Friday, April 28, 2017

A community for kids

Radio Commentary

Sometimes we want so much for our children, and our community’s children, that doing what’s best for them can seem overwhelming.
We can begin to feel that there are too many bases to cover, and too many areas to support or protect to make sure our children get our best efforts.
It can help to focus our energies on a shared vision. A publication called Helping Kids Succeed has a great approach.
It asks us to imagine living in a community where all young people feel loved and supported by their families and neighbors, with many positive, caring places to go.
• Where all young people know what is expected of them — what actions are acceptable and not acceptable. And where they see adults set good examples in those areas;
• A community where all young people believe that education and life-long learning are important, and have strong values that guide their actions;
• A community where all young people have skills to make healthy choices and have good relationships; where all young people feel strong, worthwhile, and connected to some purpose in life.
Finally, it asks us to imagine a community where all young people are valued by everyone.
Imagine the richness of life for everyone in such a community.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Four county schools earn Gold Ribbon School status

News release

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced last week that 275 middle schools and high schools are being honored under the Gold Ribbon Schools Awards Program.
Included among the schools honored were four Santa Barbara County schools: Jonata Middle School of the Buellton Unified School District; and Dos Pueblos High School, La Colina Jr. High School, and Santa Barbara Junior High School, all from the Santa Barbara Unified School District. Jonata, Dos Pueblos, and Santa Barbara Junior High have also received an additional award for being Title I Academic Achieving Schools.
“This is a well deserved recognition, and we congratulate each school on the team effort that goes into the quest for excellence and student success,” said Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone. “The skill, vision, and caring of the teachers, parents, and administrators at these schools enrich the classroom experience and make a remarkable difference for children.”
Schools applied for the award based on a model program or practice their school has adopted that includes standards-based activities, projects, strategies, and practices that can be replicated by other local educational agencies. The award acknowledged elementary schools last year.
The Gold Ribbon Awards recognize California schools that have made gains in implementing the academic content and performance standards adopted by the State Board of Education. These include the California Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics, California English Language Development Standards, and Next Generation Science Standards.
The 2017 Gold Ribbon Schools as well as the 2017 Exemplary Program recipients, Title I Academic Achieving Award Schools, 2017 Green Ribbon Schools, 2017 Civic Learning Award Schools, and the National Blue Ribbon Schools from 2016 (including Los Olivos School), will be honored in May during regional ceremonies held in Costa Mesa, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Visalia, and Sacramento.

Listen to your kids

Radio Commentary

One of the simplest parent tips is one that is often overlooked because it is so obvious:
Listen to your children.
As the saying goes, there is a reason we are given two ears and one mouth.
For parents it is tempting to reverse the ratio and do more talking than listening. After all, there is so much we want our children to learn and do. We are the source of much knowledge, and there is a powerful urge to share it often.
And, of course, talking to children is very good for them. It helps them acquire more of the subtleties of language.
But children also need to talk and to be heard.
When you listen carefully to what children are saying, you send the clear message, “You matter to me. I care about what you have to say. Your ideas and opinions are worthy of being heard.”
Those are powerful messages for children to absorb.
The best advice is to slow down, face your child, even get down to his level, wait, and listen carefully to what he or she has to say.
Avoid the temptation to talk over your children. Don’t finish their thoughts, even if their speech is halting or they are searching for words. Let them find the words on their own, or help with gentle prompting.
Don’t hurry your child to get on with it. Be patient. The time you spend listening will bear long-terms dividends for both of you.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Traits of success

