Friday, October 30, 2015


Radio Commentary

Halloween is tomorrow, and it is a favorite day for young and old alike.
However, adults should take precautions to make sure that the children who go out “trick or treating” have a safe, enjoyable evening.
For starters, parents should make sure children wear well-fitted clothing and shoes.  Children should be encouraged to use makeup rather than masks that can obstruct their vision in the dark.

Children should also carry flashlights, and wear light-colored costumes that can easily been seen by drivers.

Children should be selective regarding the homes they visit, and it’s best to have at least one adult accompany each group of children.
If children are old enough to be out on their own, parents should know the general path they plan to take. All children should have a specific time limit for when they are to return.

There are also several “don’ts” for children to heed:  Children should not enter any home; they should stay outside, on the front steps.
They should go only to homes that have lights on. They should not eat any candy before an adult inspects it. Unwrapped items should be pitched.

Make sure children know to be on the lookout for cars when they cross streets and driveways.

Finally, adults should remember to take extra precautions when driving on Halloween night because children will be everywhere.

It can be a safe, harmless, enjoyable evening for all who take part if simple precautions are followed.  

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Rotary Club selects Peabody teacher for special recognition

News release

L to R: Kathleen Blake,  Rotary Club
 president; Marco Silva, Recipient; 
Brian Sarvis, Rotary Club
 Teacher Recognition Coordinator
The Rotary Club of Santa Barbara recognized a local teacher, Marco Silva, for his extraordinary contributions to public education. It is the first of four such awards the Rotarians will present to area educators this academic year. Silva teaches kindergarten at Peabody Charter School in the Santa Barbara Unified School District.
Since 1986, the club has honored outstanding teachers from South Coast schools each year. It awards a high school, junior high, elementary, and special education teacher with a certificate and a $1,000 check to spend on classroom needs.

Silva was recognized at the club’s luncheon meeting on Oct. 23.

“This kind of continuing support for local educators is one of the great things about living in this community,” said Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone, whose office coordinates the recognition with the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara. “It is gratifying to highlight the positive impacts teachers have on their students and schools. The annual Rotary awards provide recognition and resources for outstanding teachers to enhance the classroom experience.”

“The Rotary Club of Santa Barbara is committed to supporting the Santa Barbara County Education
 Office, as together we honor excellent local teachers like Marco,” said Brian Sarvis, chairman of the Teacher Recognition Committee of the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara. “Rotary of Santa Barbara and
 Rotary International members know that educators like Marco Silva are shaping the minds of young students, who one day will be the leaders of our community. Marco’s heart for students is evident, and he serves as an inspiration for everyone.”

“Marco is an outstanding educator,” said Demian Barnett, Peabody Charter School Principal. “He 
is as passionate and devoted an educator as I have come across in my tenure in education. His ability to connect with students is one of the many things that make him such a great teacher.”

Silva has been at Peabody for 11 years. He earned an undergraduate degree from CSU Northridge, and received his teaching credential from UCSB in 1995. In addition to teaching at Peabody, he has also worked in the Santa Barbara Unified School District as an instructional aide and a long-term third grade substitute.

“One of my educational beliefs is that it is okay to make mistakes,” Silva says.  “I try to make our classroom and our community a safe space where it is okay to make mistakes. Other students may have made the same mistake or given the same answer. If handled correctly, mistakes can become valuable teaching moments.”

Silva and his partner of 17 years, Gary Mosel, have a two-year-old Fox Red Labrador. His parents, siblings, and nieces all reside in Oxnard.

Silva is the first in his family to attend college, and he is the first to earn a graduate degree. Another “first” is this public recognition by the Rotary Club. “My students and their parents are always very supportive of me,” Silva says, “as are my school administrators. But this honor, coming from such a distinguished group, is both humbling and gratifying. It says a lot about how the Santa Barbara community values education.”

The Rotary Club of Santa Barbara meets at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort in Santa Barbara for lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Fridays. Recipients of the club’s Teacher Recognition Awards are made with the assistance of the Teacher Programs and Support department of the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

For more information, visit or

More decision-making skills

Radio Commentary

There are actions parents can take to help children develop good decision-making skills.

First, always set clear expectations Children should know exactly what you expect regarding drug and alcohol use, gang affiliation, sexual activity, and school attendance.
There must be clear consequences for failing to observe your rules, and your enforcement must be consistent.

You should also be aware of the example you set.
Children of all ages are aware of your attitudes and habits. They are more likely to follow your example than your lectures.

The old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do,” simply doesn’t work with young people.

A positive parent-child relationship is good motivation for your child to follow your guidelines and standards.

Remember: You should have high expectations, but influence is not control.
This means expressing to your child statements such as:  “You have everything you need to be successful” … and … “You can do it!” It does not mean pressuring children to achieve unrealistic perfectionist standards.

