Learner Resource Guide
  • Inclusion Works! Creating Child Care Programs That Promote Belonging for Children with Special Needs
Debbie Supple, CPIN Region 4 director, and her team conduct regional network meetings for preschool and early elementary teachers, as well as other caregivers, administrators, program directors, principals, and other early childhood agency representatives that provide current evidence-based resources to support high-quality professional development.

In April this year, CPIN held their annual Bay Region 4 Network meeting.  The title of this year's network meeting was Celebration of Imagination: Foundations in Visual and Performing Arts.  Presenters included Debbie Supple, Eloisa Mendoza-Hinds (English Learner Lead), and Lisa Shaanan (Special Education Lead).  This meeting is held in a mini-conference format with hands-on resources, research-based information, and strategies for teachers and administrators to use to close the school-readiness gap.  "The goal of the network meeting is to provide attendees with the opportunity to communicate, share ideas, and build relationships, along with providing training materials to take back to their school sites to share with their colleagues," said Debbie Supple.

During the artwork breakout session, approximately 120 attendees created works of art using a variety of medium, such as paint, decoupage, and string art (see photos).
The day focused on attendees learning and experiencing through hands-on activities based on the Visual and Performing Arts CA Preschool Learning Foundations and Curriculum Framework.  The entire room was filled with colorful displays of visuals and tools they could use at their sites when incorporating visual and performing arts into their curriculum.  Attendees sang songs, danced, drummed and made music, participated in dramatic play, and created art projects.  These activities were presented in a way that was meant to show participants the fun side of teaching young children, based on the Foundations and Curriculum Framework. 

Additionally, participants learned perspectives on teaching English learners as well as children with special needs, focusing on the importance of inclusion.

On July 23-24, the COE Educational Services Division and CPIN hosted their Summer Institute: Bridging the CA Preschool Learning Foundations and Curriculum Frameworks with Transitional Kindergarten (TK).  Four separate modules were offered, including:  
  • Social-emotional development with a focus on self regulation
  • Social-emotional development with a focus on making smooth transitions between activities
  • English language development (for English learners)
  • Dialogic reading (an interactive read-aloud approach that promotes oral language and vocabulary development)
This institute evolved out of the CCCOE TK Workgroup comprised of Contra Costa County school district TK representatives, and was facilitated by Pamela Comfort, Ed.D., Associate Superintendent, Educational Services.

Preschool, TK, and kindergarten teachers, administrators, and directors were invited to attend.  "These modules were designed using the Foundations and Frameworks to help the attendees understand what children typically know and are able to do at or around 48 months, and at or around 60 months of age," said Debbie Supple.  "This makes sense since children in TK programs are not yet 60 months old and may be operating along a continuum of learning.  It was great to see TK and preschool teachers and administrators interacting across systems around what's best for our youngest children.  We have had positive feedback about the value of this institute."

The Summer Institute provided opportunities for approximately 40 plus attendees to become familiar with the CA Preschool Learning Foundations and Curriculum Frameworks as resources for intentional planning of environments, activities, and materials in the classroom to enrich learning and the development of our youngest learners. Plenty of opportunities to share ideas with colleagues were built into each session.  One participant stated, "It was very helpful to have a training that bridged Preschool-TK-Kindergarten!  I have much more clarity about how TK will fit into this continuum."

For more information about TK, visit the CCCOE TK web page  or contact Pamela Comfort.  For information about how to get involved with CPIN, contact Debbie Supple.

Monday, August 20, 2012

2012-2013 Teacher of the Year finalists give their speeches

On August 20th, the three 2012-2013 Teacher of the Year (TOY) finalists completed their third and final leg of their competition with TOY Speech Presentation.  This year’s finalists are Mona Keeler, San Ramon Valley Unified School District, Iron Horse Middle; Terryl Miller, Moraga School District, Los Perales Elementary; and Rona Zollinger, Martinez Unified School District, Vicente Martinez High.  Each candidate gave a three- to five-minute speech, titled, “What have I learned from my students.”