By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools

In a Business Insider article, journalist Drake Baer profiled a handful of prominent, successful people from several walks of life, from the arts to coaching to business.
Despite their different personalities and passions, successful people have several traits in common. The good news is that parents can help nurture and cultivate these traits among their children.
First, successful people enjoy their work. They can be good at it because they like doing it. The late, great poet Maya Angelou had this to say about enjoying what you do: “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”
Successful people almost always have a positive attitude and plenty of confidence that gets them through the rough spots. Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister during the darkest hours of World War II, certainly knew a lot about adversity. But it was his attitude in those adverse circumstances that shaped him.
“Success is going from failure to failure,” Churchill once said, “without losing enthusiasm.” While this quote comes from the middle of the last century, it is just as relevant today. Successful people invariably use negative experiences to discover their strengths. They see negatives as challenges to overcome and to learn from.
Successful people are also decisive, disciplined goal-setters. They don’t let distractions get in the way. Inventor Thomas Edison is arguably the greatest American example of the kind of focus that successful people apply to their endeavors. Edison’s work ethic was legendary. He would sometimes work on a single project uninterrupted for three consecutive days. He truly lived the motto set forth in his famous quote: “Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” 
Successful people are also persistent. They keep at it until the goal is reached, where others may get discouraged and choose another path.
They are also risk takers, in the spirit of “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
They have developed good communication skills and problem-solving skills.
They surround themselves with competent, responsible, and supportive people, and know how to tell the difference.
They are healthy, high-energy people, and they schedule time to renew themselves before problems can arise.
Finally, self-reflection is critical in evaluating one’s success. Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden offered this definition: “Success is peace of mind,” he said, “which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”

Announcement of 2018 Santa Barbara County TEACHER OF THE YEAR

News release

TIME CERTAIN, 2:05 p.m., Thursday, May 4

Board Room, Santa Barbara County Education Office
4400 Cathedral Oaks Road, Santa Barbara

The announcement will take place at the monthly meeting of the Santa Barbara County Board of Education. Following the announcement, media members will be able to pose questions to the Teacher of the Year and conduct individual interviews as requested.
Background information about the teacher will be provided at the press conference. A press release (to be embargoed until 2 p.m. Thursday, May 4) from this office is forthcoming; it will contain the name and some background information on the winner.
The designation is for “2018” because this teacher will be the county’s representative to compete for the state Teacher of the Year, and then proceed to compete for the title of the national 2018 Teacher of the Year.

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.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


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.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Cyber crimes

Radio Commentary

It’s very common for any young person with a camera phone to take a picture with a friend and upload it to an Internet page or post it on a website.
Parents may be unaware that every picture taken by a cell phone now has a geo tag, which provides the exact latitude and longitude where the picture was taken.
This means that anyone who means harm to young people can see a picture online, even an innocuous one, and use the geo tag to find out exactly where the young people are. That’s cause for great concern.
Our office is working in partnership with District Attorney Joyce Dudley to be aggressive in the new battles against cyber crimes and cyber bullying. 
Incidents of bullying via text and online sites are mushrooming, and their impact can be broad and devastating. 
A good strategy for parents is to pay close attention to the ways their children respond to questions and conversation at home. If they have an especially short fuse or are more emotional than usual, and react badly to even mild criticism, they may be experiencing cyber bullying.
It’s also important to notice changes of any kind in a child’s behavior, such as a good student not wanting to go to school, or an outgoing child becoming withdrawn.
Most important of all, parents must monitor their children’s Internet activity and behaviors to make sure their children know not to frequent sites that are dangerous. We all have to work together in this area, because adults are truly playing catch-up.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Work ethic

Radio Commentary

Author and child advocate Marian Wright Edelman wrote a book for her children, “The Measure of our Success,” that outlines 25 lessons for life.
In it, she states: “Don’t be afraid of hard work or of teaching your children to work. Work is dignity and caring, and the foundation for a life with meaning.”
She writes that far too many children of privilege, of the middle class, and of the poor, are growing up without a strong work ethic, and too many are growing up without work at all.
It once was a given that children would work, sometimes after school, sometimes during weekends, always during the summer.
Though the goal was to earn money, these jobs were also a way to instill a work ethic, providing meaningful use of a young person’s time.
Edelman said too many people today are obsessed with work for the sole purpose of “ensuring their ability to engage in limitless consumption.”
She adds: “An important reason much of my generation stayed out of trouble is that we had to help out at home and in the community, and did not have time — or energy — to get into trouble.”
This is not the case with many of our children today. Leisure pursuits are highly valued by young and old alike.
Recreation, sports, and entertainment have filled the space once reserved for employment. And many of the values learned in the workplace are finding no method for delivery in a society obsessed with fun and pleasure.
There is dignity in work, and it’s never too early to learn that lesson. We short-change our children if we imply that fulfillment can be gained only from activities that are fun.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Relaxed and receptive

