Friday, February 28, 2014

County science fair slated for March 7

More than 120 students from across the county will share a day of competition and camaraderie on Friday, March 7, at the 59th annual Santa Barbara County Science Fair.
The exhibits by junior high and senior high students from across the county will be open for public viewing in UCSB’s Corwin Pavilion from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., when the awards ceremony begins. Volunteer judges spend the morning of the fair interviewing the student-scientists about their work to determine the winners in various categories. At stake is more than $3,000 in prizes as well as advancement to the California State Science Fair on April 28-29.
In addition to the competition, students will get to see and touch cutting-edge research as they participate in a Science Expo presented by the California Nanosystems Institute.
The Santa Barbara County Science Fair is organized by a volunteer committee and coordinated in partnership with the Santa Barbara County Education Office (SBCEO). Members of the committee are individuals and representatives of businesses and community groups who are dedicated to raising the profile and quality of science education in the county. The fair is supported by local organizations, including generous donations from the University of California, Raytheon, and the Santa Barbara Science and Engineering Council.

For more information, go to or send email to Science Fair President Shea Lovan at

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Social conscience, work ethic begin at home

Newspaper column
Feb. 26, 2014

It’s very clear that what sets America apart from other civilizations is our value system. Our respect for life, liberty, democracy, and social equality, and our tolerance for different religious views and lifestyles — these are all bedrock principles on which this country was founded.  
These values are also the foundation of healthy communities, respectful workplaces, and safe schools, so they must be passed on to each new generation.
A child’s sense of morality and social conscience begins at home, and parents can nurture it. They can discuss with their children values such as the importance of each person’s life, respect for others’ property, compassion for the less fortunate, tolerance for people who are different, and respect for rules and laws.  
It is important to emphasize courtesy, honesty, and cooperation in everyday life. Explain to children that money isn’t everything, and that helping others brings personal satisfaction in many ways.
Learn to disagree by using words. If a local school offers adults an opportunity to take part in a conflict management program, sign up. You can learn techniques and approaches that will work well with children and will help you pass along those models at home and in the workplace. The most important skill is learning how to turn feelings of anger and frustration into positive action instead of violence.
When necessary, say no. Intervene when needed. It is difficult for parents to acknowledge signs of antisocial behavior in their own children and to seek professional guidance. But while most children develop appropriate social skills as they mature, others may begin showing antisocial patterns as early as the fourth grade. Some of these trouble signs include excessive use of intimidation and force to get their own way, frequent and skillful lying, and routine reliance on cheating or stealing.  
Children who exhibit these behaviors may need some professional help to redirect their energies and anxieties. Parents are in the best position to sense when help is needed, and early intervention can make a profound difference.

There are no secret ingredients to making a healthy character or a good citizen or a responsible employee. But adults can take some basic steps with children to give effective support to the school and community programs that are aimed at instilling these values.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Business, community leaders to be principals for a day

More than 40 Santa Maria Valley business and community leaders will have a unique opportunity to be a principal for a day at public and private school campuses on Wednesday, March 12 when the Santa Maria Valley Industry Education Council (SMVIEC) and the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors and Convention Bureau co-sponsor the popular Principal For a Day event.
They will spend the morning at a school site to learn more about the challenges facing educators. It is a unique opportunity to interact one on one with the school principal and create ongoing partnerships.
The luncheon event will also include a presentation of computer packages to students through the Computer Connections program. A joint partnership of the SMVIEC and the Chamber, the Computer Connections program offers new computer packages to students who are unable to afford one. Since the program began in 2002, more than 200 students have received equipment. Students who receive computers are identified by their school district as children who would benefit from having a computer at home to help with their schoolwork.
This program is made possible through the generosity of the Chamber of Commerce, many local businesses, nonprofit agencies, and caring individuals who want to support students in their success at school.

