Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Antioch’s Holy Rosary School eighth graders place third in County Science Fair

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015
Jacob Yano and Scott Lombardi Antiochs Holy Rosary School eighth graders place third in County Science Fair

Jacob Yano and Scott Lombardi show their third place certificates in front of their entry. Photo courtesy of Mrs. Lombardi

By John Crowder

Students from Antioch’s Holy Rosary School were among the approximately 300 who participated in the Contra Costa County Science and Engineering Fair, on Saturday, March 28, 2015 at Los Medanos College. Two of Holy Rosary’s students, Scott Lombardi and Jacob Yano, came away with a third place award for their project, entitled, “H2O: If Only It Were That Simple.” Their project was one of 262 entered in the competition from students throughout the county, and was entered in the junior division in the Environmental Category.

The fair, in its eleventh year, is an Intel-affiliated contest, meaning winners advance to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. The prestigious Intel competition, the largest pre-college scientific research event in the world, brings together more than 1,500 students from about 70 countries and territories to compete for college scholarships, including one for $75,000.

The county fair was established when businesses in Contra Costa County joined together with K-12 educators in 2005. This year 130 judges, each reviewing multiple projects, worked all day and into the evening the Friday before the awards ceremony in order to complete the difficult task of selecting the winners from among the many outstanding projects entered into the local competition.

For their project, Jacob and Scott tested four different water samples: softened water, raw water, Delta water, and reverse osmosis water, for chemicals known as Trihalomethanes (THMs).

My partner and I chose this project because we wanted to find out what was in our drinking water and see how safe it really is,” Scott said. “THMs are known carcinogens that appear in water both naturally and through treatment.”

Jacob added, “We learned that THMs evaporate before they get into the Delta, and that reverse osmosis takes out all THMs. Softened water will increase the count of THMs.”

Both young scientists expressed their appreciation for their parents, who helped with their presentation. They were also particularly appreciative of Jim Yano, Jacob’s father, who works at Agilent Technologies, and was able to provide them with access to the instruments needed in order to undertake the project.

Both Jacob and Scott are completing their 8th grade year and planning to attend De La Salle High School in the fall. Each of them expressed a desire to continue entering science fair competitions while in high school.

Jacob and Scott had only good things to say about their experience with the science fair.

We have learned a lot and feel that this experience will help us with future science fair projects in high school,” said Scott.

Jacob concurred with his lab partner.

I thought being in the science fair was really fun,” he said. “I enjoy walking around and looking at all the other projects and learning about what they have discovered. I also like talking to the judges.”

The county’s science and engineering fair is a program of the Contra Costa Economic Partnership (CCEP), a nonprofit economic development organization of business, government, and education leaders dedicated to retaining and creating quality jobs in the East Bay. The science fair is open to junior high and senior high school students in Contra Costa County.

Many volunteers from the county come together each year, filling roles that range from judges to support staff, in order to ensure a successful program for the students who participate, and there are many roles that interested community members can fill. For more information about CCEP’s STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] Workforce Initiative, contact April Treece, ccep@cococo.org.

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Recent Grandma’s Tea event benefits REadingADvantage

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

Grandmas Tea 1024x408 Recent Grandmas Tea event benefits REadingADvantageBy Shirley Kalinowski

REadingADvantage, Inc.(READ), hosted a lovely Grandma’s Tea on March 21, 2015 in the community building at Buchanan Park in Pittsburg. We want to publicly thank the generous sponsors who were instrumental in contributing to this event: Assemblymember Jim Frazier, Dow CAP, CostCo, and Stewart Memorial CME Church. Our Grandma’s Tea was attended by over 50 local grandmothers and was centered around a workshop put on by READ entitled (Grand) “Parent Power! Learn the ABCs of Early Literacy.”

One grandma with the gift basket she won 300x274 Recent Grandmas Tea event benefits REadingADvantageOver warm tea, cookies, candies, and pizza, our grandmothers learned about the many benefits of reading daily with their grandchildren. On the surface our workshop message to our grandmothers was simple: read to your grandchild every day for 20 minutes and we’ll give you several free books for your daily reading. Beneath our message lay a multitude of benefits that daily reading can bring to a grandchild, including vocabulary development, reading comprehension, language development, grandparent-child bonding, early identification of potential health issues, grandparent-child conversational techniques, and, even, help with a grandparent’s own difficulty in reading. We also suggested easy ways grandmothers could use books as a relationship-building tool even when not physically present in her grandchild’s life. We provided our Grandma’s Tea message in both English and Spanish.

