Report Card

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

November 29, 2012
Career fair sets up at juvenile hall to help teens visualize future

scoe.JPGThe Sacramento County Office of Education teamed up with the Sacramento County Probation Department today for a career and resource fair for incarcerated teens at the Sacramento County Juvenile Hall.

Many of the teens at the detention facility eagerly inspected the 12 booths highlighting different career, training and educational opportunities.

"They are trying to give us a second chance and I appreciate that," said Earl, a 14-year-old awaiting a group home placement. "It has people thinking there are opportunities out there."

The brainchild of Darlene Furtado, a special education technician in SCOE's WorkAbility Program, the career fair brought in a dozen vendors, including Wyo Tech, Sacramento Regional Conservation Corps and a Paul Mitchell cosmetology school.

"This is important because it's so necessary," said Furtado, who used to work on special education assessments for students in the court school program. "These kids made mistakes, but they can turn their lives around."

Vicki Talo, a case manager for a youth program run by the North State Building Association, said programs that reach out to troubled youth are critical.

"I was one of these youths," Talo said. "I overcame a lot. If I can do it, so can they."

Read The Bee on Friday for the full story.

Photo: Vicki Talo, a case manager for a youth program run by the North State Building Association, speaks to a youth inmate at Sacramento County Juvenile Hall. (Photo courtesy of Tim Herrera / SCOE.)

November 28, 2012
Sac City candidates forum scheduled for Thursday

The Sacramento Council of Parent Teacher Associations is hosting a community candidates forum Thursday for residents living in Sacramento City Unified School District's Area 1, which includes Land Park, downtown, midtown and Curtis Park.

The school district's elected board member, Ellyn Bell, is resigning with two years remaining on her term. Trustees will appoint her replacement from a pool of six applicants on Dec. 20.

The candidates are Gwynnae Byrd, Jay Hansen, Bina Lefkovitz, Anna Molander, David Ross and Kathryn Tobias. Candidate Harold Stewart-Carballo withdrew his application Tuesday and candidate Samara D. Palko was disqualified because she does not live in Area 1.

The forum is at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at California Middle School, 1600 Vallejo Way, Sacramento. Childcare is available.

November 28, 2012
Video: Urijah Faber delivers inspirational message to students

Faber.JPGMixed Martial Arts fighter Urijah Faber was the special guest at Hiram Johnson High School today after 200 students wrote letters asking him to come to their campus.

English teacher Peter Vidovich had students work on persuasive writing through an assignment that challenged them to convince Faber to come to their school.

Vidovich said he thought Faber would be a good role model for students since he once lived near the school, graduated from UC Davis and now has a successful fighting career and several business ventures.

"I think it's really cool he came here," said student Patrick Xiong, 15. "It was really inspiring."

Watch the short video below of Faber speaking to students and check out The Bee on Thursday for the full story.

November 27, 2012
Hot Cheetos and Takis are bad for kids stomachs, experts say

Barbara Anderson of the Fresno Bee also wrote about Hot Cheetos and Takis. Some pediatricians say the fatty, salty snacks are bad for kids.

The spice increases stomach acidity, so children "get stomach aches, sometimes so terrible they're doubled over in pain," said Yvonne Juarez, chief of pediatrics at Kaiser Permanente-Fresno. "I've had patients go to the ER because of it. It's insane, absolutely insane."

An earlier item on this blog quoted an article that said that principals were starting to ban the popular treats. Click HERE to see a video of kids rapping about the snacks.

November 26, 2012
Sacramento website teaches English to pupils worldwide

GOLDEN APPLE: They've done it again. The staff at the Sacramento County Office of Education will be presented with its sixth Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association Saturday, Dec. 1.

The county Office of Education has come up with a number of innovative programs in recent years that have gained recognition from CSBA.

