OC schools not affected by LAUSD’s decision to shut down campuses following threat

As you may have heard, the Los Angeles Unified School District announced that all of its schools would be closed Tuesday, Dec. 15 due to a threat of violence sent electronically to district officials.  

290x210-2The decision to cancel classes in Los Angeles was taken “in an abundance of caution” based on a specific threat reported within that district. The Orange County Department of Education has not been notified of any similar reports involving Orange County schools.

OCDE will, however, continue to work closely with law enforcement officials and maintain ongoing communications. Above all, the safety of students and staff remains our highest priority.

You can read the latest LAUSD coverage from the Los Angeles Times here.

And to learn how to help children deal with traumatic events, check out this Newsroom post from last month.

Project Zero Waste wins CSBA’s distinguished Golden Bell award (video)

IMG_1302A waste-reduction partnership between OCDE’s Inside the Outdoors program and OC Waste & Recycling has earned the California School Boards Association’s highly regarded Golden Bell Award.

Project Zero Waste is a service-learning program that has provided hands-on environmental science instruction to more than 325,000 students since its launch in 2009. 

Participants first learn the science of solid waste through Inside the Outdoors field trips and in-class lessons taught by Traveling Scientists. Then they apply what they’ve learned to the design and implementation of solid waste reduction campaigns, which have included campuswide recycling efforts, school gardens, community clean-up events and other student-led activities.

“Receiving the Golden Bell Award for Project Zero Waste is an honor,” Lori Kiesser, development director for Inside the Outdoors, told the OCDE Newsroom. “For Inside the Outdoors and OC Waste & Recycling, it validates a successful partnership that continues to change the lives of Orange County students.”

Indeed, the Golden Bell Award is a leading educational honor in California. Now in its 36th year, the accolade goes to programs that highlight best practices in support of effective governance, teaching and student learning.

Project Zero Waste would appear to be a worthy recipient. Assessments of Project Zero Waste students show an average increase in STEM knowledge of 14 percent, and the benefits go even further. Schools engaging in the program have reduced their trash output up to 20,000 pounds annually.

“The lessons learned by students participating in Project Zero Waste extend beyond academics,” said Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares. “In applying science lessons to develop solutions to real-world problems, students gain team-building, creativity and leadership skills.”

OCDE also received the Governor’s Award for Environmental and Economic Leadership for the Project Zero Waste program in 2011.

To learn more about Project Zero Waste, check out the video below, and visit the Inside the Outdoors website to get involved.

Two Orange County schools win National Red Ribbon Photo Contest

The National Family Partnership has announced the winners of the 2015 National Red Ribbon Photo Contest, and two schools are from Orange County — Brea Country Hills Elementary School in the Brea-Olinda Unified School District and Charles G. Emery Elementary School in the Buena Park School District.

The contest encouraged students to decorate their homes and schools using this year’s theme, “Respect Yourself. Be Drug Free.” The winning schools will receive $1,000 to be used toward drug prevention education.

image1When a flyer came home from her children’s school announcing the Red Ribbon competition, Dr. Josie Nuno-Oliva decided her family would enter the contest on behalf of the school.

“I felt it was one small thing we could do as a family to make a difference,” said Dr. Nuno-Oliva.

A photo of a large red ribbon hung from the second story balcony of their house helped Brea Country Hills Elementary School win in the home decoration category.

“We are thrilled to have won the $1,000 Red Ribbon prize,” said Brea Country Hills Elementary School Principal Trish Walsh. “I am extremely excited and proud of our school and community. It reiterated how much people care about our school and our kids.”

RRW PhotoIt was the photo of sixth-grade students from teacher Jennifer Ferrara’s class lying on the grass to spell “RESPECT” that led to a win in the school category for Emery Elementary School.

“I loved to see our students’ excitement and enthusiasm about getting involved in something so positive,” said Ferrara, a 2011 Buena Park School District Teacher of the Year. “I think it’s important to get the word out to the kids at a young age so they can understand the consequences and lifelong effects using drugs can have.”

Nuno-OIiva and Ferrara will each receive an iPad for entering the contest on behalf of their schools.