More information is available by contacting Peggy Greer, SMVIEC Liaison, at 349-0443.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Spelling bee winners advance to state competition

Four local students have won the right to compete at the state level after coming out on top at the Santa Barbara County Spelling Bee, which was held Thursday at the Santa Barbara County Education Office.
Vincent G. Vestergaard, a sixth grader at Laguna Blanca School in Santa Barbara, took first place in the elementary division by correctly spelling “gossamer.” Matthew Helkey, a sixth grader at Santa Barbara Charter Home-Based Partnership, took second place with “abruptly.” Third place went to Emily Vesper, a sixth grader at Montessori Center School in Goleta. Her winning word was “cuckoo.”
In the junior high division, first place went to Alexander Jacob, an eighth grader at Vandenberg Middle School, whose winning word was “paradisiacal.” Second place went to Rafael M. Saavedra, a ninth grader at Dos Pueblos High School, who correctly spelled “denizen.” Third place was won by Jackson Hurley, an eighth grader at Laguna Blanca School, whose winning word was “hippology.”
The two top winners in each division will proceed to the state level. 
Thanks to The Masons Lodge, The Women’s Service Club of Goleta, and Town and Country Women’s Club for their donations. For the second year in a row, an anonymous donor donated $1,000, which was divided up between first, second, and third place winners in the elementary and junior high school bees.
The 2014 Elementary State Spelling Bee, for grades 4 through 6, will be held April 26 at the San Joaquin County Office of Education in Stockton. The 2014 State Junior High Spelling Bee, for grades 7 through 9, will be held May 3 at Miller Creek Middle School in San Rafael. 

More information is available from Rose Koller of the Santa Barbara County Education Office at 964-4710, ext. 5222. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Mock Trial competition to begin Saturday

Eleven teams from eight public and private high schools throughout Santa Barbara County will compete in the 31st annual Mock Trial competition on Feb. 22 and March 1 at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse.
The competition is designed to provide an educational experience for high school students in key concepts of the law, the Constitution, and the American legal system. Students prepare their cases with the help of teacher advisors and attorneys who volunteer as coaches. 
As the students prepare to portray each of the principal characters of the case in the courtroom, they develop not only knowledge of the law but also skills in public speaking, critical thinking, and interpersonal interaction.
Participating schools this year are Cabrillo, Carpinteria, Dos Pueblos, Laguna Blanca, Pioneer Valley, San Marcos, Santa Barbara, and Santa Ynez Valley high schools.
All 11 teams will present both prosecution and defense arguments in People v. Concha, a case developed by the Constitutional Rights Foundation for this year’s statewide competition. The case presents issues of second-degree murder and possession for sale of a controlled substance (amphetamine in the form of prescription Adderall). The pretrial issue centers on the Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful search and seizure.
After two rounds of competition on Feb. 22, four teams will advance to the semifinals and finals on the following Saturday, March 1. On both days, the first round of competition will begin at 9 a.m. and the second at 1 p.m. The public is welcome to observe.
The local winner will represent Santa Barbara County at the state Mock Trial competition March 21-23 in San Jose. The winner of the state contest will then compete for the national championship.
The Mock Trial competition is sponsored by the Santa Barbara County Education Office and the Constitutional Rights Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to helping youth become more informed, active and responsible citizens. The local coordinator is Josefina Martinez, a legal secretary in Santa Barbara County Superior Court.
Superior Court Judge Brian E. Hill, who has been involved with the Mock Trial competition for 10 years, is coordinating the efforts of the judges and lawyers who volunteer to serve as scorers and presiding judges hearing the case.
Judges for the first day of competition, in addition to Hill, will be Santa Barbara County Superior Court judges Thomas P. Anderle, Donna Geck, Patricia Kelly, Kay Kuns, and retired judge George C. Eskin. Participating local attorneys will be Stephen Amerikaner, Justin Greene, Kathy Graham, Michael Hanley, Thomas P. Hinshaw, Susan H. McCollum, and Danielle DeSmeth.
Anderle, Geck, and Kuns, along with court Commissioner Pauline Maxwell, will judge the semifinals. Hill and Amerikaner will judge the finals.
For more information, contact Santa Barbara County Deputy Superintendent of Schools Susan Salcido at 964-4710, ext. 5435, or

