Report Card

News and discussion on K-12 schools in the greater Sacramento region

September 30, 2012
Elk Grove Candidates Night on Access Sacramento

Access Sacramento is airing the video of the Elk Grove Candidates Night hosted by The Sacramento Bee, Patch and The forum included the candidates for Elk Grove mayor as well as for the Elk Grove Unified School Board. It can also bee seen on YouTube.

September 28, 2012
Rocklin Unified retaliated against school nurses, judge says

The Public Employment Relations Board found Rocklin Unified School District retaliated against four nurses and ordered the district to reinstate them with two years of back pay, plus 7 percent interest.

In a ruling released today, Administrative Law Judge Robin Wesley found Rocklin school district violated the Educational Employment Relations Act by laying off nurses Jennifer Hammond, Genevieve Sherman, Susan Firchau and Jennifer Bradley.

"We've always been very unhappy with what happened and we feel vindicated," Hammond said today. "I'm ready and willing to take my job back."

The Rocklin Teachers Professional Association filed an unfair practice charge against the school district in 2010, alleging the four nurses were laid off in retaliation for asking their union for assistance regarding workload and safety issues.

In PERB documents, the district argued that the nurses routinely said no to many requests and claimed their nursing licenses would not let them perform certain work.

For more on this story, read Saturday's Bee.

September 27, 2012
Sacramento Police may lead Twin Rivers cops, district says

The Twin Rivers Unified School District is working on a contract with the Sacramento Police Department to have a police captain and lieutenant help the school district's police department with short term oversight.

Sacramento Police Captain James Beezley would be assigned to the Twin Rivers Police Department for administrative functions at the request of the district's school board, said Assistant Superintendent Tom Janis.

Janis said he did not know who the lieutenant would be.

"We are trying to work together," Janis said. "We have common goals and our jurisdictions overlap."

Beezley has been with the Sacramento Police Department for 20 years and is currently the fiscal and personnel captain.

The Twin Rivers school police force has faced a year of continued scrutiny, from allegations of excessive car tows in order to generate profit to a former officer facing criminal charges for allegedly assaulting detainees.

September 26, 2012
How did your school do on SAT and AP exams?

Some great new data was posted this morning on The Bee's website by reporter Phillip Reese showing how public high school students in California scored on the SAT and Advanced Placement exams in 2011.

Standouts include Mira Loma High School, where the average SAT score is 1852 and 92 percent of kids taking AP exams earned college credit, and Davis Senior High School, where the average SAT score is 1815 and 85 percent of students taking AP exams earned college credit.

However, it's interesting to note the number of students taking the exams.

At Mira Loma, 48 percent of seniors took the SATs, while 78 percent of seniors at Davis Senior took it. As for AP exams, 15 percent of Mira Loma seniors and juniors took the tests, compared to 56 percent at Davis Senior.

One of the highest SAT participation rates in the state goes to Sacramento Charter High, where 83 percent of seniors took the test. However, the school posted one of the lowest average score in the region of 1221 out of 2400.

Click HERE to visit the database and look up schools.

September 25, 2012
Groups partner to fund Sacramento literacy projects

Do you have an original idea on how to foster literacy in the Sacramento region? Three organizations are teaming to launch the Sacramento Literacy Challenge, which will award $50,000 to support local educational projects.

The University of Phoenix Sacramento Valley Campus, in partnership with online charity and media platform GOOD Worldwide LLC, are encouraging community members to submit their ideas before Oct. 26. Projects will be voted on by the public between Oct. 30-Nov. 13, with the top-voted submission receiving a $10,000 gift card and 10 runner-ups receiving $2,500 in gift cards.

Additionally, the first 100 approved submissions will receive a $100 gift card with the chance to win $1,000 in a random drawing each week. For more information, visit

"Together with University of Phoenix, DonorsChoose and the people of the Sacramento region, we are ready to take a stand against illiteracy," said Jen Chiou, general manager of GOOD.

September 24, 2012
Vista del Lago senior named Outstanding Young Scientist

Shyamal Buch.JPGGOLDEN APPLE AWARD: It's Monday and time for our blog's Golden Apple Award. This week it goes to a young man The Bee has written about many times before - Shyamal Buch.

The Vista del Lago High School senior was named the state's Outstanding Young Scientist by the California Association of Professional Scientists at a luncheon at the Sacramento Zoo on Friday.

