Report Card

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

June 26, 2013
Activists, Dickinson use drama to examine disciplinary issues

willful.JPGThe state Capitol featured theatrics Wednesday, but not on the Assembly floor.

In a committee room, student actors put on a 10-minute play called "Willful," in which a black high school student named Tom heads to the principal's office for yet another disciplinary action. His mother is sick, and his family has problems at home.

Tom expects a suspension. But this time, Principal Burton decides to send the student to counseling and urges him to seek similar help whenever he's feeling troubled.

That sympathetic response happens too rarely, according to the Black Parallel School Board and Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, among those who brought the play to the Capitol on Wednesday. Nearly half the 2,200 students suspended from California schools each day are punished for "willful defiance," according to state data.

The category can cover a wide range of unspecified behavioral problems, and critics say it gives schools too much leeway to justify disciplinary actions that fall disproportionately on minority students.

Dickinson, a Sacramento Democrat running for state Senate, has written Assembly 420 this year to curtail expulsions or suspensions on the basis of willful defiance. Black or brown students are much more likely than white students to be suspended, Dickinson said. "It's a question of civil rights."

June 20, 2013
Capitol rally generates excitement about summer learning

photo (5).JPGStudents rapped and Sacramento City Unified Superintendent Jonathan Raymond showed off his purple polka dotted socks at a summer learning rally at the Capitol this morning.

About 350 students from summer school programs across the state were invited to a pep rally featuring state schools chief Tom Torlakson. He presented a Champion Award to Raymond for his emphasis on summer learning.

"This is a message to the public to please support summer learning programs," Torlakson said. "No one does it better then Sacramento City Unified."

After the speeches wound down, the students were treated to a game area where they could be videotaped interviewing lawmakers, as well as booths where kids could participate in a poetry slam, rapping or play Pictionary or Adlibs.

The rally was part of the Summer Matters campaign, which stresses the importance of keeping students engaged in learning during the summer.

June 19, 2013
River Delta Unified hires new superintendent

River Delta Unified School District named Don Beno superintendent at its regular board meeting Tuesday night.

He will replace Rick Hennes, who is retiring.

Beno was assistant superintendent of human resources for Woodland Joint Unified for the last two years. Before that he was the assistant superintendent of human resources for Washington Unified for five years.

"During his career, Mr. Beno has proven himself to be a strong and thoughtful leader," said Board President Seann Rooney in a prepared statement. "He is known as a collaborative and caring administrator who can build consensus and who always puts the students first."

River Delta Unified is a K-12 district with an enrollment of 2,040 students. It is located along the Sacramento River and includes portions of Sacramento, Solano and Yolo counties.

June 19, 2013
Horizon charters renewed by Western Placer Unified

Western Placer Unified's school board voted unanimously to renew the charters of Horizon Charter School and Partnerships for Student-Centered Learning Tuesday night, according to district officials.

There was no opposition to the charters - non-tuition programs run by the Horizon charter network - at the meeting at Lincoln High School, according to Western Placer Unified Board President Kris Wyatt.

"It was a very calm meeting," she said.

The charter school system has been the subject of complaints from parents since the abrupt closure of a Rocklin school site and its Accelerated Learning Program last year.
An audit commissioned by Horizon also found that the charter system lacked financial oversight and had paid for lengthy, possibly illegal leases.

As the authorizing district, Western Placer Unified has no authority over the independent charter except for financial oversight. But district officials have indicated they plan to enter an agreement with Horizon enabling them to get more involved in operations and offer technical assistance like professional development.

The charters face renewal again in five years.

June 13, 2013
Natomas Unified trustee on campaign to videotape meetings

Trustee Ryan Herche wants Natomas Unified School Board meetings videotaped.

He promised it when he campaigned for his school board seat last year.

But last night, the rest of the school board disagreed, Herche said. They said it is too expensive and would take too much staff time, said Herche, the only board member in support of the proposal.

Board President Susan Heredia did not answer requests for comment Thursday.

Herche said most of the residents he encountered while campaigning said they wanted board meetings to be videotaped and available online. Most people don't have time to go to a lengthy meeting on a weeknight, he said. Minutes also are vulnerable to human error and sometimes aren't available for weeks or months, he said.

"It's frustrating that the board doesn't see the importance of transparency and they aren't ready to take this next step to build the public trust," Herche told The Bee.

Locally, not many school districts offer recordings of their meetings online. Sacramento City Unified uses Access Sacramento to televise its meetings. Washington Unified in West Sacramento also shows its meetings on cable. Other districts tape meetings, but don't put them online.

June 13, 2013
From the notebook: California K-12 plan favors urban districts

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe can never get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you some of the extra details behind the news.

Jim Sanders and I interviewed over a dozen local education leaders for today's story detailing how K-12 districts plan to use additional funds they will receive from the state budget. We have added additional information here on the Report Card.

One of the most notable changes under the overhaul state leaders plan to approve is that districts with large concentrations of low-income students and English learners will receive more money. Gov. Jerry Brown and advocates argue that schools need more resources to provide a similar level of education that students from more affluent families receive.