Friday, February 21, 2014

Helping children deal with loss

Newspaper column
January 2, 2014

It’s hard to imagine anything more difficult for a child than dealing with the loss of a parent or loved one. Beyond feeling profound sadness, children must also deal with the terror of thinking that there is no one to take care of them, the anger at being abandoned, and the overwhelming sense of separation and loss. Young children can also be deeply confused and bewildered, knowing the parent is gone but not knowing why, because they don’t fully understand what death means.
Hospice of Santa Barbara, the second-oldest hospice in the nation, has been stepping in to help children and families cope with loss for more than 40 years.
Most hospices are medically based, offering nursing care and support services, and are funded by Medicare and medical insurance policies. To qualify, individuals need a diagnosis of less than six months to live and must agree to forgo most medical treatments.
Hospice of Santa Barbara is not medically based. It focuses on the emotional, personal, and spiritual aspects of dying and grieving — and it provides its services to the community free of charge. This way, free from the constraints of government or insurance funding, counselors and social workers can spend much more time with the people who need them. Hospice professionals help prepare the patient and the family members, especially children, up to the time when medical hospice may be appropriate. Hospice of Santa Barbara provides help with “anticipatory loss or bereavement” for family members who may be struggling with the fear of a terminal diagnosis. They also serve many families who have lost someone suddenly.
Very importantly, Hospice of Santa Barbara has always been interested in helping teens and children. Much of the work takes place in the program’s offices, where the number of children and teens served has nearly tripled in the last three years. If there is a death at a school, hospice workers go to campus and meet with teachers, faculty, and students. With a tragic increase in suicides, hospice has created a large response network. After the immediate emergency passes, hospice is there for the long haul, doing grief work with anybody affected by the death.
In fact, hospice has a consistent presence on nearly a dozen high school and middle school campuses in the South County, where hospice staff members provide regularly scheduled individual and group counseling sessions. Their work even extends down to the elementary level, where more than half a dozen students at one campus alone reported the death of a mom or dad.
“We know that children and teenagers who lose a loved one, and who do not find help, can often experience depression, anger, and a decline in academic performance,” said former Executive Director Steve Jacobson. “We also know that we are giving them a different future, a path of strengthened character and hope. The students we are reaching in this way will become part of the local workforce in the future. We are improving their lives in profound ways now, and those positive effects will resonate for years to come.”

We are grateful for the efforts by Hospice of Santa Barbara to serve our community, and their effective work in dealing with this most devastating challenge for young people.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Internet contract

Radio Commentary

Parents tell children, “Don’t talk to strangers.” With wide use of the Internet, the possibility of talking to strangers in cyberspace is now an issue as well.
But it doesn’t need to be. Children can make very good use of the Internet without using chat rooms or interactive forums that bring them into contact with strangers.
Parents can help keep their children safe by setting rules and enforcing them. Remember, even if you don’t have a computer at home, your children can still use online services at a friend’s house or at a public library.
Establish with your child to agree that online activity is a privilege. Children should also agree to:
Limit their time online to 8 hours per week.
Never give out their name, address, phone number, or school to anyone online.
Report to you anyone online who asks for personal information.
Tell you if anyone sends messages that make them feel uncomfortable.
Never arrange to meet friends they have met online, unless you are with them.
Not spend time in adult chat rooms or newsgroups.
Not use bad language or send cruel messages online.
If any of these promises is broken, parents should keep children offline for one week per broken promise.

Remember: Safety online is as important as safety in the community.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Giving speeches

Radio Commentary

Many young people dread giving speeches. Yet students will need to make presentations and will be called upon to speak up in class and answer questions. 
One tool that parents can use to help ease their children’s fear and self-consciousness is to get them interested in reading great speeches. 
Words can be inspirational. If young people can envision important figures giving a speech, they may be inspired to do the same. Being an effective communicator comes from practice and having good information. 
You can provide feedback to your children to help them improve their skills. 
First, make sure that children know that almost everyone is uncomfortable at one time or another when having to get up in front of people.  Knowing this can help reduce their stress. 
Many famous speeches have sparked an interest in poetry and public speaking: Among them are The Gettysburg Address, JFK’s inaugural address, The Declaration of Independence, and speeches by Winston Churchill and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 
Whatever your political views or personal tastes, share your favorite speeches and sayings. Have your children read them aloud, so they can get comfortable with speaking in front of others. 
The next time they have to give a five-minute speech on someone they admire for their English class, it will be much easier and more fun because they’ve been practicing. And they’ll have many more ideas.  

The self-confidence that can come from speaking up and sharing information with others is invaluable.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Car safety tips

Radio Commentary

More parents are traveling these days with ever-younger children in tow. When it comes to traveling safely, there are two practices that could save a young life.
First, when traveling in a car, always secure an infant in a car seat in the back seat.
The rear of a car is a far safer place in the event of an accident. Above all, never use an infant seat in the front of a car that has a passenger-side air bag. 
If the bag deploys, it can seriously injure the infant by striking the back of the safety seat.
In a case where an older car only has lap belts in the rear, or shoulder straps that cross over the neck or face of a toddler, it is still important to use a safety belt.
In fact, any belt is better than no belt. Use a booster seat for a young child who has outgrown an infant seat. This will raise the child so that the shoulder strap crosses the chest, not the neck.
If the rear seat has no shoulder straps, buy a booster seat with a harness or a shield. These devices have saved young lives.
Second is remembering that preventive and defensive driving is always the best bet — and drivers should take special precautions when traveling with young passengers.
But sometimes unforeseeable circumstances occur, or other drivers are not exercising the same care as you are.  