Radio Commentary

High-stakes testing is a fact of life. Students of all ages will take standardized tests throughout their school careers.
While some students are naturals at test-taking, others need help to do their best.
A publication titled “Principal Communicator” outlines four conditions that can help parents help their children feel confident about tests.
They all start with “R”: being Receptive Relaxed, Ready, and Rested.
Being “Receptive” is important. Parents can help young people develop a receptive attitude toward school in general, and testing in particular.
They can do this by making sure students understand that testing is merely a part of the learning process and that it is a measuring stick for how much they have learned.
The second “R” is for “Relaxed.” Anxiety can block the best-prepared student from doing well on a test.
It’s important to help children avoid getting hung up on how hard a test might be, or the negative consequences of doing poorly.
Being Ready — not cramming at the last minute — and being Rested, by getting a good night’s sleep before the test, are also vital.
Make sure your child knows you have confidence in them to do well, but that your approval of your child as a person does not depend on a test score.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

More good books

Radio Commentary

We know that no single book has all the answers when it comes to good parenting. Even experts disagree on the best practices. Still, we know it can be helpful to read the parenting classics, so here are some bestsellers to consider.
Two competing books offer some good insights on sleep issues.
Dr. Richard Ferber’s Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems became famous for “Ferber-izing” your baby. This is also known as the “Cry It Out Method.” Dr. Ferber gives step-by-step instructions, and this book is still considered one of the gold standards when it comes to getting a child to sleep through the night and nap during the day.
Taking a counter-approach is The No-Cry Sleep Solution, by Elizabeth Pantley.
It is set up like a workbook, allowing parents to review options and put together a customized sleep plan unique to their baby’s needs.
For those who want to gather information at an earlier point, there is the bestselling series, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel.
More than 34 million copies have been sold in the last 30 years. The books in this series are revised to provide up-to-date advice, including information about every stage of pregnancy.
Remember, it’s best to trust your own heart and your own judgment. No one knows your body or your children better than you do. You may not feel like the ultimate expert, but when it comes to your children, you truly are.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Public Schools Month 2017

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: 
And I quote: “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.” End quote.
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.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Reading maps

Radio Commentary

Reading maps is an important skill for everyone to master, whether the map is on paper, a computer, or a GPS screen.
Help by putting your child’s natural curiosity to work. Even small children can learn to read simple maps of their school, neighborhood, and community.
Go on a walk and collect natural materials like flowers or leaves to use for an art project. Map the location where you found each item.
Create a treasure map for children to find hidden treats in the yard or inside your home. This can even be a great idea for birthday parties. Encourage children to play the game with one another, taking turns with hiding the treasure and drawing the map.
See if your child can find your street on a county or city map. Point out where your relatives or your children’s friends live.
Point out different kinds of maps, like state highway maps, city or county maps, and bus route maps. Discuss their different uses.
Before taking a trip, show your children on a map where you are going and how you plan to get there. Look for other routes you could take and talk about why you chose the one you did.
Children sometimes like to follow the map as you travel. If you are on a long trip, you can point out what town you have just reached and ask children to find the next town on your route.
All these activities help with geography skills year-round.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Homework problems

Radio Commentary

Homework is an essential part of schoolwork. There is no getting around it.
It is best when children accept homework as a part of their obligation as a student.
To avoid homework hassles, parents should monitor their children’s assignments. They should act as a resource or coach, but avoid the temptation to do the work for the student.
If problems do arise, despite your support and help, then parents, teachers, students and school personnel need to work together to resolve the issues.
First, share any concerns directly with the teacher.
If a child is refusing to do an assignment, despite your encouragement, there might be some larger issue.
 Also approach the teacher:
• If instructions seem unclear,
• If you can’t seem to help your child get organized to finish the assignments,
• If you can’t provide needed supplies or materials,
• If the assignments appear to be coming too often, or are too hard, or too easy.
Contact the teacher especially if a child has missed school and needs to make up assignments.
Remember that communication between teachers and parents is very important in solving homework problems.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Verbal and nonverbal messages