Neither school is sure how the $1,000 will be used yet, but Principal Walsh said they are looking into assemblies and materials that will help aid in the quest to empower students to make healthy choices in their lives, and Ferrara hopes to purchase something that will remind the students of their efforts and supplies for next year’s Red Ribbon Week activities. 

Two OC districts receive College Board AP District Honor Roll distinction

Two Orange County school districts have made the College Board’s AP District Honor Roll for 2015.

The Huntington Beach Union High School District and the Los Alamitos Unified School District are among 425 districts across the U.S. and Canada recognized for APhonorrollincreasing access to Advanced Placement coursework while maintaining or increasing the percentage of students earning scores of three or higher on AP exams.

Reaching these goals indicates these districts are successfully identifying motivated, academically prepared students who are likely to benefit from rigorous AP coursework.

Both Orange County districts are additionally highlighted for having achieved the designation for multiple years.

You can view the entire sixth Annual AP District Honor Roll list here.

In the news: Elementary and Secondary Education Act rewrite, librarian honored and more

  • Health teachers in all ten high schools in the Anaheim Union High School District are now certified to train students in hands-only CPR – the goal is to have every student in the district trained in the next four years.
  • The Garden Grove Unified School District’s modernization project is on time and within budget despite logistical challenges.
  • A study released this week by the American Institutes for Research finds that students in transitional kindergarten begin kindergarten better prepared in language, literacy and math.
  • The bill replacing the No Child Left Behind Act that expired in 2007 has passed the House and is set to go to the Senate this month.
  • An OCDE librarian with the unique ability to connect with students who are incarcerated is one of only 10 librarians in the U.S. to receive the prestigious I Love My Librarian Award.
  • Two Orange County school districts are members of CORE – a group of districts set to release preliminary reports on a new school grading formula called the School Quality Index.

Orange County Department of Education librarian chosen for national public service award

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Sylvia Cieply receiving the 2015 I Love My Librarian Award with Sari Feldman, president of the ALA and Courtney Young, immediate past president of the ALA. Photo courtesy of the American Library Association.


An OCDE librarian with the unique ability to connect with students who are incarcerated through her love of reading and her passion for learning has received the prestigious I Love My Librarian Award.

Sylvia Cieply, who works at the Otto A. Fischer School within Orange County Juvenile Hall, is one of only 10 librarians in the U.S. to be recognized this year out of 1,300 submissions, according to this news release from the American Library Association.

Established in 2008, the I Love My Librarian Award is a collaborative program of the ALA, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, The New York Public Library and The New York Times. The goal is to encourage library users to spotlight the accomplishments of exceptional librarians, whether they work at public libraries, schools or colleges.

Cieply was honored for recognizing the need for students to read books that reflect their experiences and interests. Under her leadership, the library has transformed into a central hub full of educational activities where students can access to up-to-date technology, attend speaker forums with invited authors, enjoy potluck celebrations and watch classic movie series.

Along with a special plaque for her library, Cieply will receive a $5,000 cash prize, to be presented at an award ceremony in New York.  

You can read Sylvia’s complete nomination letter here. And for a complete list of the 2015 award recipients, visit the I Love My Librarian Award website.

Fitness scores in Orange County decline slightly but remain higher than the state average

shutterstock_182394077The percentage of Orange County students who met their Healthy Fitness Zone performance targets in all six areas decreased slightly, according to the 2014-15 California Physical Fitness Test results released on Friday.

These scores are based on the state-mandated FitnessGram assessment, which includes a series of six separate tests to measure aerobic capacity, body composition, abdominal strength, trunk extensor strength, upper body strength and flexibility. More than 110,000 Orange County fifth-, seventh- and ninth-graders took the fitness test during the 2014-15 school year.

In Orange County, 32.8 percent of fifth-graders, 39.5 percent of seventh-graders and 46 percent of ninth-graders scored in the Healthy Fitness Zone in all six fitness tests in 2015. That’s a decreased average of 1.2 percent across all grade levels tested compared to 2014, but Orange County students still outperformed their peers across the state by an average of 7 percent.

The Healthy Fitness Zone represents levels of fitness that offer protection against chronic diseases resulting from a sedentary lifestyle. The 2014–15 physical fitness results for schools, school districts, counties and the state are available on the California Department of Education Physical Fitness Test Results web page.

