Thursday, April 28, 2016

Los Olivos Elementary secretary wins state-level award

News release

The California Department of Education notified the Santa Barbara County Education Office on Tuesday afternoon that Lisa Andresen from Los Olivos Elementary School was recognized as the state-level winner in the Office and Technical category for Classified Employee of the Year. Now in her 12th year at Los Olivos, Ms. Andresen serves as the school's secretary. 
Superintendent and Principal Bridget Baublits says that “from fixing copiers to running the sound system for an assembly, Lisa is the ‘Ms. Fix-it’ we all rely on.”  
Working in a small school requires employees to be flexible and often wear a variety of "hats." Mrs. Andresen embodies these characteristics. "Her official title may be School Secretary,” Mrs. Baublits continues, "but the scope of her job requires her to complete a variety of tasks, including acting as a nurse, registrar, ordering curriculum, assisting with technology issues, and running the day-to-day office.” 
Beyond her many daily duties, Mrs. Andresen serves on the school PTA, the School Site Council, and the Labor Collaborative Committee. She is not only an employee, but a parent. She is personally vested in the school, and her efforts to make Los Olivos a top-notch elementary school is evident in all that she does.
"I am so grateful that my colleagues thought to nominate me and honored to have been chosen as the employee of the year. I truly enjoy being part of a school community and working with students, parents and staff.  It’s a privilege to watch our students’ blossom and be a part of their journey."

Friday, April 22, 2016

10 things for parents

Radio Commentary

A booklet called “The National PTA Talks to Parents” includes 10 items PTA members feel could be helpful for all parents.

It says parents should be involved in their children’s education. Parents should provide resources at home for reading and learning —items such as books and magazines that children can read each day.

The PTA says parents should set a good example by showing they believe reading is enjoyable and useful. It also helps if parents encourage children to do their best in school.
Parents should help children set goals that are reachable, and avoid getting children over-involved in extracurricular activities.

Academics should be a family’s first concern, according to the PTA. Then should come workforce preparation and involvement in extracurricular activities.
The PTA booklet says parents should support school rules and goals, taking care not to undermine school discipline. They should also encourage children to do their best, but avoid applying too much pressure.
It’s also best if parents exercise responsibility and don’t expect the school or teachers to take over their job. Teaching basic discipline is, at base, a parental responsibility, according to the PTA.

Parents should also call teachers as soon as a problem comes up so that they can take action right away. These are common-sense tips that make a difference for young people.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Bucking peer pressure

Radio Commentary

Parents can help prepare their children to fight peer pressure, especially when it comes to drugs and alcohol.

It helps to role-play about how to say “no.” Act out ways that your child can refuse to go along with friends without becoming a social outcast.

You can’t envision all the circumstances that might arise, but you can cover typical examples of when young people find themselves in awkward situations.

For example, you could say to your child:  “Let’s play a game. Suppose you and your friends are at Andy’s house after school and they find some beer in the refrigerator and ask you to join them in drinking it.

“You know that the rule in our family is that children are not allowed to drink any alcohol, right? So what could you say to your friends in that situation?”

If your child comes up with a good response, acknowledge it and reinforce how it can be effective.

If nothing springs to mind, offer options. He could say: “No thanks. Let’s play Nintendo instead,” or “No thanks. I don’t drink beer. I need to keep in shape for basketball practice.”

Or, even better: “That doesn’t sound like fun to me. Let’s go outside.”

The actual response doesn’t matter, as long as your child feels comfortable saying it.

Stress the point that real friends respect each other’s feelings and opinions. And that people who make their friends do harmful things aren’t really friends at all. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Birth to one

Radio Commentary

Babies grow and change dramatically during their first year.

They begin to develop some control over their bodies — they hold up their heads, roll over, sit up, crawl, and some even walk.

They also become aware of themselves as separate from others. They learn to look at their hands and toes and play with them. They recognize their own names, and they may cry when their parents leave.

Communication and language skills also begin to form in the first year. First, babies cry and make throaty noises. Later they babble and make lots of sounds. Then they begin to name a few close people and objects.

Playing games becomes an important part of child development.

