Friday, February 27, 2015

THRIVE Santa Barbara County releases 2015 Baseline Report

News release

Are our children on track for success?

THRIVE Santa Barbara County is releasing the 2015 Baseline Report showing data
regarding six key outcomes for student success along THRIVE’s cradle to career
pathway. The report shows both the critical needs and the bright spots regarding
education in the region. The data in the report is provided to everyone in our
community — parents, support organizations, businesses, public agencies, policy-makers,
educators, and children themselves — to serve as a common tool that communicates
shared goals; thus motivating action and driving change. THRIVE aims to follow-up the
Baseline Report annually, with report cards tracking the same six key indicators for
student success: from the percent of students deemed ready-to-go as they enter
kindergarten, up to the percent of high school graduates who complete a post-secondary
certificate or degree program within six years of graduating high school. To read the
Baseline Report, follow this link:

Currently, representatives from four communities — Carpinteria, Isla Vista, Guadalupe,
and Santa Maria — are among the many partners working together to achieve the
common goals of success along the cradle to career pathway. THRIVE Project Manager,
Laura Camp asserts, “An essential part of THRIVE’s role is to improve our communities’
abilities to gather, analyze and act on data. The Baseline Report is a starting point — it
gives us all the same frame of reference. Improvement on each step of the pathway is
necessary to achieve our cradle to career goals.” THRIVE Santa Barbara County is part
of the national STRIVE Together Network and one of 50 initiatives in 26 states across
the country using data to support students from cradle to career. The partnership seeks to
identify what is producing positive educational results for children, how to improve and
expand upon the currently existing efforts, and how to effectively allocate resources to
ensure the greatest impact for each student.

THRIVE Santa Barbara County marks the first time public schools, government agencies,
public charities, businesses, private foundations and other key stakeholders have come
together in a long-term partnership to focus on achieving systemic change that will
ensure the success of ALL children in Santa Barbara County. THRIVE offers the leaders
of the many excellent youth programs and organizations throughout the county a
structured way to share data and align resources around common outcomes so that all
children will have the best opportunities in life.

Key outcomes for success on the THRIVE pathway: Kindergarten Readiness, English &
Language Arts Literacy, Mathematics Proficiency, College/Career Readiness, Post-
Secondary Enrollment, and Post-Secondary Completion.

For more information, contact Laura Camp, THRIVE Project Manager, 964-4710,

ext. 4400, or, or visit

Growing up at risk

Radio Commentary

Peter Benson’s book, “The Troubled Journey,” paints a portrait of youth from sixth through twelfth grade.

In it, he made an interesting observation.
He wrote: “It is not clear whether growing up now is riskier business than it once was, or whether we are simply doing a better job naming and counting problems that have existed before.

“It doesn’t really matter,” he wrote. “What matters is that there are too many casualties, too many wounded, too many close calls.”

Looking around our community, it is clear that he is correct.

His recommendation is one we can all agree with. He wrote: “Our highest national priority should be to mobilize our collective energy, commitment, and ingenuity to ensure a bright future for each and every child.”

It is hard to argue with that worthy goal.

The good news is that efforts are underway locally to help in that battle, particularly through various nonprofit and government organizations, and through our local school districts.

We should not, and cannot, rest until we make sure we’ve given every child an equal chance to succeed, in a safe and supportive environment.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Business, community leaders to be principals for a day

News release

Almost 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 11 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.