More information is also available on the CDE Physical Fitness Test web page.

Let’s take a look back at the 2016 Orange County Teachers of the Year celebration (video)


On Nov. 10, the Orange County Department of Education honored the 2016 Orange County Teachers of the Year nominees and finalists at a dinner celebration at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim.

Our media services team put together the short video above to share a few highlights from the event.

As we previously reported, teachers Natalie Carias, Janis Leach, Lisa Moloney, Sharon Romeo and Dr. Karah Street were named the 2016 Orange County Teachers of the Year. Lisa Moloney was also named a semifinalist in the California Teachers of the Year competition.

A total of $150,000 in cash awards — donated by the Dr. James Hines Foundation, established by Orange County residents Bill and Sue Gross — were presented to the teachers during the ceremony. Sponsors of the event included SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union and the Disneyland Resort.

UC Irvine to host annual Gifted and Talented Education webinar series

The University of California, Irvine Extension is once again offering a free webinar series geared toward teachers, administrators and parents of gifted students. The eighth annual Gifted and Talented Education Webinar Series will take place weekly on Tuesdays, Feb. 2 through Feb 23, from 4 to 5 p.m.

IMG_4790The four-part series covers challenges the GATE community faces and examines potential methods that teachers, parents and administration can use when developing curriculum and programs, or when interacting with GATE students. Educators participating in the entire series have the option to receive service credit.

“With the GATE community rapidly evolving, UC Irvine Extension strives to provide critical techniques and strategies to maximize the potential of gifted learners,” said Angela Jeantet, director of education and business programs at UCI Extension. “These annual webinars provide educational professionals and parents of gifted students the opportunity to gather critical information that will benefit and solidify the educational foundation of GATE students for today and beyond.”

The free series will be hosted by four leading GATE educators and professionals and will feature presentations on harnessing students’ intuition and curiosity; expanding learning with technology; building resilience and reducing risky behaviors; and globalization and technology.

You can register for the webinars here. And for information on the series or the credit option, email Lisa Kadowaki, or contact her by phone at 949-824-9304.

Top five things to keep in mind when helping kids cope with crisis

watching tvAny time we’re confronted with a national crisis, whether it’s a natural disaster or an act of terrorism, it’s important to remember that kids may be experiencing amplified levels of stress or anxiety.

Even if they’re not personally affected, exposure to traumatic events through the media or in conversations can affect a child’s emotional well-being. In light of the recent attacks in Paris, we reached out to Jim Perez, Orange County Department of Education administrator for Safe Schools and Support Services, for a list of things parents and educators should keep in mind when helping children cope with tragedy.

Be understanding. Not everyone responds the same way in times of crisis. Review common stress reactions as well as grief responses and try your best to empathize with those who are being impacted. It’s common for children experiencing trauma to become more quiet or withdrawn, but others may become irritable or act out. It’s important to remember that these are all normal reactions, and adults need to respond in a calm and caring way.

Education is key. Certain reactions can make us feel out of control. Discussing stress reactions and grief responses with kids can be very helpful during times of crisis. By identifying reactions and letting them know that these are normal responses to an abnormal situation, you will already be providing a level of comfort.

Promote self-care. In time of crisis many of us become the caretakers of those who are most affected. These selfless acts of kindness are greatly appreciated, but adults must also remember to take care of themselves. Promoting self-care will ensure that you do not burn out or experience higher levels of compassion fatigue, allowing you to care for others for a longer period of time with greater efficiency.

Have patience. Just as individuals may have varying responses in times of tragedy, they will also have different timeframes for healing. Try your best to be patient with those you are caring for, as they may have a shorter or longer response time to the crisis.

Make sure to follow-up. Check in periodically to make sure that children are continuing to cope normally and do not need additional support. If additional support is needed, reach out to a school counselor or clinician. The majority of schools have school counselors on site that can meet with students to check in, help them process what they are experiencing and teach them about healthy coping strategies. If you would prefer seeking services outside of school, most medical insurances will cover these types of services.

For more OCDE tips on helping children cope with crises, click here. Or check out this blog post from Children’s Hospital of Orange County.