(l-r) Miller, Zollinger, Keeler
The Speech Presentation panel was made up of an impressive group of Contra Costa County representatives that included education, government, and business:

(standing, l-r) Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston; Contra Costa Times Account Executive Maxine Nelson; Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson; Contra Costa County Public Defender Robin Lipetzky; and Contra Costa County Fire Protection District Fire Chief Daryl Louder.                 

(seated, l-r) California State University, East Bay Teacher Education Department Chair Dr. Jeanette Bicais; Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Diana Becton; Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Jill Fannin; and Contra Costa Community College District Chancellor Dr. Helen Benjamin.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

William Hyres Named CCCOE’s Teacher of the Year

It is quite obvious, that when you walk into William “Will” Hyres’ Golden Gate Community School classroom in Rodeo, our Contra Costa County Office of Education’s (CCCOE) newest Teacher of the Year (TOY) has found his professional calling—and his students are the benefactors of his passion.  It’s a treat to watch Will tend to the needs of his entire classroom, which can certainly be a challenge, with ease and confidence.  Whether he needs to settle down a few students who are talking; presenting his lesson to the class; or walking over to a student’s desk, after being respectfully asked, “Hey Hyres, is this correct?” 

Most of Will’s 25 students, grades 7-12, have been referred by school district expulsion (John Swett USD), as well as truancy and behavioral issues.  His classroom is located in an old storefront on the main street of the small town of Rodeo, most of his students live within walking distance.  “As the only CCCOE class in town, Will must meet many challenges, but he has made them into many daily opportunities for the students and their families,” reports the school’s Principal Rebecca Corrigan. 

Right after earning his bachelor’s degree in history, followed by obtaining his teaching credential at Chico State University, Will began teaching for the Butte County Office of Education’s School of Applied Resources, which is their version of our community schools.  A few years later, Will taught a year of middle-school social science in a traditional-school setting, in Elk Grove, but he did not enjoy the experience as he did with the Butte COE.  While surveying his classroom’s students, during their lunch break, Will said, “I really like the personal attention I can give to my students and their parents with a class like this one.  For me, it’s a more positive teaching experience.”

After his traditional-school-teaching stint, Will joined the CCCOE in 2005.  “My mother graduated from [nearby] John Swett High School, so I feel good about assisting the students that come from the same region,” says Will.  “I either help them get back into John Swett, help them graduate, or help them repair their credits as much as humanly possible so that they can quickly graduate from adult school.”

“I watch them enter into college, work, and sometimes parenthood,” Will adds.  “They check back in with me, and I am pleased to see so many living productive and successful lives.  I sometimes hear the tragic stories about those who don’t finish high school, but I cannot dwell on the negative.  I see the harm that comes from not finishing high school, and though I will keep those tales private, I truly understand why it is so important that all kids be inspired to learn and keep learning past high school.”

Continuing to reflect about her newly honored teacher, Rebecca adds, “Will has created a ‘family feel’ to his classroom.  He has more than 80% attendance monthly, which is very impressive for a community school, and his class has a waiting list to enter.  One of the many reasons Will’s class is so successful is the way he develops relationships with the students and with their families.  Most days, after school, students stay to practice CAHSEE prep on the classroom computers and parents drop by to review their student’s progress, or just to talk.”

When reminiscing about his formative years, Will has fond school memories while growing up in Redding, California, “I was fortunate to attend public schools with dedicated teachers that inspired me to want to do the same.”  He quickly named-off a half dozen English, music, and history teachers who taught him at Enterprise High School, which he also proudly noted is a California Distinguished School.  “How lucky was I, to be raised in a small town in Northern California, with good teachers, and plenty of opportunity for hard-working individuals?”

And, how lucky are we at the COE to have Will??!!

Will, along with his 21 fellow distinguished TOY district representatives, will be honored at the upcoming Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration on September 20, at the Concord Hilton.

Professional Development Program Provides Support to Early Care and Education Professionals Throughout Contra Costa County

Staff from the Martinez Children's Center, Community Services Bureau Team participating in an end-of-year-group-reflection session, facilitated by Dr. Debi Silverman, Early Childhood Education program officer. 

by Ruth Fernandez, LPC Coordinator
The AB212 Professional Development Program, administered and implemented through the Contra Costa County Office of Education, provides professional development opportunities, coaching, mentoring, professional growth and educational advising to early care and education professionals throughout Contra Costa County.  The program serves approximately 450 early childhood educators working at state preschool and child development programs. 