Vaccines are safe and essential

News column

Local doctors are worried. School nurses are worried. Cancer patients are terrified. The number of parents opting out of vaccinating their children has now reached a critical mass, putting at risk not only their own children, but the entire community. Particularly at risk are young and old alike taking anti-cancer medications, those with autoimmune diseases, infants, and the elderly. The metaphoric “herd immunity” is now in grave peril.
Yet the science is unequivocal. Vaccines are safe. Period.
Given the geometric spike in cases of autism several years ago, people began casting about for an explanation of the cause. A theory was hatched that the vaccines themselves, or the binding agent that enabled several vaccines to be administered in one dose, was a possible cause. Some celebrities — not scientists, celebrities — latched on to the theory and used their celebrity megaphone to spread that disinformation. Concerned scientists launched studies to prove or disprove the theory. The early studies, with a few hundred data points, were clear: there was no causal link. Subsequent studies have now provided hundreds of thousands of data points, nearly a million, with the same conclusion: No causal link whatsoever. But the misinformation persists.
There are two major contributing factors.
The first, ironically, is a function of the success of efforts to eradicate these diseases. For a while, they were gone. Young parents, concerned about their children’s safety, simply have no vision and no memory of the scourge of these childhood diseases when they were rampant. Parents were terrified. Polio, measles, mumps, and whooping cough caused agony and worse among generations of children. One moment a parent would have a happy healthy child, and the next, polio would cause the child to be lame, maimed, or need an iron lung to breathe. And those were the survivors. Measles, mumps, and whooping cough made children unbearably miserable, and sometimes caused lifelong side effects.  One local grandfather recalls that as a young child he thought the actual formal name for public drinking fountains was “whooping cough” because whenever he ran to drink from one his mother would shriek, “NO! Whooping cough!” It’s hard now to imagine the terror parents lived with at the time.
When the causes and cures for these diseases were finally discovered, parents rushed to get their children protected. They considered vaccines a godsend. No longer would their children face the horror of these awful diseases. In time, the vaccines were so successful that these diseases was virtually wiped off the earth, or confined to small remote civilizations.  Sufficient numbers of the community were vaccinated so that even if one or two cases somehow emerged, the community as a whole was safe.
Scientists estimate that safety number for “herd immunity” is 95 percent. Hence the campaign, “Strive for 95.”
In several communities we have now fallen below that number. This places at grave risk all those whose immune systems are compromised: cancer patients, those taking cancer-suppressing drugs, those with autoimmune diseases, infants too young to be vaccinated, and the elderly.
There is another group at risk, which is the second major contributing factor to the problem we face. Though the vaccines have been proven to be absolutely safe, a small number of those receiving them do not have successful outcomes, and are not entirely protected. Boosters are essential, and help with this issue. But for some young people the vaccines are not entirely effective. These young people can contract the disease if exposed. This factor also leads some parents to decide against vaccinating, placing their children at far greater risk.
At root, the decision to opt out of vaccinating has proven selfish. Parents always make the best decisions they can regarding their own children’s well-being, and the decision to opt out is no doubt motivated by noble impulses, but it is based on misinformation and it can be proven deadly to others and to the community at large.
We have already seen evidence of this selfishness through the outbreak of measles in Disneyland. Children most at risk — those suffering from cancer or terminal illnesses, or those with compromised immune systems — often “make a wish” to go to Disneyland. They can no longer go there in safety, and those visits have been stopped. How sad that these children’s one joy has been taken away by those who profess to care about children.
It is said that in recent years we have lost the community spirit that used to be this country’s glue, binding us all together. At every level we see fewer and fewer acts done for “the good of the order,” and more done for purely self-serving purposes. This is not who we are as a nation or as a community. If we don’t act properly because it’s the right thing to do, we should at least realize that in the case of vaccines, it is in our own best self-interest.
Vaccines are safe. The community’s health depends upon the greatest possible number of people having immunity. Be smart. Be safe. Be wise. Make sure your own children are immunized, and every young person you know. This is one case where the future really does depend on us.

Math tips

Radio Commentary

Here are some good math homework tips for parents:

It can be helpful to encourage children to use a daily math assignment book, even if one is not provided at school. Follow the progress your child is making, and check with your child every day about math homework.

Engage in frequent talks with your child’s teacher, especially if you don’t understand the math assignments. Terminology and techniques have evolved over the years, and it’s common for parents to be unfamiliar with the format of a question.

Ask your child’s teacher whether your child is working at grade level and, if not, what can be done at home to help.

If your child needs help, request after-school math support. Sometimes peer tutoring is the most effective, and children often enjoy learning from peers even more than from teachers.

Use household activities and chores to reinforce math learning. Cooking requires measurements, and making repairs often requires math as well.

Try to become familiar with how your child is being taught math skills, and resist the temptation to teach strategies or shortcuts that conflict with the approach the teacher is using. Ask your child’s teacher if there are online resources you could use at home.

Math is an essential skill for almost every human endeavor, and parents can often be very helpful in enabling their children to master these very critical skills. When in doubt, check with the teacher. That’s the best advice of all.

