Who’s behind SUSD candidate hit piece?

The race for seats on Stockton Unified’s Board of Trustees just veered into ugly territory when a last-minute mailer sent by a group calling itself “Stockton Kids First” hit some local households Saturday.

That’s perhaps not entirely unexpected, given the hotly contested race for a voice on a board that has the potential of overseeing selection of the next superintendent and a contentious contract dispute between the teachers union and the district.

What is unusual is who is – or isn’t – behind the mailer, as well as a succession of emails sent out the night of Oct. 14 from the group claiming four candidates – Patricia Hague, Angela Phillips, Andrea Burrise and Marc Zamarippa – support a 19.5 percent raise for teachers.

The flier and email list an address of 1502 St. Marks Plaza in Stockton, but with no suite number. A call to San Joaquin County’s Registrar of Voters revealed the group is registered to CPA Ted Bestolarides, a trustee on the Lincoln Unified School District. The California Secretary of State lists Bestolarides’ phone number with the group’s state registration under the name “STOCKTON KIDS FIRST SUPPORTING  FLORES, MENDEZ, MIDURA AND SMITH AND OPPOSING BURRISE, ZAMARIPPA, PHILLIPS AND HAGUE FOR SCHOOL BOARD 2014.

Contacted shortly after the initial emails went out, Bestolarides declined to speak with me, but he directed his receptionist to tell me that he is not formally associated with the group and had only done it a favor by completing registration paperwork and allowing the group to use his mailing address. He referred me to SUSD parent and activist Cecilia Mendez, whom both he and Republican Dean Andal identified as the official spokeswoman for the group. (Andal, also a former Lincoln trustee, and Bestolarides worked to fight Stockton’s ¾-cent sales tax and Bestolarides’ wife, Kelley, was campaign coordinator for Andal’s state Assembly race in 1992.) Surprising, Burrise said, since Mendez had been campaigning on her behalf.

Mendez has not returned repeated phone calls and text messages for comment over the past 10 days, but she has repeatedly denied to Burrise that she is associated with the group and told Burrise on Oct. 16 that she “demands an interview with the newspaper.” On Monday, she claimed to Burrise that she did in fact speak with me (she did not) and, crying, “insisted she was not behind this.”

So far, no one is stepping forward to claim responsibility for the group – or answer what candidates are saying are patently false claims on teachers’ raises, evaluations, and candidates’ stances on class size. The mailer cites two Sept. 21 Record articles as a source; nowhere in either are there any mention that any candidate supports what the flier claims they do.

“This experience has revealed just how deep Stockton political corruption runs, much deeper than I could have imagined,” Burrise said in an email Saturday. “It’s makes me both angry and sad for our community. We can do better.”

Something indeed is “rotten to the core” – it just may not be who you’d expect.

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Putting the class in classical

Music educator Paul Reisler works with students in the Harmony Stockton program at Marshall Elementary School in Stockton to create a song that will be performed by the Stockton Symphony on Jan. 17. CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD


Grammy-nominated Kid Pan Alley creator Paul Reisler has been working all week with local students ahead of a Stockton Symphony concert in January in which the orchestra will perform the world premiere of the children’s original compositions.

Third-grader Lovely Ventura sings part of a song that she and other Harmony Stockton program students created with music educator Paul Reisler at Marshall Elementary School in Stockton. CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD

Reisler is the symphony’s artist in residence and has been working with students are from Stockton’s Marshall Elementary School and Lodi’s Vinewood Elementary School. Among them are nearly 70 from Marshall’s Harmony Stockton program, a daily after-school enrichment program that combines music instruction with academic tutoring.

The students who worked with Reisler will perform in-school concerts Monday at both schools.

The January 17 Stockton Symphony concert, at Atherton Auditorium on the San Joaquin Delta College campus, will include El condor pasa, a work by Robles made famous by Simon & Garfunkel, and Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece, Symphony No 6, “Pathétique.” The Stockton Symphony is under the baton of Peter Jaffe, who is celebrating his 20th season with the orchestra.