They begin by playing with their hands and then show an interest in toys by banging them together. Eventually, they carry around dolls or stuffed toys.

During this critical first year, babies require a loving caregiver who responds quickly to their cries and gurgles.

They need someone who gets to know their special qualities and can keep them safe and comfortable.

They also need opportunities to move around and practice new physical skills, along with a supply of safe objects to look at, grab, bang, pat, and roll.

They need safe play areas and the chance to hear people talking as they learn to make their own sounds.

It’s a time of rapid growth, and loving caregivers make a real difference.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Abstract thinking skills

Radio Commentary

Throughout childhood and adolescence, children’s brains are developing in important ways.

One sign of this development is the ability to think about abstract concepts, such as “truth” and “justice.”

During middle school, children become better at abstract thinking, but they still need guidance.
Parents can initiate activities and conversations that involve these skills. Here are some examples that have worked for others:

  • Challenge accepted ideas. Ask, “Why shouldn’t athletes cheat?” or “Why don’t children go to school on the weekends?”

Making young people support their accepted beliefs helps them understand the concepts behind those beliefs.

  • Talk with your child about imaginary situations. Ask: “What if you won the lottery?” or “What if eating ice cream became illegal?”
  • Do science experiments, and have children guess what will happen. Ask: “If we shine a lamp on this plant, will it grow faster or slower?”
  • Play games that require thinking ahead. “Battleship,” checkers, and chess are good examples of games that require some strategy.
  • Let your children make choices. It’s OK if they make minor mistakes, such as spending their allowance too quickly. Use real-life situations to help your children learn from their choices.
  • Play “Twenty Questions.” Use categorical questions in general terms. Ask: “Is it a city?” instead of “Is it Miami?”

All these strategies help children develop their critical thinking skills. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Building esteem

Radio Commentary

Building self-esteem in children can be the most lasting gift an adult can give.

Take a tip from Thomas Edison, who had thousands of failed experiments when trying to invent the light bulb.

With each failure, Edison said he learned something that didn’t work, so he was one step closer to finding something that did.

That attitude can be found in most successful people. They don’t seem to think in terms of the word ‘failure.’ They talk about a ‘glitch,’ a ‘problem,’ or a ‘snag.’

And even when something doesn’t work as planned, they try to learn from the experience.

We can all help teach this mind-set to our children.
When they don’t succeed, we should help them find something to learn from the experience.
A good question to ask is: “What would you do differently next time?”
Sometimes that lesson is more important than the task that didn’t get accomplished.

We should always let our children know we’re proud of them for trying. That support gives them the confidence to try again.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Childproof yards

Radio Commentary

While exploring the outdoors, curious youngsters can sometimes face hazards in their own backyards.

So take a look at the yard where your child plays and check very carefully for any danger spots.

Make sure wading pools and buckets are emptied after use to prevent drowning or bacteria growth.

Make sure all pools are surrounded by a fence and a self-latching gate. Check all locks and latches to make sure they are functioning properly.

Also check that the spaces between railings in a fence are narrow enough to prevent children from getting their head stuck between them.
Also check for thorny or poisonous plants. And make sure clotheslines are out of reach. They are appealing play items but have proven harmful.

Store all lawn tools and chemicals out of reach of young hands.

Make sure deck stairs have child guards and that all furniture is kept away from deck railings, to prevent young climbers from getting into trouble.

Finally, make sure wooden decks or chairs are free from splinters. What might not affect an adult can be quite painful or even harmful to young skin.

Using common sense is the best rule of all.

Thursday, April 14, 2016


Radio Commentary

Trust is an important issue with preteens and teenagers. Parents often wonder how they can question their children without being accused of doubting their judgment.

Checking up on your children’s outside activities may not be met with enthusiasm, but it is important.

Many parents have heard the refrain: “I can’t believe you don’t trust me.” This can be a young person’s way of keeping parents at a distance and feeling more independent.
It is not uncommon for young people to feel invincible and to resent interference with their social life.

One author recommends that parents respond to this resistance by saying, “We trust you, but we are concerned about the situation you’re going to be in.”

