Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Outside the comfort zone

By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools

Almost anyone who has ever had to address a group of strangers can attest to the fact that speaking in public can be a nerve-wracking experience.

But what if you don’t even speak the same language as the audience you’d like to address?

2016 San Marcos High School graduate Angela Gladkikh knows exactly what that feels like. When she moved from Siberia to Santa Barbara County in the middle of her sixth grade year, she didn’t speak a word of English.

“I felt very alone,” Angela says, recalling that time. “I sat in that classroom, but understood next to nothing. I had no resources, except for an Oxford Russian-English dictionary. It wasn’t until my eighth grade year that I began to feel some confidence.”

In addition to her dictionary, Angela carried a notebook around with her. “I’d write a word or a phrase down in my notebook,” she says. “Then that night I’d write out the definition. I’d spend the weekend reviewing the definitions I had jotted down.” In time, Angela added a thesaurus to her list of handy references she toted around with her.

“I wasn’t satisfied with learning the simple stuff,” the soft-spoken teenager says today. Angela, who was a member of San Marcos’s Health Academy and who is attending Georgetown University this fall to study international health on a pre-med track, tends to push herself. “By the time I reached the ninth grade, I really wanted to learn more complex words. I found them to be especially helpful in writing.”

She was serious about improving her communications skills, so much so that, just two and a half years after arriving in this country, she joined the school newspaper. The experience was transformative.

“When writing became something I didn’t have  to do, I learned to really enjoy it,” she says. “In the process, it really fed my interests in other subjects, and I found that with each day I was becoming more comfortable in both writing and speaking.”

The extent to which she challenged herself to get outside her comfort zone wasn’t limited to a writing desk, however. She ran for student office as a freshman — and lost. But that did not leave her deterred. Her junior year she was elected as a student representative to the school board, an experience she loved.

“I realized that the more involved you are, the more passionate you become about making a difference,“ she says. Her classmates recognized that passion, too: just before the start of her senior year, she was elected president of San Marcos High School’s class of 2016.

Angela has every intention of carrying that passion for making a difference into adulthood. She spent her final three years of high school in Model United Nations, an educational simulation and academic competition “in which students learn about diplomacy, international relations, and the United Nations.” When asked about her career aspirations, she answers without hesitation: the World Heath Organization.

Angela Gladkikh is a living embodiment of the kind of tenacity, resilience, and commitment to excellence and service that make our schools and our community such a special, dynamic place. She is also a role model for us all.

Volunteer code

Radio Commentary

Volunteers make a huge difference in our public schools. 
If done correctly, volunteering can provide invaluable help for students who are struggling. It can provide an extra set of hands, eyes, and ears to teachers who are working hard to meet the needs of all students.
To help volunteers do their job better, the state PTA created a code of ethics that includes the following items:
  • While I may lack assets my co-workers have, I will not let this make me feel inadequate, and will still help develop good teamwork. My help is valued and important.
  • I will find out the best ways to serve the activity for which I’ve volunteered, and will offer as much as I can give, but not more. 
  • I must live up to my promise, and therefore will be careful that my agreement is so simple and clear it cannot be misunderstood.
  • I will work with a professional attitude because I have an obligation to my task, to those who direct it, to my colleagues, to the students for whom it is done, and to the public.

These items are good practices for all volunteers to keep in mind as they strive to make a difference for children.
And that, of course, is the bottom line for all of us.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

CalSAFE program awarded national accreditation

News release

On Aug. 10, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
awarded national accreditation to the California School Age Families Education (CalSAFE)
program at Santa Maria High School.

“This amazing accomplishment is due to the incredible vision and leadership of the Child
Development team at the county education office,” said county Superintendent of Schools Bill
Cirone, “as well as the passion and dedication of CalSAFE site supervisor and teacher Jennifer
Thomas and the caring and commitment of the entire CalSAFE staff.”

NAEYC is a professional membership organization that works to promote high-quality early
learning for all young children, birth through age 8, by connecting early childhood practice, policy,
and research.

“I speak to the students of this program several times throughout the year and I can attest
first-hand that the staff do amazing work,” said Santa Maria High School Principal Joe Domingues.
“They are infectiously dedicated to the lives of their students. This is great news and well
deserved!”

NAEYC accreditation is the gold standard for early childhood programs across the country.
Families of young children who attend NAEYC-accredited programs can be confident that they
deliver the highest quality early care and education.

The national accreditation is the result of a comprehensive review process and reflects the
highest of quality in these important areas: teacher-child relationships; curriculum; assessment;
health; safety; family relationships; professional commitment; community resources; and program
policies. The accreditation team was impressed by the passion, commitment and skill of Ms. Thomas and her staff.