The goal of the Center-Based Team Professional Development grant program is to support and empower teams of early care and education professionals to identify and engage in professional development with a team spirit and commitment to program goals.

The AB212 Center-Based Team Professional Development Program is designed to foster:

  • PEER-LEARNING - through the creation of small-peer-learning groups or discussion groups.
  • COMMUNICATION - to identify areas of staff expertise and areas for staff growth.
  • MUTUAL COOPERATION - to promote sharing of professional knowledge, to utilize knowledge gained from professional development opportunities into practice in the classroom, and to support team-based approaches to program improvement.
  • PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT - in areas that have been identified by the staff team at the site.
  • PERSONAL GROWTH AND EMOTIONAL SUPPORT FOR STAFF - to support the retention of a stable and skilled workforce.

Three years ago, AB212 began offering Center-Based Team Professional Development (CBTM) mini grants of up to $5,000 for early childhood programs that were interested and committed to developing and sustaining Professional Learning Communities (PLC) in their program.

Since the beginning of the AB212 CBTM program, a total of 15 teams of early childhood programs have engaged in intentional and purposeful activities to reach identified professional development goals which will support the early learning for children before kindergarten entry. Through collaboration and team-building, the early childhood educators have begun to review policies, develop new strategies, and implement new practices in their programs.  

As we conclude the fiscal year 2011-2012, the AB212 CBTM wants to celebrate and acknowledge the success of the teams who have completed the program.  Each team is committed to sustaining the PLC model by engaging in common and purposeful professional development to help them address a specific program need.

Martinez Early Childhood Center Director Cassandra Campbell, along with teachers Patricia Hamilton and Alma Bennett work together through a training on using the CA Preschool Learning Foundations and Creative Curriculum.

We especially celebrate Martinez Early Childhood Center.  They have participated in the CBTM program for three consecutive years.  As a result, the program has developed a brand new program website to increase communication with families about their curriculum, program philosophy, and year-round activities.  Part of their PLC work also includes alignment of Creative Curriculum with the CA Preschool Learning Foundations and classroom observation assessments. As CBTM program graduates, they will also play a leadership role by providing mentoring and coaching to incoming centers new to the professional learning communities model.  Congratulations Martinez Early Childhood Center!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

CCCOE School Nurse, Meg Murray, Named California's School Nurse of the Year

Meg Murray has practiced as a school nurse in California for over 14 years, and has been at the Contra Costa County Office of Education's (CCCOE) Marchus School since August 2003.  Meg received her Master of Science from San Jose State University and School Nurse Services Credential in 2002. She holds the advanced practice certificate of clinical nurse specialist.  Meg entered school nursing in 1997 after over 20 years as a critical care nurse in intensive, coronary, trauma, and neonatal units.    

In her position at Marchus, Meg provides health services to emotionally disturbed students, grades K-12.  She is responsible for the health, safety, and medication case management of special education students with complex mental and physical needs.  Marchus Counseling and Education Program (CEP) is a unique county program that provides academic classes and intensive psycho-educational services to students referred to the program by their home school districts in the IEP (Individual Education Plan) process. An important CEP program goal is to stabilize the students, instill successful behavioral and academic skills, and return students to their home school district.  In her position, Meg works with school psychologists; social workers; the principal; and speech/language, occupational, and adaptive physical-education therapists as part of the IEP process.  She acts as a vital liaison between our special education services team and the professional medical community.

Meg's accomplishments are varied and many, including presenting to the CA School Nurses Organization annual conferences; educating teachers, substitutes, and staff on relevant health topics; and providing trainings on medical interventions. She is a trained facilitator of the Tobacco Awareness Program, and speaks in health and sports medicine classes.

"Meg provides a wealth of resource information for the Marchus School program and is a resource to the entire CCCOE," said Peter Simack, Marchus School principal. "Her presence and position with our program and within our agency is invaluable." 