The road to adulthood is never straight and smooth, but parents can help their children on that journey with the right attitude and the right tools. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Role models

Radio Commentary

A study shows that stress from school hits students hard at all ages and grade levels.

In the study, students named more than 300 stress factors they felt at school. The number one stress was schoolwork itself.
Contrary to myth, most students work hard at school and want to do well. Having difficulty can cause a great deal of stress.

More girls than boys cited social stresses, and peer pressure about their appearance. More boys than girls said they felt anxious about discipline. This dovetails with studies that show more boys are disciplined than girls.

Also listed were stresses ranging from riding the bus to preparing for a career.

Clearly, no student can lead a stress-free life — plus, that would be terrible preparation for the real world. But we know that an overload of stress can cause physical and emotional problems that compound the situation.

 For this reason, it is a good idea to reduce some of the stress in children’s lives. Methods include using alternative forms of discipline and increasing cooperative activities.

It’s also critical to understand that each child is different, and matures at a different rate.

This knowledge prevents us from creating one-size-fits-all situations where deviations from the norm create an additional form of undue stress.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Innovations in Education - November 2015

Role models

Radio Commentary

If you think your children aren’t watching your actions, you’re mistaken.

Children watch adults all the time — especially their parents. And children often imitate what adults do.

So here’s a good tip: Try to model whatever you would like your children to pick up.

If you want your children to be polite, then let them see you being polite in a variety of situations. That’s how they learn.

Next time you’re prone to express some frustration while in the car with your children, stop and remember that they will pick up on how you express your anger.

If you yell, you can bet that sometime, in another situation, your children will be doing their own interpretation of your performance.

Whether it’s a young child trying to make sense of adult behavior, or a teen trying on a variety of personas, young people are more watchful than you realize.

It can be helpful to remember that the spotlight is always shining. Many parents find they benefit in the process, by modifying their behavior for the better.

Of course, no is perfect. If your children see you act in a way you would not like them to behave, take the time to talk and explain the situation.

Remind them that even adults act impulsively and regret their actions at times.

Learning is a never-ending process. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

A nation of education

Radio Commentary

The percentage of the United States population that has completed high school and college has increased over the past generation.

As late as 1970, only 55 percent of the population age 25 years and older had completed four or more years of high school.

That total has jumped from 55 percent to nearly 90 percent in a recent survey.

Meanwhile, the percentage of 25-year-olds who have completed four years of college has increased from 11 percent to 34 percent.

These are findings of the National Center for Education Statistics.

Many people find it surprising to learn that, at any given time, nearly one-third of Americans are involved with our education system.

Think about that.

The United States has a population of almost 320 million people.

Of those residents, more than 77 million students are enrolled in American schools and colleges.

Many residents also work in the education system. Almost seven million Americans are employed as elementary and secondary school teachers and as college faculty.

Another five million work as professional, administrative, or support staff of educational institutions.

Clearly, education is a central portion of who we are as Americans, and nearly a third of us cherish it enough to participate in it or work for it. It’s an impressive statistic.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Bad influences

Radio Commentary

How can parents draw the line for their children in our materialistic culture, and teach them the values of thrift and common sense?

There are several good approaches.

One mother makes her children use their own money, from allowance or chores, to buy the toys or goods that they pressure her to buy.
She said:  “I find my children don’t always want it if they have to pay for it.”

Another good idea is to involve children at an early age in the family’s charitable acts.
When it comes to school items, it sometimes helps to set a budget and let children get what they want within that budget.

Even if they would rather have one pair of jeans with a big brand-name label and stick with their frayed T-shirts, they’re learning to make choices about what money can buy.
It’s also important for parents to be flexible. Maybe you can give in to your children on one less expensive fashion item — such as colorful mechanical pencils, which cost a little more than the basic No. 2 variety of pencil.

But in return, you could stick to your guns if you are being lobbied for expensive designer shoes.

There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to teaching values.

The best advice, always, is to live by the values you want your children to have.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Local Leaders with Bill Cirone

Dr. Joseph Freeman
ER Doctor
Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital

Activities for baby

Radio Commentary

Babies usually like to be well rested, fed, and kept clean and dry.

Remember, also, that every minute your baby is awake, he or she is learning something new about people and the world around him.

Here are some ways to spend quality time with your baby:

Spend time cuddling. Babies love to be touched and held. Don’t be afraid of spoiling your infant by picking him or her up too much. Holding a baby makes her feel comforted.

Learn your baby's cues. Sometimes babies need their time and space, because all the sights and sounds can be too much for them.

If your baby moves his eyes away or starts to cry, he may just need some quiet time in his seat or crib.

When your baby is ready to play, she will let you know by smiling, reaching out, and moving her eyes towards someone who is talking.

Make some tummy time. When your baby is three months old, it's important to start giving him some time on his stomach to exercise his neck muscles and help him learn to reach for things.

