Santa Cruz County Office of Education banner
Focus on Success
March 2014 Vol 5, No. 3    
 Partnering and Promoting Education
SCCOE logo
In This Issue
Together for Kindergarten Forum
Local Youth Scientists Showcase Their Independent Research
Visits to the Symphony Inspire Love of Music
Students Help Beautify Lighthouse Field
Live Cooking Challenge at Santa Cruz Museum
Teachers to Seek New Horizons in Science
Tasty: Everyone Has a Place at Our Table - Art Show
Live Oak Students Celebrate Black History Month
Common Core Standards and the Arts
SCCOE ROP Enjoys Continued Success
Alternative Education Program Graduations
Board of Education
Business Services
Educational Services 
Human Resources
SC County Schools
Student Services
Technology Services
SCCOE Mission

The Mission of the Santa Cruz County Office of Education is

to provide quality educational leadership, programs, services, and support

to the children, school

districts, and the diverse community

that makes up Santa

Cruz County.

Santa Cruz County Board of Education 
The Santa Cruz County Board of Education is comprised of seven trustees each of whom represents a designated trustee area within the County.
Mr. Jack Dilles
Mr. Aaron Hinde
Ms. Sandra Nichols
Ms. Gina Locatelli
Ms. Jane Barr
Mr. Dana M. Sales
Mr. George "Bud" Winslow

Santa Cruz County Office of Education
400 Encinal Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 466-5600
(831) 466-5607 (FAX)
Join Our Mailing Listfollow suptwatkins on twitter 

Find us on Facebook

Superintendent's Message 


For schools, spring is a time for assessing the progress and changes that have occurred over the course of the school year, and a time to review their Mission and Vision for the future. The 2013-14 school year ushered in significant changes that can best be described as "disruptive" for we now have a radically different school funding model, changing pedagogy, new accountability and assessment requirements--all of which will require educators to think and act differently. Our role with the community, parents and teachers will be more collaborative and our role with school districts will be enhanced through greater partnerships. The commonality of these changes will be measured through student achievement. Looking through this issue of Focus on Success, it is clear that extracurricular activities will continue to have a profound impact on student outcomes.


This issue of the e-newsletter begins with a look at building relationships between preschool and kindergarten teachers, and ends with a piece on our mid-year Alternative Education graduation where over 80 fifth year seniors celebrated receiving their diploma. In between, you will read about our partnership with the SC Symphony, future scientists taking center stage, the profound impact of a unique "Food Justice Program," community service that is changing Santa Cruz for the better, our culinary academy, the importance of Black History and much more. What makes these extracurricular activities so impressive is their alignment with the Common Core--a true win-win for school districts as they reinvent themselves, in the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) era, to better serve the students of Santa Cruz County.


To learn more about LCFF you may want to read the opinion piece that I wrote.


Michael Watkins
Santa Cruz County Superintendent of Schools  

Our newsletter is sent out quarterly. If you would like more frequent updates, follow me on Twitter, or like the SCCOE on Facebook.

Santa Cruz County Preschool, Kindergarten Teachers Push Parental Engagement     


Michelle McBride, transitional kindergarten teacher in Soquel Union Elementary School District, holds a colleague's baby, Oscar Lyon, at the kindergarten community forum at New Brighton Middle School Tuesday. (Kara Guzman/Sentinel)
The minority achievement gap begins with a disparity in language skills, even before a child enters a classroom, experts say. Preschoolers from low-income families have half the vocabulary size of high-income preschoolers, said Sarah Crow, keynote speaker at Tuesday's "Together for Kindergarten" forum. Crow is a program director at Next Generation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit campaigning to get parents to talk to their young children."For some people, it's not innate to talk to a baby who's not going to talk back," Crow said. "It can feel weird."

Read more about the Together for Kindergarten Forum...
Local Youth Scientists Showcase Their Independent Research    


On Saturday, March 8, 2014 over 400 students from schools across the county showcased their independent research projects to more than 100 volunteer judges representing local scientists, university research staff, educators, graduate students and community partners. The annual Santa Cruz County Science & Engineering Fair provides an essential foundation for new scientific discoveries as well as mentoring opportunities for scientists and graduate students from our local universities. Generous funding from Seagate Technology has continued to provide the support needed for this important scholastic forum.

Read more about the Santa Cruz County Science & Engineering Fair...
Visits to the Symphony Inspire
Love of Music     


Concert Hall
It has been many, many years since Susan Worland, a violinist with the Santa Cruz County Symphony, attended elementary school. But last month, Susan took her violin and a friend from the Symphony and visited Hall District School to share the joy of classical music and her well-loved instrument with 160 excited children. The students crowded into the cafeteria of this southern most school in the Pajaro Valley to hear Susan talk about the many different types of instruments which make up a symphony and play some of the songs they would be hearing when they attended the upcoming Youth Concert.

Read more about the SCCOE's Classical Music in the Classroom program...
Students Help Beautify Lighthouse Field     


Just opposite the surfer statue on West Cliff Drive, Natural Bridges High School students are working hard to restore natural beauty to Lighthouse Field. In recent few weeks, the students have cleared iceplant, spread mulch and installed a mixture of local native plants.

"It's a good feeling when you see what you've done," student McKinley James said. Another student,Alora Sebits, agreed. "This is perfect work because I really like wildlife and I want to be a zoologist," Sebits said. "This is groundwork. I can put this on my resume."


Read more about the students' habitat restoration...

