Friday, June 23, 2017

Swimming safety

Radio Commentary

Children have great fun swimming in pools or at the beach. But it is important that children stay safe any time they are around water.
All children should know how to swim well enough to survive an emergency. They should always swim with a buddy who has the ability to help them if needed.
Children should stay out of the water if they are overheated or overtired. They should never dive unless they know the area well enough, and they are certain the water is deep enough.
Make sure children check with a lifeguard about beach and surf conditions before swimming in the ocean.
Tell them if they ever think they are being pulled out by a rip current, they should stay calm. Instead of fighting the current, they should swim parallel to the beach. Once they feel free of the current, they should then swim to shore.   
Finally, children should not overestimate their swimming ability. Weak swimmers should stay in the shallow end of a pool, or within an area marked off for them with buoyed lines.
In the ocean, swimming short distances parallel to the shore is safest.
Swimming can provide great exercise and fun. But it is important that children understand the dangers and stay “water safe.”

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Summertime activities K-3

Radio Commentary

Young students need activities that help them learn and stay sharp over the summer, and parents can choose from many simple ones for their children who are in kindergarten through the third grade.
Sorting and stacking helps teach classification skills. Ask your child to match and stack dishes of similar sizes and shapes. 
Also have children sort silverware — forks with forks, spoons with spoons. 
This is like recognizing the shapes of letters and numbers.
You can also use comic strips to help with writing. 
Cut apart the segments of a strip and ask your child to arrange them in order. 
Then ask your child to say the words of the characters out loud.
It also helps to encourage hypothesizing or guessing. 
Use objects such as soap, a dry sock, a bottle of shampoo, and a wet sponge. Ask which objects will float when dropped into water in a sink or bathtub. 
Then drop the objects into the water one by one to see what happens.
This all helps make learning fun, and it keeps young minds active over the summer months.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Community opportunities

Radio Commentary

Over the summer, look for opportunities in the community to engage your children.
Public libraries, YMCAs, and community centers are among the places that host free activities for young children and families, especially in the summer.
There are also some vibrant online groups for parents where moms and dads keep each other informed about local events, regular playgroups, and resources.
You can search for these groups on Facebook, MeetUp, or Google, but be careful to make sure you are accessing groups that focus on positive family supports.
A clearly worded description and active moderators are signs that the group is well-maintained and will have helpful information.
There are also a variety of Family Centers, which are great places for free playgroups and social activities. Parents and children can meet other families, learn about community resources, and take part in activities.
We are so fortunate locally to also have a wonderful zoo. The Goleta Railroad Museum has rides for little ones, and all museums have a variety of children’s programs.
The beach is another great place to take children of all ages, and local libraries have story-reading programs on a regular basis.
Santa Barbara County is filled with community treasures for children. Seize the opportunity! 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Thank you and farewell

By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools

My time in office is short, and the list of thanks I owe is long. Very long.

As the nation prepares to celebrate July 4, I want to thank first and foremost the Santa Barbara County community for the privilege and honor it has been to work as your elected representative in a system of governance and representation that is unmatched on our planet.

Our nation remains strong because of the foresight and wisdom of the founding fathers who constructed a nation based on freedom and equality for all.

It has been particularly rewarding to be able to take part in the system of public education that has always been the cornerstone of our great democracy — a melting pot where children from all walks of life, all religions, all races, all levels of income and ability, come together and work side by side, learning together, and learning from each other, all equal. This is the lifeblood of democracy, and it is how we make sure it stays strong and continues to thrive.

It has always been vital to remain vigilant and not take these freedoms for granted.

The late Frosty Troy, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist from Oklahoma, was one of the most outspoken supporters of public education I have ever met. We happily invited him to Santa Barbara County on several occasions so that the public could hear first-hand his wisdom, his commonsense, and his passion. “I am your public school,” he once wrote, “a 200 year-old experiment giving America the strongest economy in world history. And we are as diverse as this great country.”

He added, “When the buses roll up, my doors are flung open to children of all shapes, sizes, levels of ability. They speak more than 100 languages. I represent home schooling at its best for I am the home school of 10 million latchkey children.”

He added that “many of the children who drop out are those who arrive undisciplined, unwanted, unloved; some strung out on drugs and alcohol; some abused and neglected. The miracle is that my doors are open to all of them and many are reached, not by textbooks alone but by teachers who know there is more to a child's life than rote learning. For thousands of kids, the only hug they ever get they get in school… Aren't feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and nurturing the little ones spiritual injunctions in all the great religions of the world?”

Thanks to the vision of our forebears, America had a 100-year head start on every other nation in creating universal free public education. Today, with all its flaws, it is the finest system in the industrial world.

As Frosty said, “Some of you would dim my lights, leaving in the shadows the poor, the halt, the blind, the lame, and the special education student. Do as you will, but for me, I will stand proudly in my neighborhood — America's last egalitarian institution, my arms embracing the finest educators, administrators, and support personnel in the world, dedicated to helping our children realize the American dream.”

