Report Card

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

December 24, 2012
Food literacy group sends students home with bags of produce

fooddrive.JPGLow income students from Capitol Heights Academy in Oak Park carried home bags of fresh fruits and vegetables following a holiday food drive by the California Food Literacy Center.

The Food Literacy Center is working to improve attitudes and behaviors around healthy eating through community outreach and educational initiatives.

The center works with kindergarten-through-fifth grade students, teaching the kids how to read nutrition labels, make healthy meals and explore new foods.

In an effort to provide students with fruits and vegetables over winter break, the center collected around 3,000 pieces of produce in the food drive.

Local residents, Soil Born Farms and Feeding Crane Farms donated in the food drive, which was held outside Nugget Market in West Sacramento.

Officials from the California Food Literacy Center, which was established last year, said prior to beginning its food literacy program, 82 percent of kindergarten and first grade students at Capitol Heights Academy said healthy snacks did not taste good.

A month into the center's food literacy program, the same question had 92 percent of students saying the opposite.

"We are so grateful to this community for stepping up to give these kids a healthy holiday, and we hope everyone will help us sustain these kids throughout 2013 by making a donation to our online campaign," said Amber Stott, executive director, California Food Literacy Center, in a press release.

To make a donation to California Food Literacy Center for its 2013 programs, visit

PHOTO CAPTION: Payam Fardanesh of Roseville drops off several bags of produce to Amber Stott for California Food Literacy Center's Holiday Fruits and Veggies Drive for the low-income children in their program. (Photo courtesy of the California Food Literacy Center.)

December 21, 2012
California's No Child Left Behind waiver was rejected, state says

California has been denied a waiver from federal sanctions associated with No Child Left Behind, said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson in a press release issued today.

"It is disappointing that our state's request - which enjoyed such strong support from parents, teachers, administrators, and education advocates across California--has apparently been rejected," Torlakson said in a statement.

Under the law, 100 percent of students must score at grade level on math and English tests by 2014, a high mark designed to make schools focus attention on their worst-performing students.

Schools that don't meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind two years in a row are placed in "Program Improvement," which forces schools to spend federal Title 1 money on private after-school tutoring or offer students the opportunity to transfer to another school. Schools can also be subject to a state takeover or significant restructuring.

"Based on a thorough examination of federal and state law, California made a good-faith effort to seek relief from requirements that even federal officials have acknowledged time and again are deeply flawed," Torlakson said in the statement. "Working within the framework of existing law, we offered to instead emphasize our own state system of school accountability, which provides far more useful and meaningful measures of school performance."

A Bee story published earlier this week found three-quarters, or 230, of the Sacramento region's Title I schools are in "Program Improvement." That number includes schools in Davis and Rocklin with composite test scores near the 90th percentile statewide. To read that story, click HERE.

"I look forward to thoroughly examining the rationale the Administration provides for its decision, and will continue to explore every avenue for providing California's schools and students the relief they deserve," Torlakson said.

December 20, 2012
Sac City Unified trustees appoint Jay Hansen to school board

Trustees in the Sacramento City Unified School District appointed Jay Hansen to the school board Thursday night at Serna Center.

Hansen will complete the final two years of board member Ellyn Bell's term as the representative of Area 1, which represents Land Park, downtown, midtown and Curtis Park.

Bell, the most senior trustee on the board, is resigning in order to move out of the area for her job.

December 20, 2012
Funds from Affordable Care Act making their way to schools

Students attending five schools on the west side of San Juan Unified will soon have a mobile health clinic to provide primary, dental and mental health care because of funding from the Affordable Care Act. The $376,774 grant is through the Midtown Medical Center for Children and Families.

The federal health program also is providing $500,000 - through The Effort and Sacramento City Unified - to make improvements at the student health clinic at Hiram Johnson High School.

"We are very excited about receiving these important funds, which will allow us to build a new school-based health center at Hiram Johnson with our community partner, The Effort," said Jonathan Raymond, in a prepared statement. "Not only will it serve the students at Johnson, but this will also reach out to other students in the greater community."