Students in the Harmony Stockton program at Marshall. CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD


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Art contest for Red Ribbon Week!

Here's all the contest details - entries due by Saturday.

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California’s after-school programs top in nation

Kindergartners Adryana Young, left, and Amiah Banks work in August on a construction paper tree at Maxine Hong Kingston Elementary as part of an arts project in the school's wait-listed after-school program. CALIXTRO ROMIAS/THE RECORD

California leads the nation in after-school programs, placing first in a national survey, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said Thursday.

The Afterschool Alliance gave California its top ranking in the 2014 edition of its America After 3 p.m. survey, singling the state out for both strong participation among students and high satisfaction with after-school programs among parents. It found that expanded learning participation in California had increased to 25 percent, compared to 19 percent in 2009, with more than 1.6 million students enrolled.

After-school programs provide homework assistance and tutoring, sports and arts activities, as well as a safe place to go after school before parents arrive home from work. Stockton Unified has a robust K-8 program but lost funding at the high school level earlier this year.

“From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. is the danger zone,” former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, honorary chairman of the Afterschool Alliance, told EdSource.  “Juvenile crime, teenage pregnancy, gangs, alcoholism and drugs cost society a lot of money.”

“Superintendent Torlakson has spearheaded efforts to make California number one in the nation,” said Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant. “He created a statewide after school initiative within the California Department of Education that has increased quality and access to after school programs across this state. …  From extraordinary STEM programs, to service learning, to its trailblazing literacy programming, California has done an amazing job with afterschool programs.”

California’s expanded learning programs today reach about 4,500 schools around the state. They are, in large part, funded through voter-approved Proposition 49, which guarantees $550 million annually for the state’s After School Education and Safety Program. California administers another $120 million in federal after school program funds, according to the California Department of Education.

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Digital Chalkboard offers wealth of resources for teachers

A new website aimed at teachers offers a virtual meeting place to collaborate, get training to improve their skills, find research, and share best practices so they are better equipped to help students.

Digital Chalkboard has more than 400,000 digital resources, everything from training modules and videos to model lesson plans to researched-based data. Teachers can also use the website to join discussion groups to share success stories and help each other improve their teaching.

“The Digital Chalkboard gives teachers the support they need to become better educators as we embark on exciting changes this year with the Common Core and online testing,” state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a statement. It is faster and easier to navigate and provides more assistance to teachers who are implementing Common Core as well as consolidating help for teachers who are educating English learners and foster children. It replaces the Brokers of Expertise website.

To access the Digital Chalkboard, visit http://www.mydigitalchalkboard.org.

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All S.J.’s one. school students to get free lunches

All students at the county’s one. schools will be receiving free lunches regardless of family income, the San Joaquin County Office of Education announced.

“Although there are federal and state guidelines as to who is eligible for free or reduced lunches, we have chosen to provide all students within our program with a free meal,” student services supervisor Jennifer Lawrence said in a statement.

The National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program provides free and reduced price meals for children from households whose income is equivalent or below the levels shown in the accompanying San Joaquin County Office of Education chart.

Children who receive food stamps, California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids, Kinship Guardianship Assistance Payments or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations benefits are automatically eligible for free meals regardless of the income of the household in which they reside.

Application forms are being distributed to all households and are also available at San Joaquin County Office of Education’s County Operated Schools and Programs office, 2707 Transworld Drive, Stockton. For more information, visit www.sjcoe.org.

Household eligibility chart

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Galt junior joins inaugural class of Buck Fellows

Galt High School student Madelynne Reichmann has been chosen for the inaugural class of Buck Fellows, made up of juniors in Northern California high schools who rank at or near the top of their classes.

Reichmann, an award-winning debater and leader in Future Farmers of America, wants to become an agriculture teacher or go into business management. She joins four other fellows, from Fair Oaks, Richmond and Sacramento.

In addition to academic achievement, Buck Fellows are selected for leadership and personal initiative, a commitment to helping others succeed and personal resiliency. The students are paired with mentors who provide fellows with guidance on academic and leadership development and the college application process. The BSA also provides each fellow with a stipend for academic enrichment and leadership development programs for their final two years of high school.

