Three San Joaquin County students awarded National Merit Scholarship

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation announced this year’s National Merit $2500 Scholarship winners. The 2,500 Merit Scholar designees were chosen from a talent pool of more than 15,000 outstanding Finalists in the 2016 National Merit Scholarship Program.

National Merit $2500 Scholarship winners are the finalists in each state judged to have the strongest combination of accomplishments, skills, and potential for success in rigorous college studies. The number of winners named in each state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the nation’s graduating high school seniors.

Gianna Chien (Lincoln High), Amber Feng (Middle College High) and Medha Kothari (Kimball High) were the three in San Joaquin County named. These scholars were selected by a committee of college admissions officers and high school counselors, who provided information including academic records, including difficulty level of subjects studied and grades earned; scores from two standardized tests; contributions and leadership in school and community activities; an essay written by the finalist; and a recommendation written by a high school official.

The National Merit Scholarship finances most of these single-payment $2500 scholarships. Corporations and company foundations that sponsor awards through NMSC also help underwrite these scholarships with grants they provide in lieu of paying administrative fees. Scholars may use their awards at any regionally accredited U.S. college or university.

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Deputy District Attorney running for Tracy Unified school board

San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Dan Arriola announced his intention to run for the Tracy Unified School District board.

Arriola, 26, who also serves as the Youth Advisory Commissioner for the City of Tracy will seek one of three seats that will be up for election this November.

“It has been a privilege working with young people and local leaders to advocate for education and the youth in our community, but there is still much work to be done,” said Arriola in a written statement. “I am running for (the) Tracy School Board because I know just how challenging it can be to pursue an education and every student deserves the opportunity to succeed.”

Arriola grew up in Tracy and graduated from West High School in 2007. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2011, and a Juris Doctor from the USC Gould School of Law in 2014.

He was featured in a story from former Record reporter Jennie Rodriguez-Moore as the first in his family to attend college. You can read more about him HERE.

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Teachers College awards grant for teachers to implement innovative projects

Nine San Joaquin County teachers will be able to pay for innovative classroom projects through mini-grants awarded by the Teachers College of San Joaquin, part of the San Joaquin County Office of Education, announced Friday.

The $500 – $2,500 mini-grants came from a $25,000 grant awarded to the teacher college by the Intrepid Philanthropy Foundation.  The Promise of Innovation Award allows awardees, who are students of the college, to carry on proposed projects in their own classrooms.

“We hear lots of things happening in education and this is an opportunity for us to recognize that there are some amazing things happening with teachers and students in our region,” teacher college President Dr. Diane Carnahan said in a statement.

Awardees will begin implementing projects with their students either in spring or fall 2016.

The Promise of Innovation awardees:

Jessica Branstetter: $2,500
Lincoln Unified School District, Mable Barron Elementary School, third grade
Project: Tinker Time, Project-Based Learning Units

Matthew Brenner: $2,500
SJCOE, Special Education, 7-12th grade
Project: Electronic Notebooks

Perry Farrens: $2,500
Tracy Unified School District, Merrill F. West High School, 9-12th grade
Project: Algeomulus Prep. Academy

Elisabeth Hensel: $2,500
Lodi Unified School District, Tokay High School, multi-grade English-language support and 10th grade
Project: Dance and Literacy

Nanette Hunter: $2,500
Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District, Livermore High School, 9-12th grade
Project: Implementing Technology to Support Student Success

Lynnelle Madsen: $2,500
Manteca Unified School District, Great Valley Elementary School, pre-K
Project: Sensory Materials

Josh Montero: $1,600
Tracy Unified School District, North Elementary School, fifth grade
Project: Solar Powered Batteries

David Qualls: $2,500
SJCOE, Alternative Education, 9-12th grade
Project: Play Production and Set Design

Melissa Slichter: $1,850
Tracy Unified School District, George Kelly Elementary School, K-eighth grade
Project: Superflex/Social Thinking

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SUSD, Delta College offer dual enrollment

Juniors and seniors at Chavez, Edison, Franklin and Stagg high schools in Stockton Unified are partnering with San Joaquin Delta College to host parent information nights about dual enrollment. Students can learn how they can earn college credits as they prepare to enter college.

Students taking community college courses while still enrolled in high school have a much greater likelihood of completing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Dual enrollment can also shorten time spent at college by at least a year and save $5,324, according to Delta College.

The next info night is tonight at Franklin High from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Edison and Stagg high schools will hold theirs on Thursday, May 5 at 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Chavez students held their meeting on Monday.

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Four nicknames chosen for Calaveras High School

Calaveras High School has four finalists in the search for a new school nickname.

On Monday, CBS Sacramento reported that the school has narrowed their search to Skulls, Reds, Red Tail Hawks, or simply no mascot at all.

Before you question why a name such as “Skulls” would be even considered, I learned from a presentation by the Student Stewards of the Lower Calaveras River from Kohl Open Elementary School that “calaveras” is Spanish for skull.

The high school, located in San Andreas with the Calaveras Unified School District, has been undergoing through the process of a new nickname for quite some time.

Gov. Jerry Brown had signed legislation into law last fall that makes California the first in the nation to ban public schools from using “Redskins” as a name for sports teams.

Calaveras High principal said in an earlier article about the nickname search that a new name will be chosen by mid-May.  It will debut by the start of the 2016-17 school year in late July.