At the conclusion of our Grandma’s Tea, Karen Tedford, Senior Staff Assistant to Assemblymember Jim Frazier, presented California Legislature Assembly Certificates of Recognition to Delbra Gibbs, Deborah Polk, and Lorraine Manly, our Grandma’s Tea Planning Committee

“For your outstanding service and unwavering dedication to provide children of Contra Costa County with books that educate and entertain. On behalf of the 11th Assembly District of California, I commend and thank you for your inspired work and dedication to the joy of reading and lifelong learning,” the certificates read.

Incorporated in 2014, REadingADvantage, Inc. is a relatively new nonprofit in Contra Costa County. Over the last 18 months we have given our workshop to over 800 parents and have given out over 7,000 free children’s books and dictionaries.

For more information visit www.reading-advantage.org.

Kalinowski is President of the Brentwood-based ReadingADvantage, Inc.

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Antioch Barnes & Noble to host Educator Appreciation Days, April 11-19

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

Educator Appreication Day Antioch Barnes & Noble to host Educator Appreciation Days, April 11 19

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Deer Valley High students excel, place third at county science and engineering fair

Monday, April 6th, 2015
Devansh Vaid Katia Williams 1024x768 Deer Valley High students excel, place third at county science and engineering fair

Devansh Vaid and Katia Williams with their Third Place entry in the county science and engineering fair.

By John Crowder

Two Deer Valley High School (DVHS) students, Devansh Vaid and Katia Williams, were awarded third place honors in the Math and Computer Science category of the Contra Costa County Science and Engineering Fair, held on Saturday, March 28, 2015. Their project, entitled, “Simple Calculus: The Transformation of an Oxymoron into a Reality,” was one of 262 entered in the competition from students throughout the county.

The student competition, in its eleventh year, is an Intel-affiliated science and engineering fair, in which winners advance to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. The prestigious competition, which is the largest high school scientific research event in the world, brings together more than 1,500 students from about 70 countries and territories to compete for college scholarships, including one for $75,000.

The Contra Costa County’s fair was established when local businesses joined together with K-12 educators in 2005. This year the fair was held at Los Medanos College. 130 judges, each reviewing multiple projects, worked all day and into the evening the Friday before the awards ceremony in order to complete the difficult task of selecting the winners from among the many outstanding projects entered into the local competition.

3rd Place Ribbons 225x300 Deer Valley High students excel, place third at county science and engineering fair

Third place ribbons and certificates at Vaid and Williams’ display.

For their project, Devansh, a junior, and Katia, a senior, who are both taking AP Calculus AB this year, created a new Calculus notation for basic principles, such as limits, derivatives, and integrals, that had visual connections to the logical concepts that they were taken from.

Both students found Calculus to be challenging, and noticed that many of their classmates did, as well. According to Katia, “We were able to make it through – and we love it- but we still saw others around us having lots of difficulty, and knew that many other students don’t even attempt Calculus because they know how challenging it will be.”

Devansh concurred with Katia’s assessment.

Nobody will deny that Calculus is difficult,” he said. “But I saw no reason why that great, and almost magical, thing couldn’t be simpler.”

Devansh explained the project he and Katia worked on.

Katia and I tackled the problem of making calculus easier, more aesthetically pleasing, and more approachable,” he stated. “We wanted to simplify the hardest things about Calculus and we found that it was the transition from logic to mathematics that made it so daunting. A lot of time, with traditional notation, things get lost in translation, and success is dependent on the student’s analysis of that translation rather than comprehending the problem.”

According to Katia, “If the notation looked like the type of problems students were solving, and reminded students of the logic by which they can solve the problem, concepts would be easier to grasp and would be understood on a deeper, and lasting, level.”

Innovation, especially innovation and research in STEM fields, often needs tools like Calculus in order to occur at all. I believe our project helps us achieve this innovation,” she added.

Both students also had high praise for those who assisted them with their project.

Ms. McClain, our AP (Advanced Placement) Calculus teacher, and Mr. Adkins, our AP Physics teacher, were both immensely helpful,” said Katia. “They both inspired us to begin the project, and guided us along the way.”