Put him on a soft surface on the ground, like a blanket or carpet, put toys in front of him, and let him try to reach for them.

These simple activities are fun for babies, and delightful to watch.  

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Hazelden/Betty Ford merger

Radio Commentary

The merger of the Hazelden and Betty Ford foundations was a great day in the history of recovery.
The net effect is more services and resources for local individuals living in a family experiencing the pain of addiction.

By pooling resources and talents, these highly respected institutions are extending their reach in a way that adds great value for all involved.

Expanded services include more outpatient programs in more locations, and expanded residential services to serve more females and young people.

Also, more recovery supports are now in place for young people and their families.

Santa Barbara County has many local resources that provide high quality, short-term assistance, like the Fighting Back program for adolescents, run by the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, along with residential programs run by the Rescue Mission in Santa Barbara.

Hazelden Betty Ford adds to this mix residential treatment centers for children, adolescents, and adults.

In short, those who need help now have even more resources to tap.

Further information is available at by calling 1-800-257-7800 any time, any day.  

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The trusted guide

By Bill Cirone

Mentor, we learn in Homer’s Odyssey, was the name of one of Odysseus’ trusted friends. The king, before departing to fight the Trojans, left his island realm in the care of his reliable counselor.

In addition to his stewardship, Mentor also served as a teacher and advisor to Odysseus’ young son. Little did Mentor know he would have to fulfill those duties for nearly 20 years, as the King of Ithaca labored away in the siege of Troy, and then was waylaid for another decade on his winding return home.

The allusion to Homer is an appropriate introduction to three remarkable Santa Barbara County educators who will be recognized as “Distinguished Mentors” at next month’s A Salute to Teachers, a gala event that will be held at the Lobero Theatre on Nov. 14 at 5 p.m.

Francisco Diaz Real of Lompoc High School, Clanci Chiu, who worked in the Carpinteria Unified School District last academic year and now works at the Santa Barbara County Education Office, and Janis Spracher from Monte Vista Elementary School, will be recognized for their selfless work with students and new teachers.

All three distinguished mentors are “home-grown,” outstanding products of local public school systems to which they continue to give back. Together they are shaping the lives of their students while fostering professional development in young teachers—much as they were helped when they first began in the field.
Francisco Diaz Real
 It wouldn’t be correct to say that each entered education as though it was his or her destiny, however. “It was something of an odyssey,” Diaz Real says of his route to the classroom. After graduating from Cabrillo High School in 1995, he went to a trade school in Phoenix to study architectural drafting. “I was 17,” he says. “My parents had to sign my rental agreement.”

The program was expensive, but Diaz Real soon knew it wasn’t a good fit for him. “I was in it at that point, however,” he says. After finishing the program, he returned home to work as a draftsman. “I had to honor the sacrifice of my parents. They had very little disposable income, and really tightened their belts to make my future happen. I couldn’t just walk away. But I started looking for alternatives. I wanted to be a teacher.”

Over the next eight years, Diaz Real would study part time at Allan Hancock College, eventually earning his associate degree. “Thankfully, the road to my bachelors went much more smoothly.” Now in his eighth year of teaching math at Lompoc High School, Diaz Real has found his calling. And the students and young teachers who benefit from his compassion and expertise are glad he has.
Clanci Chiu
For Clanci Chiu, teaching was in the gene pool. Both her parents taught in local schools, and the idea that an education was the door to opportunity was impressed upon her not only by her folks, but by her grandfather, too.

Mr. Yee, the long-time owner of the Fresno Market on the corner of Micheltorena and Bath Streets in Santa Barbara (now La Bamba Market), emigrated to the U.S. from China in the 1920s with just a fifth grade education. “He was never embarrassed about his lack of formal schooling,” Chiu says, “but he also understood that education can be a game-changer for a child’s future.” 

Chiu, who as a schoolgirl frequently spent afternoons at her grandfather’s store, says she wasn’t the only one who benefited from his wisdom. “My grandfather emphasized the importance of school to just about every kid who walked through that storefront,” she says.

A graduate of Santa Barbara High School, Chiu says she first learned the importance of mentoring when she began student teaching at her alma mater. “It was strange at first, having been a student, and now I was a colleague.

“But those teachers believed in me,” she continues. “I saw how they fostered relationships and established connections with students. And when I struggled,” she concludes, “those mentors were the first ones to offer encouragement.”

Chiu recalls those moments from her formative years when she works with young teachers who struggle with classroom management and teaching strategies. “Teaching is a craft, and requires a lot of practice and commitment. I love working with educators who recognize that.”
Janis Spracher
Education was also a “family business” for Janis Spracher. “My mom and my two older sisters were teachers. But I wanted to break the tradition,” Spracher says. She went to UC Irvine and earned a degree in psychology. Soon after she married and started a family.