Spelling bee winners advance to state competition

News release

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.
Camille Cheng, a sixth grader at Montessori Center School in Santa Barbara, took first place in the elementary division by correctly spelling “enmity.” Wesley Lin, a sixth grader at Kellogg School in Goleta, took second place with “extraterrestrial.” Third place went to Srikar Mandineni, a sixth grader at Hope School. His winning word was “oxidation.”

In the junior high division, Emily Vesper, a seventh grader from La Colina Jr. High in Santa Barbara, took first place in the elementary division by correctly spelling “blithesome.” Second place went to Alexandra Thompson, an eighth grader from St. Louis de Montfort School in Santa Maria. Third place was won by Naomi Buchmiller, a seventh grader from Carpinteria Middle School, correctly spelling “hyaloid.” 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. This year, two donors, Rafel Saavedra and Claudia Massotti, donated $1,000, which was divided up between first, second, and third place winners in the elementary and junior high school bees.

The 2015 Elementary State Spelling Bee, for grades 4 through 6, will be held April 18 at the San Joaquin County Office of Education in Stockton. The 2015 State Junior High Spelling Bee, for grades 7 through 9, will be held May 2 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. 

Emily Vesper
Alexandra Thompson
Naomi Buchmiller

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ingredients for success

Radio Commentary

Four simple ingredients can make any child more successful in school.

First comes support. Young people need to know that someone is in their corner. They can be successful if they feel that someone cares deeply about whether they succeed or fail, and if someone is proud of their successes and their efforts.

Second is having boundaries and expectations.

Children need adults who act like adults.

Parents who are firm and loving have children who do better at school, feel more self-confident, and get into less trouble than children whose parents are either too strict or too lenient.

Third is empowerment. All people need to know they make a difference.

Encourage children to provide service to others. Make sure they take part in school, community, or religious organizations that give them the chance to serve and contribute.

And fourth is constructive use of time. After school, children still need to be involved in constructive activities. Research shows that children who watch more than 10 hours of TV per week are less successful in school than those who watch less.

So be sure young people have challenging and interesting activities to do after they leave the classroom each day.

These four elements — support; boundaries and expectations; empowerment; and constructive use of time — have proven to make a big difference in a child’s success at school and in life.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Parents and reading

Radio Commentary

Sometimes the list of parental responsibilities can appear to be overwhelming. Generations ago it seemed sufficient to feed, clothe, and house a child, providing love and warmth whenever possible.

But the list of “must-do’s” has grown through the generations, and the impact of parental involvement has come into focus.

One item on the list, as most parents know, is the “must-do” of encouraging reading. And it’s clear that most parents are doing a good job of encouraging young children to read.
But research shows that their help plummets drastically once youngsters reach age nine.

A recent study showed that more than half the parents with children under age nine said they read with their children every day.
But only 13 percent of parents with older children reported that they read with them on a daily basis. And shortly after parental reading involvement drops, a child’s television viewing increases dramatically.

As the late Al Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said: “Parents are doing a good job of helping their children learn to read. But they give up too soon. Once a child begins to read independently, a parent’s job isn’t over. It simply changes.”

The study found that teachers see a major gain in reading ability when parents remain involved.

As parents review their “must-do” list of responsibilities, reading should remain high on that list.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Dealing with bullies

Radio Commentary

Children as young as five can start jockeying for social power, and some may even begin to inflict cruelty on other children.
Young people who are victims of bullies respond in various ways. Some may talk about the torment they are receiving. Others may just come home and fall apart. They might cry or throw tantrums for no apparent reason.

If you know that your child is being bullied, talk to the principal or school counselor as soon as possible.

Describe in detail what is happening and how often. Let school officials explain the steps they will take to promote a healthy learning environment and keep your child safe.

At home, help empower your child by letting her know you believe she can handle social situations.

Help her find the right words to say, like “You can’t do that to me,” or “You need to stay away from me.” Practice role-playing to help prepare your child and build his courage.

Bullies seem less likely to pick on children who have friends, so encourage your child’s friendships.

Host “play dates” and help your child find extracurricular activities. Having friends in other places, outside of school, can build confidence.

A child who feels successful socially will be able to see that it’s the bully’s problem, not hers.

In fact, a child who feels more secure and less vulnerable is less likely to be picked on, so work hard to reinforce those traits. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Detail skills

Radio Commentary

People generally talk about reading and writing together. Certainly, many of the skills that make children successful at one make them good at the other.

For example, one important reading skill that benefits from writing practice is identifying details.