Devansh agreed that both teachers were, “immensely helpful,” and added that his parents, “were also an inspiration for me.”

The two students each spoke enthusiastically about their science fair experience.

It was really humbling to be at the science fair,” said Devansh.

It was definitely interesting,” added Katia. “It was a great learning experience, and I like to think that the judges’ reactions spoke to our level of innovation.”

Katia will be graduating this year, and plans to attend either U.C. Berkeley or UCLA in the fall. Meanwhile, Devansh will have another year at DVHS, where he believes he may be able to further expand upon the project he and Katia began this year.

Both students also said they wanted to encourage others to pursue an interest in science.

Science and technology are the future,” said Devansh. Katia concurred.

I would highly encourage any student with any inkling of an idea for research to enter the science fair as soon as they can,” she said.

Katia shared a final thought.

I think that, as kids, we feel like we sometimes don’t have much to offer the world, but it is the exact opposite. We have everything to offer,” she exclaimed. “Adults are often tied down with jobs and responsibilities, but, as students, we have ideas and time. We don’t have to – and we shouldn’t – wait to innovate.”

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Antioch School Board, NAACP sign settlement agreement to avoid lawsuit

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

By John Crowder

At the March 25, 2015 meeting of the Antioch School Board, the trustees approved, in closed session, an “Interim Settlement Agreement” with the East County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) over a complaint against the district by the civil rights organization. The agreement was approved on a 4-1 vote, with board Vice President Diane Gibson-Gray casting the sole vote in opposition. Board President Claire Smith and Trustees Barbara Cowan, Walter Ruehlig, and Debra Vinson all voted in favor.

Reporting out of closed session at the beginning of the meeting, Smith informed those attending that an agreement had been reached between the District and the NAACP in order to prevent a potentially expensive lawsuit by the latter. The agreement, according to the settlement document, which can be viewed, here AUSD-NAACP Settlement Agreement, was in response to allegations of violations of parts of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

According to a press release issued by the Equal Justice Society, “African American students in the Antioch Unified School District represented only 24.8% of the student population, yet received 57.3% of all suspensions and 61.4% of all expulsions.” The press release further quotes Willie Mims, Education Chair of the East County Branch of the NAACP as saying that the, “disproportionate suspension of African American students greatly harms their chances for a quality education.”

Essentially, the agreement puts the potential lawsuit on hold until at least December 31, 2015, while the District engages specified, “experts for purposes of the settlement agreement.” A final settlement agreement is to be negotiated following the receipt of reports by the chosen experts.

The experts to be engaged by the District include:

  • Dan Losen, Director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies (CCRR) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), to review District disciplinary data, policies and practices.

  • Jeffrey Sprague, Ph.D., of the University of Oregon, to review IDEA/Section 504 practices, including child find, assessment, behavioral and academic services.

  • Professor john a. powell and Ingrid Melvaer Paulin of the University of California, Berkeley Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, the Center for Policing Equity, and Professor Rachel D. Godsil, Director of Research for Perception Institute and Seton Hall University School of Law, along with other researchers, to examine the relationship between psychological phenomena (e.g., implicit bias, racial anxiety, and stereotype threat) and disproportionate outcomes.

In addition to the above, Losen and Sprague are charged with coordinating “a joint review of the District’s PBIS and RTI systems (current and planned).”

According to the agreement, both Losen and Sprague are expected to spend some time on-site at AUSD. For their work, each is to be compensated by an amount that, “may not exceed $60,000, excluding travel expenses,” for a total maximum cost of $120,000 plus travel costs for their portion of the work.

In addition to the above-mentioned fees, the District has acknowledged that the “initial analysis” undertaken by the social psychology experts, “may cost the District up to $20,000.”

As part of the agreement, the District has also agreed to “work in good faith to make administrators and teachers available for participation in survey, interview and other examination.” Further, they have agreed that participation by District staff, “shall be voluntary,” and those participating shall be allowed, “reasonable on-duty time…to participate.”

The combined cost of all fees to be paid for the analysis is a maximum of $140,000 ($120,000 + $20,000) plus travel expenses. Presumably, other costs would be incurred in order to arrange for substitute teachers to fill in for teachers participating while “on-duty,” and costs for administrators participating would also be absorbed by the District.

Dr. Donald Gill, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools for AUSD, responded to a request for a statement concerning the agreement.