Buch was selected for his project titled "Beyond the Nanostructure in Solar Cells,'' which studied new ways to make improved solar cells by analyzing their inner mechanisms, according to a press release from CAPS.

The project had already won Buch top honors at the Sacramento Regional Science and Engineering Fair and at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair earlier this year.

September 20, 2012
Win a ride to school on a fire engine

fire.jpgThe Sacramento Metro Fire Department has come up with the ultimate prize for its contest promoting fire prevention week, a ride to school in a fire engine.

To win, local third- through fifth-graders who live within Sacramento Metro's area can enter the fire department's drawing contest.

The theme this year is "Have Two Ways Out," which promotes the importance of fire escape planning and practice. For more information and to enter, visit

September 19, 2012
Alumni should be told of allegations against teacher, paper says

REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK: A story about ex-Jesuit teacher William Farrington - accused of improper conduct with a student - has sparked controversy here in Sacramento and in Los Angeles.

A Sacramento Bee story outlined how Jesuit High and San Jose's Bellarmine College Preparatory School sent emails to alumni telling them that "credible" accusations had been made against Farrington, who had taught at both schools. It asked anyone who may have been victimized to contact authorities.

The editorial board of the "Los Angeles Loyolan" - Loyola Marymount University's student newspaper - cites the story and asks university officials why they have not issued a similar letter to alumni who may have come in contact with Farrington when he worked in the registrar's office there between 1987 and 2002. The editorial demands "transparency."

September 19, 2012
Dad, can I borrow the helicopter?

A Virginia student created a stir with the over-the-top way he asked a girl to homecoming.

The junior at Patriot High School in Prince William County had a helicopter fly low over the school's grounds and drop a stuffed animal with a message asking a senior girl to the dance.

The story in The Washington Post goes on to say that the student's father is in hot water after word spread quickly about the helicopter stunt. The boy's father is a senior official in air operations at U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Possible misuse of public resources aside ... I've heard it has become popular for students to use creative-if-not-outrageous stunts to ask each other to school dances.

Anyone have local examples?

September 18, 2012
Rancho Cordova students make pinwheels for peace

pinwheels.jpgHundreds of colorful pinwheels lined the sidewalks of Williamson Elementary School today in honor of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.

Students at the Rancho Cordova School were given the assignment on the anniversary of the attacks, said a press release from the Folsom-Cordova Unified School District.

"The students were educated about peace and the promotion of peaceful solutions to national tragedy - especially poignant due to the recent attacks on Americans abroad," said the press release.

(Photo courtesy of Folsom Cordova Unified School District)

September 18, 2012
Crocker Riverside principal takes leave amid allegations

Crocker Riverside Elementary School Principal Carl Westphal will take a medical leave for the remainder of the school year, a move that comes after a sexual harassment complaint and two investigations into his recent actions.

At a parent meeting tonight at 6 p.m., the Sacramento City Unified School District will announce the name of an interim principal to replace Westphal, who will not return to the school after his medical leave, said district spokesman Gabe Ross.

A permanent replacement will likely be named at the end of the school year, Ross said.

September 18, 2012
Fire burns near Folsom-Cordova Unified headquarters

A grass fire is blazing near the brand-new Folsom-Cordova Unified School District administration building at Folsom Boulevard and Highway 50.

See story on the 911 blog.

September 18, 2012
Elk Grove school board candidates meet in forum

School board candidates sparred on issues that included employee relations, school funding and salaries at a candidates' night in Elk Grove yesterday hosted by The Bee, Elk Grove Patch and Elk Grove News.Net.

Candidates spelled out their positions and answered questions from a panel of journalists, including myself.

The lone incumbent Al Rowlett found himself defending the actions of the current board, as challengers tried to convince the audience they could do better.

Many of the candidates - Tony Perez, Steve Ly, Carmine Forcina and James Letoa - have been educators. Most of the candidates at the forum said the district hadn't done a good job of working with its employee unions.

September 17, 2012
Sac City Unified offers free bully prevention trainings

The Sacramento City Unified School District will host free bully prevention trainings for anyone in the community wanting to learn how to identify bullying behaviors and what to do when a child is being victimized.

The school district will host the first of five community trainings beginning Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Luther Burbank High School, 3500 Florin Road.

"We're working hard to raise awareness of bullying so our students can better advocate for themselves when bullying occurs," said Sheila Self, a bullying prevention specialist at Sacramento City Unified.

The trainings coincide with the school district's anti-bullying policy that aims to reduce incidents of bullying on campus and on the Internet.