“I started volunteering at my children’s preschool, and continued doing so when they started at Monte Vista,” she says. Soon she began working on her teaching credential at CSU Northridge. “Hope Elementary needed a fifth-sixth grade combination teacher, and they initially brought me on with just an emergency credential.”

“The support I received from teachers that year was remarkable,” she continues. “They would share the workload and share ideas—even about their failures. It provided an opportunity to reflect, to think about the cycle of continuous improvement.”

Spracher marvels about her current school and its staff. “To be surrounded by so many people who are so talented and dedicated...that’s a very special thing.” The help she received as a new teacher is what compels her to be so generous with her expertise with new colleagues.

Fittingly, Spracher told me she’s been teaching Homer’s Odyssey to her sixth grade students at Monte Vista for nearly 10 years. “It’s a poem that nearly every student can relate to,” she says. “Homer’s figures are so rich; students can always find someone in there with whom they identify.”

Not surprisingly, Spracher has a fondness for the Mentor character. “I admire his integrity, his sense of duty and commitment,” she says. She also likes the fact that the goddess Athena would often disguise herself as Mentor when she appeared amongst the mortals.

 “A good choice,” Spracher says, smiling. “Smart woman.”


Radio Commentary

Leadership and service aren’t limited to public roles, according to author Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund.

In fact, she argued that the strongest leadership and most effective service can come from the way individuals handle themselves, day to day, in their normal interactions with others.

In a book for her children, she wrote: “Be a quiet servant-leader and example. You have a role to exercise ... every minute of the day.”

She explained how in the most common of circumstances we can seize the opportunity to resist what is negative and set an example for what can be positive.

She wrote:  “Have you ever noticed how one example — good or bad — can prompt others to follow?

“How one illegally parked car can give permission for others to do likewise?

“How one racial joke can fuel another?

“How one sour person can dampen a meeting?”

Edelman writes that the opposite is also true. “One positive person can set the tone in an office or school. Just doing the right and decent thing can set the pace for others to follow.”

We could all benefit by being one of those people who models positive behavior.
Edelman writes: “America is in urgent need of a band of moral guerrillas who simply decide to do what is right, regardless of the immediate consequences.”

This is wonderful advice for young and old alike.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Reaching kids

Radio Commentary

There is a quote I really like that says: “Either we teach our children, or we abandon the future to chance and nonsense.”

You don’t have to tell that to parents or educators. Both groups are well aware of the responsibilities they shoulder.

A Gallup Poll on Americans’ attitudes toward public schools reconfirmed a perception that has held steady for more than two decades: the public gives only average marks to the nation’s public schools, but predominantly As or Bs to the schools their own children attend.

We hear reports about the demise of public education, but what parents see for their own children — for whom they are the world’s harshest critics — they rate above average or excellent. Think about that.

Educators recognize that challenges remain, and that until all students reach their potential, work remains to be done.

The one irrefutable truth we have learned from educational research over the years is that every child learns differently. Some must read information to “get” it. Others must hear it, and others need hands-on approaches.

Still others do much better in small groups, while some require the one-to-one attention of a teacher or tutor. Most need a mix of techniques.

The trick for educators lies in identifying the needs for each student and providing strategies to meet those various needs. Not an easy task.

Reform efforts continue. I’ve always considered teachers our unsung heroes and heroines for the work they do, every day, to reach and teach our children. They deserve our support.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Tips for busy parents

Radio Commentary

Here are some tips for busy parents who want to be involved with their children:

At dinner, start a sentence the whole family must finish. For example, “The most interesting thing I learned today was ...” or “One of the things I did well today was ...” Let everyone take a turn finishing the sentence and discussing each person’s contribution.

Keep a small pad handy to write a brief note of thanks to the teacher when your child shows new skills or excitement about school.

Ask teachers for a good time to call for 5 to 10 minutes about any specific concerns you might have.

If your child is struggling with something, resist any urge to blame the teacher. It only strains relationships, and often delays the constructive resolution of a problem.

Instead, join forces with the teacher to reach the common goal of helping your child find success. Identify an area of challenge and then plan together how to overcome it.

Don’t hesitate to ask your child’s teacher for advice. He or she can help with behavior problems as well as homework hassles.

Teachers can provide insights based on their experience.  But then it’s important to make a good-faith effort to follow that advice.

Small steps can often make a big difference.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Lompoc High School teacher named 2016 Santa Barbara County Performing Arts Teacher of the Year

News release

Sarah Barthel photo
Sarah Barthel
Long-time Lompoc High School drama teacher Sarah Barthel was named the 2016 Performing Arts Teacher of the Year for Santa Barbara County. The award is the first of its kind, and was created in a partnership between the Santa Barbara County Education Office (SBCEO) and the Santa Barbara Bowl through the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation Education Outreach, which is dedicated to supporting performing arts in the community.