December 19, 2012
Twin Rivers police chief resigns in exchange for settlement

Twin Rivers Unified School District reached a settlement with its embattled police chief, who has spent more than a year on paid administrative leave while being investigated for misconduct.

Twin Rivers Chief of Police Christopher Breck tendered his resignation Tuesday night in exchange for $36,500. His wife, Margueritte Dias-Breck, a former Twin Rivers police officer, will receive $1,000 in the settlement.

In addition, Dias-Breck will receive $112,500 to settle two workers compensation claims, contingent on the approval of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board, said Twin Rivers spokeswoman Zenobia Gerald.

Efforts to reach Breck and Dias-Breck were unsuccessful Wednesday.

School board president Cortez Quinn said the settlement was in the best interest of the school district. "This bring closure to this part of our district's history," Quinn said. "We are moving forward and continuing to do our work educating our children."

Breck's settlement and resignation were reached following a 6-1 vote at Tuesday's school board meeting. Trustee Linda Fowler was the lone no vote.

Fowler said Wednesday that she felt it was "unethical" to pay Breck when there are substantial allegations against him. "I think there is enough evidence for termination for cause," she said.

Breck was placed on paid leave Nov. 10, 2011, soon after allegations of wrongdoing in his school police department first publicly surfaced. Those allegations included excessive car towings that profited the police force and the existence of unregistered weapons stored in the department's evidence room.

He earned $116,000 as Chief of Police with Twin Rivers.

For more on this story, read The Sacramento Bee on Thursday.

December 19, 2012
Sac City trustees scheduled to vote on new board member

Trustees in the Sacramento City Unified School District are scheduled to make an appointment Thursday for Trustee Area 1, a seat held by resigning board member Ellyn Bell.

An appointed candidate would serve out the two years remaining on Bell's term. Bell said she plans to move to San Francisco next month for her job. Her last day as a trustee is Dec. 23.

If an appointment is not made during the meeting, the Sacramento County Office of Education will order a special election at the school district's cost, as required by state Education Code. The county Elections Department has estimated a special election will cost between $137,000 and $274,000.

The school district may end up holding a special election regardless of whether an appointment is made.

An outside coalition said it plans to hold a recall petition if someone is appointed to Bell's seat, which represents Land Park, downtown, midtown and Curtis Park. The Sacramento County Office of Education said nearly 2,500 signatures would be required to remove an appointed trustee and hold a special election.

Annette Deglow, one of the original petitioners of measures that created trustee area elections in Sacramento City Unified, said the petition to force a special election is "ready to go."

Deglow is a member of the coalition Citizens to Elect School Boards by Areas, which joined the district's five bargaining groups in urging trustees to allow voters in Area 1 to decide who represents them.

Washington Unified in West Sacramento recently went through a similar process. Petitioners gathered 345 signatures to force a special election after trustees appointed a board member to fill a vacated seat. The special election is scheduled for March 5.

Candidates for the Sacramento City Unified seat are Gwynnae Byrd, Jay Hansen, Bina Lefkovitz, Anna Molander, David Ross and Kathryn Tobias.

Thursday's open session begins at 6:30 at Serna Center, 5735 47th Avenue, Sacramento.

To read the applications of each candidate, click HERE.

To watch a video of the candidates being interviewed by trustees, click HERE.

December 17, 2012
Are local schools safe? Some taking closer look

It's Monday and the kids were back in school after a weekend at home. But today was different than most Mondays. It comes on the heels of the shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at a school in Newtown, Connecticut. Parents and students are worried. They are wondering if the schools are safe.

Locally that is hard question to answer. Many school districts have decreased the police presence on their campuses in order to balance budgets. In the Sacramento region that means that there is a police presence at most high schools and at some middle schools, but rarely at elementary schools.

At least one school district has completely eliminated its police contract citing budget problems. Instead a handful of staff members have been trained and designated as school security.

December 14, 2012
Sacramento-area educators respond to Connecticut tragedy

Educators throughout the Sacramento region are sending out messages of condolence and comfort in response to the shooting deaths of 27 people - including 18 small children - at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. this morning.