We have taken an honest and hard look at our programs, in the context of social justice and civil rights, and while we have many great initiatives in place, we agree that there is much more work to be done. We hope to be a model for positive, student focused problem-solving,” Gill said. “Lawsuits are, by design, confrontational and engender defensive behavior, but we chose to look at the broader theme, where we can agree to take a step toward building shared goals to help improve education for our under-served students.”

To say we lost a legal battle is misrepresentation, we see it as an agreement to share goals and commit to improved services for our students. I hope education leaders across the nation will see this approach as a model of humble, honest, student-focused collaboration,” Gill added.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the AUSD Board of Education will take place on April 15. Meetings are held at the AUSD office at 510 G Street, and begin at 7:00 p.m.

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Antioch School Board hears about district budget, declining enrollment

Monday, March 30th, 2015

By John Crowder

At the March 25, 2015 meeting of the Antioch School Board, the trustees heard from Tim Forrester, Associate Superintendent-Business & Operations, and his staff as they presented the 2014-2015 Second Interim Budget Report. Following and during the presentation, board members raised questions about declining enrollment and whether or not expenditures were in line with the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) and Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) mandates.

One of the first items addressed in the report was the continuing trend of declining student enrollment within AUSD. According to one of the slides used in the budget presentation, entitled “Enrollment and ADA (Average Daily Attendance),” student enrollment in the district is expected to continue to decline over the next two years from 17,792 in 2014-2015 to 17,506 in 2016-2017, a loss of another 286 students over the next two years.

The two newest board members, Walter Ruehlig and Debra Vinson, both raised questions related to the enrollment numbers and average daily attendance, which are major factors in determining District revenue. Vinson, after stating that “A couple of things are not clear to me when I look at the budget,” expressed concern that, “I don’t see a dollar amount attached to that. The numbers seem off, based on ADA.”

As part of his response to Vinson, Forrester said that vacant homes in Antioch, and changing demographics related to the recession were factors driving down enrollment.

Ruehlig questioned Forrester on this analysis, saying, “I’m not seeing the vacant homes. How do you calculate this?”

Forrester responded, “We look at it internally.” He then talked again about losing students in the District due to foreclosures.

Ruehlig continued questioning that assumption, asking, “Is some [of the loss of students due to them moving to] private school, homeschool, to Brentwood?”

Forrester agreed with Ruehlig that, “Some is.”

A quick look at statistics regarding population numbers by age for the city of Antioch seems to lend some credence to Ruehlig’s concerns. According to demographic information contained on the city of Antioch website, declining enrollment was occurring as early as a decade ago, even while the school age population continued to grow. According to information found on the website, while the number of school age children in the city increased from 21,783 in 2000 to 24,088 in 2007, the number attending AUSD decreased from a peak of 21,628 in 2003-2004 to 19,422 in 2008. As noted by Forrester, the number of students attending AUSD continues to decline, and is expected to drop to about 17,500 within the next two years.

Local Control Accountability Plan

Following that discussion, board member Barbara Cowan raised concerns about the budgeting process in light of the LCAP and LCFF. “How are you going to balance LCAP?” she asked. (An ongoing concern with residents and local advocacy groups has been the distribution of Supplemental and Concentration funds. According to a report given out at the meeting, “…supplementary amounts are added for the economically disadvantaged, English learners, and foster students; and additional concentration amounts are added for these student populations when their numbers exceed 55% of total enrollment.” Local education advocates have been particularly concerned that this money is not being spent on new programs or improvements in programs for these targeted groups.)

Forrester said that $5.9 million of new revenue for 2015-2016 was from Supplemental and Concentration funds.

Cowan then asked for an estimate of how much of this money would be spent on new programs.

Forrester said he was unable to provide this information until a new budget was in place.

Cowan reiterated that she wanted to see what money was to be spent, “for new [programs], not the same old, same old.” “When will you have the numbers?” she asked.

Forrester replied that the numbers would be available in May.

Cowan then addressed Stephanie Anello, Associate Superintendent, Educational Services, asking whether or not AUSD staff was looking at specific needs when determining LCAP spending.

Anello responded, “Yes, we’ve been having stakeholder meetings and prioritizing.”

Following this exchange, Vinson said that she had been looking at the State website, and wanted to make sure that their numbers matched the numbers she was being given by the District. Saying she agreed with Cowan, she emphasized spending, “on programs where specifically designated.”