This response shows you’re concerned not with the child but with the circumstances that could occur.

Point out to your children that they won’t always have control over what can happen when they’re at a friend’s house without adult supervision.

Ask questions in a calm, non-confrontational way.

Safety issues top the priority list for parents. Young people are more likely to accept questions and supervision when it is framed in this context. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Internet contract

Radio Commentary

Parents tell children, “Don’t talk to strangers.” With wide use of the Internet, the possibility of talking to strangers in cyberspace is now an issue as well.

But it doesn’t need to be. Children can make very good use of the Internet without using chat rooms or interactive forums that bring them in contact with strangers.

Parents can help keep their children safe by setting rules and enforcing them. Remember, even if you don’t have a computer at home, your children can still use online services at a friend’s house or even a public library.

So help your child understand that online activity is a privilege. Children should also agree to:

  • Limit time online to 8 hours per week.
  • Never give out their name, address, phone number, school, or password to anyone online.
  • Report to you anyone online who asks for personal information.
  • Tell you if someone sends messages that are uncomfortable or inappropriate.
  • Never arrange to meet friends they have met online, unless you are with them.
  • Never spend time in adult chat rooms or newsgroups.
  • Refrain from using bad language or sending cruel messages.

Build in natural consequences. If any of these agreements are broken, children generally should lose online privileges for one week per broken promise. Remember: safety online is as important as safety offline.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Avoid hollow threats

Radio commentary

Parenting is a challenge — mostly because children seem determined to make it so.

When a parent is trying to get a child to do something — or stop doing something — it is often easy to issue a threat.

Some threats, delivered in the “heat of battle,” can be counterproductive and undermine credibility:

“If you don’t come take your bath right now, we are not going to Disneyland this weekend.”  Or, “If you don’t stop bothering your sister, I’m going to give away your new toys.”

It’s easy to think, “I’d never say that” — but it’s a rare parent who has never gone that route under stress.

The problem is that children are very good at sensing insincerity, and they know when a threat is so wild that you will not follow through. That makes the process ineffective. It simply doesn’t work.

Stating consequences can be a very effective means of discipline, especially if there is a logical relation between the response and the behavior, and if the consequences are carried out exactly as described.

The bottom line is that it’s very important for children to learn that you mean what you say. If a consequence is credible, and if you follow through, the behavior stands a good chance of changing in the direction you are hoping for.

Make yourself clear when explaining consequences, and always follow through. That’s the best advice of all.

Local Leaders with Bill Cirone

Candace Winkler
Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara

Local Leaders with Bill Cirone

Andrea Martinez
Women’s Fund Of Northern Santa Barbara County

Cirone on Schools

Laura Arteaga Davidson
Central Coast Literacy Council

Monday, April 11, 2016

Schools of Thought with Bill Cirone

Chelsea Duffy
Partners in Education

Talking with Teachers with Bill Cirone

Sarah Barthel
Lompoc High School

Giving speeches

Radio commentary

Many young people dread giving speeches. Yet students will need to make presentations and will be called upon to speak up in class and answer questions.

One tool that parents can use to help ease their children’s fear and self-consciousness is to get them interested in reading great speeches.

Words can be inspirational. If young people can envision important figures giving a speech, they may be inspired to do the same. Being an effective communicator comes from practice and having good information.

You can provide feedback to your children to help them improve their skills.

First, make sure that children know that almost everyone is uncomfortable at one time or another when having to get up in front of people.  Knowing this can help reduce their stress.

Many famous speeches have sparked an interest in poetry and public speaking: Among them are The Gettysburg Address, JFK’s inaugural address, The Declaration of Independence, and speeches by Winston Churchill, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ronald Reagan. 

Whatever your political views or personal tastes, share your favorite speeches and sayings. Have your children read them aloud, so they can become more comfortable speaking in front of others.

The next time they have to give a five-minute speech on someone they admire for their English class, it will be much easier and more fun because they’ve been practicing. And they’ll have many more ideas.

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

Friday, April 8, 2016

More activities for baby

Radio commentary

Babies can be hard work because they have so many needs. Most important are their needs for love and attention. Babies can also be delightful and wonderful fun.

