Got the back-to-school jitters yet?

It seems like it was only yesterday, as hundreds of school bells rang out for the last time in May, signaling the unofficial start of summer.

Time sure flies, right? As fast as the end of the school year came, so did the television commercials and orientation packets in the mail telling us to gear up for back-to-school.

There will be fresh faces abound, from students and teachers, to administrators and coaches. The first day, let alone the first week is both a very exciting but stressful time for some.

Got the jitters yet?

Kids from all grade levels and even college will be anxious on that first day. Parents will too, says the California Parent and Teacher Association, so what are the best ways to combat the jitters?

First is to re-assure your child and allow them to openly express any anxiety. Remind them that everything is going to be great, if you plan to pick them up that afternoon, pick a time and place on campus and make that promise. My parents and I had a system in grade school to meet up at the big oak tree in front of the parking lot at 2 p.m. so I knew they would always be right there. They are not the only students who are going to feel anxious too.

Next is to point out the positives. Your child will see their friends again (and make new ones) and share what they did over summer break. This is always the best part of a new school year. Gear them up for all the new things they will be learning.

As parents, it’s important to be prepared ahead as much as possible. Busy schedules can make this difficult, but making a morning schedule ahead of time will make the rush a lot less stressful. Start by preparing students to get into their bedtime routine now. The night before, lay out clothes and shoes so there’s no wasted time while fitting in breakfast and getting everyone in the car.

If your student walks or bikes to school, have a safe route in place and it’s always better to ride with someone else along. If needed, walk or drive your student to school on the first day to get their surroundings together. For bus riders, schools will give a bus route sheet with listed times, and this provides the chance for parents to get to know their student’s bus driver and a location on where to meet them after school.

For children with special needs, like medication, treatment or special needs, contact your child’s school in making sure those needs are met. If your student has a certain food allergy, talk to them about what foods in the cafeteria are safe and what should be avoided. Communication is key.

Emergencies are going to happen, so it’s important to have plans in place in the event that a parent is late to pick up or if no one is home. Are there neighbors or relatives nearby that can be Plan B? Tell your child the emergency plans so when something does happen, it doesn’t crumble all together. My parents and I had a system that if I ever came home with no parent there, I would stay at my neighbor’s home and had them call my parents to let them know. If they were late to pick me up at the oak tree, I would give them 15 minutes and then wait in the administration office.

Don’t fret kids, everyone up to the college level and even in the work force get first-day jitters! It happens to everyone, so don’t think you’re alone. Go enjoy your first day back at school and have a great year!

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Good Feelings for a Friday

Next Monday marks my third month working in the Record newsroom. It’s been such a whirlwind of learning and new experiences, and every new day brings something to the table. Before coming to Stockton, I never had feedback on articles I wrote while freelancing, and didn’t think much of what I had written in the past made any difference to readers.

Yesterday, I looked inside my mailbox and found a small envelope with my name on the front and no return address or name.

To be completely honest, at first I thought it was going to be my first hate mail. Maybe someone didn’t like one of my earlier stories. It could’ve been a reader giving a writing recommendation, or another note like this one.

Instead, it was a very thoughtful donation of $100, asking it be used to buy backpacks and school supplies. The timing couldn’t be better. School districts across San Joaquin County are going back to school in a matter of weeks, and many children will go back without new supplies.

If you want to donate, please check with the local United Way Center in Stockton (209) 469-6980 or several organizations I wrote about.

Thank you to whoever sent this in. The students, schools and the city of Stockton thank you as well.

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Money Magazine names CSU Stanislaus nation’s top value-added public university

CSU Stanislaus is featured in Money Magazine‘s rankings in the best public universities in the nation for helping students on a value and affordability.

The magazine says the list is “based solely on value-added grades for graduation rates, earnings and student loan repayment, eliminating schools with a negative grade in any of those areas or a graduation rate below 50 percent.”

Stanislaus ranked No. 3 overall on the magazine’s national list, with four other CSUs in the Top 50 list: Long Beach State at No. 10, San Diego State at No. 39 and Chico State at No. 49. Two private colleges — Robert Morris University of Chicago and Mt. St. Mary’s University of Los Angeles — took the top spots respectively.

To view the entire list from Money Magazine, click here.

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Gov. Brown signs strict school vaccine legislation

California Jerry Brown has signed legislation on Tuesday in Sacramento to approve one of the most strictest school vaccine laws in the country.

The bill will require nearly all schoolchildren to be vaccinated, with Brown saying science has shown that vaccines do wonders to protect students.

Read the entire article HERE.

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SUSD trip to Vegas cleared up

Earlier this week, I was handed a hand-written note that was sent to the newsroom with no return address.

200 Stockton Unified employees went to Las Vegas. Is this supposed to help educate the students?” is all it read.

Now, before you start picturing teachers and administrators sitting at slot machines and throwing television sets out a hotel room window at The Bellagio, in reality, the Vegas trip is in fact helping educate students.

A group of 200 teachers, counselors and principals from Stockton Unified took part in a Professional Learning Communities conference in Las Vegas earlier this month, explained district spokeswoman Dianne Barth in an email.

While seeing the words “teachers,” “education,” and “Vegas” together in a sentence is certainly worth a slight head tilt, the conference is dedicated to professional development for educators set in a group setting.

High performing districts have board members attend so they can build shared knowledge. Teachers and principals can collaborate ideas and are asked questions such as “What are you trying to teach? How do you know if your students learned and understood the material you taught? What do you do if they did not? What do you do next if they did get it?