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Franklin High School teacher to sign copies of book

Franklin High School English teacher Elizabeth James, co-author with her husband, Bill James, of “Method to the Madness: A Common Core Guide to Creating Critical Thinkers Through the Study of Literature,” will be at the Weberstown Mall Barnes and Noble bookstore in Stockton to sign copies of the book from 1 to 4 p.m. today.

The book is ideal for English teachers who entered the profession in the past 10 years and had previously taught prescribed curriculum geared toward end-of-year bubble tests.

It is designed, Bill James said in an interview with The Record, to help fellow teachers develop rigorous curriculum that many have not had practice creating in the scripted, test-prep-focused era of No Child Left Behind.

The book-signing is part of the store’s Spring Educator Appreciation Days. Barnes & Noble stores nationwide and online at offer pre-K-12 public, private and home-school educators and administrators special discounts, events, sweepstakes and giveaways and ends on Sunday.

You can read more about the James’ and their book HERE.


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Sign-up for first Lincoln Unified Charity Run

The Lincoln Unified School District will ring in its first Lincoln Charity Run on Saturday, May 14, with profits going to support charities that provide for local children.

Organized by district staff and Leadership Team, the two-mile run/walk will travel through the Lincoln High School football stadium, and around the neighboring areas including Sierra Middle School and other various district facilities.

District superintendent Tom Uslan said the Lincoln Charity Run was founded on commitment to raising funds for non-profit organizations Ride-A-Wave and March of Dimes.

The Charity Run will begin at 9 a.m. with the stadium opening at 8:15 a.m. During and after the run, there will be live music and entertainment.

Shirts will be available to pickup from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, May 13, at the football stadium.

Runners, joggers and walkers can sign up online at Prices range from $40 for adults, $15 for students and $100 for families. Registrations received after Sunday, May 1 will not receive race shirts on the day of the event.

The Stockton Fire Department and representatives from other emergency services will be on hand to hold community outreach programs during the run.

Additional forms also available at or at any district school site and can be returned to any Lincoln Unified school office.

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Manteca Unified launch high-powered rockets with CanSat technology


Nearly 200 students and 30 plus staff from Manteca Unified’s STEM Elective program came together at Snow Ranch in Farmington this past weekend to launch CanSat satellites in high-power rockets.

District officials said the students and their teachers have been working all year to construct their CanSat satellite – small enough to fit into a can of soda.

Inside the CanSat were sensors that collected data on acceleration, barometric pressure, humidity, temperature, GPS and magnetic field.  Now back on solid ground, students will analyze the data collected and will share their scientific results to their schools.

Launch logistics were facilitated by volunteers from LUNAR, the Livermore Unit of the National Rocketry Association and coordinated by, the creators of the CanSat curriculum. founders Ted Tagami and Tony So, sent off a high-altitude weather balloon with CanSat instrumentation from Delta Sierra Middle School a day before in Stockton.

You can read that story HERE.

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Wentinn Liao first San Joaquin County student to win MATHCOUNTS competition

Monte Vista Middle School eighth-grader Wentinn Liao has won several enormously competitive math competitions.

I wrote a story last year on the math wizard, which can be found HERE.

Liao’s latest accomplishment is participating and winning the local San Joaquin County Chapter Competition of MATHCOUNTS, he also took part in the State Competition and won the Northern California region.

The 12-year-old can now claim the honor of being the first student from the county to win such a title.

His father, Sen-Ben Liao, said the Santa Clara Chapter has been dominating the past 30 years. Along with three other students, Wintenn will represent California at the national level in May at a competition in Washington, D.C.

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Lodi Unified poetry contest results; winners to read at upcoming board meeting

The Lodi Unified School District held its sixth annual Superintendent’s Poetry Contest and had 1,400 poems submitted from grades ranging in first- through 12th.

The winners received a certificate, a “surprise prize bag” and the original poem returned to them. The first place winners in each category are invited to read their poems aloud to at the next regularly scheduled district board meeting on May 3 at 7:00 p.m. at the Julia Morgan Elementary School, 3777 Spanos Blvd, Stockton.

For the ninth- through 12th-grade category, poems were judged by Bob Stanley, a professor of English at California State University, Sacramento. Stanley is also a professional poet, a former Poet Laureate of Sacramento, and the President of the Sacramento Poet Center.

For the sixth- through eighth-grade category:

  • First place: Kaia Rivera from Christa McAuliffe Middle School for “Who I am”
  • Second place: Michael Castro from Lodi Middle School for “Nature of Nurture”
  • Third place: Jenesia A. Rosales at Reese Elementary School for “Chapter 7: Where the Red Fern Grows”

For the ninth- through 12th-grade category:

  • First place: Destiny Simmons from Bear Creek High School for “Clear Mind”
  • Second place: Alyssa Witbeck from Tokay High for “My Trip to Time’s House”
  • Third place: Clarissa Lule from Tokay High for “Sprouts”

For the third- through fifth-grade category, Ava Clark from Erma Reese Elementary and Annabelle Sikich from the first- through third-grade category have been invited to read their poems at upcoming board meeting.

In a statement, Stanley said the judging was a difficult job for me this year, with many well-written poems and featuring a wide range of topics and approaches.

He encourages all up-and-coming writers to keep up the good work.

“Hopefully, writing becomes something you do because you have something you want to say,” he said. “Real writers write, not because a teacher assigns writing, and not because we want to make money, but because we want to communicate to others. I believe these poems, as well as the other pieces that were entered in the contest, have communicated important sentiments and ideas.”

All prizes for the winners were paid directly out of pocket by Lodi Unified superintendent Dr. Cathy Nichols-Washer.

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