In the news: Canyon High wins OC decathlon, judge orders state to disclose student records and more

Each Friday, we post a roundup of local education headlines. Here are the big stories from this week:

  • Canyon High School in the Orange Unified School District has earned top honors in this year’s Orange County Academic Decathlon – but they’re not the only local school that will advance to California Academic Decathlon.
  • The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing is considering a new permit system that would effectively extend the amount of time substitute teachers can fill in for regular teachers out on medical leave.
  • A state mediator has been appointed to help settle a negotiations impasse between the Fullerton Joint Union High School District and the association that represents that district’s teachers.
  • A Dana Hills High student whose photo was omitted from the yearbook on the grounds that the keffiyeh worn on his head could be perceived as offensive is challenging that decision.

OCDE in 30 Seconds: IT division supports the technology needs of Orange County schools

How does OCDE’s Information Technology team support students and educators throughout Orange County? If you’ve got 30 seconds, IT Director Louis Mazzarini will explain.

Is there an OCDE program or service you’d like to see explained in 30 seconds? Send us a request at

Tustin Unified School District and foundation to host educational technology conference

The Tustin Unified School District and the Tustin Public Schools Foundation are jointly hosting their second “Connect Institute,” a technology and learning conference, from Feb. 24 through Feb. 26.

Connect Institute #1 - March 2015More than 160 educational leaders representing 20-plus school districts throughout Southern California have registered for the three-day conference, which will be held at the Irvine Marriott. Attendees will explore connected teaching and learning, effective classroom technologies, leadership strategies and more.

This year’s keynote speakers will be Tustin Superintendent Dr. Gregory Franklin and John Couch, vice president of education for Apple. Couch is also a computer scientist and advocate for technology in education.

Picture1Board members, superintendents, principals, district administrators, IT directors and teacher leaders will get a chance to participate in strategic team planning sessions and workshops on a variety of topics, including educational technology in the classroom, essential tools for secondary math, establishing student-run technology help centers, developing student leaders to support robotics programs, building college and career-ready pathways, innovative online professional development, creating educational cafes in the classroom and utilizing Google Classroom at the secondary level.

Participants will also visit three schools – Barbara Benson Elementary School, C.E. Utt Middle School and Beckman High School – to see how teachers and students are using technology in the 21st-century classroom, and they’ll have an opportunity to tour the district’s Technology Operations Center at Beckman.

For more information about Connect Institute, contact Tustin Unified’s Communications Office at 714-730-7339.

Canyon High School takes the Orange County Academic Decathlon championship

OCADCanyon High School in the Orange Unified School District has earned top honors in this year’s Orange County Academic Decathlon.

With 50,675.50 total points, the Canyon squad was announced as the Overall Team Winner by the Orange County Academic Decathlon Association and OCDE on Tuesday night, drawing a round of uproarious applause in front of a packed crowd at Santa Ana High School’s Bill Medley Auditorium. Along with a plaque and scores of individual medals, the school picked up a $3,000 travel stipend to take on the best teams from 38 counties at the California Academic Decathlon in March.

And Canyon High isn’t the only local school that punched its ticket to the state contest.

By earning team scores that were among the highest in California, Valencia High School in the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District, Woodbridge High in the Irvine Unified School District and Westminster High in the Huntington Beach Union High School District also received invitations to compete at the state level. (Westminster was last year’s champion.)

