Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Radio Commentary

Feeling safe makes children feel more confident when they meet new people, try new tasks, and take on new responsibilities.
As children grow, they also need time to explore their power and abilities. This means parents need to let go of some control and help their children take “healthy risks.”
How do parents help their children learn what it means to be more self-sufficient? Think about these questions:
How do your children work through their fears or doubts? How often do you do things with your children rather than for them?
What do your children do that makes you laugh or feel proud? Do they know it?
To help empower your children, tell them often that you appreciate what they do around the house, at school, and for friends.
When your children tell you about problems, confirm their feelings and help them think through solutions.
Encourage children to take new roles at school or try new activities that will be enjoyable but not stressful.
Let children take full responsibility for some chores. When you do your own chores, do them with good cheer even if they aren’t fun. Your children will learn from your example.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Michelle Minetti-Smith in the spotlight

By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools

In our drive to showcase outstanding teachers throughout Santa Barbara County, we are eager to shine another spotlight on the 2017 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year, Michelle Minetti-Smith, a local hero in every sense of the word.

Michelle is a first grade, developmental bilingual teacher at Mary Buren Elementary School in the Guadalupe Union School District and there is no doubt that her humble nature, vast skills, and utter calmness, are hallmarks that inspire all who know her.

Those who have seen her classroom in the heart of Guadalupe are always impressed. Recent visitors would have seen student-crafted Johnny Appleseed pictures on the walls, groups of children working on different aspects of reading and writing, the flow of academic language in Spanish in the morning, and the switch to English in the afternoon, plus her ability to answer questions of little ones and visiting adults, in rapid fire, all while keeping her calm and her cool. What makes her achievement all the more wonderful is that Michelle is homegrown, with deep roots in Guadalupe and the Santa Maria Valley. She was the fourth generation of her family to go to school at Mary Buren, where she now teaches. Her grandmother was a teacher as well.

Amazingly, Michelle’s fourth grade teacher, Mary Buren, is the school’s namesake. Jose Nichols was the principal when she attended the school, and he hired her back to teach there 20 years ago.

Michelle could have gone into the thriving family business but decided early on to focus instead on children and teaching. Now she has brought that goal to the highest level of achievement. She greets every child who arrives in her classroom and has high expectations for all. She also mentors new teachers. She is the perfect example of what’s best about teaching and represents so well the outstanding teachers from every corner of our bountiful county.

It is widely known that the caliber of teachers in Santa Barbara County is among the best in California and America. That means that the selection process for the Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year is both challenging and rigorous. All 20 school districts in Santa Barbara County are invited to nominate one of their own to be considered for the honor. The nominees reflect deeply about their teaching practice, and then demonstrate their outstanding skills for members of a broad-based committee, who interview and observe each nominee before making a final selection.

Celebrating teaching means recognizing how teachers provide opportunities for students to grow. The teaching craft is about sparking creativity, confidence, and innovation. It’s about enabling students to envision themselves as scientists, inventors, artists, learners, and citizens of the world beyond the 21st Century. It’s about instilling a sense of hope and then providing the skills to help those goals take wing.

As is the case with so many of our teachers, Michelle Minetti-Smith does all these things, every day. She makes us all proud.

Creating connections

Radio Commentary

Several types of activities can help create and maintain connections with your children as they get older.
Share a hobby. Explore an interest that you both enjoy, whether it’s rollerblading, playing golf, or skimming through fashion magazines or websites. Time spent this way can result in hours of naturally-flowing conversation.
Look at baby pictures. A walk down memory lane is a great way to bring up other awkward topics including the many physical and emotional changes that occur throughout your child’s life.
Make time in the car for conversation. The moments you have together in the car can help you share important information and emotions.
You can also learn a lot about your child if you pay attention to conversations with friends while they’re riding in the back seat.
See your child as others do. Many parents only see their children when they’re at home. Get involved with your child’s school. Volunteer to help with extracurricular programs, such as theatre, clubs, or sports.
You may discover new and wonderful aspects to your child that you otherwise would have missed.
All these activities help you create and maintain connections as your children travel into adulthood. They also form the basis of shared experiences and close relationships throughout a lifetime.