Parents should encourage children to provide details in their own oral and written stories. This will help them become more aware of the way other authors use detail.

One writing exercise requiring details is to have children give directions. Ask them to write very specifically how to get from home to school, or how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

When children write thank-you notes to friends or relatives, have them describe in detail the item and how they will use it.

You can also have children use a clipboard when watching TV. Have them jot down ad slogans that use good details.

They might write down phrases such as “the brightest, sharpest photos” or “crispy, crunchy crackers.”

Children can also take the clipboard along on family outings. Ask them to describe the “prettiest” thing they see on the trip, or the most “unusual.” Then challenge them to list as many details as they can, including shapes, colors, textures, and impressions.

One way teachers measure improvement in young writers is to look at their use of details. The same is also true for improving reading comprehension: details matter.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Signs of stress

Radio Commentary

Stress can be positive or negative, and children experience both kinds.

Positive stress can motivate children and cause them to explore new things—like the excitement of trying out for a sports team or going on a trip.

Negative stress may make children feel overwhelmed. It may cause problems unless children learn ways to cope with it.

Causes of negative stress in children can include difficult events, such as death or divorce.  But even positive events, such as a new sibling or new home, can cause children to feel overwhelmed.
Stress can also be caused by children’s everyday, ordinary activities.

These might include interacting with peers, taking tests, or going through physical and emotional changes.

Parents should watch children for signs of stress. These may include:

  • Not getting along well with other people, especially in the child’s age group. 
  • A drastic drop in grades.
  • A serious change in behavior—if  a cheerful, happy child becomes sullen or withdrawn.
  • Physical symptoms—such as chronic headaches or stomachaches, a racing heartbeat, nightmares, bedwetting, nail-biting, or poor eating.

A child who shows more than one of these signs may need help. Recognizing stress in children is an important first step in reducing its impact. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sparking curiosity

Radio Commentary

Sparking a child’s curiosity can be one of the important keys to lifelong learning. Parents can play a vital role in this process.

For example, you can make up trivia games to play with children, even when you’re on the run.

You can also help children become active partners in the learning process by giving them a chance to experiment around the house with measuring, cooking, repairing broken items, and other activities that require finding and using information.

You’d be surprised at what your home yields if you look around with a curious eye.

Also, be sure to keep up with what’s going on in your child’s school.

Attend school events and send notes to teachers to express your availability to help. Write teachers when you have questions or concerns, and make an appointment to share your observations.

Get involved with your children by asking for detailed descriptions of what they’re studying at school. Have them teach you some parts of what they’ve learned.

Be sure your children know that you consider their education to be very important.

Even if you can attend only a few school events, your presence will show your children that you’re interested in their school life and you value its importance.

That’s a crucial lesson for them to learn, and it can only come from the home. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Concentration skills

Radio Commentary

Young children’s minds are full of information. This can make their attention span very short.

You can help build their attention span through activities that develop concentration.

You want them to learn how to pick one piece of information from the brain and focus on it. Concentration is key.

First, help your child pay attention to what you say by being very clear and focused when you talk. Look your child in the eye and use simple, direct sentences. Repeat important points several times.

Talk about what happened on a given day. Ask children questions that will help them focus on a specific event.

Have them talk about the event as long as they are able. At first this may be for just a few seconds.

It also helps to read together. Many children will sit to hear a book even when they won’t sit still for anything else.

When a story is over, ask children questions that will help them concentrate on specific characters or actions.

Finally, use pictures or props to focus a child’s attention. A child will be more interested in talking about a neighbor’s new kitten if you are both looking at a picture of a kitten while you talk.

The most important behavior you can demonstrate during these activities is patience. Concentration skills can take years to fully develop, but it’s worth the effort. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Teens and alcohol

Radio Commentary

Teenagers love to party.

But, because accidents involving alcohol are the number one killer of teens, parties can be particularly worrisome. The PTA’s party guidelines are very helpful:

When your own teen is having a party, be sure to supervise — and to be visible while doing it. Parents are legally responsible for what happens to minors in their home.

Take a strong stand prohibiting alcohol and drugs.

Call the parents of anyone who arrives with drugs or alcohol or seems to be under the influence. Or call a taxi to take the teen home.

Agree with your teen in advance that law enforcement may be called if a party gets out of hand.