Meg will be honored at the California School Nurses Organization
Annual 2012 Conference Business Meeting
Friday, June 22, 3:00 - 5:00 p.m.
Marriott Marquis Hotel at 55 Fourth Street, San Francisco

Additionally, the National Association of School Nurses will recognize Meg at their National Annual Convention, that begins June 23 at the same location. She will receive the Excellence in School Nursing Award, given to school nurses throughout the country for their work in the field of school nursing.  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

ROP Instructors Visit Local Renewable Products Company

ROP teachers, Ernie Liu (Concord High), James Hybarger (Antioch High), and Tom Huffaker (Piedmont High), share insights before the staff development presentation at Amyris in Emeryville.
On March 29, five Contra Costa County ROP biotechnology instructors and three other local high school teachers met after school over at Amyris, an innovative renewable products company, located in Emeryville, to take in a very insightful Teacher Development Day.  The program gave our teachers an overview of Amyris’ scientific process and a tour of their research & development and pilot-plant facilities. 

Thanks to a personal contact with the company, CCCOE’s West County Region Principal Student Programs Dave Fendel was able to set up this program.  "Amyris is a company that is developing cutting edge technologies and this is a way for our teachers to stay involved in what is happening in industry,” said Dave.  “Not only do teachers walk away from the day with an understanding of the science, but they leave with materials and activities to use with their students in the classroom.  The goal is to motivate teachers and equip them with information that will engage and excite their students about the possibilities of a career in biotechnology."

The afternoon began with a very thorough presentation made by four Amyris scientists about their pathway to developing renewable fuel made from such ingredients as yeast and sugar.  The presentation was followed by a tour of the modern state-of-the-art facility.

Our teachers certainly found it to be an outstanding and educational visit.  Concord High School ROP biotechnology teacher Ernie Liu, Ph.D., reported that he thoroughly enjoyed the trip—and he certainly knows something about the day’s topic.  The 12-year CHS instructor has a background of five years experience on yeast research, three of them were on Saccharomyces cerevisiae (a species of yeast that has been instrumental in the baking and brewing since ancient times) for his Ph.D. dissertation.  In addition, his postdoctoral experience was on enzymes that degrade aromatic hydrocarbon.

Dr. Liu said, “It was great to find out the latest information on genomic manipulation of yeast.  It was very impressive to know how far that the field of research has advanced.  It’s also good to see how this concept can be related with our current school projects, such as screening microbes on our campus.”

 Serving as our group’s host was Lexi Brayton, who serves as Amyris’ manager of internal communications and cultural initiatives.  Brayton noted that Amyris frequently hosts on-site educational tours and that their scientists have visited many ROP classrooms.  Brayton said, “Today, we wanted to provide the visiting teachers with information, resources, and enthusiasm they could use to prepare their students for these interactions, or simply to enhance their curriculum.”  

This day proved, once again, how our ROP department continues to develop strong partnerships with such local businesses as Amyris, and our instructors and students certainly enjoy the benefits of the very latest material to teach and learn.

Former 49er great inspires the boys at Orin Allen Youth Rehabilitation Facility

Mr. Cacciaroni (left) with Keena Turner.
As he stood alone, in front of an audience of 100 boys at the Orin Allen Youth Rehabilitation Facility, quietly nodding and smiling back to the audience who were settling into their chairs, former San Francisco 49er football star Keena Turner patiently waited for his introduction.  These moments of anticipation were followed by an impressive hour and a half of speaker and audience engagement.  This past Tuesday’s presentation was so successful, everyone was shocked by how fast the time flew by.

Now at age 53, Turner still looked like he could make the key tackles on Sundays like he did back in the 1980s.  Though speaking in a gentle and positive manner, it was obvious his words meant quite a bit to the young men, as well as the facility’s attending guards, teachers, and administrators.  The former All-Pro linebacker told the boys, “Life is about chasing goals, and I know many of you have goals right now, here in this facility.  Just remember, there will be challenges that act as roadblocks to you achieving your positive goals, but you need to break through them.  You are all at the beginning of your life journey, and that journey starts with you—right now.”

Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) teacher Allan “Mr. C” Cacciaroni, who teaches at Delta Vista High School, a CCCOE school that provides state-accredited education to the resident youth inside the rehabilitation facility, brought Turner out to give the boys the inspirational presentation.  “The boys really love hearing from these speakers.”  It was obvious, the way Turner had the entire audience’s attention.  “They showed Mr. Turner lots of respect by listening so intently.”  Through the years, “Mr. C” has brought in additional inspirational presenters to speak to the boys, including other grid-iron greats, such as Ronnie Lott, Eason Ramson, and Bennie Blades. 

Turner, who earned four Super Bowl rings during his eleven seasons with the 49ers, was kind enough to hand out two of them for all the boys to hold, try on, and marvel at.  “I am very happy to have those rings and other accolades that my team and I accomplished, but I’m more proud of the college degree I earned,” said Turner.  Before his pro career, Turner attended Perdue University, where he majored in physical education – though he did not finish his degree.  “After my playing days, I went straight back to college, and earned my BS degree in organizational behavior, at the University of San Francisco.  “Let me tell you guys, I keep my Super Bowl rings in my sock drawer, but I have my college diploma hanging up on a wall in my house.”

Turner talked about his current life: father of three, an active volunteer for the Boys & Girls Club, and his job as vice president of football affairs with the San Francisco 49ers.  He also talked about his younger days, before the 49ers, his childhood, high school football, growing up in Chicago, and attending Perdue University.

Throughout the majority of the morning, Turner answered numerous diverse questions: How much money did he make while playing?  Who was the hardest hitter on the team? Did he get in trouble as a young man?  Who was the most difficult player to tackle?  Did he do drugs?  Was he related to Tina Turner?  It was interesting how many questions were asked about players that Turner played with or against whose careers were well over before these young men were even born.

Before leaving, Turner reminded the boys to set and achieve their goals for a better life, and to start their positive journeys immediately.  It was certainly heartening to the popular speaker as many of the boys nodded back in agreement.

Friday, March 30, 2012

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2012 California Distinguished Schools

SACRAMENTO--State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today announced that 387 exemplary California public elementary schools were named 2012 California Distinguished Schools for their innovative education programs that encourage students to learn and help close the achievement gap.

"The schools we are recognizing today demonstrate the incredible commitment of California's teachers, administrators, and school employees to provide a world-class education to every student, in spite of the financial hardships facing our state and our schools,"  Torlakson said. "Their dedication is inspiring, and I applaud and admire their passion and persistence."

The list of schools may be found on the California Department of Education Web site at

Contra Costa County winners:

  • Byron Union Elementary School District
    • Discovery Bay Elementary 
    • Timber Point Elementary
  • Martinez Unified School District
    • John Swett Elementary
    • Morello Park Elementary
  • Mt. Diablo Unified School District 
    •  Highlands Elementary
  • Pittsburg Unified  School District
    •  Los Medanos Elementary
  • West Contra Costa Unified School District
    •  Hanna Ranch Elementary
    • Olinda Elementary
The 2012 California Distinguished Schools Program focuses on California's students and their entitlement to an equitable and rigorous education. The program identifies and honors those schools that have demonstrated educational excellence for all students and progress in narrowing the achievement gap.

To be invited to apply for Distinguished School honors, schools must meet a variety of eligibility criteria including designated federal and state accountability measures based on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Academic Performance Index requirements.

Once schools are deemed eligible, the CDE invites them to apply to be recognized as a California Distinguished School. The application process consists of a written application, which includes a comprehensive description of two of the school's signature practices, and a county-led site validation review process, which validates the implementation of those signature practices.

Elementary and secondary schools (middle and high schools) are recognized in alternate years. This year focuses on elementary schools.

Schools earning the Distinguished School title agree to share their signature practices with other schools and serve as mentors to other educators who want to replicate their work. An updated searchable database of these Signature Practices will be available later this spring by the California Department of Education.

Schools selected for recognition will be honored as Distinguished Schools at award ceremonies where Torlakson will present each school with a 2012 Distinguished School plaque and flag. The event and awards are funded by donations from many of California's most prominent corporations and statewide educational organizations.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Free School Supply Kits for Homeless Youth in Contra Costa County Schools

 Throughout the month of February, districts in Contra Costa County distributed 1,239 tote bags filled with $65 worth of free school supplies to homeless students.