Here are some activities they particularly seem to enjoy.

First, babies like to see. They can't see all the colors right away, but they do like to follow things with their eyes.

Your baby will like contrast and brightly colored things. Most of all, she wants to see your face.
Babies also like to hear. Your baby will get used to your voice pretty quickly after he is born.  Soon after that, he will love hearing new sounds.

Babies love music and singing, especially songs that have clapping and rhyme. You can use the “old standards” or even make some up as you go along.

The best way to introduce your child to new words is to talk to him as you do things, even if he can't talk back. Tell him where you are going and what you are doing.

Most importantly, read out loud to your baby. Reading should be part of your child’s daily routine from the time she is born. Point to and name the pictures in the book as you read.

Babies also like to touch. Your baby will start to hold on to you early on — your finger, your hair, your glasses, or earrings.  Simple toys, like soft books or rattles, are also always fun.

Enjoy these things together.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Social skills

Radio commentary

The skills required in a classroom are many and varied.
Children need to know how to take turns, make compromises, approach unfamiliar children, obey those in authority, and be generally nice to others.
Only then are they are socially ready to learn. But no one is born with these skills. They come from repeated and guided interactions with other children at an early age.
Keep in mind that not all the interactions must be positive and pleasant. Children need to understand that others can be unfair and unkind, but that they should not act that way in return.

If young children are never exposed to adversity, they will be much less prepared to deal with it when it arises in situations both inside and outside the classroom.
We like to protect our children from unpleasantness, but at some point they must be able to deal with life’s adversities as well.

So let your children interact with others, and don’t be too quick to intervene in the normal squabbles that can arise.

As long as all seems within normal bounds, let them work it out. They will learn valuable lessons in the process.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


Radio commentary

Children use all of their senses to learn about the world around them.

The objects that they can touch, see, smell, taste, and hear all help them understand the link between a model and the real thing that it represents.
A good example is a map, which represents land masses. Using information from maps and models can help guide your children to a better understanding of the concepts of geography.

For example: Find puzzles of the United States, the world, or even California. By touching and looking at the pieces, children can get a better understanding of where one place is located in relation to others.

Point out where your home is located and then point out where a distant relative or friend lives. Show how far away it is and what route you would travel to get there.
It also helps to use images from books or the Internet to help your children associate geographic terms with visual images.

A picture of a desert, for example, can stimulate conversation about the features of a desert — dry and barren.
Identifying lakes and rivers can start discussions about wildlife and early settlers.

Talk about many different places with your children and help them imagine what it would be like to visit them.

All these discussions help children get a solid concept of geography and why it is important.

“A Poet in Your Pocket"

By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools

The written exchange between John Adams and his wife Abigail are true treasures of American history. But the native New Englander, away from home for months at a time in Philadelphia and Washington trying to preserve a young republic for future generations, also wrote at length to his oldest son, John Quincy, who himself would become president several decades after his father left office.

One of my favorite passages from that exchange is this bit of advice the father gave the son; it is a simple but spot-on observation about the importance of education: “The end of study is to make you a good and useful citizen.”

Adams recognized the importance of cultivating thoughtful citizens through the study of arts and letters. “Read somewhat of the English poets every day,” the elder Adams reminded his son in another letter. “You will never be alone with a poet in your pocket.”

The reminder is especially fitting today, as teachers and students around Santa Barbara County and the country observe National Poetry Month in April.

In modern society, electronic media and digital tools make access to the world’s greatest poetry easier than ever before. These tools allow school children—and adults—the ability to discover a poem with a click of a button. There are also great digital resources that provide teachers and parents innovative things to do with and about poetry. The website recently uploaded an article entitled “30 ways to celebrate National Poetry Month."

Included in this list are some obvious suggestions, like memorizing a poem or reading a poem a day for the entire month. Some suggestions encourage a degree of adventurousness, like reading a poem at an open mic night.

I like this one, which fuses an appreciation of poetry with an element of civic mindedness: “Ask your governor or mayor for a proclamation in support of National Poetry Month.”