Radio Commentary

Communication has two parts, verbal and nonverbal. Both aspects convey vital information to the listener.
Verbal, of course, is the portion that is spoken out loud. It includes the words used and how they are put together.
Nonverbal communication is everything else — it includes facial expression, tone of voice, eye contact, posture, hand movements, and other indications of meaning, whether intended or not.
For this reason, it’s important to be very aware of what tone of voice you are using when you speak to your children. 
Often it’s not what you say but how you say it that conveys your underlying message.   
Children are particularly good at picking up on these cues, especially with their parents.
Pay attention to how loudly, softly, quickly, or slowly you speak. 
Remember that you also communicate with eye contact and facial expression. 
If you are looking away it can signal that you are either preoccupied or not being completely direct. 
Saying something too quickly, or too sharply, can undermine the message.
Be sure that all your messages are consistent, in word and expression.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Radio Commentary

Sometimes, family conflict can lead to divorce.
For children of any age, divorce or even separation represents major loss.
One psychiatrist who specializes in this area said, “The scariest thing about divorce for kids under age 6 is the unknown. It can be stressful, sad, and confusing. It is not uncommon for children to think, ‘What will happen to me?’ ”
To ease a child’s anxiety, offer reassurance that things will be okay.
If possible, allow the child to stay in the same school and neighborhood with one parent, to maintain current routines. Stability, structure, and comfort are very important.
For the sake of the children, it’s important to remain as cordial as possible with a former spouse and be cooperative while discussing plans and schedules, especially in your childr
It also helps to maintain the same rules in both households, if possible.
Try not to undermine each other’s decisions, and try not to blame or criticize your ex-spouse in front of your children. It’s confusing and distressing for them to hear.
Presenting a united front can be comforting and helpful for children.
The main goal is to let children know that even though their parents aren’t together, they are still loved. The most healing and reassuring message is to say “I love you” as often as possible.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A strong America starts with great public schools

By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools
“Together we make a profound difference for public education” is the theme of this year’s Public Schools Month, celebrated in April and sponsored by the Grand Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons.
It provides all of us with an opportunity to celebrate our schools. It’s a month for thanking those who make a difference in the all of our classrooms: teachers, parents, educational support personnel, administrators, business partners, and community volunteers.
It’s also a month for spotlighting how important education is to the health and well-being of our children, our economy, and of our nation.
It’s a month for strengthening the connection between public schools and the community they serve, and for renewing partnerships between schools and the public on behalf of students.
This year’s theme is designed to remind people that public schools embody the great American promise of equality of opportunity for all and that they are the cornerstones of a democratic society. As the late Frosty Troy, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for The Oklahoma Observer once said, it is a time to remind policymakers that “American politicians are the only ones on the globe who consider education as an expense rather than an investment.”
Schools do not act in a vacuum. They provide students with both skills and hope for the future. Schools can help students achieve to the best of their potential, but they need the support of parents and community members to help motivate students to take their studies seriously. It is a team effort in every sense of the word.
To make our schools the best they can be requires a commitment from every member of the community, from retired citizens to parents, from business leaders to school board members.
The goal of Public Schools Month since its inception in 1921 has been to increase public understanding and appreciation of the nation’s schools, to encourage parents and non-parents to visit schools, and to build civic and community pride and support for public education.
We urge members of the community to take advantage of this opportunity to see local schools in action. Those who haven’t stepped into a classroom in many years will no doubt be amazed by the depth and breadth of what is being taught.
It’s important to keep in mind that by working together, we can give today’s students the tools they need to be whatever they want to be. Today’s students are tomorrow’s consumers and workforce. We all have a vested interest in their success.