Monday, November 28, 2016

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 as 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 soap operas, 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. Be aware of media content and use good judgment in your selections.
Doing so is a key to raising healthy, well-adjusted children.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Best things are free

Radio Commentary

Holiday time can be a loving time and, at the same time, the most materialistic period that our children go through each year. 
Sometimes it’s good to reinforce that the most important things in life do not always involve the exchange of dollars.
It’s so easy for a parent to reach for some money or a piece of candy as a reward for good grades or extra effort.
But there are much better ways to show gratitude and pride. The National PTA insists that “hugs, kisses, and compliments are worth more than anything money can buy.”
In fact, some of the best incentives don’t cost any money at all, but continue to reap rewards year after year.   
You’d be surprised how much more staying power hugs have, or pats on the back, smiles, or extra attention. 
Reading together could be another reward. It’s a gift that brings you close to your children.
Also, compliments have much more impact when they are given face to face, or said to others loud enough so that the child can hear them. It can also be effective to hold family testimonial dinners for children. 
The successes can cover any special contribution — doing household chores, helping someone in your neighborhood, or meeting a goal. Be specific about the good things happening in your child’s life.
It’s never too early to underscore for children that many of the best things in life are not “things” at all, but attitudes and actions that show kindness, concern, and appreciation.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Giving thanks

Radio Commentary

There is an anonymous quote I’ve always liked. It says, “Without teachers there would be no other professions.”
The obvious meaning is that no one is born knowing a profession — someone had to teach practitioners what to do. 
An equally important message imparted by the quote is that teaching itself is a profession. It requires just as much skill and training as any other career — maybe more so than many others.
As we celebrate this day of thanksgiving it is fitting to give thanks to the many unsung heroes and heroines in our midst, who make a difference every day in the lives of local children.
Teachers personify our society's belief that universal public education is key to meeting the challenges of a changing world.
They strive to make every classroom an exciting environment where productive and useful learning can take place and each student is encouraged to grow and develop.
Our teachers reach out to foster the well-being of each student, regardless of ability, background, race, ethnicity or religion. Teachers also motivate students to find new directions in life and reach high levels of achievement.
We are thankful for all they do, and for the support from parents, business leaders, and members of the community, that is so vital to their work. Thank you all.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Fellowship lesson

Radio Commentary

The 25 lessons for life written by Marian Wright Edelman could be a syllabus for everyone’s schooling.
As president of the Children’s Defense Fund, she wrote the book for her own children, but they truly stand the test of time for all.
One lesson, for example, cuts to the heart of many of our nation’s problems. 
She writes: “Remember, and help America remember, that the fellowship of human beings is more important than the fellowship of race and class and gender in a democratic society.”
She writes to her children: “Be decent and fair and insist that others be so in your presence.”
She asks how long our nation will take before it understands that its ability to compete and lead in the world is bound as tightly to its poor and nonwhite children, as it is to its white and privileged ones.
When it comes to building a decent and just America for all our children, Edelman says: 
“We are not all equally guilty, but we are all equally responsible.”
Certainly these are important words for all children to hear and absorb, and important thoughts for the adults who impart this powerful message.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Domestic abuse

Radio Commentary

Parents often underestimate what their children see and hear. It’s best to assume that children know everything that’s going on in the household.
This is especially the case with domestic abuse. It is estimated that 10 percent of children nationwide live in households where there are violent disagreements.
Even children who do not see violence first-hand are vulnerable to its effects. Overhearing emotional or physical abuse behind closed doors can increase a child’s risk for emotional and behavioral problems.
A child who is anxious about domestic abuse might not say anything, but is likely to act out by misbehaving at home or at school, crying excessively, or wetting the bed.
The best advice, if you are living with domestic abuse of any kind, is to get help right away.
Locally, CALM is a very good resource. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, at, also helps victims of violence.
It can also help to talk to a family or marriage therapist. It takes time to change or eliminate destructive patterns, so be patient.
You can learn to reconcile differences peacefully. The old rule that people should never go to sleep angry can be a powerful life lesson.
What’s important, for the sake of children affected by the situation, is to take the steps necessary to move forward as a family.
The safety of all involved should remain the primary concern.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Eating disorders