Another passionate supporter of public education, the late Harriet Miller, who was born on the Fourth of July, served as superintendent of public instruction for the state of Montana before she became more well-known locally as mayor of Santa Barbara. She delivered a remarkable speech as Montana’s state superintendent in March of 1962. See how her words resonate so powerfully today:

“There are forces at work today whose business is fear and suspicion. These forces masquerade in a wide array of disguises, some apparently quite respectable. By inference and innuendo, by oversimplifica¬tion to the point of falsehood, by shameless appeals to emotion and ignorance and prejudice, these forces are working to destroy the fabric of America by turning us against each other. Their method: create deadly suspicion; their goal: divide and conquer. This has become the new un-Americanism.” She said we must not fail “in preserving the tradition of American education and the American way of life.”

I believe the words that Frosty and Harriet stated so passionately bear repeating in these very fraught times for public education. Their views reflect so well my ongoing vision for our children and our communities, united in our quest to be a unifying force in our country and to meet every child where he or she stands, and enhance those God-given potentials to the very best of our abilities. That’s what public schools have always done, and that’s why they have always been the glue that binds the members of our democracy.

I hope we will never lose that vision or passion, for the sake of our children and the future they represent. It is our sacred duty to pass on to future generations the gifts we have all received by working side by side in public classrooms, learning from each other and from the heroic teachers who will receive a special form of immortality by living on in the children they have touched. My passion for public education has not diminished in any way, and I hope that torch will go forward in the hearts of all of you. For that, I thank you all.

TV and information

Radio Commentary

Children used to acquire knowledge of the world in a gradual, controlled way. They learned how to behave by watching adults and modeling their actions.
The slowly developing reading skills of young people restricted them mostly to stories and facts that were deemed suitable for their age level.
But times have changed. Today children are flung quickly into the realm of adult knowledge.
Certainly the mass media bombard children with messages at every turn. Rock and rap song lyrics, DVDs, and advertising all play their parts. Television, the Internet, and computer games are also major players.
Messages in ads, TV programs and games — in print, online, and even some content on the nightly news — would have been shocking to see just one short generation ago.
Young viewers can’t always distinguish between the drama and trauma of reality shows and adventure shows, and the day-to-day routine that most adults live.
Without proper guidance, children can grow up dissatisfied with lives less exciting and glamorous than the TV heroes they admire or those on their computer screens. Those figures can avoid handling conflicts that can’t be solved in 22 minutes — or worse, in 22 seconds.
Creating a family of media critics is one answer to this challenge. “Talking back” to the TV or computer screen is a good first step. And remember to be aware of media content, and use good judgment in your selections.
These steps are a key to raising healthy, well-adjusted children.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Family involvement

Radio Commentary

When people hear the term “parental involvement in school,” they usually think it means taking part in PTA activities, helping to chaperone field trips, or volunteering in the classroom.
It’s important to remember that another form of parental involvement is even more crucial — taking part in education at home. 
This means encouraging children to read, monitoring their homework, reading to them, placing reasonable restrictions on TV viewing, and making sure they go to school every day. 
It also means talking to children about why school is important.
Many children do not always get such attention. In some cases, both parents are working and are simply too tired at night. In single-parent families, often it is impossible for a parent to cover all these bases.
Many modern children spend at least as much time watching TV as they do in school. And, of course, if students don’t attend school regularly, they can’t benefit from what it offers.
Parents have to be around the house to supervise; they have to put pressure on their children to turn off the TV and do their homework or read. They have to make sure their kids go to school even when there is some small reason for staying home.
This kind of parental involvement is hard work, and relentless work, because it must be constant. But it’s hard to think of anything more important parents can do for their children.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Reading over the summer

Radio Commentary

Summer gives children a good break from the stresses of the academic assignments and tests they face during the school year.
But it is important to keep some skills active so that children don’t completely lose the drive to learn and to read.
Studies show that children who read during the summer make gains in their reading skills. Those who do not read over the summer can experience learning losses.
Here are some ways to keep your child learning and reading throughout the extended break from the classroom.
First, have plenty of reading material around your home.
Storybooks aren’t the only thing that young people can read for fun. Be sure to have newspapers, magazines, and informational material on hand that might spark the interest of a young reader.
Continue to read aloud with children. Take them to see a local storyteller — or be one yourself. Don’t forget to improvise different voices or wear a silly hat to make the story that much more interesting.
What’s important is to keep the reading skills active. 
It’s also critical to reinforce for young people the idea that reading can be fun and exciting. It can cure boredom and expand the mind. It can provide great adventures and help them meet really interesting people.
And it’s a great way to spend your time. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

TV rules

Radio Commentary

I’m Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools.
In setting up rules about television viewing — especially over the summer — be sure to monitor what your children watch.
Encourage them to choose programs that make them think; that are free of violence and sex; and that feature characters whose values are similar to your own.
When watching TV with your children, ask questions like, “Why do you think that person did what he did?” Encourage your children to ask questions as well, and answer them honestly.
Limit overall television viewing time. During commercials, review what you just watched and ask children to predict what will happen next.
Turn off the television if you see things on it that you don’t like — but be sure to explain to your child why you are doing so. Say: “I don’t like what those people are doing because . . .”
Remember that when children are watching TV it takes them away from other activities like reading and sports. Plan games, trips to the library, and trips to parks and playgrounds to take the place of TV.
Have reference materials or a computer near the TV so additional information is available. Have your child look up new words in a dictionary, or look at an atlas to find places mentioned in a show. This way it’s fun and educational.