Useful rules to enforce include: No drinking. No smoking. No crashers allowed. Lights should be left on. Some rooms in the house are off limits. Also, set a definite start and ending time.

If your teen is going to a party elsewhere, make sure you know where it is. Call the parents to verify the occasion.

Maybe most important, take the time to assure your teens they are important to you. Let them know they can call you for a ride home at any time a situation arises, no questions asked.

Loving parents need to be available to provide support as teens attempt to exercise good judgment. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Traits of success

Radio Commentary

According to author Doris Lee McCoy, successful people have several traits in common. The good news is that parents can help nurture and cultivate these traits among their children.

  • First, successful people enjoy their work. They can be good at it because they like doing it.
  • Successful people almost always have a positive attitude and plenty of confidence that gets them through the rough spots.
  • They invariably use negative experiences to discover their strengths. They see negatives as challenges to overcome and to learn from.
  • Successful people are also decisive, disciplined goal-setters. They don’t let distractions get in the way.
  • They have integrity, and they help others succeed.
  • Successful people are also persistent. They keep at it until the goal is reached, where others may get discouraged and choose another path.
  • They’re also risk takers, in the spirit of “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
  • They’ve developed good communication skills and problem-solving skills.
  • They surround themselves with competent, responsible, and supportive people, and know how to tell the difference.
  • They’re healthy, high-energy people, and they schedule time to renew themselves before problems can arise.

These traits apply to young and old alike.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

6 life messages

Radio Commentary

There are so many things we want our children to know and learn. Sometimes it’s hard to pare that list down into manageable chunks that are easy to digest and incorporate.

 Here are six critical life messages that bear repeating for young people.

Every child should have these messages reinforced every day by a caring, trusted adult, because they form the basis for a feeling of self-worth.

They are deceptively simple, but surprisingly powerful:

Message Number One: “I believe in you.”

Two: “I trust in you.”

Three: “I know you can handle life’s ups and downs.”

Four: “I will listen to you.”

Five: “You are cared for.”

And Six: “You are important to me.”

It’s easy to see how a child who gets these messages on a regular basis, whether verbally, or through actions, will be well-equipped to handle life’s challenges and learn well in school.

When you think of it, anyone — of any age — would benefit from these messages.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

TV and information

Radio Commentary

Children used to gain knowledge of the world in a slow, controlled way. They learned how to behave by watching adults and repeating their actions.

The slowly developing reading skills of young people restricted them mostly to stories and facts deemed suitable for their age level.

But times have changed. Today’s children are flung quickly into the realm of adult knowledge and the mass media bombard children with messages.

Rock and rap song lyrics, DVDs, Facebook, and advertising all play their parts. TV and computer games are also major players.

Messages in advertising, TV programs, and games — 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 TV, adventure shows, or computer games, 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 movie heroes they admire or those on their computer screens.

They can become frustrated when they can’t resolve a conflict in 22 minutes — or worse, 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. Be aware of media content and use good judgment in your selections.

These steps are a key to raising healthy, well-adjusted children. 

The rhetoric must change

Teacher recruitment a casualty

News column

Our country has changed. Given the proliferation of “rant radio,” angry television commentaries, strident columnists and bloggers, along with comment sections that spew hate, it’s clear that the civility, manners, and humanity once the hallmarks of American society are now in short supply.
We pay a steep price for this lack of civility. I am particularly concerned about the impact on the teaching profession and our children.

We are facing a teacher shortage virtually unprecedented. About one third of the current teaching force is nearing retirement. With our student population continuing to grow, the Center for the Future of Teaching calculated that our state will need some 100,000 new teachers in the next 10 years.

Teacher recruitment was always a challenge — the profession pays significantly less than positions that require comparable schooling, training, and skills. College students report that low teacher compensation dampens the profession’s appeal for a large majority who otherwise might be excellent with students. Research shows we are also losing many skilled teachers already in our classrooms. One out of five new teachers leaves the classroom within the first three years. In urban school districts the numbers are even more startling  — nearly half our new teachers leave within the first five years.
Other factors also contribute to the problem. The toxic language teachers read and hear every day about their profession, about their unions, about their work ethic and their pensions, is taking a toll on retention and on recruitment.