Here’s a breakdown of this year’s winning Orange County teams by division:


  • 1st Place: Canyon High School, Orange Unified School District    
  • 2nd Place: Valencia High School, Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District  
  • 3rd Place: Woodbridge High School, Irvine Unified School District
  • 4th Place: Westminster High School, Huntington Beach Union High School District
  • 5th Place: Trabuco Hills High School, Saddleback Valley Unified School District


  • 1st Place: Fountain Valley High School, Huntington Beach Union High School District
  • 2nd Place: Esperanza High School, Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District
  • 3rd Place: Corona del Mar High School, Newport-Mesa Unified School District
  • 4th Place: Sonora High School, Fullerton Joint Union High School District
  • 5th Place: El Dorado High School, Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District


  • 1st Place: Cornelia Connelly School, Private School
  • 2nd Place: Foothill High School, Tustin Unified School District       
  • 3rd Place: Yorba Linda High School, Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District
  • 4th Place: Santiago High School, Garden Grove Unified School District  
  • 5th Place: Saddleback High School, Santa Ana Unified School District

Organized at the county, state and local levels, Academic Decathlons are scholastic contests in which nine-member teams battle for the highest scores on multiple-choice exams, speeches, interviews and essay assignments. Each team must include three “Honor” students (those with GPAs of 3.75 or above), three “Scholastic” students (GPAs of 3.00 to 3.74) and three “Varsity” students (GPAs of 2.99 or below). Each 10-event contest culminates with the popular Super Quiz Relay, which is held in front of a live audience. (You can learn more on the OCDE’s Academic Decathlon 101 webpage.)

Kristin Rigby, an OCDE program specialist of academic events, told us that Canyon High just rejoined the Orange County Academic Decathlon last year after a lengthy hiatus. The team is coached by teacher Khoa Dao, a former decathlete from Westminster High School, which advanced to the state competition when he participated.

The Orange County Academic Decathlon program is sponsored by the nonprofit Orange County Academic Decathlon Association and administered by OCDE. It’s also supported by the generous donations of community members and sponsors, including NuVision Federal Credit Union, C2 Education, Del Taco LLC, the Orange County Register,, Aeries Software, Inc. and Teacher Created Materials.

Court orders California Department of Education to disclose student information to litigants

A federal district court has ordered the California Department of Education to disclose personal student information – including documents and data dating back to 2008 – to plaintiffs who initiated a lawsuit against the state agency.

The CDE has more information and a form to register objections on this webpage, but here’s some background on the case:

Califonria Department of Education LogoIn April 2012, the Morgan Hill Concerned Parents Association and the Concerned Parent Association filed suit against the California Department of Education, alleging non-compliance of special education laws by local educational agencies. The suit alleges the CDE failed to monitor, investigate and correct the non-compliance in accordance with the law.

The CDE has denied these allegations and says it is actively defending against the litigation. Nevertheless, as part of the discovery process, the state department has been ordered to produce all data collected on general and special students who have attended a California school at any time since Jan. 1, 2008.

The CDE says it contested the release of student information but to no avail. The court has, however, prohibited the plaintiffs and their attorneys from sharing confidential material with anyone outside the case. In other words, no student records are to be disclosed to the public.

You may already know that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, was designed to protect student privacy, and it generally requires parental consent before an educational agency may disclose personal data. But there are exceptions, including court orders.

Examples of the information stored on the CDE’s databases and network drives include names, social security numbers, addresses, demographics data, course information, assessment results, and behavior and discipline records.

To comply with FERPA laws, the CDE is required to inform parents and students of the disclosure, and in fact school districts and other educational agencies throughout the state — including OCDE — are helping to spread the word by sharing the following link on their websites:

The CDE webpage includes the official notice, as well as an objection form that parents can fill out and mail before April 1. There’s also a number to contact the CDE with additional questions.

Expert on music and brain function to speak at upcoming Creative Edge Lecture

Noted neuroscientist and musician Charles Limb, who has extensively researched how the brain creates and responds to music, will be the featured speaker at next month’s seventh annual Creative Edge Lecture, which will be held at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 10.39.58 AMThe 90-minute presentation, which starts at 10 a.m. on March 14, is also set to include musicians from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at UCLA. If your work involves education, business or the arts, this would be a good lecture to check out, and we’ve got the ticket information below. 