At those times, it is far better to be prepared by making sure your child is adequately protected.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Talking with Teachers

February 2014
Tina McEnroe
McEnroe Reading Clinic

Friday, February 14, 2014

Health and learning

Radio Commentary

            Children’s health can have a noticeable impact on their ability to learn.
            Vision and hearing problems, in particular, can impair a child’s ability to keep up in school.
That’s because an inability to see the blackboard or hear the teacher can keep a student from understanding what is being taught.
            Distractions can also be caused by dental problems or learning disabilities.
            In Santa Barbara County, children are screened for hearing, vision, and dental problems in kindergarten or first grade, and again in second, fifth, eighth, and tenth grade.
In order to identify potential health problems — including possible lead poisoning, the state requires preventative physicals for all first-graders.
If a teacher or school nurse notices a child is having a problem, a referral is made to the home.
            In addition, tips from teachers can help school psychologists identify behavioral or learning problems, such as attention deficit disorder.
            Nutrition and rest can also have an impact on children’s learning.
Research has shown that children who eat breakfast do better in school than those who do not.
Looking out for a child’s health, and paying attention to nutrition and rest, are important ways that parents can help children succeed in school.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Talking with Teachers

January 2014
Josh Ostini
Pioneer Valley High School

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Test de-stress

Radio Commentary

Does your child get stressed about tests? 
Follow these steps to help your child cope with test anxiety: 
• Get the facts: Find out the exact dates your child will be tested and which tests he will take. 
• Talk to your child: Find out whether your child is feeling nervous and if so, why. 
Often children feel better when they voice their fears instead of shutting them up inside. If your child is afraid of doing poorly, your reassurances will help him feel less frightened. 
Help your child practice: If your child is familiar with the format of the test, he’ll feel more prepared. 
Ask his teacher for some sample questions or materials that can help him get acquainted with how the test works. 
Take care of the basics: See that your child gets a good night’s sleep the night before the test and eats breakfast that morning. 
It’s a well-worn but still accurate notion that the brain can’t work if the stomach is empty. 
Keep your cool: While tests have increasing importance, they are just one measure of student learning, so try to keep the process in perspective. 

If you can find a way not to take things too seriously, your child will probably feel calmer too.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Local Leaders

Ralph Martin
January 2014

Monday, February 10, 2014

Language skills

Radio Commentary

Children with strong language skills tend to do better in school than those who are weak in that area. Language skills come in handy in a variety of ways, and they help with almost every other subject a student studies in school.
For this reason, it’s important to do all we can to help children strengthen these skills. Here are some ways you can help your child develop them:
•  Buy or make hand puppets. Then help your child put on a puppet show of a favorite story or make one up from scratch. The act of conveying a message helps strengthen language skills.

•  Talk as often as you can about familiar items in your home to help children learn that things have names. For example, mention the bed, chair, door, sink, and cabinet as you do work around the house.  
If your child seems interested, try making labels to show that the names can be written down as words. 
•  It also helps to limit TV viewing. Children who are watching television are not playing outside, thinking, being creative, or using language skills of their own. 
When your children do watch TV, try to watch along with them. Talk about what you’ve just seen. Relate it to your child’s life and family setting. Use rich vocabulary at a level your child can understand.

All these activities can help strengthen language skills.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Firearms at home

Radio Commentary

            More than 22 million U.S. children live in homes with firearms.
In 43 percent of those homes, the guns are not locked up or fitted with trigger locks, according to a national survey.
The study, reported in the American Journal of Public Health, analyzed gun storage practices in six-thousand, nine-hundred households with children.
The study found that nine percent of homes keep firearms unlocked, and loaded. Those homes represent 1.7 million children.
Another four percent of the homes have guns that are unlocked and have ammunition nearby.
That means that about 2.6 million homes had firearms stored in a way most accessible to children, according to the study.
Researchers found that many parents know guns should be locked up but there is a disconnect between knowledge and action.
They may think the top shelf of a closet or a sock drawer is secure. But children are notoriously curious and may find them anyway.
Experts say parents should look at their own firearm storage and ask pointed questions about weapons at their friends' homes as well.
This is one area where it’s not possible to be too cautious.