Report Card

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

January 31, 2013
Do you know where your superintendent is?

If anyone is wondering where their school district superintendent is, they might want to check Monterey.

Superintendents from all over the state showed up at the Monterey Conference Center yesterday for the start of the annual Superintendent's Symposium. The event will continue through tomorrow.

A sampling of the many sessions at the conference includes "The Superintendents' Role in Strengthening Teacher and Principal Evaluation Systems and Process," "Common Core State Standards in Mathematics," "View of Federal Role in California Public Education" and "Changing the Game: Engaging the Community in District Decisions."

The cost to attend is between $1,290 and $345 - depending on the events the superintendent will attend and their status with the Association of California Administrators' - the host of the event. The good news for school districts - if they are paying - is that hotel rooms for the event are listed at less than $200 a night.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson spoke at the retiree recognition luncheon today. He also talked about education budget and the implementation of the Common Core Standards during today's general session.

January 29, 2013
Natomas Unified board to vote on settling land suit

Natomas Unified has apparently come to a tentative settlement with West Lakeside LLC, a development company, and real estate broker Mark Skreden over the purchase of a 41-acre school site in 2007.

As part of the settlement, the district said in its notice of the meeting is has agreed to pay West Lakeside $550,000 to end the lawsuit. Other terms of the agreement haven't been released publicly yet.

The district has called a special board meeting at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday so the board can vote on the settlement agreement.

The district sued West Lakeside - a partnership of developer Angelo K. Tsakopoulos and Woodside Homes - and Skreden in 2009, saying that they overcharged for the property. The district paid $13.3 million for a 41-acre school site - about $10.4 million too much, said school officials at that time.

January 28, 2013
Elk Grove Unified offers open enrollment at 14 schools

Elk Grove Unified School District is offering open enrollment at seven middle and seven high schools.

Children who were living in the district on Jan. 1 are eligible to apply.

Students currently enrolled in sixth and seventh grades can apply to attend Harriet Eddy, Edward Harris, Samuel Jackman, Joseph Kerr, Elizabeth Pinkerton, James Rutter or TR Smedberg middle schools.

Students currently in eighth through 10th grades can apply to Cosumnes Oaks, Elk Grove, Florin, Laguna Creek, Monterey Trail, Sheldon or Valley high schools.

There will be informational meetings at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Laguna Creek High School and at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 4 at Monterey Trail High School.

Parents must complete an open enrollment form for each student seeking transfer. The forms are available at district schools, by calling the Secondary Education office at (916) 686-7706 or by going to

The form must be postmarked or delivered to the Secondary Education Office at the Robert L. Trigg Center, 9510 Elk Grove-Florin Road, by 5 p.m. on Feb. 15.

January 24, 2013
Sacramento City Unified sets school closure meetings

The Sacramento City Unified School District has set a series of 11 community meetings at each of the school sites slated for closure next school year. Beginning next week, district officials and board members will visit each of the schools and talk to parents and community members about the closure proposal.
Trustees are scheduled to vote on the closures Feb. 21. Schools that receive a majority vote from the seven-member board will be closed after the school year ends.
Meetings will be held at 6 p.m. on the following days:

Wednesday, January 30: Tahoe Elementary School, 3110 60th St.
Monday, February 4: Bret Harte Elementary School, 2751 9th Ave.
Monday, February 4: C.B. Wire Elementary School, 5100 El Paraiso Ave.
Tuesday, February 5: James Marshall Elementary School, 9525 Goethe Road
Tuesday, February 5: Susan B. Anthony Elementary School, 7864 Detroit Blvd.
Wednesday, February 6: Mark Hopkins Elementary School, 2221 Matson Drive
Wednesday, February 6: Fruit Ridge Elementary School, 4625 44th St.
Wednesday, February 13: Washington Elementary School, 520 18th St.
Wednesday, February 13: Maple Elementary School,3301 37th Ave.
Tuesday, February 19: C.P. Huntington Elementary School, 5921 26th St.
Tuesday, February 19: Joseph Bonnheim Elementary School, 7300 Marin Ave.

January 23, 2013
Twin Rivers, Wheatland top list of districts not serving all English learners

The California Department of Education could be sued if it doesn't take action to ensure all school districts are offering adequate instruction to English learners, according to civil rights groups.

State data shows that 20,318 English learners attending California schools don't receive any of the instructional services required. The data was submitted by school distircts for the 2010-11 school year, the most recent year available.

The American Civil Liberties Union of California, The Asian Pacific American Legal Center and the law firm of Latham and Watkins held a joint press conference in Los Angles this morning to announce their intent to file a suit if state education officials don't act immediately to fix the problem.