Barthel’s students will provide entertainment as part of the “A Salute to Teachers” program, a gala event recognizing seven award-winning educators from Santa Barbara County, which will be held at the historic Lobero Theatre in downtown Santa Barbara on Nov. 14 at 5 p.m. The event partners SBCEO with Cox Communications and a variety of sponsors. Cox has sponsored a similar celebration for 25 years in San Diego, and is honored to continue this great tradition of teacher recognition for Santa Barbara County educators.

Ms. Barthel is the director of the LHS Drama department, where she oversees all aspects of production — from set design to costuming to training and acting. She is also involved with Lompoc Civic Theatre (LCT), a community theatre organization which produces multiple dramatic presentations every year. She has encouraged a working relationship between LHS Drama and LCT, and the two organizations collaborate regularly on dramatic productions.

“I am truly honored to have been selected as the Performing Arts Teacher of the Year for Santa Barbara County,” Barthel said. “It is a privilege to work with the students at Lompoc High School every day. I love being part of a process that helps them realize they are capable of more than they ever imagined, both onstage and off.”

Barthel, who lives in Lompoc with her husband, Paul, and their three sons, Ben, Noah, and Andrew, holds Bachelor's degrees in Mathematics and Theatre from Bethany College, West Virginia, where she graduated summa cum laude. She completed her Master's Degree in Education at Chapman University, California, in 2002.  Barthel has been teaching at Lompoc High since 2000. Though she began as a full time math teacher, Barthel took over the drama program in the fall of 2002 and has had a split teaching assignment ever since.

Teachers often lose contact with their students after they graduate, and can be left to wonder about the impact they had on them in their formative years. Not so for Ms. Barthel, however. Says former student and current colleague at LHS, Alyssa Prieto, “Sarah Barthel has been one of the most influential people in my life. She was my Theater Arts teacher all four years of high school, and then became my master teacher throughout my year of student teaching.”

Barthel has also worked diligently to expose her students to the world outside of LHS Drama. She has led numerous class trips to the Pacific Conservatory for the Performing Arts, as well as two student trips to New York City. She also organizes opportunities for elementary students to see portions of LHS drama productions and engage students in “question and answer” sessions regarding various aspects of theatre. Through this outreach, Sarah is nurturing a passion for performing arts in a new generation of students who will hopefully grow and develop their interests as they approach high school age.

“Sarah’s passion, energy, and enthusiasm for the performing arts has inspired students of all ages to embrace, nurture, and support the arts in both their professional and personal lives,” says County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone. “We are deeply grateful to the Santa Barbara Bowl for partnering with our office on this important recognition, and sincerely appreciate Cox Communications’ sponsorship of “A Salute to Teachers,” where Sarah’s excellent work can be showcased for educators and community partners from around the county.”

Barthel’s students will be performing a musical medley and a monologue/performance piece from the Academy Award-winning film Inherit the Wind. Tickets to “A Salute to Teachers” are available by calling the Lobero box office at 963-0761 or visiting

Parent role

Radio Commentary

It’s good to remember that parents can play a major role in helping prepare their children for the challenges of homework and class work:
  • Make sure your child begins each day with a good breakfast, and arrange to have snacks and other meals at regular times. This helps small bodies adjust and react at maximum capacity.
  • Inform your child of your schedule at home and on the job. This helps establish a sense of time, consistency and order.
  • Read with your child every day that you can. Newspapers, short stories, and books can all be the basis of enjoyable shared experiences.
  • If possible, set aside a specific time each day for homework.  
Tell your child that homework is a number one priority, and make sure you mean it. But also remember to be flexible if soccer practice or band tryouts fall during homework time.  Together, set a new time for that day.

Don’t do your children’s homework, but be sure he or she knows you are available for help.  Serve as a “consultant” or a coach.

When your child is studying for a test, discourage “cramming” the night before.  Instead, ask your child to bring a textbook home every other night and teach you what he or she has learned in school.
The most important point for parents to remember, at all times, is that their own positive attitude toward homework, teachers, and school can have great influence on their child’s success.

And that’s the bottom line for all of us. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Schools of Thought with Bill Cirone

John Daly
Partners in Education

Balanced eating

Radio Commentary

Many experts feel that far too much attention is placed on the body shape. This can translate into eating disorders for young teenage women.

It is also true that being seriously overweight can cause long-term health problems that should be avoided.

Parents can help children maintain a healthy balance. If they aren’t hungry at mealtime, don’t insist they clean their plates.

Parents should also observe how their children signal true hunger.

Sometimes young people will ask for food or say they are hungry when they are merely bored, lonely, or frustrated.

Try to determine whether the child is truly hungry. If not, help him find other ways to address boredom or frustration.

It’s also important to encourage physical activity. Discourage long hours spent in front of the TV or computer. Enjoy activities with your children. They are more likely to take part if you play along with them.