The latest award is for a website that is teaching English to people all over the world. The interactive site was developed primarily for immigrant adults with limited English language skills who can't attend traditional classroom programs, according to SCOE officials

"We launched U.S.A. Learns in November of 2008 and since then the program has been used by nearly 3.8 million learners, two-thirds of them from the United States," said John Fleischman, SCOE assistant superintendent of technology services in a prepared statement. "Its popularity and the loyalty of learners are powerful testimony for both the need and the appeal of using the Web to provide English language instruction."

November 20, 2012
Sacramento trombonist awarded coveted $225,000 scholarship

Michael Wang.jpgThis week's Golden Apple goes to Sacramento trombonist Michael Wang, who was awarded Berklee College of Music's coveted Presidential Scholarship.

The four-year scholarship is valued at approximately $225,000 and covers tuition, housing and fees, school officials said. It is awarded each year to seven of the most talented young musicians across the world.

Wang is a graduate of Rio Americano High School. He was first introduced to music through classical piano lessons while he was in elementary school. In sixth grade, he joined his school's band and randomly selected a trombone when he saw it was available in the storage room, according to a press release from Berklee officials.

"Once I started playing trombone, I felt the desire to find my own voice on the instrument and to express who I am as a musician, something I never had the urge to contemplate back in my piano playing days," Wang said in the press release.

Wang eventually became devoted to jazz and excelled in a big band setting. He aspires to become a working jazz musician and performer.

Berklee College of Music is in Boston.

(Photo courtesy of Berklee College of Music.)

November 19, 2012
Sacramento Sheriff declines Twin Rivers Unified's leadership request

Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones declined Twin Rivers Unified School District's request for interim leadership for its school police department, saying he has little faith in the school trustees overseeing the police force.

Jones' comments Monday came after a strongly-worded letter he wrote to Twin Rivers' outgoing legal counsel was obtained by The Bee.

In the letter, Jones said his decision against loaning leadership was based on the "Board's inability to maintain the integrity of personnel and other decisions, to the detriment of ongoing efforts."

Jones said this led to at least one instance in which the board significantly interfered in an administrative personnel investigation.

"Information that was supposed to stay confidential was let out and if you look at it in this perspective, that's what happened here," Jones said Monday. "Someone put out this letter purposefully ... I never intended this letter to become public."

In Jones' letter, he characterized the district's school board as meddlesome and inconsistent.

November 16, 2012
Twin Rivers moves forward with new law firm, audit

Twin Rivers Unified School District trustees voted 5-2 to sign a contract with the law firm Fagan, Friedman and Fulfrost during Thursday evening's school board meeting. Trustees Michael Baker, Bob Bastian, John Dexter, Walter Garcia Kawamoto and board president Cortez Quinn each voted in favor of the contract to have the firm take over as the district's general counsel.

Trustees Linda Fowler and Rebecca voted against the contract.

In another split vote, Twin Rivers trustees voted 4-3 to hire Knapp, Peterson & Clarke to perform an audit of billings from the district's previous law firm Timothy M. Cary and Associates. The district will pay $25,000 for KPC to perform a review of 15 percent of legal bills and trustees will make a decision about whether to continue the review after initial findings are submitted.

The audit could cost as much as $145,000 for a full analysis and more than $200,000 for a full forensic audit, according to the school board agenda.

Trustees Bastian, Dexter, Kawamoto Garcia, and Quinn voted in favor of the audit, while Fowler, Baker and Sandoval voted against it.

For the back story on each of these votes, read my story leading up to Thursday's meeting HERE.

November 16, 2012
Split vote extends Sacramento city schools chief's contract

Sacramento City Unified School District trustees voted 4-2 to extend Superintendent Jonathan Raymond's contract until 2015 during Thursday night's school board meeting.

Trustees Donald Terry, Patrick Kennedy, Jeff Cuneo and Darrel Woo voted in favor of Raymond's contract, while board president Diana Rodriguez and Gustavo Arroyo voted no. Board member Ellyne Bell was absent.

Raymond's contract was pulled from the consent agenda for discussion, prior to it being passed. The contract was previously negotiated and approved by trustees in closed session prior to Thursday's board meeting.