Dr. Limb, who has degrees from both Harvard and Yale, is a professor and chief of otology/neurotology and skull base surgery at the University of California, San Francisco. He’s also an expert in music whose studies on how the brain works during musical improvisation led him to put jazz musicians and rappers through a functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner, or fMRI.

By sharing his latest findings, Dr. Limb will offer invaluable insight on how humans generate new ideas, why creativity is a crucial part of who we are, and why creative pursuits are critical to the advancement of the human race. It’s pretty fascinating research, and as such Dr. Limb has been featured by a number of prominent outlets including the New York Times, CNN and TED.

Sponsors for this year’s Creative Edge Lecture include the Orange County Department of Education, Boeing, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Phil and Mary Lyons, Haskell & White LLP, UCI’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts, Susan K. Hori, Carl Neisser, Judith Posnikoff, Janet and James “Walkie” Ray, Kay Mortenson and the Orange County Community Foundation.

The Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall is located at 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa. Tickets are $25 if purchased before the early-bird deadline of Feb. 29 and $35 if purchased in March. The cost for students to attend is just $10.

To order tickets, visit, or call 714-556-2787. For more information, contact Steve Venz, OCDE’s visual and performing arts coordinator, at 714-966-4128 or

In the news: New diploma options for OC students, perfect AP Spanish scores and more

Another week is in the books, and we’ve got a recap of some of the education news you might have missed.

  • The Super Quiz Relay marked the final event of this year’s Orange County Academic Decathlon, and the Orange County Register had it covered with a story and photos.
  • NewspaperOCDE’s new College and Career Preparatory Academy is designed to fill gaps in services available to young men and women who have aged out of the school system but still need to complete graduation requirements.
  • About 35 fifth- and sixth-grade students from Newport Coast Elementary School are taking coding classes offered by a local nonprofit.
  • The famous Harlem Globetrotters trotted through Orange County this week to spread a message of anti-bullying at several schools, including Richmond Elementary in Fullerton, Star View Elementary in Midway City, St. Joachim Catholic School in Costa Mesa and St. Anne School of Santa Ana.
  • A Fullerton School District board member who would have been up for re-election in November will have to wait two years to run again as a result of Fullerton’s transition from an at-large election system to geographical trustee areas.

That’s all for now.

OCDE in 30 Seconds: A brief look at the ‘Move More Eat Healthy’ program

Once again, we’re challenging staff members to explain Orange County Department of Education programs or services in under half a minute.

For our latest installment of “OCDE in 30 Seconds,” we caught up with Program Coordinator Chris Corliss to talk about the “Move More Eat Healthy” initiative. Take a look.

If you want to learn more about the program, check out this story from the OCDE Newsroom or visit this webpage.

Is there an OCDE program or service you’d like to see explained in 30 seconds? Send us a request at

In the news: The 2016 Orange County Academic Decathlon concludes with a flourish

SuperQuiz5.jpgIn case you missed it, the Orange County Register published a fun recap — with nearly a dozen pictures — of Saturday’s Super Quiz Relay, which was the final event of this year’s Orange County Academic Decathlon.

You can find the newspaper’s online coverage here, and be sure to click on the accompanying photo slideshow.

Academic Decathlons are 10-event scholastic contests staged at the county, state and national levels, each culminating with the Super Quiz Relay, which is held in front of a live audience.

Next up, we learn which students and schools were the big winners. The 2016 OCAD Awards Ceremony is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 16 at Santa Ana High School.

Students at Anaheim’s Loara High School bank on unique job training opportunity (video)

Here’s a story that’s earning interest.

Union Bank has opened an actual working branch on the campus of Loara High School in Anaheim. By all accounts, this represents a highly unique partnership that’s dispensing both lessons on financial literacy as well as bankable job training for Loara students.

We could probably deposit a few more bank puns into this post, but we think you should just check out the video, courtesy of our top-notch Media Services team.

Is there something cool happening at your school that you’d like to see featured on the OCDE Newsroom? Drop us an email at