Radio Commentary

Media coverage of eating disorders has generally improved, but unrealistic body images continue to appear. The pressures to be thin are very great, especially for girls.
The state PTA warns that between five and 10 million Americans have eating disorders, mostly teens and young adults.
Anorexia is a fear of becoming fat, coupled with an unrealistic body image that leads people to restrict severely the amount of food they eat.
Bulimia involves bingeing and purging — eating excessive amounts of food and then forcing it out.
Eating disorders all involve preoccupations with weight and food. But they are often rooted in other issues, compensating for aspects of life that appear to be out of control.
Many young people who suffer from these disorders also have feelings of inadequacy, troubled relationships, or a history of being teased because of weight.
Parents should teach children positive and healthy attitudes toward their bodies.
Media coverage of celebrity eating issues can offer a good chance to ask your children what they think.
Be sure to point out that healthy, fit bodies don’t all look the same.
Experts say parents who are worried should communicate their concerns without judgment and without oversimplifying the issue. Express support and seek professional treatment if necessary. These issues can be serious.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Loving discipline

Radio Commentary

Punishment is a negative consequence of bad behavior that has already occurred. Discipline is a positive way to focus on future behavior.
Here are rules for loving discipline that many parents have found helpful:
   Change misbehavior by setting positive goals to strive for, rather than negative ones to avoid.
   Say what you mean and mean what you say. Children have an uncanny way of knowing the difference.
   Involve your children in solving problems to show you value their judgment.
   Talk less; do more.
   Ask what happened to cause a certain misbehavior. The cause may be very different from what you suspected.
   Make clear what you want from your children and praise them when they do it.
   Impose logical consequences for any misbehavior. Be sure the cause-and-effect link is clear.
   Give your children choices — but make sure you can live with them. If not, discuss the issue and explain why another choice might be better.
   Focus on what’s good about your children, and expect their very best.

And always show your love.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Good nutrition

Radio Commentary

Nutrition awareness is an essential part of health education.
This learning takes place during meals as a result of the foods provided. It happens throughout the day as well — at play, in the classroom, and during sports.
The meals children are served, and the skills they acquire at a young age, help to set lifelong eating patterns. That’s why it is important to teach good eating habits.
Make mealtime a pleasant and relaxed experience. Offer a variety of foods, prepared in different ways.
It makes good nutrition sense and it makes meals and snacks more interesting.
Regular physical activity is also important for good health. It burns calories, helps with weight control, and is important in preventing some chronic diseases.
When it comes to feeding young people, try to choose foods that are lower in fat and free of saturated fats.
For example, cook with lean ground meat when you barbecue.
Serve sandwiches on whole wheat bread. Add grapes or raisins to tuna, chicken, or turkey salad and stuff it into pita bread for variety.
Serve bean tacos, burritos, or chili for alternate sources of protein.
Well-nourished, healthy children achieve better in school. And these practices can help set the pattern for a lifetime of good nutrition.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Tips for self-esteem

Radio Commentary

Study after study shows that students who have a basic level of self-confidence perform better in the classroom.
They are more willing to take part in discussions and offer opinions. They are less hesitant to ask for help when they need it.
These are all important to school success.
Here are some self-esteem building tips for parents to help cultivate those traits in their children.
The suggestions all involve “accentuating the positive.”
• Give plenty of love and hugs. Children thrive on it.
The opposite is also true: Never physically or mentally hurt your child. The wounds go deeper than you think and are longer lasting than they seem.
• If both parents work, arrange the best child care possible. If your child is alone, provide safety and activity rules that are to be followed without fail. Whenever possible, avoid changing childcare arrangements.
• Be a confident role model. Children need parents to set the pace. Shore up your own self-esteem — but avoid having your children feel that they could never rise to your lofty level.
• Place a value on education by providing quiet time for homework, and help out when necessary. Talk about school, and show support by keeping your school appointments and by attending school events.
All these activities help children feel good about who they are and what they do.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Giving thanks

By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools

Once again, as we celebrate this season of Thanksgiving, we want to give heartfelt thanks on behalf of our public schools to all the business and community members who support our local classrooms, families, and children in so many ways.