Raymond's salary of $245,000 will remain the same, but his retirement annuity will be increased from $11,500 to $15,000 and his monthly expense and travel allowance will increase from $750 to $1,000.

For more on his contract and what trustees had to say prior to the vote, read my previous story HERE.

November 15, 2012
Teacher's wish comes true, new shoes for students

shoes.JPGMany of the students in Lisa Liss' fifth grade class need a new pair of shoes as the rainy season approaches.

"Some of these kids have never had a pair of new shoes," Liss said in a press release highlighting a promotion that has granted her wish for each of her students to receive a new pair of shoes.

Thirty-three pairs of New Balance shoes will be delivered to Woodlake Elementary School, a high-poverty school in the Twin Rivers Unified School District, thanks to local radio station 98 Rock and Roseville Hyundai's Christmas wish granting promotion.

Liss' students had their feet measured Wednesday and the shoes will arrive next month.

Last year, Liss created an outreach program in hopes that each of her students would receive two new school uniforms, socks and a small gift around Christmas. Within three days, her efforts paid off as pledges poured in to outfit her whole class.

Photo caption: Thirty-three students from Lisa Liss' fifth grade classroom at Woodlake Elementary School were measured for new shoes from the New Balance shoe store in Roseville thanks to 98 Rock and Roseville Hyundai. (Photo courtesy of Roman Rykun / Twin Rivers Unified.)

November 14, 2012
Roseville school board votes to change controversial policy

The board of the Roseville Joint Union High School District voted Tuesday to revise a controversial policy that sparked a First Amendment debate after its approval last month.

The policy, which gave the superintendent the right to approve advertising in student publications, drew local media attention as well as scrutiny from the Student Press Law Center in Virginia.

Adam Goldstein, an attorney advocate for the Student Press Law Center, raised concerns that the district was opening itself up to more liability than it was protecting itself against by limiting student speech and religious expression.

The revised policy approved Tuesday still limits commercial advertising on district property, but eliminates restrictions on school newspapers and yearbooks.

"I think it's a delightfully appropriate decision on the part of the board and on the part of administrators," said Karl Grubaugh, adviser of the award-winning Granite Bay (High) Gazette, one of five newspapers in the district.

Read more in Thursday's Sacramento Bee

November 12, 2012
Jonathan Raymond takes on New York Times columnist

Columnist Thomas Friedman of the New York Times wrote a column recently praising Race to the Top - the federal program that gave states financial incentive for reform. He said the RTT "set off a nationwide wave of reform."

Sacramento City Unified Superintendent Jonathan Raymond disagreed vehemently in the Washington Post's Answer Sheet blog recently.

He said RTT's "heavy-handed, top-down mandates create division and derision within the public education community" and that it throws "education stakeholders into enemy camps by prescribing the kind of evaluation system for teachers that must be put in place for a state to receive badly needed federal dollars."

What do you think?

November 12, 2012
Veterans can finally earn high school diplomas

U.S. veterans and Japanese American citizens whose quest to graduate from high school was interrupted by military service or internment can sign up to receive their diplomas through the Sacramento County Office of Education Operation Recognition Program.

The program has bequeathed diplomas to 163 veterans and Japanese American citizens since it began in 2001. Eight of the diplomas were awarded posthumously.

Sacramento County residents can request diplomas on behalf of themselves or family members. Veterans must show proof of honorable discharge from World War II, the Korean War or the Vietnam War. Japanese American citizens must show proof of internment in a World War II relocation camp.

Applications are available at or at the Sacramento County Veterans Service Office at 2007 19th Street.

November 9, 2012
Elk Grove Unified students campaign to stop cyberbullying

Elk Grove Unified students are taking a stand against cyberbulling with their #UnfollowBullying campaign.

Hundreds of middle and high school students have signed pledges and taken part in multiple activites promoting the campaign. A banner at Florin High School is filled with student pledges and students at Toby Johnson Middle School have dedicated their weekly video newscast to the issue of cyberbullying, according to district officials.

Dozens of students - and a few teachers - have tweeted anti-bullying messages with the hashtag #UnfollowBullying.