Also, be a good role model. Eat healthy foods and avoid inactivity. Children with overweight parents are twice as likely to become overweight as well.

Remember, though, to strike a balance in paying attention to weight. Too much focus can backfire and cause an eating disorder.

As always, moderation is the key.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

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 kept firearms unlocked, and loaded. Those homes represent 1.7 million children.
Another 4 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.

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 also ask pointed questions about weapons at their friends' homes as well.

This is one area where it’s not possible to be too cautious. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

College visits

Radio Commentary

The search for colleges can be very stressful. Parents can help in the decision-making process by planning visits to campuses.
They can also help students prepare questions to ask during the visits. Here are some suggestions:

What are the strongest departments and most popular majors at the school?

What is the average class size? Is it different for freshmen?

How do I compare academically with students already attending the school? What kinds of cultural, athletic, or literary activities are offered on campus?

What kind of housing is available? How many students are members of fraternities and sororities?

What support services are available to students? General counseling? Health care? Tutoring?

Are there any overseas or exchange programs?
What percentage of students receive financial aid?

Do you consider this a safe campus?

What do most students do after they graduate? What kind of student is generally happiest at this college?

Selecting a college that will provide a good “fit” often rests on intangibles – a feeling students get when they walk around the campus.

But answers to these questions can help students narrow down whether a particular college might be right for them.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Calendar habit

Radio Commentary

Which people are the most successful in life? Sometimes we see that it is not necessarily those who are the brightest or the most highly educated or the most well-intentioned.

Whether a child is in school or outside the classroom, being organized before showing up is an important trait that can make a real difference.

One good way to help children get in the habit of being organized is to buy them a big calendar. It should have lots of space to write on each day. The bigger, the better.

Encourage children to write key dates on the calendar, such as birthdays, school holidays, medical appointments, and planned outings.

Have them mark the dates they have to be somewhere regularly, such as after-school sports practices or music lessons.

Next, have them add the due dates for homework assignments, especially those that will take time to complete. And be sure they write in dates for exams.

Help children get into the habit of checking the calendar every weeknight for the next day’s activities. Talk about what needs to be done to prepare. Sunday night is a good time to check on what’s happening throughout the following week and to add new things that are coming up.

In many families, a calendar has proven to be the key to helping children schedule time wisely and stay organized — a habit that proves valuable throughout life.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Activities for preschoolers

Radio Commentary

Children between the ages of 3 and 5 are always eager to learn and try new things.

Parents can play with their children in more creative ways, which encourages learning, increases self-esteem, and creates stronger family bonds.

Here are some easy ways to engage your preschooler in everyday tasks and playtime activities.

While driving, tell a story together by alternating sentence by sentence. Start the story with any sentence and have your child say the next sentence.

Continue until one of you decides on how the story will end.

After washing the dishes, ask your child to try to match the lids and bases of plastic containers and stack them neatly on a low shelf.

While waiting in line, practice standing on one leg — your children will love being silly in public, and it will also help build their balance.

At a restaurant, use a menu to do an A-B-C search: Start with the letter A and work your way through the alphabet.

Be on the lookout for new ways to incorporate play into your daily routine. It can be fun for the whole family.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Self-esteem tips

Radio Commentary

There was a time when no one even considered a child’s self-esteem. Shame and blame were acceptable forms of child-rearing and schooling. Feelings were never considered.

Then several studies showed that children with higher self-esteem actually performed better. They were less afraid to ask questions if they didn’t understand. They had more courage to tackle difficult problems.

They had more perseverance when things went wrong. And they generally were more successful as a result.

Then the tables turned again.

Somehow, efforts at building self-esteem were blamed for low test scores. Building a child’s self-esteem took a back seat to drilling the basics.

The truth is that self-esteem is important, and that those who have it are happier and still outperform those who don’t.

So here are some tips for parents who want to help develop their children’s self-esteem:

  • Give your child responsibility. Encourage volunteerism. Doing good makes one feel good.
  • Develop a social network that includes family, friends, school, and the community. 
  • Never humiliate your child. Try to use only constructive criticism, emphasizing that no one is perfect and that everyone can learn from mistakes. 
  • And finally, let your love be unconditional, based on your child’s worth, rather than on specific “successes.”

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A dream today

By Bill Cirone

As millions of schoolchildren across the U.S. were preparing to head back to school in late August 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. addressed over 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

He told those who had assembled there about his dream.
A year later, at the age of 35, King became the youngest man to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

King’s oratory and vision transformed a nation.

On Sept. 26, 2015, over 60,000 people gathered in New York’s Central Park to hear about another dream from another visionary: 18 year-old education activist Malala Yousafzai.

“I have a very small kind of dream,” Malala, in her characteristic humility, told those gathered in the park, and millions of others watching the event live on their televisions and computers. “That is to see the world a happier place. A place where every child can have the right to go to school.