“This conference is popular because the teachers who have gone before have come back saying they got a lot out of it,” said Barth. Stockton Unified has attended the PLC conference for the last three years and she said Lodi is another district that does the same.

“The trip is approved for those attending from individual schools and costs for attendance were paid out of categorical funds targeted for professional development school site councils,” Barth wrote.

Edison High School Principal Brian Biedermann said his school has been practicing the PLC process for six years and he has taken a majority of his staff to PLCs conferences. He agrees that there’s nothing quite like the renewed energy, commitment, and shared knowledge created, and Edison is always excited to participate.

“I can see how some could view conferences in Vegas as a waste of time. That is a narrow minded view,” said Edison High School Principal in an email.

“My team has several pre-planning meetings (to prep for the conference) and we meet several times when we return to capture our learning and prepare our action plans for the coming year.”

It’s far from lounging poolside and sharing a vodka-cranberry with a Playboy bunny.

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Madison Elementary to receive musical instruments from grant

Madison Elementary Mariachi Band teacher Victoria Smith, left, instructs Gerardo Diaz, 10, center, and Jesse Magana, 12, with their guitarron during a practice at the Stockton school. CALIXTRO ROMIAS/THE RECORD

In a press release sent on Friday, the school’s mariachi band will be given six vihuelas, six guitarons, three 4/4 violins, two refurbished vihuelas and two refurbished guitarons.

The retail value comes to $16,789.

“This generous grant from the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation will help ensure the continued mission of Madison mariachi to provide a quality music education to its students,” Madison principal Josh Schroeder said in a statement.

“In doing so, the grant will enable a greater number of students to participate in this vital program. Without HOPF support, the mariachi students of Madison would find this journey a far greater challenge.”

Record reporter Elizabth Roberts wrote a piece last year about the mariachi band HERE.

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CAVA’s response to teacher complaints

Teachers from the online charter school California Virtual Academies (CAVA) filed complaints yesterday to bring to light what they say are several questionable practices to improper use of federal funds that affect thousands of their students.

San Joaquin County area teachers were not the only ones, as several other locations throughout California filed more than 50 complaints to their separate sponsoring districts. New Jerusalem Elementary School District sponsors the SJC location.

The complaints range from alleged violations of both state and federal laws; over-reporting enrollment numbers; counting students who cut class in attendance figure;, poor academic performance and graduation rates for the past few years and more.

New Jerusalem School District Superintendent David Thoming said in a phone interview yesterday that although he has received the complaints, he has yet to fully digest the full extent of those complaints and will offer a response to those teachers once he has finished his review.

On Friday, CAVA’s Head of School Katrina Abston sent a press release to address the complaints.

She said in the statement that CAVA the recent allegations are “without merit” and that each of the 11 schools have worked with independent external auditors and were found to have clean audit reports.

Thoming said practically the same thing: “Every year CAVA goes though these audits and every year they come back clean,” he said, “I have state auditors saying one thing and teachers with questionable complains saying the other.”

One of the complaints issued was the lack of attention to special need students, Abston in a statement said similar issues were raised by other labor organizations before the California Department of Education, which were eventually dismissed.

“CAVA will continue its practice of full cooperation with authorities and vigorously defend against these meritless allegations,” Abston stated.

Meanwhile in Tracy, Superintendent Thoming says teachers claiming he and his district have blown the teachers off too many times is simply false. He repeated once he goes over the pages of complaints, he will work with the CAVA teachers to fix the issues brought up.

“My door is always open,” he said.

You can read the full press release HERE.

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New public charter school to open in September

A new public charter school will open in San Joaquin County this fall.

The Academy, part of the family of Delta Charter Schools, will start holding classes in September. The campus will also be located between Delta College and the University of the Pacific, at 722 W. March Lane near the March and Pacific Avenue Intersection.

The Academy will offer sports science and college prep courses for K-12 students and was co-founded by retired San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mick Founts, and Delta Charter Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Tilton.

Only a few miles away on 703 E. Swain in Stockton is another new member in the Delta Charter family tree: Delta Bridges Charter will open their doors in August to have students K-8.

Read more about the pair of new charter schools here:


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Scholarship awards $65,000 to graduating seniors

Twenty graduating seniors from various San Joaquin County high schools have racked up a total of $65,000 in scholarships from the Friedberger Educational Fund.

High schools represented include Stockton Early College Academy, Cesar Chavez, Stockton Collegiate International Schools and Franklin.

To view the complete list of students awarded this scholarship, click on the PDF file below.

2015 Friedberger Scholarship

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Another Lincoln yearbook omission

I received a nice email on Thursday from a parent, who started off saying the dress code policy controversy at Lincoln High School was unacceptable and should not be taken lightly. Both of which are true.

Those two students deserve as much respect as anyone else. This is 2015 after all.

But there also seems to be another glaring omission from the Lincoln yearbook as this parent pointed out: a group photo of the school Marching Band was nowhere to be found within the pages. I should point out too that the writer is a band booster parent.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

“The omission of a band group photo is unacceptable to me,” wrote the parent. “There are seniors in the band that made memories in their last year of high school and will not be recognized as a band member in a yearbook photo.”

“Not to mention the cost of being a band member and all the time and effort these kids put into their music to represent Lincoln in the most honorable way.”

I’m not exactly sure what in the world was going on in that yearbook class, but that 200+ person band must have felt like those two girls, like they were not apart of Lincoln High and might as well have not existed either.

While the yearbook wouldn’t publish their group photo for whatever reason, I feel like the next best thing I could do is post them here.

My only hope this that the Lincoln yearbook staff is fixed and something like this doesn’t happen again.

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