Nominations open for 2014 Cortopassi Teaching Awards

The Cortopassi Family Foundation is accepting nominations for its Annual Excellence in Teaching Awards in the areas of Mathematics, Science, and Alternative Education, which come with $5,000 for both the winning teacher and his or her school, the San Joaquin Office of Education has announced.

Awards will be given to two mathematics teachers and two science teachers who teach at a San Joaquin County public or charter high school. The award recognizes distinguished teachers who motivate students to excel, support students in their academic pursuits both in and outside of the classroom, provide leadership in curricular and co-curricular events, encourage students to pursue a career in mathematics and/or science.

One award will be given to a teacher in a noncomprehensive public or charter high school, specifically a school that serves to educate students who have been unsuccessful in the traditional school settings. The awardee will be a distinguished teacher who motivates at-risk students to give their personal best and who inspires students to continue their educations beyond a high school diploma.

Teachers may be nominated only by their current principals. The nomination forms and three recommendation forms should be submitted to the Cortopassi Family Foundation, 11292 N. Alpine Road, Stockton, CA 95212, ATTN:  Carla Donaldson, or emailed to Application deadline is 5 p.m. Jan. 30.

Past winners are not eligible, but principals are encouraged to reapply on behalf of previous nominees.

To download an application for the Excellence in Mathematics & Science Teaching Awards click here.

To download an application for the Excellence in Teaching—Alternative Education Award click here.

For more information, contact Carla Donaldson at 209-481-1054, or email

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Different kind of Election Day drama: Trustees thwart would-be thief

George Neely and Steve Smith with the recovered trailer.

As if Election Day wasn’t exciting enough for Stockton and Lodi Unified Trustees Steve Smith and George Neely, they found themselves foiling a crime Tuesday morning after each spotted a man walking off with a stolen school trailer.

“I was out checking my signs, making sure they’re up, and I see this guy walking down Ben Holt pulling a trailer with his hands,” Smith said. “I think either he lost his car or something’s wrong with this picture.”

“He had even attached it to shopping cart,” Neely said. “He decided he could make better use of it than us, I guess.”

Smith called police, who were dispatched at 7:05 a.m. Meanwhile, ABLE parents who saw the man making off with the trailer called Neely, middle school director for the charter, who jumped in his car with a school security guard to track it down. It wasn’t hard; the man had trekked it over to nearby Angel Cruz Park.

“He was dancing and listening to music with our trailer there,” Neely said. “I walked up to him and just said. ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ He said, ‘I’m doing a science project.’ I said ‘That’s our trailer there and if you don’t mind, we’d like to get it back,’ and he said ‘OK’ and took his stuff.”

Police who showed up asked Smith to come and identify the culprit, which he did, and then, since he had a tow ball on his vehicle, helped Neely get the distinctive trailer back to the Inglewood Avenue campus.

Police arrested Masters Puu, 30, on suspicion of felony grand theft and took him to the County Jail, where he was being held on $100,000 bail, police spokesman Officer Joe Silva said.

“Kind of a weird morning this morning,” Smith said later Tuesday. “At least they got their trailer back. The police were right on it, though. I thank them for their persistence and taking care of it right away. We got some good people on the police force.”

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School districts, community colleges can apply for $250 million in Pathways grants

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is inviting school districts and community colleges to apply for $250 million in California Career Pathways Trust grants for programs that provide skills and practical experience to help students prepare for success in college and careers, he announced in a news release Monday.

A career pathway program helps students chart the classes they need in high school and community college to prepare for work in a particular industry. These programs lead students to two-year degrees, certificates, or four-year degrees that prepare them for highly skilled jobs in growing industries. The grants pay for collaboration efforts among school districts, community colleges, business, and community leaders, and the development of courses and are part of Torlakson’s Career Readiness initiative to curb dropouts and support career technical education.

“This program is a great example of teamwork among educators and employers,” said Torlakson. “By giving students a taste of the working world before they graduate, these programs motivate and excite students, reduce the drop-out rate, and increase the college attendance rate.”