The group issued a report that lists 251 school districts that do not offer any of the required services to at least some of their English language students. Twin Rivers Unified was listed among the 15 districts with the most English learners not receiving services. The district, which has 8,852 English learners, does not offer services to 5 percent of that population - 407 students, according to the report.

Wheatland Union High School District in Yuba County, on the other hand, has the highest percentage of unserved English learners in the state, with 85 percent unserved. The district has only 27 English learners, but only offer four of them classes for English learners.

Rescue Union Elementary School District also makes the report's list with 30 percent of its English learners not receiving services. The district has 131 English language learners.

"Each additional day an EL child goes without language instructional services is another day that child is effectively foreclosed from a meaningful education," said Jessica Price, staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California in a written statement. "The children who are neglected today, in schools with no EL services, become the long-term English learners of tomorrow, sometimes struggling their entire school careers without anyone stepping in to make sure they have the tools to learn."

January 22, 2013
State schools chief calls for moratorium on risky bonds

California Schools Chief Tom Torlakson and state Treasurer Bill Lockyer have asked school district officials to stop issuing capital appreciation bonds.

Many school districts -- short on funds to modernize or build facilities -- have turned to these bonds, which offer cash now with payments that can be pushed off for years, even decades.

Conventional bonds, on the other hand, have payments that start almost immediately, but generally with much lower interest rates.

A letter from the state leaders to school superintendents Thursday asked they not issue CABs until state lawmakers had a chance to consider reform measures that would protect taxpayers.
The bonds unfairly place the "repayment obligation on future taxpayers who likely will not benefit from the capital improvements financed by the payments," said the letter.

January 16, 2013
Sac City school closures: See where students will be assigned

Here is a list of where students are likely to attend next school year if the school closure proposal moves forward in the Sacramento City Unified School District.

Fruit Ridge - Father Keith B. Kenny, Oak Ridge

James Marshall - A.M. Winn, Sequoia

Washington - William Land, Theodore Judah

Tahoe - Father Keith B. Kenny, Mark Twain

C.P. Huntington - H.W. Harkness

Susan B. Anthony - Edward Kemble, Cesar Chavez

Bret Harte - Ethel Phillips, Father Keith B. Kenny, Oak Ridge

Joseph Bonnheim - Earl Warren

Mark Hopkins - John Bidwell, John Sloat

C.B. Wire - Ethel Baker, Pacific, Elder Creek

Maple - Ethel Phillips

January 16, 2013
Sac City Unified identifies schools considered for closure

Sacramento City Unified School District officials released the names of the 11 elementary schools being considered for closure.

The 11 schools are: Washington Elementary in midtown, Maple Elementary in south Sacramento, Collis P. Huntington Elementary in south Sacramento, Susan B. Anthony Elementary in Meadowview, Tahoe Elementary in Tahoe Park, Fruit Ridge Elementary in south Sacramento, James Marshall Elementary in Rosemont, Joseph Bonnheim Elementary in Colonial Village, Mark Hopkins Elementary in Meadowview, Bret Harte Elementary in Curtis Park and Clayton B. Wire Elementary in south Sacramento.

Interactive map: Proposed Sacramento elementary school closings

Sacramento City Unified trustees will meet Thursday to discuss the closures and are scheduled to vote on the issue Feb. 21.

The district estimates a savings of $10 million over four years by closing the 11 schools.

For more on this story, read Thursday's Sacramento Bee.

To ready today's coverage, which includes school board president Jeff Cuneo's reasoning for supporting the closures, click HERE.

What do you think about the district's decision to close 11 schools? Comment below.

January 8, 2013
El Dorado County schools chief Vicki Barber to retire

Vicki Barber will retire at the end of June, after 30 years with the El Dorado County Office of Education, according to a statement released this afternoon.

"It has truly been my honor and pleasure to serve the children, families, school districts, and communities through the El Dorado County Office of Education," said Barber in the statement. ".. I'm so appreciative of the support that public education has received in this county and have deep gratitude for the dedicated and passionate educators who deliver such outstanding service to our students and families every day."

January 8, 2013
New investigation puts cheating scandal to rest, Rhee says

Rhee2.JPGEducation reformer Michelle Rhee said today that a federal investigation should put to rest allegations that educators cheated to improve test scores during her tenure as Washington, D.C., public schools chancellor.

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Inspector General announced Monday that its investigation found no widespread cheating on state standardized tests during 2008-2010.

In a statement, Rhee said the conclusion supports previous investigations into the allegations, which will be the focus of a "Frontline" episode on PBS that is scheduled to air tonight at 10 p.m.

Rhee, the wife of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, runs the national education lobbying group StudentsFirst, which is based in Sacramento and promotes education reform measures.

"The results confirm what we've long believed, that the vast majority of educators would never compromise their personal or professional integrity to cheat on a test, thereby cheating children," Rhee said in the statement.