"Our hearts go out to the victims, their families and the community," said Debra La Voi, superintendent of Woodland Joint Unified School District in a letter to faculty and families. "This is a time we will all need to stay strong and stay connected so our children feel support and safety."

LaVoi said counselors would be available for students "on Monday, Dec. 17, and beyond if necessary." She directed parents to sign onto their School Loop account or to visit the
District website - - and to look under Parent Resources to find tips to help them to speak to their children about the tragedy.

December 11, 2012
Galt Joint Union wins $10 million federal grant

Galt Joint Union Elementary School District is $10 million richer after winning one of 16 awards in the latest federal Race to the Top contest, announced the U.S. Department of Education this morning.

The money is part of $400 million that the U.S. government is awarding to school districts that have well-developed plans to personalize and deepen student learning, improve student achievement, close achievement gaps and prepare students to succeed in college and their careers, according to federal officials.

Galt Joint Union, which had a $29 million budget this school year, will receive the funds over four years. The program laid out by the district in its application includes learning centers at school libraries and a plan of continued improvement that includes evaluations of teachers, principals and the superintendent, said Karen Schauer, district superintendent earlier this month.

December 7, 2012
Sacramento school board opening could be headed for special election

The Sacramento City Unified School District may be headed toward a special election to fill an open trustee seat at a cost estimated to be between $137,000 and $274,000.

The district's five bargaining groups and an outside coalition are urging trustees to reconsider their decision to appoint someone to resigning board member Ellyn Bell's seat.

At 5:30 p.m. tonight, Sacramento City Unified trustees are scheduled to interview six candidates for the Area 1 seat, which includes Land Park, downtown, midtown and Curtis Park.

December 5, 2012
Principals have found recipe for success

REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK: Maria Lewis, Canen Peterson, Nancy Purcell and Roxanne Mitchell have more in common than just being principals.

They seem to have hit on the magic ingredients needed to turn ailing schools around.
After interviewing each of the principals for my series on successful principals, it is obvious their similarities far outnumber their differences. So what is their secret?

1. All four of the principals immediately established order at their schools by putting rules in place and enforcing them. These principals and their staff are on the grounds during passing periods and lunch breaks. Discipline is coupled with positive reinforcement.

December 3, 2012
Torlakson selects Mira Loma student for national honor

Kao.jpgGolden Apple: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson selected two California high school students to the highly competitive United States Senate Youth Program, including Mira Loma High School student Josephine Kao.

Torlakson selected Kao and Deeksha Goyal of Redlands East Valley High School in San Bernardino County for their "outstanding scholastic achievement, leadership qualities and strong commitment to their schools and communities," according to a press release from the California Department of Education.

Two alternates - Anna Page of San Diego and Stefano Rumi of Los Angeles - were also selected.

"I'm amazed at what these four outstanding young people have accomplished," Torlakson said in a press release. "They are among California's - as well as the nation's - top scholars, and I applaud their achievements, both inside and outside the classroom."

Kao, who lives in Roseville, was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to be the student board member of the California State Board of Education.

She is a synchronized figure skater with a 4.83 weighted grade point average, a former president and current commissioner on the Placer County Youth Commission; speech captain of the nationally acclaimed Mira Loma Speech and Debate Team; second-place winner at the 2012 California State Speech Tournament for Original Oratory; teen councilmember of the Roseville Teen Library Council; outreach manager and grant writer for the Arden Creek Project Natural Resources (internship) and founder of the local Literacy is for Everyone!

Kao plays the harp as a volunteer for the Kaiser Permanente Spiritual Healing Program. She plans to pursue economics and international relations in college.

"I am interested in pursuing a career that will incorporate my love for motivational public speaking, global economic development, and research," she wrote in her USSYP application. "It is a goal of mine to one day start a nonprofit organization that supports educational opportunities for youth in developing nations."

High school principals nominate students for the Senate Youth Program. Students are then reviewed by a state Department of Education committee and sent to Torlakson for selection.

For more information on the U.S. Senate Youth Program, click HERE.

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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