FoodWhat?! Youth Empowerment and Food Justice Program      


Screengrab from Food What?! video
"FOOD, WHAT?!" is a youth empowerment and food justice program using food, through sustainable agriculture and health, as the vehicle for growing strong, healthy, and inspired teens. We partner with low-income and at-risk youth to grow, cook, eat, and distribute healthy, sustainably-raised food and address food justice issues in our community.

Youth from Watsonville to Santa Cruz join the FoodWhat?!crew through spring internships, summer jobs, fall business management positions, and leading big community events on the farm. We create a safe space where youth engage in leadership development, personal growth, and job training. At FoodWhat?!, we inspire personal transformation by supporting teens in finding their voices and developing lasting confidence in themselves.

FoodWhat Youth Empowerment and Food Justice Program
FoodWhat Youth Empowerment and Food Justice Program
Watch the video...
Project to Improve Educational Outcomes of Foster Youth Receives National Recognition     


Image of teacher advising student
FosterEd, an initiative of the National Center for Youth Law that works closely with the Santa Cruz County Office of Education (SCCOE), recently received national recognition for its innovative work to improve the educational outcomes of students in foster care. The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), a national organization based in Washington, D.C., named FosterEd one of 15 local, state, and national initiatives making a critical difference in the lives of youth in foster care. Programs were selected out of more than 130 nominees and were chosen after a rigorous review that included a detailed written application, site visits, and interviews with staff and participants.


Read more  about the FosterEd program... 

Live Cooking Challenge at Santa Cruz Museum Benefits Vibrant High School ROP Culinary Program    
Advanced instructor Andrea Mollenauer & assistant instructor Christopher Stephenson from the ROP program are competing at Fire It Up! on March 1. Photo credit: Karen Lemon (also an ROP instructor-in digital photography) 

Tickets went fast for "Fire It Up!," a Santa Cruz event with a culinary student showcase and a live chef competition, with the fun-sounding evening benefiting Santa Cruz's vibrant high school culinary Regional  Occupational Program (ROP).


The event was March 1, 2014 at 5pm, at the Santa Cruz MAH (Museum of Art & History). Attendees got to sample 10 student-created signature hors d'oeuvres in the student culinary showcase and were given a "Best of Show" ballot to vote for their favorite. Then they got to see the chef vs. chef entertainment which featured Chef Andrea Mollenauer and Chef Christopher Stephenson. There was also a cheese display and beverage table for guests' consumption.


Read more about the Live Cooking Challenge...
Museum Program Inspires Teachers to Seek New Horizons in Science    


Vertebrate paleontology curator Bruce MacFadden describes fossils to visiting science educators at the Thomas Farm fossil site. 

From a fossil museum curated by students to a garden used for experimentation, an innovative program that exposes educators to scientific fieldwork is significantly impacting classroom curriculum in California and Florida.


The Florida Museum of Natural History's Panama Canal Projects' Partnership for International Research and Education program brings scientists and teachers together to engage in the real world of science through inquiry-based curriculum development during a two-week field trip to Panama. California teachers from Santa Cruz and Watsonville were joined this year by an educator from Florida.


Read more about the Panama Canal project...


Boy holding basket of fruit 
Parts of downtown Watsonville took on a new look recently during the installation of more than 70 large photographic prints as part of the outdoor exhibit "Tasty: Everyone Has a Place at the Table."

The project, a collaboration between the Pajaro Valley Arts Council and the Santa Cruz County Regional Occupational Program, features photographs by students that were plastered against various buildings. The PVAC was invited by the San Jose Museum of Art to participate in an exhibit interpreting the theme "Around the Table."


Read more about the Tasty art show...


Yasmina Porter shows Del Mar Elementary students Black history through dance.Del Mar Elementary second-grader Patrick Hirsig practiced his robot dance moves in his bedroom Wednesday night. The next morning, his class performed a 1980s-inspired breakdance full of cartwheels, splits and hip-hop moves, for more than 200 students and parents. "I was kind of nervous when I looked at the people," Patrick said.


The performance was the culmination of a four-week Black History Month workshop in which second-grade classrooms learned African American culture through dance.


Read more about this dance program...

 Live Oak District students collaborate to create a rhythmic chant in their music. 

David Coleman, primary author of the Common Core Standards, is very clear about how the arts help students access the Common Core requirements in English Language Arts and Math. The very skills that the arts have always taught are those at the center of the Common Core paradigm. These skills, sometimes known as "the four C's" are: communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.

Read more about Common Core and the Arts...


ROP culinary arts class

The Regional Occupational Program operating at public high schools in Santa Cruz County is one of the more successful in the state.

Educators said they hope to keep that status in the face of funding changes.


About 3,000 teenagers take classes through the career technical program, which is designed to prepare them to succeed in college and careers. More than 144 different classes are offered countywide to introduce students to careers in a variety of fields, including automotive technology, medical technology, criminal justice, sports medicine, graphic design and video production.

Read more about ROP's Culinary Arts program...


SCCOE's Alternative Education Graduation in January 
After his mother died two years ago, Garrett Leeman transferred to Natural Bridges High School, an alternative education program. His grades suffered and he needed a more flexible schedule, he said.

"I've been struggling to get that last little push to graduate," said Leeman. "I didn't think I was going to make it."


This semester, Leeman met with teacher Brian Thom at Starbucks every week to work on economics, English, fine art and government, as part of the school's independent study program.


Read more about the Alternative Educaton graduation...
The Santa Cruz County Office of Education publishes news to the community several times a year, highlighting programs that support student achievement.