First day glitches

With all the fun and excitement that comes with the first day of school, there are bound to be problems that arise.

Students walk into the wrong class. Buses run late.

Tuesday marked the first day for nearly 40,000 Stockton Unified students to return to school, and you can believe with all those kids, mistakes were bound to be made, by accident of course.

Case #1: a concerned parent named Jennifer called to say her severely autistic daughter who attends Hazelton Elementary was picked up by the wrong special education bus on Tuesday and was dropped off at San Joaquin Elementary.

SUSD spokeswoman Dianne Barth was fully aware of the situation and said the incident was a simple mistake.

“She was brought back to Hazelton within 20 minutes,” she said. Vendetta Brown, principal at San Joaquin Elementary was there to meet with the special education bus and quickly noticed the student was not one of hers, said Barth.

Barth said she sent a picture to the special education department and the student was recognized, put back on the bus and was brought back to Hazelton to be reunited with family. Both campuses are within 1.5 miles of each other.

Jennifer told me she just simply wanted the district and public to be aware about autism, let’s all be thankful this wasn’t any worse.

Case #2: A woman by the name of Vicky left a message late Wednesday afternoon that over 100 students at Hamilton Elementary did not receive a lunch that day.

She said she had called the district and they reported only 40 students were left without a meal, which doesn’t make the situation any better.

Did hundreds of kids go hungry? How could this have happened?

“During the first day of school, Hamilton’s food services had miscounted the number of seventh-graders,” Barth said. “They were short by 60 meatballs sandwiches but the kids were given corndogs instead. All were fed.”

Mishaps are going to happen. Barth described it best, “First day glitches.”

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SUSD Back to School Night 9-12 grade schedule

Below is the following schedule for Back to School Nights within Stockton Unified that run from late August to early September.

Back to School Nights give parents the chance to visit their child’s school and meet teachers, administrators and see what the daily life for a SUSD student is all about.

Some schools may be parents-only so check with your child’s school to find out more information.

  • Chavez High: Thursday, August 20 from 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
  • Weber Institute: Tuesday, August 25 from 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
  • SECA: Wednesday, August 26 from 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
  • Health Careers Academy: Wednesday, August 26 from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
  • Edison High: Thursday, August 27 from 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
  • Pacific Law Academy: Thursday, August 27 from 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
  • Franklin High: Thursday, August 27 from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
  • Stagg High: Thursday, August 27 from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
  • Jane Frederick High: Thursday, September 3 from 5 p.m. – 6 p.m.
  • Stockton High: Thursday, September 3 from 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
  • Merlo Institute: Thursday, September 3 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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School is back in session, be aware of the roads

A friendly reminder to those on the morning and afternoon commute to be aware of school buses and cross walks.

Classes have begun at Stockton and Tracy Unified, so there will be a lot more foot traffic around school campuses.

Between 2004 and 2013, school transportation-related crashes in the United States claimed more than 1,300 lives, according to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an average of 134 deaths a year.

Drive slow in school zones, keep your eyes on the road and remember to stop if a school bus is flashing their stop sign.

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Comcast announces fifth back-to-school kickoff for Internet essentials

Comcast announced this week on improvements to their Internet Essentials, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive high-speed Internet adoption program.

The company said in a statement it plans to “double the service’s download Internet speed, offer subscribers a Wi-Fi router for no additional cost, and conduct several pilot programs for low-income senior citizens.”

This comes as a big boost for low-income families in Stockton and throughout San Joaquin County who can’t afford Internet access at home.

Not only is most school and course work done and can be found online, students who are enrolled in online classes need to have access to study.

The cost for Internet Essentials is $9.95 a month and comes with no credit check, no contract and no installation fee. Customers will receive up to 10 Mbps download speeds, along with free Wi-Fi routers.

Families who are eligible have to at least have one child who qualifies for the National School Lunch Program, must not have outstanding debt to Comcast that is less than a year old and live in an area where Comcast is available.

To start an application, click on the link HERE and see if you qualify.


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Lodi Unified kicks off digital learning initiative

Lodi Unified School District will host a digital learning kick-off on Thursday, August 6 at 9 a.m. at their district office at 1305 E. Vine Street, welcoming a 1:1 digital learning initiative is the new advancement throughout education through technology.

With aid from companies like Google and Intel, students will be issued an Education Chromebook or iPad that is set up and ready to use on material ranging from reading and language arts to science, math and social science.

In addition, Jaime Casap, Google Global Education Evangelist, will be speaking with participating students and teachers about the initiative and what it means to Lodi Unified.

All grade levels at John Muir, Parklane, Ellerth Larson, Live Oak, Leroy Nichols, Woodbridge, Heritage, Elkhorn, Lois Borchardt, Manlio Silva, Wagner Holt, Westwood, Ronald E. McNair, Delta Sierra and Joe Serna Jr. schools will be involved in the 1:1 digital learning for the 2015-16 school year.

The public can watch this event live on their computer via Google Hangout on the following link:

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Stagg students discuss biotech findings at Livermore Labs

Two Stagg High School students discussed their scientific findings after a two-week biotechnology program at Lawrence Livermore National Lab on Friday afternoon.

Junior Samuel Cornelison and senior Martha Valencia, along with teacher Marcus Sherman, showcased a poster with findings on isolating a protein of interest.

“The genes we are looking at are duckweed,” said Sherman via email. “Specifically, the genes that produce carbohydrates from photosynthesis. Duckweed produces a tremendous amount of carbohydrates, and duckweed may be a possible source of far more sustainable bio-fuel versus corn.”

More importantly, he said, students are learning college level biotechnology and manipulating all of the genes and laboratory procedures.

Sherman was asked by Dr. Joanna Albala, an education outreach manager within the University Relations and Science Education Program at Livermore, to bring two students to the lab this summer for work in biotechnology.

The program, in its fourth year, is co-run by Rutgers University and Livermore. Students work intensely with two instructors who have been trained at Rutgers, Jeff Austin from Modesto High School and Erin McKay from Tracy High School, said Sherman.

Those two weeks are combined with lecture on biotechnology as well in working in the labs, including DNA analysis.

“This is the first time SUSD students have been involved in this program, and is an enormous achievement for them and for the district, especially since this curriculum will be continued this school year,” said Sherman.

The program is also helping Sherman get a huge jump on improving his teaching, and he said he will incorporate this sequencing into his Biotechnology class in the upcoming year, using Cornelison and Valencia to help other students proceed through the sequencing.

“And, if all goes well, they may become published in a peer reviewed journal.”

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Substitute teacher recruitment fair cancelled

A substitute teacher recruitment fair planned by the San Joaquin County Office of Education has been cancelled. It was originally scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 22 at the office headquarters.

The reason behind it was simply there were not enough people who signed up to continue with the fair, said spokesperson Zach Johnson.

It’s another blow to the already critical need for teachers in San Joaquin County, as reported last week of a teacher shortage turning into more of a “crisis.”

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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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