The hour-long Frontline program, which The Bee reviewed in advance, primarily recounts Rhee's time as the chancellor of public schools in Washington, D.C., two years ago. After detailing her successes and challenges, the program ends by questioning whether tremendous test score gains could be attributed to widespread cheating.

USA Today first reported in 2011 that, during Rhee's tenure, there were a high rate of erasures at Washington schools with high test score gains.

The Frontline segment questioned whether enough was done to investigate the erasure irregularities.

Rhee's statement said the probe by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Inspector General supported previous inquiries and findings by the D.C. Office of the Inspector General and two private investigations.

"At StudentsFirst we believe it is incredibly important to take all allegations of wrongdoing seriously and we thank both offices for doing so," Rhee said in her statement.

January 7, 2013
Cheating scandal resurfaces in Rhee film airing Tuesday

Rhee.JPGEducation reformer Michelle Rhee is in the news today and will continue to be as a Frontline television documentary is scheduled to air Tuesday.

The hour-long program, which The Bee reviewed, mostly recounts Rhee's time as the chancellor of the Washington, D.C., public school system two years ago. After detailing her successes and challenges, Frontline ends by questioning whether tremendous test score gains could be attributed to widespread cheating.

USA Today first reported in 2011 that, during Rhee's tenure, there were a high rate of erasures at D.C. schools with high test score gains.

Tuesday's Frontline raises the question of whether enough was done to investigate the erasure irregularities.

The documentary is scheduled to run Tuesday at 10 p.m. on KVIE channel 6.

(Photo courtesy of Frontline.)

January 7, 2013
Reporter's notebook: Vaccination can be emotional issue

Data shows that a growing number of children are not being vaccinated. But the data does not show the emotion behind that choice.

People on both sides of the issue have been calling all morning in response to a story I wrote for Sunday's paper. Some are thanking me for "fair and balanced" reporting, while others say I didn't give both sides equal time.

One woman said there was a mumps epidemic in which all the children infected had already been vaccinated. She wondered why I didn't report that.

January 7, 2013
Update: StudentsFirst gives California education an F

California scored an F on the State Policy Report Card issued this morning by StudentsFirst, the education advocacy group led by Michelle Rhee - former Washington D.C, public schools chancellor and wife of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

The organization apparently did not grade on a curve. Nearly 90 percent of the states received less than a C on the education report card, according to StudentsFirst.

The two highest-ranking states were Florida and Louisiana - each with a B-minus. Alabama, California, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming all flunked, according to StudentsFirst. They were given F's.

January 3, 2013
Teachers union calls for stricter gun-control laws

Randi Weingarten, president ot the American Federation of Teachers, announced today (Jan. 3) that the organization supports "commonsense" gun-control legislation, including banning assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines.

The organization represents 1.5 million teachers and other school-related personnel.

"American's duty is to provide safe and secure public schools for every child, and the reasonable gun violence-prevention legislation introduced today by Reps. Carolyn McCarthy and Diana DeGette will go a long way to make that a reality. We call on Congress to pass this legislation."

The proposed gun legislation comes in the wake of a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn. last month that resulted in the deaths of 20 children and six educators.

January 2, 2013
Group says it won't fight Sac City Unified's trustee appointment

It's starting to look like newly appointed Sacramento City Unified trustee Jay Hansen will not have his seat challenged through a petition calling for a special election.

Prior to Hansen's selection, the district's five bargaining groups and an outside coalition urged the school board to reconsider their decision to appoint someone to resigning board member Ellyn Bell's seat. However, board members said they did not want the district to have to pay up to $274,000 for a special election, particularly in a time of budget cuts.

Annette Deglow of the coalition Citizens to Elect School Boards by Areas said she was ready to challenge any appointment to the board because it did not allow the voters of Area 1 to select who would represent them for the remaining two years of Bell's term. Area 1 includes Land Park, downtown, midtown and Curtis Park.

However, Deglow said Wednesday that she has decided not to initiate the petition.

"There is no way to do it without it being personal," said Deglow, one of the original petitioners of measures that created trustee area elections in Sacramento City Unified.

"The only thing I wanted was for the community to select their candidate," she said. "My time at this point would be better spent fixing the problem, instead of muddying the waters. I oppose the process, but not one candidate over the other."

Deglow said her issue is that she could not challenge the district's decision to appoint a candidate prior to trustees making a selection. That, Deglow said, makes it seem like she opposes Hansen, when, in fact, she opposes the appointment process.

State Education Code allows for 30 days to challenge a trustee appointment. In Sacramento City Unified, a successful petition would need 2,500 signatures by Jan. 19 turned into the Sacramento County Office of Education.

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.

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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