The supplies were provided free of charge by K-to-College, a California non-profit organization, as part of their School Supply Initiative. CCCOE/Youth Development Services (YDS) Homeless Program established an agreement with KtoCollege to provide these donated supplies to school districts with high numbers of homeless youth. This was the first year of CCCOE's participation in the School Supply Initiative.

In total, nine pallets of school supplies and an additional 4,900 dental kits were delivered to the CCCOE to process and distribute to districts. The quantities of kits delivered to districts were based on numbers of homeless youth who had been identified by the schools earlier in the year. The dental kits were provided to kindergartners at schools with high rates of students enrolled in the Free or Reduced Price Meal Program.

A special thanks to CCCOE's YDS staff, Tito Rodriguez from General Services, and Rich Gamba from the Parolee Education Program for their help getting these special deliveries out to the districts!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Contra Costa County Single Subject and Specialty* Teacher Job Fair

 The Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) will present their Contra Costa County Single Subject and Specialty* Teacher Job Fair, on Saturday, March 24, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, at the Pittsburg High School gymnasium, 1750 Harbor St., in Pittsburg.  (*Specialty teachers: special education, math, science, and bilingual.)

Attendees will discover a number of Contra Costa County teaching positions that will be available in the next school year.  Along with the CCCOE, representatives from seven Contra Costa County school districts: Antioch, Liberty Union High, Mt. Diablo, Oakley, Pittsburg, San Ramon, and West Contra Costa, will be recruiting for open positions.  Some interviews will be held on site.

For additional information about this free event, call (925) 942-3387 or visit the Job Fair's website.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Eighth Annual Young Children's Issues Forum

The public is invited to The Eighth Annual Young Children's Issues Forum, to be held on Saturday, March 24, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., at the Willow Pass Community Center, 2748 East Olivera Rd., Concord.  This free annual community event is sponsored and organized by the Local Planning Council for Child Care and Development (LPC), and is coordinated by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE).

The purpose of the program is to provide a forum for discussion among legislators, local officials, and the community regarding current children's issues. This year’s event will feature two panel presentations and discussions.  Ted Lempert, Executive Director of Children Now will be the guest moderator and will lead discussions of approximately 12 state legislators and local officials who will speak about the current status of young children's health, education, social and child care services.  There will also be time for questions from the audience after each panel.  Confirmed presenters include Assembly Members Joan Buchanan, Nancy Skinner and Susan Bonilla, Senators Mark DeSaulnier and Loni Hancock and County Supervisors Karen Mitchoff and Federal Glover.

Historically, the majority of the event attendees are early childhood educators, preschool teachers, program administrators, community college faculty, and representatives from community agencies.  Resources, services, and other information related to child care and education, a benefit to parents, will be available at the event.  The LPC hopes to encourage and foster parent participation, as well as participation of all early care and education professionals in the county, including private and state-funded child development centers and family care providers.

For more information about the annual Young Children’s Issues Forum, please contact the Contra Costa Local Planning Council for Child Care and Development Coordinator Ruth Fernández at (925) 942-3413.  This is a free event, but attendance registration is required.  Please visit the LPC website to register and for more details:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Miramonte High School's Mock Trial Team is County's Champion

After a number of speeches made by the coaches and individual awards given out to individual achievement participating students, the exciting Contra Costa County High School Mock Trial’s Awards Ceremony concluded with the naming of this year’s championship team: Miramonte High School (Orinda).

For the past four weeks (seven evenings), the Miramonte High School and fifteen other Contra Costa County high school Mock Trial teams have been battling it out with each other inside the superior courthouses in Martinez, in the Contra Costa County Office of Education’s 31th Annual HighSchool Mock Trial Competition. Miramonte High School will now represent Contra Costa County at the California State Mock Trial Competition in Sacramento, Calif., March 23-25. (The California state finalist team will then compete in the National Mock Trial Competition, held in Albuquerque, N.M. May 3-5.)