“Our fellows come from financially modest backgrounds and don’t have parents who graduated from college,” said Rei Onishi, president of the BSA and co-founder of the Buck Fellows Program. “Yet, in the face of various challenges, they are determined to go as far as they can with the opportunities available to them. By helping cultivate their academic and leadership interests and ensuring they have the guidance and resources necessary to be competitive college applicants, the Buck Fellows Program helps open doors for them and ensure they fully realize their tremendous potential.”

The BSA is a nonprofit organization created to carry on the legacy of the Frank H. and Eva B. Buck Foundation, a private, independent foundation established in 1990 to enlarge the educational opportunities of exceptionally gifted and talented Northern California youth. The foundation has awarded full-tuition scholarships to 282 individuals over two decades. For more information about the organization, contact Onishi at president@buckscholars.org or visit the website buckscholars.org.

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Health Careers Academy wins Green Your School Giveaway

STOCKTON – Health Careers Academy was recently awarded with three gardening tables through Eartheasy’s Green Your School Giveaway.

The tables will be used to expand the school’s healthy living program, launched three years ago with a grant from the Dr. Oz Foundation, and come just in time for fall planting season.

Health Careers Academy was selected by Eartheasy, whose motto, “Solutions for Sustainable Living” most closely matched the goals as expressed by the students and faculty.

“After reading through the entries, we were so touched by your school’s initiative to help inner-city students learn about gardening and healthy cooking, we knew we had to help,” Blair Mullins of Eartheasy wrote.

The University Park campus. which provides technical education and a college-prep curriculum with an emphasis on health careers, is a charter school of the Stockton Unified School District.  You can learn more about the school on its website at https://hca-susd-ca.schoolloop.com.

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Young musicians to perform Saturday

Angelica Romero, 11, left, and Garbrella Rosa, 12, practice in September with other Marshall Elementary students as part of the Harmony Stockton program. CALIXTRO ROMIAS/THE RECORD

Students in Marshall Elementary School’s Harmony Stockton project will perform at 2 p.m. Saturday during the Stockton is Magnificent festivities at Victory Park.

The after-school music program, profiled in The Record here, has been shown to profoundly transform young minds, boosting the language and reading skills of at-risk kids and helping them beat the odds of dropping out of school later in life.  It’s based on El Sistema, a visionary music program credited with lifting countless children out of poverty and is a collaboration of Stockton Unified’s Step-Up after-school programs, University of the Pacific, United Way and the Stockton Symphony.

Besides Saturday,  the young musicians will also be playing several other concerts through December. Here’s a schedule of opportunities to hear these amazing young performers this fall:


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Edison High to host free BBQ, parent education forum Thursday

Edison High School will host a parent education forum and free barbecue Thursday evening to share information on everything from academic expectations to college financial aid at the school,1425 S. Center St.

The EduParent night kicks off with a free barbecue at 6 p.m. beneath the cafeteria awning, followed by a generation session at 6:30 p.m. in the library and other sessions throughout the school.

Counseling staff will lead breakout sessions on eligibility requirements for college-bound freshmen and sophomores in the Career Center and for juniors and seniors in the Media Center. A general session for freshmen and sophomores in Room 51 is designed to be an overall view of Edison’s mission, expectations and schoolwide strategies that are used daily for student achievement and will outline ways parents can be more involved. Another for juniors and seniors in room 53 will cover those same topics as well as important tests and a budget of expenses a typical senior student may incur.

Other sessions include:

  • Social Awareness, Room 54, designed to provide parents with information regarding drug abuse, gang prevention, Health Center services and more;
  • AVID parents – all grades, Room 58, for parents of current AVID students, covering expectations, how the AVID Elective class supports college and career readiness, and college and financial aid deadlines. An AVID session in Spanish will be held in Room 59.

Child care will be provided at the Boy’s Gym Toal Hall during the event, which goes from 6 to 8 p.m.


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