Teaching is a complex profession requiring a broad array of skills. If the task were just to stand in the front of a room and impart knowledge, anyone could do it. But most of us agree that the goal is to have children learn, and not all children learn the same way. Public schools take all comers. We take the disabled, the gifted, the happy and the malcontent. We take the shy and aggressive, the poor and the rich, those who speak a different language and those who do not speak at all. Teachers help every one of these students learn, while maintaining the classroom environment and managing an ever-growing list of state forms and requirements. We need skilled, trained professionals for these tasks. To meet that need, we must entice smart, compassionate, skilled young people to enter the profession and to stay with it.
In Santa Barbara County, we have many programs attempting to do just that. Westmont College is one of several institutions tackling this issue head-on. The college hosted “Let’s Talk Teaching!” conferences twice in the past three years, partnering with Partners in Education and high school guidance counselors to find interested high school students to take part and receive motivation to pursue a career in teaching. UCSB’s Gevirtz School of Education trains and encourages the next generation of teachers every day.

My office runs the Teacher Induction Program, which provides high quality training to our new teachers and high quality mentor training for experienced teachers to support those new teachers. We also sponsor the annual County Teacher of the Year program, the Distinguished Educator program, the Salute to Teachers events, and a number of events geared to identifying and rewarding the skilled teachers among us, and inspiring the next generation of teachers to understand how much we value their work. Westmont College has been leading the charge in calling attention to the looming teacher shortage crisis and promoting innovative local approaches as well.

Between 2010 and 2019 the number of students enrolled in public schools K-12 is expected to grow from 55 to 58 million. Urban districts will experience the greatest growth and the greatest challenge in attracting competent teachers. Given that the obstacles to teacher recruitment are growing, I believe the need for programs like the ones cited above cannot be overstated.

Certainly the recent recession contributed to the current teacher shortage. While those economic conditions may be paramount, it is also impossible to ignore the constant barrage of “blame and shame” teacher stories continuing to proliferate, which no doubt serve as a deterrent to young people considering the profession. Unlike other countries that revere and glamorize teachers, we give voice to those who do exactly the opposite.
While existing teachers may have learned to tune out much of the negativity, they face increasingly challenging state and federal regulations that require more paperwork and non-teaching tasks than ever before.

The fact remains that despite economic declines, the barrage of negative commentaries, and the increasing regulatory pressures, we need more teachers than ever. And now, more than ever, we need the best and the brightest to be teaching our children, and preparing them for college and careers.

Teachers work every day to improve student learning. In the end, as I have said repeatedly, it will make an important difference if we treat all our public servants as the heroes they truly are, and make sure they know how highly their contributions are valued. Without bright, competent, caring individuals to teach our children, our great country will change, but not in a way that is positive.

It is in our hands to alter our rhetoric, to focus on the invaluable job teachers do every day, and to voice our appreciation for their contributions. There was a time when people who spewed hate were considered pariahs. The time has come to return to those virtues of civility and humanity. The price for the loss of those values is too steep to pay, especially for our children. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Media myth

Radio Commentary

We are all concerned about the mass media’s influence on children.

Certainly the media help reinforce some widespread misconceptions, and people often act on perception rather than reality.

For example: Violence in videos and on TV helps create the impression that our neighborhoods are dangerous places, and we need guns, police, and the military to protect us.

Detailed reports of crime and terror create the perception among young and old alike that the world is unsafe. As a result, more people stay home, especially in urban areas, or act in a more guarded way.

Ironically, this isolation by law-abiding citizens actually helps make areas less safe.

News programs generally lead off with the most violent occurrence of the day — as opposed to less newsworthy acts of ordinary kindness, courage, and friendship.

This gives a distorted view of just how much violence occurs around us.

Children who understand this distortion are better prepared to deal with the real world.

They understand that news reports are merely samplings of what is going on in the streets and around the world.

They understand that decisions on editing and story selection are made from thousands of choices, and are made according to professional standards of both news and entertainment value.

It is the oddity that is “new” and therefore considered news, rather than acts that are commonplace. And that is exactly the problem.

Monday, February 9, 2015

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. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Career and Ed Tech

Radio Commentaries

In recent times, a dangerous idea emerged that a purely academic education is the only road for all students.

This approach is harmful to some very talented young people, and it illustrates the kind of one-size-fits-all thinking that does not work.

Our schools must provide a strong academic program to all, but we must remain aware that some students’ passions and skills lie in technical areas and career paths that need support.