"Bullying is such a high-profile issue," Self said. "We want to make sure families have the tools to recognize it and get help."

September 17, 2012
Golden Apple: Grant alumni honor history, support students

Grantmuseum.JPGThis blog will feature a weekly Golden Apple award on Mondays where we will spotlight a teacher, student, parent, staff member or community association making a positive impact on local schools.

This week's Golden Apple goes to the Grant Union High School Alumni Association, whose volunteer members operate the high school's alumni museum. Grant alumni have also been raising money to bring back the Pacer's marching band, as featured in a story I wrote last week.

In the past 28 years, the association has awarded $700,000 in scholarships to Grant graduates, including $101,000 last year alone.

September 13, 2012
Questions remain over Twin Rivers school police dog

lacosse.sales.JPGTwin Rivers' Acting Police Chief Scott LaCosse may be in his final days on the job, but the questions that led to his resignation remain. LaCosse and Lt. Mike Sales gave the school district their 30 days' notice on Aug. 28 after school trustees overruled their decision to discontinue the school police force's K9 program.

In a letter sent to school board members on Wednesday, LaCosse said he is "hopeful, but not optimistic, that you will recognize your folly in spending your time 'down in the weeds' rather than setting policy direction and relying on your professional management staff to carry it out."

September 12, 2012
Duncan meets with mayors, school superintendents

duncan.JPGWhile in Sacramento during a national bus tour, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the biggest challenge facing public education is complacency. He challenged parents and students to demand more of those in charge.

Duncan spoke Wednesday to a group of more than 40 mayors and school superintendents from across the state, who met in Sacramento for a panel discussion on education issues, such as California's No Child Left Behind waiver and the hot button topic of tying test scores to teacher evaluations.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson hosted the education panel, which included his wife, Michelle Rhee, founder of the school reform group StudentsFirst.

September 12, 2012
Schools must sign up for student mock election by Sept. 21

The deadline is approaching for California schools to sign up for student mock elections that allow teens to cast unofficial votes for president, U.S. senator, as well as 11 statewide propositions on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

The 2012 MyVote California Student Mock Election program for middle school and high school students has a teacher's guide, election materials and tips for broadening civics lessons. Schools must sign up by Sept. 21 and student votes are cast one week prior to the official election.

"I love these mock elections because they prepare students to become active voters and encourage them to make voting a lifelong habit," said Secretary of State Debra Bowen, California's chief elections officer.

Sign up here.

September 12, 2012
Chris Rock's mom to promote literacy in Rancho Cordova

Folsom Cordova Unified and the city of Rancho Cordova will begin "Remodeling the Village" with the help of comedian Chris Rock's mom.

The Remodeling the Village project, which focuses on promoting literacy and parent empowerment, will be kicked off by Rose Rock at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 29 at the First Covenent Church at 10933 Progress Court in Rancho Cordova. She will talk about parenting and sign her book "Ten Lessons for Raising a Houseful of Successful Children."

Admission is free; reserve seats here. Call (916) 294-9000, ext. 104552, for more information.

The event is sponsored by the Folsom Cordova Unified School District, the city of Rancho Cordova and the Rotary Club of Rancho Cordova. "It is said that it takes a village to raise a child and with this event we hope to be remodeling our local village," said a joint press release from the organization.

Rock will start the day speaking about the importance of literacy at Mills Middle School, 10439 Coloma Rd., at a three-hour event that will start with breakfast and end with lunch.

September 12, 2012
Mayors Education Summit to host Arne Duncan

The Sacramento Bee's Ryan Lillis talks about a visit to Sacramento today by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on his blog "City Beat."

September 11, 2012
Candidates' Night to focus on Elk Grove Unified race

Elk Grove Unified school board candidates will face a panel of journalists at the Elk Grove Candidates' Night from 7 to 9 p.m. on Sept. 17.

The forum, at the Holiday Inn Express at 9175 W. Stockton Blvd., will be hosted by The Sacramento Bee, Elk Grove Patch and Elk Grove News.Net.

The school board hopefuls will take the stage during the second hour of the forum, following mayoral candidates. Eight people are vying for three seats in races that in previous years have generally been uncontested.

September 10, 2012
New name for school honoring explorer, slave owner

Jedediah Smith Elementary School will be renamed in honor of school volunteer Leataata "Tata" Floyd following a unanimous vote by Sacramento City Unified School District trustees last week.