“Where every child and every person has the freedom to live a happy life. To live a peaceful life. To live in safety.

“That is my dream.”

That Malala is even alive to articulate this dream is nothing short of miraculous. By now, her story is well chronicled: as an adolescent in Pakistan she advocated for the rights of young girls to receive an education. That message outraged local Taliban members. One day, a gunman boarded the bus Malala was riding and shot her in the head at point blank range.

Amazingly, Malala survived the brutal ambush, and in time the reach of her message became wider than her thuggish Taliban tormentors could have ever imagined. In 2014, just two years after the brutal attack, Malala became the youngest recipient ever of the Nobel Peace Prize.

The recognition came exactly 50 years after King had been similarly honored.

Instead of silencing her, her would-be murderers amplified her.

On Oct. 8, nearly three years to the day of the attempt on her life, her story and her message will get even wider amplification, with the release of “He Named Me Malala,” the much-anticipated documentary from director Davis Guggenheim.

In the official trailer of the film, the off-camera interviewer is talking with her father.

“You named her after a girl who spoke out and was killed,” we hear the disembodied voice say. “It’s almost as if you said, ‘She’ll be different.’”

“You’re right,” her father says proudly.

Malala’s story is an important one for children of all ages to hear and understand.

Thanks to the generous support of a group of local women, over 1500 area schoolchildren will get the chance to hear that important message. “Santa Barbara Friends of Malala” have underwritten tickets and transportation through local school districts for two screenings of the film on Oct. 15 and 16 at the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara.

“I am excited about working with you to bring what could be a life-changing event to a select group of your students,” said Lompoc native Ginger Salazar in her note to school officials.

Two homegrown educators—Deputy Superintendent Susan Salcido of the Santa Barbara County Education Office and Maria Larios-Horton of the Santa Maria Union High School District—will welcome students and teachers with some remarks prior to the screenings.

“I’m delighted and honored,” Salcido said of the chance to address students at the film. “Malala’s message is inspirational, and the generosity of 'Friends of Malala' to help promote that message speaks to the remarkable commitment we have in this community to children and to education.”

It’s a commitment that would have resonated with King. “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically,” he once said. “Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” Malala’s words and deeds indicate that she agrees wholeheartedly with King’s message.

Two visionaries. Two victims of unspeakable violence. Two giants whose words were mightier than any weapon. And two messages that reverberate across generations, across countries, and across cultures.

Quite a dream.

Fire drills

Radio Commentary

This is a good time of year for families to brush up on fire-escape strategies.

First, plan an escape route for everyone in the home. Outline at least two escape routes per room. Practice with the lights out, since most home fires occur at night. Children must understand not to hide from fire under their beds or in closets.

Set off the smoke alarm so everyone will recognize the sound.

Have children practice crawling, which is the best way to escape a smoky room or hallway. Emphasize that they should keep their heads within 12 inches of the ground, which helps them avoid the smoke in the air and the toxic gases that can be even closer to the floor.

Show them how to test a door that is closed: If it is hot, do not open it.

If it is not hot, open it cautiously, but if smoke rushes in, quickly close the door and exit through a window instead.

Remind children that if they ever are trapped in a fire, to keep doors closed and to stuff door cracks and vents with clothes or towels. Then wait at a window for firefighters.

Make sure children can give the family’s name and full address, and know how to dial 9-1-1 to report a fire. Agree in advance on a place where the family will meet once everyone escapes.

Finally, practice “stop-drop-and-roll” with all family members. This is the best response if someone’s clothes catch fire.

And remember: Safety practices are strengthened by constant reinforcement. 

Monday, October 5, 2015


Radio Commentary

A very serious threat to the well-being of children is one that many parents still know too little about: cyber-bullying. Its effects can be devastating.

We have all read news reports of young suicide victims, bullied into believing life was no longer worth living because of relentless attacks over the Internet.

One can only imagine the ripple effect these tragedies have had on the victims’ families, and their communities, and even on the perpetrators.

Most young people who take part in cyber-bullying do it as a joke, and don’t pause to consider the impacts. Throughout human history, young people have shown they can be mean to each other, but the Internet has provided them with the tools to be truly cruel.

Many parents are simply not up to speed when it comes to social network sites or the online places their own children visit. New sites seem to emerge each day.

Add in the presence of text messages and video messages, and it all means that parenting in the age of cyber-crimes is more challenging than ever.

It might seem like a good idea to give a young child a cell phone with Internet access, but parents should consider the trade-offs they are making when they do so.

Yes, children will be able to stay in touch; but the risk is real, especially with young children whose judgment and decision-making skills are not yet fully developed.