The campaign is student created and led, according to a press release from the district. Various campaign activities are planned through November.

More information can be found at

November 9, 2012
Sacramento County school board races too close to call

Two school board races in Sacramento County are still too close to call.

Natomas Unified incumbent Susan Heredia is less than 400 votes ahead of her closest challenger, Ryan Herche, in a hotly contested race for three seats, according to Sacramento County election results released this afternoon. Heredia had 4,726 votes and Herche had 4,349. Trailing behind Herche are Scott Dosick with 4,114 votes, Karen Bernal with 3,817 votes and Bruce Roberts with 3,520 votes.

Ballots are still being counted and more results are expected to be released next week.

In Natomas Unified's 2010 board election, it took 17 days to confirm a winner after two candidates were separated by 20 votes.

Pam Costa has clearly won one of the three seats on the San Juan Unified school board, with 50,875 votes in an at-large election.

But things get a little tighter in the race for the last two seats, with about 2,000 votes dividing each candidate. Saul Hernandez, with 32,042 votes, and incumbent Lucinda Luttgen, with 30,180 votes, are currently in the running for the seats. But Mike McKibbin who has 28,275 votes or Mark Lennon with 27,302 could still come back to win when all the ballots are counted.

November 8, 2012
Should voter approval be lowered for school parcel taxes?

Local school officials urged the Legislature to consider wielding its new supermajority powers to change the parcel tax threshold from a 2/3 majority vote to the 55 percent threshold needed for school bonds.

This morning on Capital Public Radio's Insight show, Davis Joint Unified trustee Richard Harris and San Juan Unified Superintendent Glynn Thompson both said now is the time to leverage changes in the Legislature to make it easier for school districts to pass parcel taxes that go toward programs, such as music and arts.

Harris questioned why parcel taxes require a much higher voter approval than bonds for facility upgrades. Harris told Insight's host Beth Ruyak that the 2/3 approval is "a heck of a majority on anything, it's a landslide."

On Tuesday, Davis Joint Unified narrowly renewed its parcel tax with 69 percent approval. Measure E will stave off millions in projected cuts in 2013-2014 and was the fifth such measure before Davis voters since 2007.

On Tuesday, voters approved school bonds in San Juan, Sacramento City and Folsom Cordova Unified.

Listen to Ruyak's interview, which included Sacramento City Unified trustee Patrick Kennedy, by clicking HERE.

Read Diana Lambert's story about local school bonds by clicking HERE.

November 8, 2012
Lunchtime has gone to the dogs at Theodore Judah Elementary

photo (2).JPGStudents in the JUMP mentoring program at Theodore Judah Elementary School in Folsom are visited each Thursday by the dogs from Leap of Heart.

The Leap of Heart programs visits schools, hospital, senior care homes and other places that people could benefit from a canine visit.

The kids at Judah Elementary read books to the canines, earning stickers with the dog's likeness. Here, Jessa Ramay reads a book to Gracie today at lunchtime while volunteer Laurie Phillips looks on.

November 6, 2012
New faces may be coming to local school boards

School board novices led initial returns in the Elk Grove and San Juan school districts, while two of three seats in Natomas Unified remained close.

In Sacramento City Unified, Christina Pritchett led as of 11 p.m. with 43 percent of the vote over Eric Sunderland (28 percent) and Mark Ambrose (27 percent) for the Area 3 seat filled by Donald Terry.

"There was a lot of hard work," Pritchett said Tuesday night. "That's for sure."

Pritchett said she took her daughter, son and father to get a massage and didn't check her phone until 9 p.m. At that point, she said she saw messages congratulating her for her early lead.

"I broke out in tears," Pritchett, a school volunteer said. "I've been so involved in the community and it's paying off in the results."

Sacramento City Unified incumbent Patrick Kennedy held a strong lead in Area 7 with 63 percent, while challenger Ralph Merletti held 36 percent of initial returns.

