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 communications@ocde.us.

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.

Area high school teams prep for the 48th annual Orange County Academic Decathlon

SuperquizgymOver the next two Saturdays, more than 500 students from 43 local high schools will participate in the 48th annual Orange County Academic Decathlon, which concludes with the rousing Super Quiz Relay on Feb. 6.

Schools will once again be competing for top honors – and an invitation to represent Orange County at the California Academic Decathlon in March. Last year, Westminster High School won the county championship; Irvine’s Woodbridge High placed second but finished eighth overall at the state contest in Sacramento.

OC decathletes will kick off the communications portion of the county competition on Saturday, Jan. 30 by presenting prepared and impromptu speeches, participating in personal interviews and writing essays at Tustin High School.

One week later, they’ll take 30-minute multiple-choice tests in the subject areas of art, literature, mathematics, music, science and social science at Westminster High School. Each of these areas, with the exception of mathematics, will be based on the 2015-16 theme, “India.”

As in the past, the event culminates with some of the most compelling drama. The Super Quiz Relay is a perennial crowd favorite that resembles a quiz show and sounds like a sporting event, with parents and classmates boisterously cheering on their favorite squads from the sidelines. The relay, which is open to the public, will begin at 2:30 p.m. in the Westminster High School gymnasium, located at 14325 Goldenwest St. in Westminster.

Founded in 1968 by former Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Peterson, Academic Decathlons are 10-event scholastic contests staged at the county, state and national levels.

Nine-member teams compete 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). Competitions culminate with the Super Quiz Relay, which is held in front of a live audience.

On average, Orange County decathletes report spending 20 to 25 hours a week preparing for the Academic Decathlon. About 10 of those hours involve working with coaches and teammates at afterschool meetings; the remaining practice time is spent studying alone or with teammates outside of school.

Along with logging long hours, teamwork plays a crucial role in each team’s success. Students create tests and quizzes for one another, host scrimmages and analyze the prepared and impromptu speeches and interviews of their classmates. Students who are stronger at one academic subject often tutor and coach their teammates.

“Decathletes often refer to their decathlon team as their second family because of the countless hours spent together experiencing the rigors of competition,” says Kristin Rigby, an OCDE program specialist of academic events. “The constant engagement in communication, along with the ability to collaborate with others, are important skills needed to succeed in the 21st century. For each Orange County team, the camaraderie and commitment towards achieving one common goal shines brightly.”

This year’s Orange County Academic Decathlon is supported by the generous donations of community members and made possible by sponsors including NuVision Federal Credit Union, C2 Education, Del Taco LLC, the Orange County Register, Learning.com, Teacher Created Materials and Aeries Software, Inc.

Top honors, medals and scholarships will be awarded at the OCAD Awards Ceremony at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 16 in the Bill Medley Auditorium at Santa Ana High School.

For more information, go here, or contact Orange County Department of Education Program Specialist Kristin Rigby at (714) 966-4435 or krigby@ocde.us.

In the news: Project Zero Waste honored, kindergarten vaccination rates rise and more

We’ve made it to another Friday, and that means it’s time for our weekly recap of recent education stories.

OC educators will be able to remotely attend this year’s CUE educational technology conference

This coming March, scores of tech-minded teachers and administrators will once again descend upon Palm Springs for the annual CUE National Conference, featuring the latest educational technology innovations.

CUEBut what about those who can’t make it out to Palm Springs? Well, now there’s a way to participate remotely from Orange County. (Because technology!)

“CUE Connect” will enable registered educators to watch all three keynote speeches at the March 17-19 event and virtually engage in the breakout sessions from a conference center at the Orange County Department of Education, located at 200 Kalmus Drive in Costa Mesa. This is a first for CUE, which says it intends to explore other venue options in future years.

Founded in 1978, CUE works to advance student achievement by offering insight and training on the latest educational technologies. More than 6,000 teachers and administrators annually attend CUE’s signature conference, billed as the largest and oldest education technology gathering in California. It’s also among the largest in the U.S.

This year’s CUE National Conference will be held from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 17; 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, March 18; and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 19. The CUE Connect registration fee is $149 for all three days.

For more information, or to register, go here.

In the news: A state spending proposal, a makeup assignment in La Habra, court news and more

You want headlines? We’ve got headlines. Here’s the latest roundup of what’s happening in the world of education:

  • Anthony Rendon, the next speaker of the California Assembly, wants to use his position to focus on early childhood education.

Governor’s latest spending plan calls for increased school funding

A new state spending plan unveiled Thursday by Governor Jerry Brown would provide a $5.4 billion increase for California’s K-14 public school system.           

IMG_1647Indeed, the budget proposed for the fiscal year that starts July 1 reflects California’s steady economic improvement — and the governor’s commitment to fully implementing California’s new education funding formula.

“Overall, this budget is welcome news for Orange County students,” said Wendy Benkert, OCDE’s associate superintendent of business services. “We eagerly await a number of key details that will shed light on how this plan specifically impacts Orange County, but the governor continues to demonstrate his support for full implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula, and for the third year in a row, schools are poised to receive one-time dollars to support critical investments.”

The Local Control Funding Formula or LCFF, was designed in 2013-14 to channel more resources to students with the greatest needs. Along with a base level of funding by grade span, it sends additional dollars to districts based on their number — and concentration — of English-learners, low-income students and foster youth.

When it was created, the LCFF established target levels of funding for school systems that were to be achieved by the 2020-21 school year. Until then, districts have been receiving annual increases in the form of “gap funding,” referencing the gap between what they currently get and the target amount. Based on his proposal, the governor wants to increase the gap funding by $2.8 billion this year, or about 5.4 percent. 

Brown’s plan also includes more than $1.2 billion in one-time discretionary spending for school districts, charter schools and county offices of education. This funding could support key investments for districts, including standards implementation, technology, professional development, training for beginning teachers and deferred maintenance.

“The ongoing economic recovery in California will increase the Proposition 98 budget guarantee for schools up to $71.6 billion, a dramatic improvement from the $47.3 billion budget share in the depths of the recession five years ago,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said Thursday in a statement. 

Note that the governor’s proposal serves as a starting point for budget deliberations that typically go for months. The next fiscal milestone at the state level is May, when Brown is expected to release a revised spending plan based on the latest economic data and projections. 

OCDE staff and school district leaders will continue to analyze details of the governor’s proposal as they emerge.