Our office is working closely in partnership with District Attorney Joyce Dudley to address and reduce incidents of cyber-bullying. Parents need to be active partners in these efforts as well.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Safety instructions

Radio Commentary

Concepts of trust and danger, which are virtually meaningless to a two-year-old, make perfect sense to older children.
It is critical that parents use safety instructions appropriate to a child’s age if they want them to be followed.

For example, two-year-olds respond to rules and are old enough to know that certain actions bring their parents’ disapproval. Express strong disapproval if a child wanders away at the mall. Two is also a good age to plant the idea that some actions require permission.
Three year olds begin to understand the concept of trust. Tell them exactly who they can turn to for specific kinds of help — the babysitter, a neighbor, etc.

Four-year-olds are risk takers, so it is an important time to reinforce safety rules and step up supervision. Children at this age can begin to understand that not every person they meet is trustworthy.

At five, children start school and interact with many new people, including older children who could be intimidating or unkind. It’s a good time for parents to reinforce positive perceptions of people.

By six, most children have begun to develop intuition. This is the time to encourage them to trust their own instincts:  if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Using instructions appropriate for a child’s age helps make sure the directions will be followed. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

New teachers, mentors, Teacher of the Year to be honored at gala reception

News release

Seven exemplary educators in Santa Barbara County will be honored Nov. 14 at the third annual “A Salute to Teachers” event hosted by Cox Communications and the Santa Barbara County Education Office (SBCEO).

Three teachers have been chosen as Distinguished New Educators, while three others have been recognized as Distinguished Mentors. Capping the evening will be a presentation to the 2016 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year, Brandon Sportel.

The gala event, emceed by Andrew Firestone, will be held this year at the historic Lobero Theatre in downtown Santa Barbara. A Salute to Teachers partners SBCEO with Cox and a variety of sponsors, including Village Properties, Fielding Graduate Institute, Montecito Bank and Trust, Anthem-Blue Cross, Noozhawk and others. Cox has sponsored a similar celebration for 25 years in San Diego, and is honored to continue this great tradition of teacher recognition for Santa Barbara educators.

The Distinguished New Educators, nominated by their peers and chosen by a committee through the SBCEO, are:

  • Christopher Hanna, Ellwood School, Goleta Union School District
  • Genevieve Bishop, Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District
  • Erin Van De Roovaart, Kermit McKenzie Jr. High School, Guadalupe Union School District

The Distinguished Mentors, selected in the same fashion, are:

  • Francisco Diaz Real, Lompoc High School, Lompoc Unified School District
  • Janis Spracher, Monte Vista School, Hope School District
  • Clanci Chiu, Carpinteria Unified School District/SBCEO

These six honored educators are all participants in the Teacher Induction Program at the SBCEO, which pairs experienced mentors with new teachers who are beginning to apply what they have learned while completing their first years of teaching.

Sportel was named Teacher of the Year in May and is a candidate for California Teacher of the Year. He is a special education teacher at Canalino Elementary in the Carpinteria Unified School District.

“It’s a special privilege to be able to recognize the contributions these teachers make to both the education of local students, and to the constant improvement of their profession,” said Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone. “This event provides an opportunity to highlight outstanding new teachers and the hard work they do to create bright futures for students, and we’re grateful to the business partners whose support makes the evening possible.”

In addition to the awards presentation, the evening will also feature student musical performances and other entertainment.

“A Salute to Teachers 2015” will be broadcast in its entirety on Cox Channel 8 later in the year. At that time it will also be available for viewing online at

Tickets to the event are available for purchase through the Lobero Theatre box office by calling 966-4946. For more information about the awards or the event, go to or contact Steven Keithley, SBCEO Director of Teacher Programs and Support, at 964-4710, ext. 5281.

For more information about the SBCEO Teacher Induction Program, go to or contact Gina Branum, program director, at, or 964-4710, ext. 5426.

Promoting culture of reading

Radio Commentary

What can parents do to excite their children about school and learning? A former national Teacher of the Year provided the following suggestions.

First, he said, promote a culture of reading at home. Reading is the gateway to all knowledge and is fundamental to academic excellence.

Computers are wonderful tools, but they cannot replace books. Reading stimulates the imagination and encourages creative thinking.

So read with your children. Discuss a book or an article in the car, while walking, and at the dinner table.

Turn reading into a pleasant event by taking children to libraries and bookstores once a week.
Give them an allowance and let them choose the books they want without questioning what they’ve chosen.
Don’t insist that they always read “educational” material. A lifelong love of reading can start with almost any book or magazine.
Stimulate your children’s curiosity. Children need to be encouraged to ask “Why?” when they don’t understand something. Learning is a constant process, and children sometimes think this process is over once they have an answer.

They need to be taught to prove and push for more answers. So when children ask “Why”? -- Don’t respond with a pat answer. Ask, “What do you think?  Or “Why do you think that’s so?”  Or, “I’m not sure; let’s look it up.”

The goal is to spark their curiosity so that it becomes fun to learn new information.