There are also great ideas for teachers, too. “Teach This Poem” features one poem a week from an online poetry collection, which is “accompanied by interdisciplinary resources and activities designed to help teachers quickly and easily bring poetry into the classroom.”

Alberto Rios’ beautiful poem “When Giving Is All I Have” imparts powerful lessons in every stanza: “You gave me what you did not have, and I gave you what I had to give,” the poet sings in the moving conclusion. “Together, we made something greater from the difference.” Lessons in collaboration, cooperation, and community are both timely and timeless, for parents, teachers, and students alike.

As we celebrate National Poetry Month, let us remember that “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world," as British poet Percy Bysshe Shelley famously claimed in the early 19th century. While poets might not enjoy the kind of fame that movie stars, politicians, and sports figures do, their impact on society cannot be measured.

Let us also remember that for many children, poetry has helped them grow emotionally, intellectually, and creatively. Whether it is a “poet in your pocket,” an instrument in your hand, or a canvas on an easel, it is never too early to start a life-long love of reading and creating.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Science skills

Radio Commentary

The principles of science form an umbrella over almost everything we do. Many educators feel that science is also one of the most innately interesting subject areas for children.
But sometimes a sheer love of science can get bogged down in the details of memorization of abstract concepts.

To help your child develop an interest in science, try these tips:

  • Discuss family eating habits in terms of how the body uses various kinds of food. The body can be viewed as a machine, and food as the fuel.
  • After you have removed all electrical cords, encourage children to tinker with old clocks or broken appliances to see what makes them “tick.” 
  • Try to hide any distaste you might have for your child’s interest in insects, scummy water, and other unappetizing aspects of nature.
  • Children often find these natural items fascinating and should be encouraged to learn about their environment.
  • Demonstrate scientific thinking by challenging general statements with the question, “How do you know that’s true?” It helps children understand the difference between opinion and fact.
  • Encourage any interest in collecting rocks, leaves, shells, or other natural objects. Provide a place to display and observe the collections.

Explore the many opportunities for science-related outings in our own county, so you can make learning a fun family affair.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Public Schools Month

Radio Commentary

Since 1920, the Free and Accepted Masons of California have sponsored Public Schools Month in April.
The goal of the Masons has been to encourage communities to understand more about their public schools and to enlist support in the cause of public education.

As Frosty Troy, Oklahoma’s Pulitzer Prize winning editor and commentator said when he visited Santa Barbara some time ago, everything America is, or ever hopes to be, depends upon what happens in public school classrooms, where millions of boys and girls will get their chance in life.
In proclaiming Public Schools Month, the Masons always emphasize:  
“It is crucial for America that the youth of our state and nation receive the finest and broadest-based education available … so that our standard of living, technological advancement, and national destiny are maintained.” 

They see public education as the ultimate public service.
It is little wonder that PTA parents are the most ardent supporters of our local public schools — they see first-hand the good news that goes under-reported.
They see, close-up, the real challenges that are overcome and the successes that are achieved every day.

So during Public Schools Month, take a minute to visit a local school. You’ll be impressed at what greets you — enthusiasm, dedication, lots of hard work, and great results. 

Innovations in Education - April 2016

Solvang Arts & Music
Solvang School

Friday, April 1, 2016

Earthquake Prepared Month

Radio Commentary

Every year, April is designated California Earthquake Preparedness Month by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

Though earthquakes can occur virtually anywhere, California is a more frequent site than other parts of the nation.
For this reason, it’s important that California residents, young and old alike, know what to expect and are prepared to act quickly and effectively.

The statewide preparedness project stresses awareness of the risks throughout California and urges people to make an earthquake safety plan at home and at work.
Because schools must comply with the Field Act that requires more earthquake safety features than other structures, schools are often designated as evacuation sites for emergency purposes.

Throughout April, special preparedness activities are held each year for government and emergency services, business and industry, schools, and family and community members.

Our schools have always been an important part of this effort.

Knowing what to do and what not to do is the best defense in an emergency situation. It is the only effective way to minimize harm to people and damage to property.

That’s the kind of information that is spotlighted during Earthquake Preparedness Month. We urge every community member to get involved for the basic safety of all.