This year's 31st Annual Contra Costa County Mock Trial Championship team:
Miramonte High School (Orinda)
Teams from the following 16 Contra Costa County high schools competed in this year’s Mock Trials: Acalanes (Lafayette), Alhambra (Martinez), Antioch (Antioch), California (San Ramon), Campolindo (Moraga), Clayton Valley (Concord), Deer Valley Law Academy (Antioch), Dougherty Valley (San Ramon), Hercules Middle/High (Hercules), Heritage (Brentwood), Kennedy (Richmond), Las Lomas (Walnut Creek), Miramonte (Orinda), Monte Vista (Danville), Northgate (Walnut Creek), and Richmond (Richmond).

The top four teams finished in this order:
1. Miramonte
2. California
3. Northgate
4. Hercules

Mock Trial is an academic event for high school students coordinated by the Contra Costa County Office of Education, and sponsored by the Constitutional Rights Foundation. The purpose of this program is to teach students about the law and the workings of the legal system. To prepare, the students conducted legal research and received guidance on courtroom procedures from their school teachers and volunteer attorneys and judges, to acquire a working knowledge of the judicial system. 

This year, close to 100 Bay Area practicing and retired attorneys, senior law students, and sworn judges volunteered their time to serve as Mock Trial Attorney Scorers and Judges.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Campolindo High School Returns as Contra Costa County’s 2012 Academic Decathlon Champion

Last night, during an exciting awards reception, it was announced that Campolindo High School (Moraga) Red Team successfully defended its title as the overall team winner of the 2012 Contra Costa County High School Academic Decathlon.  Along with Campolindo Red Team’s triumphant return, the school’s Blue Team also repeated its second place standing from last year, as well.  This year’s third place team went to Acalanes High School (Lafayette).  The Campolindo Red Team will now represent Contra Costa County at the California State Academic Decathlon, to be held in Sacramento, March 15-18.  (This year's National Academic Decathlon will be held in Albuquerque, N.M., April 26 – 28.)

Also noteworthy, of the two Alameda County participating schools, Irvington took first place; the school will represent their county at the California State Academic Decathlon.  (Alameda County Office of Education does not produce a county-wide Academic Decathlon.)

Directed by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE), and with the assistance of community volunteers, the county’s Academic Decathlon provides an opportunity for high school students to compete as individuals and teams in a series of ten academic tests and demonstrations.  The curriculum includes art, economics, language and literature, mathematics, music, science, essay, interview, speech (prepared and impromptu), and the Super Quiz™.  More than 155 participating high school students had been studying and preparing for this event with their coaches since September.

This year’s Academic Decathlon theme was The Age of Empire, and the Super Quiz™ will focus on the topic of The Age of Imperialism: The Making of a European Global Order.  The Super Quiz™ included readings on such topics as mercantile empires, the Atlantic economy, motives for imperialism, the role of technology in the age of imperialism, New Imperialism, tactics of colonial rule, and decolonization and postcolonial immigration.

This year's participating teams represent the following high schools: Acalanes (Lafayette), Antioch (Anticoch), California (San Ramon), Campolindo (Moraga), Dublin (Dublin), Freedom (Oakley), Irvington (Fremont), Las Lomas (Walnut Creek),  Miramonte (Orinda), and Pittsburg (Pittsburg).  Acalanes High School has won the past four years.  High school teams are made up of nine students, grades 9-12, with a maximum of three students in each of the following divisions: Honors (3.75-4.00 GPA), Scholastic (3.00-3.74 GPA) and Varsity (2.99 GPA and below).  High schools that have more than nine students who want to participate in Academic Decathlon, can field more than one team, e.g., Campolindo’s Red and Blue Teams.  The teams can also bring guests or alternate participants from their school. 

During the awards ceremony, many individual awards were also given out.  (All Academic Decathlon statistics will be posted on the CCCOE’s website in the very near future.)

The Academic Decathlon was first created by Dr. Robert Peterson, former Superintendent of Schools in Orange County, California. Firmly believing that everyone's learning potential can be maximized through competitive challenge, Dr. Peterson set in motion the contest that has since come to be recognized as the most prestigious high school academic team competition in the United States.  The program spread rapidly throughout the states due to the success and excitement it engendered.  USAD was founded in 1981.