November 6, 2012
Sacramento-area voters favoring school bonds

Sacramento-area school bond measures are doing well at the polls. These bonds will help schools update their facilities and build new ones.

Folsom Cordova Unified's $68 million Measure P has collected 67 percent of the vote in early returns.

San Juan Unified's Measure N - a $350 million bond - also is faring well, with 57 percent of the voters saying yes in early returns.

Sacramento City Unified's measures Q and R - $414 million - are collecting almost identical votes with 65 percent and 64 percent of the voters saying yes in early returns.

November 5, 2012
School meals innovator wins award

GOLDEN APPLE: This week's Golden Apple goes to Brenda Padilla, a nutrition services manager for Sacramento City Unified School District. The California Endowment honored Padilla with the "Health Happens Hero" award for her efforts to deliver 40,000 nutritious meals to local students each day.

The California Endowment said Padilla increased the use of locally grown produce and developed well-received recipes that meet new nutrition guidelines.

"Our kids love the food, and we love preparing it for them, because we know it's fresh and delicious and will give them the energy they need to succeed," Padilla told the California Endowment.

For more on the award, visit

November 2, 2012
Sac City asking for candidates to fill resigning trustee's seat

The Sacramento Unified School District school board will appoint a new trustee to complete the two years remaining on resigning board member Ellyn Bell's term.

In a 6-0 vote on Thursday night, the board opted to appoint the seat instead of holding a costly special election, said district spokesman Gabe Ross.

A special election could have cost the school district an estimated $270,000.

Bell, who represents Area 1, took a job in San Francisco six months ago and said she plans to relocate there at the beginning of the year.

The deadline to apply for the board seat is Nov. 14. Candidates must live in Area 1, which includes Land Park, downtown, midtown and Curtis Park.

For more information and to apply, visit

November 2, 2012
Once-banned Stephen King book will remain in Rocklin High library, district decides

A book that was briefly banned at Rocklin High School will remain in the library following the release of a district committee's report Friday.

The Rocklin Unified committee was charged with reviewing a mother's request to remove Stephen King's "Different Seasons" from the high school library because of what the parent said was a graphic rape scene in the book.

Rocklin High School formed a committee at the beginning of the school year to review the book and determine whether it was appropriate. That committee voted to remove the book, prompting the lone dissenter, Rocklin High student Amanda Wong, to take her concerns about censorship to the school district.

November 2, 2012
Are Sacramento area districts posting enough online?

It's an issue that's been raised by Elk Grove candidates running for school board: Are school districts posting enough information online when it comes to school board meetings?

We took a look at Sacramento County's largest school districts.

Twin Rivers Unified offers its board packet, agenda, minutes and other documents online in a nifty clickable format easy for users.

Sacramento City Unified's online access to board packets isn't quite as user friendly, but it offers the most information. The site has school board agendas, minutes, video recordings and full board packets that even includes the last month of general fund expenditures - itemized - for all board meetings. It hyperlinks all the background materials to each agenda item, so viewers can click on anything they want more information about.

San Juan Unified offers all its board agendas and minutes online but, like Twin Rivers Unified, doesn't put hyperlinks to background materials on its agendas, sometimes forcing readers to shuffle through hundreds of pages of documents in the board packet to find needed materials.

But all the larger Sacramento County districts do a better job of putting agendas, board packets and minutes online than Elk Grove Unified. The area's largest district offers up board agendas only. There are no minutes, no video and no board packets online for parents and residents.

November 1, 2012
New law firm, new lawsuit threat in Twin Rivers Unified

By Melody Gutierrez

Twin Rivers Unified School District trustees reversed their vote on which law firm they'd like to hire following a special board meeting Wednesday night.

Board members voted 4-3 to hire Fagen, Friedman and Fulfrost. The move comes days after Twin Rivers trustees voted 4-3 on Saturday to hire Meyers Nave. However, after the Meyers Nave vote, board member Bob Bastian said he mistakenly voted for the firm when he intended to vote for Fagen, Friedman and Fulfrost.

No contract had been signed with Meyers Nave.

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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