Freeway driving

Radio Commentary

Teens need to know that freeway driving demands special skills. 
Statistics show that fewer crashes occur on modern freeways, but the collisions that do occur are more severe due to the higher speeds and increased traffic.
Freeway driving requires drivers to make complex but quick decisions at critical moments.
Identify for teens the correct procedures for entering and exiting a freeway.
Make sure they understand the need for advance route planning, and the factors that influence speed and lane selection.
Talk about the challenges involved with lane-changing maneuvers.
Have them use space-management techniques such as looking ahead and maintaining time gaps between vehicles.
Remind them that driving at the speed used by most other cars can reduce conflicts. This means they should choose a legal speed that matches the speed of other traffic. Have them consider visibility, traffic, weather, and road conditions.
Drivers can lose their sense of speed during extended freeway driving. They may start going much faster than they intended. Suggest that drivers look frequently at the speedometer and make corrections accordingly.
All these actions help minimize the risks associated with freeway driving.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Noah’s Ark

Radio Commentary

Some of the most insightful thoughts we receive come anonymously.
The newsletter of the KIDS Network once printed an inspirational piece, author unknown, which was submitted by one of the group’s members. Though we don’t know the original author, we feel the sentiments bear repeating.
The piece is called “Everything I need to know I learned on Noah’s Ark.”
Don’t miss the boat.
Remember that we are all in the same boat.
Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.
Stay fit. When you’re 600 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big.
Don’t listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.
Build your future on high ground.
For safety’s sake, travel in pairs.
Speed isn’t always an advantage. The snails were on board with the rabbits.
When you’re stressed, float awhile.
And finally…
No matter how big the storm, there’s always a rainbow waiting.
Collaboration has always been key; it is more important now than ever before.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Top five ways

Radio Commentary

Here are time-tested ways for parents to connect and communicate with their child’s teacher:
Early in the year, make arrangements to meet the teacher. This is an ideal time to share information about your child so that the teacher can make the best possible connection.
Take a “no fault” approach when dealing with difficult issues at school. Blaming teachers or classmates only strains relationships.
Join forces with teachers to reach a common goal: helping your child overcome difficulties and find success.
Drop your child’s teacher a note any time throughout the year. Do you have a question about homework? Is your child upset about something that happened at home?
Were you really impressed by a school project? Pass it along.
Call your child’s teacher for a specific reason — or for no reason at all. Teachers appreciate hearing from you. A good tip: ask teachers beforehand for the best times to call.
Bring a list of questions to meetings with teachers. Prepared questions help the meeting stay focused and keep you on the issues that matter.
These are great ways to support your children in school.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Back to school

Radio Commentary

When a new school year gets underway, families experience new routines, schedules, and priorities. Before summer ends, taking a few simple steps can help your child gear up for a great year.
Keep a large calendar, marking each family member’s activities in a different color.
Re-establish bedtimes for school nights. Get children in the habit of preparing for each school day the night before. They can set out clothes, pack a lunch, and set their backpack by the front door.
Scale back television time. Create a supervised study space for your child.
Establish a family reading time, and make a plan for after-school activities. Schedule adequate time for homework, play, clubs, practice, and sports.
Collect important telephone numbers. Update doctor and work numbers, plus those for the school office and a neighbor.
Start a change jar. This can ensure children will have spare lunch money on hand.
Set up a file for your child’s school papers. Place all school notices in it so you won’t misplace them.
Create a carpool. Compare schedules and determine which parents can drive kids which days. Have a back-up plan with another parent who will exchange pickup favors. This can be very helpful in case you get sick or delayed by work or traffic.
Taking these few steps can really help set the tone for a great year of school.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Road to readiness

Radio Commentary

Making sure that every child comes to school ready to learn is a worthy national education goal. But we are not yet nearly to that point.
One researcher examined the steps that must be taken to make it happen. The researcher determined that the quality of the parent-child relationship is key to language development.
Children need rich verbal experiences to draw from as they enter school. Parents should talk with their children all the time and read to them as often as possible.
Parents can share stories, and ask open-ended questions to spur thinking skills. This helps get children excited about learning new things.
According to the research, there are several preconditions for learning.
Good health comes first. Then come unhurried time with family, safe and supportive environments, and special help for families in need.
This sounds like commonsense, but unfortunately these items are not always in great supply.
The researcher wrote: “These principles are deceptively simple. Assuring that every child has the opportunity to learn requires collaboration among community and health care agencies, families, and schools.”
It involves institutions and neighborhoods working together to help meet basic needs.
It is a promise unfulfilled in this country at this time, but it is a worthy goal to pursue for all our children.
This is the road to readiness.