For application information, visit the California Department of Education’s California Career Pathways Trust Implementation Grant and California Career Pathways Consortium Development Grant webpages. The CDE also will hold several grant workshops in November for prospective applicants.

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S.J. seniors can apply for $1,000 Lincoln Center scholarships

High school seniors, applications for the 2014-15 $1,000 Lincoln Center Scholarship are now available. All seniors with a GPA of 3.0 or higher attending school in San Joaquin County can apply ~ deadline is Jan. 5, 2015. You can download the application here. Last year, $4,500 in scholarships was awarded by the program with funds raised from the Lincoln Center LIVE! Classic Car Show.

For information about the scholarship or the program, contact  Lincoln Center marketing director Janelle Meyers at (209) 477-4868 or by email at


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Yoda gets his own trading card

Miss out on this, do not. Yoda, Stockton Unified School District Police Department’s new K-9, now has his own trading card. And, a quick read of the back reveals, he’s a Giants fan.

Yoda’s a Jack Russell terrier and was rescued  from a shelter. He has been trained to sniff out drugs, his handler, Officer Curtis Jue, said.


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Hague condemns Stockton Kids First mailer

Patricia Hague is the latest to condemn a recent spate of mailers that were sent out last week by a newly formed group calling itself Stockton Kids First targeting her and three other candidates for Stockton Unified’s Board of Trustees .

Her campaign issued a statement Thursday evening under the headline “DIRTY POLITICS ANOTHER FAILURE OF THE LEADERSHIP OF SUSD” and said the mailer “seeks to undermine the credentials of the most qualified candidate for the upcoming election – Patricia Hague. The mailer has numerous false statements and outright lies.”

Hague, a longtime educator who also served as principal at Franklin High, said last week that the photo the group used on the mailer wasn’t even her – and that they had the number of years she’d been principal wrong as well.

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SUSD releases schedule of upcoming flu clinics

District officials are sending home flu vaccination consent forms for parents and hope more will sign up to prevent  outbreaks from keeping students out of school this winter. Here’s a schedule of upcoming school site vaccination clinics:

Download the schedule here: FLU CLINIC SCHEDULE

For more information, visit or call Health Services at (209) 933-7060.



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Big turnout for STA rally

Roused by online notices from the Stockton Teachers Association such as “STA IS PREPARING TO STRIKE!” and “Showing up NOW means you’ll show up when it’s TIME TO WALK,” a vocal overflow crowd of union supporters turned out for Tuesday night’s Stockton Unified board meeting, holding signs, stomping their feet and shouting “We will walk! Union strong!”

Several spoke out during the meeting, cheering each other on and applauding – and sometimes booing members of the board.

“Angry constituents will testify during public comment segments of the meeting, blistering the school board majority for its refusal to allocate Proposition 30 education funds to the classroom for purposes including reducing class size and underwriting more parent-teacher collaboration time,” a pre-rally notice sent to the media read. Proposition 30  gives districts and parents the flexibility to locally decide how to spend Local Control Funding Formula money.

Contract negotiation sessions are scheduled for Friday and Nov. 13.

Also Tuesday night, interim Superintendent Julie Penn announced that the district is providing teachers with an extra $200 to spend on classroom supplies and will pay teachers for an hour’s worth of voluntary collaboration time each week while negotiations continue.






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Union plans rally at SUSD board meeting

STOCKTON – The Stockton Teachers Association is planning to protest at Tuesday night’s school board meeting ahead of a contract negotiation session scheduled for Friday, according to a rally notice on their website.

“HELP SEND A CLEAR MESSAGE TO SUSD: STA IS PREPARING TO STRIKE,” the notice reads. “We cannot tolerate SUSD’s lies and shenanigans any longer. ATTENDANCE is CRUCIAL.  Showing up NOW means you’ll show up when it’s TIME TO WALK.”

The association and the district have been at an impasse after negotiations, which have stretched longer than a year, broke down over the summer and have since gone into mediation. The union filed charges at the end of September with the Public Employment Relations Board, and talk of a strike has increasingly appeared on the STA’s website and Facebook page.

The rally is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. at district headquarters, 701 N. Madison St.

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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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