After further exchanges between the board members and staff, Forrester said that the June budget would reflect the most currently available information.

A separate article about the settlement agreement between the district and the East County Branch of the NAACP, approved at the meeting, will be posted, soon.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the AUSD Board of Education will take place on April 15. Meetings are held at the AUSD office at 510 G Street, and begin at 7:00 p.m.

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Delta Baseball and Softball League donates over $10,000 to local schools

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

By Rick Hilton, Administrative VP, Delta Baseball & Softball League

Local youth sports organization, The Delta Baseball & Softball League (DBSL), announced recently, its donation of over $3,150 to East Contra Costa County schools.  The donations will be made through a special DBSL program called, “Delta Goes to Bat for Schools” and this isn’t the first time this youth sports league has donated money to local schools.

Starting in 2012, the program has provided much-needed donations that give schools and their PTAs/PTOs additional resources.  With the latest announcement, Delta Goes to Bat for Schools reached a significant milestone – over $10,000 in donations to local schools.

The Delta Goes to Bat for Schools program began at a late night board meeting in the Spring of 2012.  Due to an unanticipated influx of new sponsorship dollars and an enrollment 5% higher than budgeted for, DBSL found itself with a slight budget surplus.

Several alternatives were batted around, but the league eventually settled on their local schools as the place where a few hundred dollars might have the greatest impact, both practically and symbolically for the kids in the league.  

From this initial budget overage, they developed the Delta Goes to Bat for Schools program, making it a part of the league’s priorities.  Now a percentage of the fees families pay to play in the Delta Baseball & Softball League are donated back to the school that the players attend, bringing tangible benefits to students beyond the DBSL.  Board member David Chuey explains the nexus between youth sports and schools, “sports in general and team sports specifically teach kids things like communication, teamwork, good sportsmanship, and responsibility – all qualities that aid in their overall physical and educational development”.  

The success of the program has inspired DBSL to go beyond donations.  In addition to over $10,000 in direct cash contributions, DBSL partners with local schools to assist with carnivals and fairs, field day activities, and a wide variety of fundraising events, all focused on increasing the opportunities for local students to grow and develop their mind and bodies through better access to athletic programs. 

This year’s donation of $3,150 will go to public, charter, and private schools in Antioch, Brentwood, Discovery Bay, Knightsen, Oakley, and Pittsburg.  Representatives from five schools – Sutter Elementary, John Mir Elementary, Lone Tree Elementary, Orchard Park K-8 School, and Holy Rosary Catholic School – have been invited to the league’s Opening Day at Freedom High School on March 21, 2015 as honored guests.  The league will present checks to each of the represented schools as a part of their opening day ceremony.

Matthew Wright, the League President in the inaugural year of Delta Goes to Bat stated “As an idea that was kind of stumbled upon towards the end of a long night of league meetings, Delta Goes to Bat ended up being one of the best things we did as a board of directors that year.  It’s great to see that the leadership of the Delta Baseball & Softball League continues to make it a priority to support our local schools through this program.”

League President Mark Foley does indeed continue the commitment started by 2012 Board of Directors.  “The Delta Goes to Bat program has become fundamental to DBSL and is high on my list of priorities for the league,” Foley said.  “This program, along with our C.H.A.M.P. Buddies Program, exemplifies the spirit of community service and involvement we hope as a league to instill in our young players.”

The Delta Baseball and Softball League, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, was founded in 1984 as the Delta Peanut League by a group of like-minded parents seeking an alternative to the high pressure, high intensity youth sports leagues available at the time.  Starting with 6-8 year old players the league has grown to include children from age 4 to 13, and today continues the non-competitive legacy and vision of the league founders, and competitive divisions playing under the banner of Cal Ripken Baseball and Babe Ruth Softball.  In 2007, the league added a division for differently-abled children, the C.H.A.M.P. division (formerly FREEDOM division) where physically or mentally challenged children learn and play baseball free of charge alongside all of the other children in the league.

To learn more about the Delta Baseball & Softball League please visit www.deltabaseballleague.com or www.facebook.com/DeltaBaseballandSoftballLeague.

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College Career Night March 31 at Prospects High School in downtown Antioch

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

College Career Night Flyer 2015 College Career Night March 31 at Prospects High School in downtown Antioch

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