Locally, Sacramento City Unified will receive $307 more per student next year; Elk Grove, $274; San Juan, $243; Roseville City, $228; and Davis, $224, according to the state Department of Finance.

California's largest urban districts tended to do much better, however: Los Angeles Unified will receive $364 more per student next year; San Diego Unified, $321; and Long Beach Unified, $342. Fresno Unified fares even better, at $433 more per student.

June 13, 2013
Sacramento City schools close today, seven for the last time

The children came for the last day of school - some with nostalgia and heartbreak over the planned closure of seven campuses in the Sacramento City Unified School District.

"This is where a lot of memories come from," said 12-year-old Angel Torres, who this morning embarked on his final day of attendance at Maple Elementary School in south Sacramento. "I made my first friends here."

As a sixth grader, he's leaving the campus for good, no matter what. But he still was sad.

His two brothers, now teenagers, also attended Maple Elementary. Both came back later as campus volunteers. A niece and two nephews also attended the school, which was built in 1952 and annexed to the district in 1958.

All of the district's 80 schools end the year today. Fifty-six of them serve elementary school students.

But the district plans to shutter seven of the elementary schools for good: Maple, Washington, Collis P. Huntington, Fruit Ridge, Joseph Bonnheim, Mark Hopkins and Clayton B. Wire. The closures will save the district about $1.1 million and help close a $5.6 million shortfall projected for the next school year.

June 11, 2013
Students sue to block Sacramento City Unified school closures

Updated at 11:50 a.m. with district response.

A dozen minority students and their parents have filed suit in federal court to block closure of seven elementary schools in the Sacramento City Unified School District.

Attorney Mark Merin filed the suit late Monday in U.S. District Court in Sacramento on behalf of the students, their guardians and three parent-teacher associations at closing schools. The suit complains the schools designated for closure were chosen because they are in an area "without political influence or organization" - south Sacramento - and have disproportionately low-income and minority populations.

The schools' selection "was motivated by an intent to discriminate against minority populations which dominate in these schools," the suit states. The closures, unless halted, will have a "disastrous discriminatory effect on the poor, disadvantaged population" that relies on the campuses, the suit said.

District Superintendent Jonathan Raymond and Board President Jeff Cuneo called the action "an unsubstantiated and baseless lawsuit" that would be costly for the district.

June 10, 2013
High-ranking Japanese officials to visit local school district

Elk Grove Unified will be visited by Japanese dignitaries Tuesday as part of the California-Japan Scholars Exchange Program.

Ichiro Matsui, the governor of Osaka; Hiroshi Inomata, the consul general of Japan; and Toru Nakahara, Osaka's superintendent of education will meet with Elk Grove Unified Superintendent Steven Ladd, students, teachers, parents and staff at 2 p.m. at the school district's headquarters at 9510 Elk Grove-Florin Road

The discussion will center around the exchange program, which the district has participated in for 15 years.

Students in Osaka, Japan and Elk Grove alternate sending students on a two-week exchange each year. This spring, a group of 30 students and three teachers from Osaka visited Elk Grove.

The Osaka delegation also will include a number of other officials in the region's planning, international relations, civic and cultural affairs, and curriculum development departments.

June 4, 2013
Sheldon High students win award for David Garibaldi video

K9 Studios at Sheldon High School in Sacramento won a Regional Student Television Award for Merit for a music video they created for performance artist David Garibaldi. He used the video during his stint on America's Got Talent.

The award was bestowed by the Governors of the San Francisco/Northern California Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

The students who won the award include Lauren Morgan, Tyler Castelo, Andres Chavez, Kate Allen, Cassis Cacilla, Treh Faraj, Nathan Foley, Stanley Smith, Alexander Winters, Victoria Ibarra, Daniel Hargrove, Matthew Klein, Paris Draper, Heather Fletcher, Amber Houseman and Kyle Spencer.

The group is led by teacher Shawn Sullivan.

June 3, 2013
Glimpse of new standardized test available online

Parents, teachers and students can now try the new computer-assisted tests that will be rolled out during the 2014-15 school year in California.

The new tests assess how well students are learning new national curriculum called the Common Core State Standards. The standards stress critical thinking, problem solving and use of technology.

The practice tests provide a preview of the types of questions that will be featured in actual assessments, according to a press release from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which developed the tests.

The tests will use open-response and performance-based questions, which require a student to complete a task or solve a problem, as well as some that rely on the traditional multiple-choice method.

June 3, 2013
William Jessup University hires new associate provost

erickson.jpgTodd Erickson has been hired to be associate provost for enrollment management at William Jessup University in Rocklin.

Enrollment at the private university has increased by 119 percent in the last five years, according to a press release from the school.

"In this new role, Todd will facilitate vision, plans, and infrastructure in support of our expanding outreach to students," Provost Dennis Jameson said in a prepared statement.

Erickson has 20 years of experience as a dean, faculty member and in various academic administrative leadership roles. He was the dean of the School of Business and Economics at King University before coming to William Jessup.

He has a master's degree in management from Northwestern University and a doctorate in business administration from Anderson University.

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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