School leaders at Jedediah Smith Elementary began pushing earlier this year for a name change, citing the fact that the explorer, among other things, owned slaves.

Floyd, 70, hosts a popular after-school tutoring and hula dance class at Jedediah Smith Elementary, at 401 McClatchy Way next to two sprawling low-income public housing developments south of downtown.

"In the month of October, we will do a soft roll out with the name change," said school principal Billy Aydlett. "We will have a block party at the school celebrating what Leataata has done for the neighborhood and school."

September 5, 2012
Twin Rivers interim says he is a strong leader

Newly appointed Twin Rivers Unified Interim Superintendent Joseph Williams said one of his top priorities during this school year is to make the school district a place of choice.

Williams was named interim during Tuesday night's school board meeting following a 5-2 vote, with Trustees Walter Garcia Kawamoto and Rebecca Sandoval voting no.

Williams will earn $210,058, plus an $800 monthly car allowance. Williams' contract includes a stipulation that if he is not chosen to be the long-term superintendent before his contract ends June 30, he will become an associate superintendent through 2015 or 2016, said board President Cortez Quinn.

"We chose the right person," Quinn said. "He has been in the business a while ... He will be considered for the permanent position if he applies."

September 5, 2012
Parent Report: A school garden grows in Rocklin

This was submitted by Lisa Thibodeau, a parent with children enrolled in Maria Montessori Charter Academy in Rocklin:

Just three years ago, a quarter-acre plot of land alongside Maria Montessori Charter Academy in Rocklin was weed-ridden, rocky and seemed inhospitable for growing anything. Still, teachers and parents had a vision -- a verdant span of vegetable boxes, surrounded by fruit trees and flowers where the children could get their hands dirty and learn about food. The idea was to build an "outdoor classroom" where the school's 300 kindergarten through eighth-graders could learn not only natural science, but also how to grow their own nutritious food.

Principal Brent Boothby, teacher Petsy Wendt and a few dedicated parents made a plan, and with the help of local business, a few corporate sponsors and many hours of hard work a plentiful garden is growing. The fenced garden boasts irrigation, dedicated vegetable boxes for each classroom, stadium seating, a big red barn and a compost station.

September 4, 2012
Twin Rivers selects Foothill High principal as interim superintendent

williams.jpgBy Melody Gutierrez

Twin Rivers Unified School District trustees named one of the district's high school principals as interim superintendent for this school year, and indicated they will consider him for the permanent job.

Foothill High School Principal Joseph Williams will earn $210,058, plus an $800 monthly car allowance after he was selected interim leader in a 5-2 vote during Tuesday night's board meeting, with trustees Walter Garcia Kawamoto and Rebecca Sandoval voting no.

Kawamoto and Sandoval said their no votes were not directed at Williams, but rather had to do with other issues.

September 4, 2012
Twin Rivers trustees to discuss adding student voices

Among the items to be discussed tonight at the Twin Rivers Unified school board meeting is whether to add a student member to the board.

"It helps keep you focused on the main reason we are there," said Twin Rivers trustee Walter Garcia Kawamoto, who asked to place the student board member discussion on the agenda. "It's good when we discuss policy decisions to have a student's perspective."

The student board member discussion will come after several key decisions tonight, including the possible appointment of an interim superintendent and how the district will move forward with a response to a critical grand jury report released in June.

September 4, 2012
Teacher dress codes not a trend in Sacramento region

UPDATE: USA Today recently reported that more schools are requiring teachers and other staff to follow dress codes.

I surveyed some local school districts to find out if our area is following the national trend.

Apparently not.

About Report Card

Loretta KalbLoretta Kalb started her reporting career at The Sacramento Union, moved to KOVR-13 as a television reporter, editor and producer, headed to The Associated Press in San Francisco and eventually returned to Sacramento and joined The Sacramento Bee. Throughout her career, she has covered the state Legislature, courts, local government and, now, education. She is a Chico native and an Elk Grove resident.

Diana LambertDiana Lambert began her journalism career as a proofreader at the Lodi News-Sentinel. She is now a senior writer at The Sacramento Bee covering K-12 education and California State University, Sacramento. Previously she was The Bee’s Elk Grove bureau chief. Lambert was raised in a military family and lived at bases around the globe. She attended four high schools, graduating from Tokay High in Lodi and then Sacramento State University. She lives in Elk Grove.

(916) 321-1073
Twitter: @LorettaSacBee
(916) 321-1090
Twitter: @dianalambert

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