It is so very encouraging and inspiring that even in challenging times, we can join hands in partnership and help bolster one of our community’s most valuable assets, our schools. Our partnerships in this area are wide and deep, including community members, business leaders, and educators at every level.

Members of the community help in ways that are impossible to overstate. Parents volunteer in local classrooms. PTA members play invaluable roles at every school. Relatives and friends support fundraisers, and neighbors pitch in at every turn, attending sports events, concerts, and plays. That support means a lot to the young people who witness it every day, and see first-hand that the adults around them value what is happening in their classrooms.

The circle of supporters extends well beyond friends and family. The local business community also provides strong support of our schools in ways both large and small. Businesses have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the Teachers Network, a program that recognizes outstanding teachers and spreads successful classroom ideas.

Thanks to strong business and community sponsorship and support, two annual events, A Salute to Teachers and the Education Celebration, celebrate and honor outstanding teachers and the high quality education they bring to the 67,000 public school children in 20 school districts throughout our county.

Partners in Education is yet another fine example of the synergy created by our local business, philanthropy, and education communities. The vision and support of local leaders have made possible Partners’ nationally acclaimed Computers for Families program and the North County Computer

Connections program. Since its inception, Computers for Families has provided more than 11,500 computers to needy children and families in its continuing quest to ultimately eliminate the digital divide.

In addition to being technology advocates, local community and business members throughout Santa Barbara County also champion arts and sports programs, serve as mentors, take part in Career Day programs and Principal for a Day, along with myriad other activities that support students and teachers.

Clearly our business and community leaders understand that students in today’s classrooms will be tomorrow’s workforce and leaders. The level and quality of their support and the range of resources are
extremely impressive and greatly appreciated.

Educators at every level also deserve our thanks as integral parts of these important partnerships. Chief among those we must recognize this Thanksgiving season stand the unsung heroes and heroines in classrooms countywide, teachers who make a difference every day in the lives of the children and families they serve. Teachers embody our society’s belief that universal public education is key to meeting the challenges of a changing world. They strive to make every classroom an exciting environment where productive and useful learning can take place, and each student is encouraged to grow and develop according to his or her talents and abilities.

Our teachers reach out to foster the well being of every student, regardless of ability, motivation, background, race, or beliefs. Teachers help inspire students to find new directions in life and reach for high levels of achievement. We are enormously thankful for all they do, and for the support they receive from parents, business leaders, and members of the community, which is so vital to their ability to succeed. 

“Everything America is, or ever hopes to be,” commentator Frosty Troy once said, “depends upon what happens in public school classrooms, where millions of boys and girls will get their chance in life.” His message remains indisputable.

On behalf of the entire educational system in our county, I offer thanks to members of our community for helping the students of Santa Barbara County succeed. Thank you for caring and for all you do. Your help is invaluable. Every day you are making an incredible, lasting difference in the lives of our young people. This is a fitting season to make time to express our gratitude.

Schools of Thought

Marsha Bailey
Women's Economic Ventures

Showing you care

Radio Commentary

During this holiday season, it’s appropriate to note that a parent’s love is the foundation of a child’s self-esteem. 
And though you might feel it’s already understood, sometimes it’s important to say it out loud. 
A child simply can’t hear those words too often, but they are especially important before a child leaves for school and before bed at night.
There are infinite variations on ways to say you care. Here are some common forms the message can take:
“You’re important to me.”
“You brighten my day.”
“You mean the world to me.”
“That’s really great.”
“Well done!”
“What a good job you did.”
A big hug counts, too. In fact, sometimes it’s a good idea to think up new ways to say and show you care.
If a child has a strong sense of self-worth, that’s more than half the battle for facing anything that can arise.
That strength is important both inside and outside the classroom.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Cirone on Schools