Our schools must serve those who will be architects and those who will use their hands to turn blueprints into structures of steel and stone. We must serve engineers who will design ever-more-efficient and safer automobiles, and those who will build them and repair them.
We must provide an excellent education to those who will research agricultural production methods and those who will do the planting and the reaping. Our homes must be well designed and energy-efficient, and we will also need those who wire and plumb them well.

Though the future will hold high-tech jobs in fields we cannot yet imagine, it will also support a service industry for those who find dignity in working with their hands. We need their skills, too.

My office has always been committed to career and technical education. In partnership with others, we promote and strengthen career and technical programs.

These efforts bear fruit in many ways, and provide job skills and training that can literally alter lives. Career and technical education can be a lifeline for many young people.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Latchkey suggestions

Radio Commentaries

Many parents worry about the need to leave children home alone while they work. Here are a few tips with safety in mind.

First, make a set of rules and post them where they can’t be missed. Some useful items for the list include:

  • Children should go straight home and not speak with strangers on the way.
  • They should always keep the door locked.
  • They should always answer the phone, but never say they’re alone. They should say their parents can’t come to the phone, take a message and hang up.
  • If children find a door or a window broken, they should go straight to a trusted neighbor and call a parent or the police.
  • Drill your child on how to call the police and give your complete address clearly.
  • Children should have clear access to emergency numbers, and know what to do in case of fire, or when the smoke detector goes off. Have a fire escape plan posted in a central place.
  • Set up a telephone routine if you can be at a phone each day when the child is due home. Call and say hello, or have the child call you. Work out an alternative so children can be assured human contact if you are unavailable.  
  • If you’re going to be late getting home, let your child know well in advance.

Even young people who are quite confident about staying home alone can have some nagging fears set off by a strange noise or an ambulance siren.

Many schools have programs for children of working parents. Remember, you’re not alone. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Local Leaders - Patrick Walsh

Patrick Walsh
Lompoc Police Chief

Local Leaders - Judge Rogelio R. Flores

Judge Rogelio R. Flores
Superior Court Judge
County of Santa Barbara

Talking with Teachers - Gina Branum

Gina Branum
Santa Barbara County Education Office

Fitness for children

Radio Commentaries

Experts say that many American children may be on their way to an inactive adulthood, based on observations of how they spend their days.

That thought is a bit frightening, considering that physical inactivity is one of the primary risk factors for heart disease.
Experts agree that coronary disease is a hereditary condition, but behaviors that begin in childhood can increase or decrease the risk of heart disease.

Here are some ways to help children get fit and stay fit, for a lifetime of healthy living:

  • First, provide a good example yourself. Children who have active parents are more likely to be active than children who do not. Plan family activities, or even after-dinner walks, several times a week. Make these activities fun for all involved.
  • Make sure children are active at home. Keep sports equipment on hand and encourage lifelong activities such as tennis, biking, or running. Children who enjoy these activities may well continue them into adulthood.
  • Unplug the TV, especially after school. There’s a correlation between TV watching and low fitness rates, eating more junk food, obesity, and high cholesterol. 

Watching TV and playing computer games are passive activities usually involving no movement at all. We’ve all seen young people mesmerized by what is on the screen, often unaware that they are sitting still for so long.
The inactivity may be more dangerous, in the long run, than any potentially objectionable material on the screen that might soon be forgotten.

So make fitness a family affair and it will have benefits that last a lifetime.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Signs of drug use

Radio Commentaries

The Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse has developed eight points to help raise drug-free kids:

  • Talk to your children.
  • Listen to your children.
  • Set standards of right and wrong.
  • Remember they learn by example.
  • Love, support, and praise them so they will have a sense of self-worth.
  • Keep them busy.
  • Be involved with their lives.
  • Educate yourself about drugs.

These are wonderful general principles that all parents should keep in mind. But they are not guarantees in any sense.

Many parents have asked how they can know, in time to be helpful, whether their children are involved with drugs.

The council has listed some warning signs for parents to look for that could signal involvement with drugs. These include:

  • A drop in school performance
  • A lack of interest in grooming
  • Withdrawal, isolation, or depression
  • Aggressive or rebellious behavior
  • Excessive influence by peers
  • Hostility and lack of cooperation
  • Deteriorating relationships with family
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and sports
  • A change of friends
  • A change in eating or sleeping habits
Always remember: help is available.