Vickie Gill
Friends of Los Alamos Library

Talking with Teachers with Bill Cirone

Ricardo Gabaldon
Righetti High School

Innovations in Education - December 2016

Santa Barbara Historical Museum
Special Education Cooking

Local Leaders with Bill Cirone

Mona Miyasato
County of Santa Barbara

Education in our community

Radio Commentary

America’s schools are teaching young people how to succeed in a complex and ever-changing world. 
They are helping young people look beyond the problems and find new opportunities.
The world is different, and so are our schools. In fact, schools are being transformed in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. 
Many new techniques and new tools, like technology, are changing the way educators teach and students learn.
This is important if we are to compete in a global economy by using best practices to conquer modern challenges.
While schools are changing, community support and parental involvement remain key to the success of today’s students.
This is because America’s schools are everybody’s business. Their success is our nation’s best weapon against all future threats, be they economic, social, military, or strategic.
Take some time to visit a local school. See what’s going on. 
Volunteer to help. 
There’s no doubt that the future of our democracy and the health of our economy depend on what is happening in today’s classrooms. 
Your support and assistance will make a tremendous difference.
Let’s all resolve to help.

Class participation

Radio Commentary

Everyone benefits when students participate in class discussions at school.
Teachers enjoy lively interactions. It means that they have struck a chord with an interesting subject. For students, lively discussions can engage them in the material in new and interesting ways.
For that reason, parents should encourage their children to be inquisitive. It gives them the self-confidence to raise their hands in class and to ask questions.
Classrooms where honest, give-and-take discussions take place are wonderful learning environments.
To help nurture class discussion, it's important that parents react positively to questions from their children at home.
Don’t be impatient. Engage your children in conversations about what they are learning and questions they have.
Also, if students really get into the subject matter and think of a variety of related questions, it helps them better understand the material.
Remind shy students that everyone feels some fear about being called upon to give an answer in class. Your children are not alone if they feel this way. But they should not let this stop them from trying.
Class participation is a common part of school life, and it can translate positively when it comes to life beyond school.
Give your children the best chance to succeed and to learn by encouraging them to take an active role.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Ethic of caring

Radio Commentary

An ethic of caring is worth fostering among our children if we want to live in a society that is compassionate and kind.
Research confirms what common sense tells us: the more young people value compassion, kindness, and helping people, the more likely they are to actually help out when the need arises.
That’s why it is important to promote values of caring in our communities, our schools, our families, and our congregations.
This is especially the case these days, when the media messages that bombard our young people are filled with conflicting values — violence, celebrity worship, materialism, and very little of the old-fashioned “sweet” stories young people used to hear and see at every turn.
It is unlikely a young person will develop caring values unless he or she is continually exposed to adults who model and reward them. 
This includes parents and teachers, as well as a broad array of other adults and role models as well.
What’s more, it is critical that these values be reinforced in young people’s everyday lives in order to override the competing messages that surround them through music, videos, games, and television.
Though we live in a time when the country appears polarized and fragmented, the goal of fostering an ethic of caring is not impossible to achieve.
It will take a concerted effort among those who value that outcome. It is clear we ALL have our work cut out for us if we want to succeed. I, for one, feel deeply that it is worth the effort.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

How parents can help

Radio Commentary

Sparking a child’s curiosity can be key to lifelong learning. Parents can help.
Make up trivia games that you can all play regularly, even when you’re on the run. Give children a chance to experiment around the house with measuring, cooking, repairing broken items, and other activities that require finding and using information.
Also, be sure to know what’s going on at school. Attend school events. Your presence will show your children that you’re interested in their school life and value it.
Ask children for detailed descriptions of what they’re studying and doing at school.
You should also help children establish a sense of ethics. Have the courage to say NO when children’s interests are not acceptable.
As children get older, continue to uphold firm, clear limits. But gradually give them more chances to make choices and live with the consequences.
It is easier to set these standards in first and second grades than in preteen years. But there are also ways to encourage preteens to stick to standards of behavior.
Teach children of all ages to say “thank you” and write thank-you letters when appropriate. Tell them stories of justice. Teach them that there is a right and a wrong way to do things.
In these areas, parents are the most important teachers of all.