FALL 2020
A Note from County Superintendent of Schools
Lynn Mackey
Happy Holidays!

It is my pleasure to present a newsletter from the Contra Costa County Office of Education that will give you some insight into the work taking place in the public schools throughout the county.

I know that most of the messages you have heard about public schools since March are in the context of the pandemic that has closed school buildings. While this is our biggest concern, it is my hope that this newsletter will be a place to highlight some of the accomplishments made by students and teachers in our public schools during the time of COVID-19.

In this inaugural issue, you will see how our ROP teachers are providing lessons that are normally hands-on to students in distance-learning formats, read about the county’s Teachers of the Year, and learn about Kennedy High School teacher Stephen Manini and how his artwork was selected to appear in an exhibit at the famed de Young museum in San Francisco. These are just a few of the great stories taking place in the county’s public schools.

While we do want to highlight the positive things happening in both the Contra Costa County Office of Education and the county’s 18 school districts, I also want to take a little time to update you on the status of schools during the pandemic.

Schools in this county are following the guidelines that have been provided by State and local health officials. Despite the recent stay-at-home order put into place by several Bay Area counties, schools that are already conducting in-person instruction can remain open and high needs students can return to classrooms under the current guidelines.  These are decisions that must be made by individual school districts. For information about your individual school district please see their website.

I know that this has not been easy for students, parents or teachers and I thank you for your continued patience and understanding as we navigate this pandemic. It is my hope that with the promise of a vaccine and continued adherence to the public health guidelines that we will soon return to in-person instruction.

If you are interested in more COVID-19 information as it relates to schools, you can visit us online at www.cocoschools.org or follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. The Contra Costa County Health Services' website is also a great resource for timely and accurate information about the pandemic response.

I will also continue to update the community through this newsletter, which will be distributed quarterly. If you find there are other stories about public schools you think should be included in this publication, please email them to our communications team at jlance@cccoe.k12.ca.us.

Thank you for reading and have a great holiday season!

In community,

Lynn Mackey
Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools
CCCOE Releases 2019-2020 Annual Report to the Community
CCCOE's 2019-2020 Annual Report is posted and available to the public. The Annual Report features a number of the essential programs and services we provided this past school year for our county's students, parents, and educators. To review, please visit this link: cocoschools.org/annualreport
CocoKids Earns November Education Champion Award
Recently, Superintendent of Schools Lynn Mackey on Wednesday night has named CocoKids as the CCCOE Education Champion for the month of November 2020.
The award was announced at the November 18 Contra Costa County Board of Education meeting. The Education Champion is an award to recognize people and organizations who have been partners that support public education’s mission to educate every child no matter their station or ability. 

 “In order for public education to be successful, we need partners willing to help in this work,” Mackey said. “CocoKids has been one of those partners for decades. The agency has been instrumental in helping provide child care for essential workers since the early days of the pandemic. I am proud to recognize CocoKids and Executive Director John Jones as the first CCCOE Education Champion.” 

CocoKids (formerly the Contra Costa Child Care Council) has championed and advanced quality child care and early education since 1976.  

“Contra Costa County is fortunate to have a partnership of public and nonprofit organizations focused on the needs of young children,” CocoKids Executive Director John Jones said. “As a member of that partnership it is an honor for CocoKids to be recognized as a vital component in the education of children in our community.” 

County High School Mock Trials Looking for Volunteers
The CCCOE is looking for additional members of the California Bar Association and second- and third-year law students to serve as Mock Trial scorers and judges at the upcoming 39th Annual Contra Costa County Mock Trial Program. New volunteers will be joining close to 80 practicing and retired Bay Area lawyers, district attorneys, public defenders, and judges who will be returning as Mock Trial scorers and judges. Due to COVID-19, this year's Mock Trials will be held virtually, which means judging and scoring can be done at the volunteers' home or office.
Dates: January 26, 28, February 9, 11, 16; 5:00-8:00 p.m.
For info: Contact Jonathan Lance at (925) 942-3429, or visit the Mock Trial web page
Contra Costa Teachers of the Year Gala: A Virtual Success!
As like so many other celebrations, conferences, and public recognition events, the CCCOE's Communications Department needed to move the 48th annual Teachers of the Year Gala Dinner from the usual Hilton Concord to a virtual site.

“Though we certainly missed being together and seeing the hundreds of smiling faces in person at the Hilton, we felt our Teachers of the Year Virtual Gala was still very special,” said Lynn Mackey. “The broadcast featured many favorite traditions of our past TOY Galas: students introducing their teachers, the teachers telling us about what they’ve learned teaching during a pandemic, tremendous music entertainment provided by local schools (Contra Costa College and Liberty High School choirs), and the official introduction of our county’s newest Teachers of the Year!”
To view this year's Virtual Gala video, visit CCCOE's YouTube channel.

The 2020-21 Contra Costa County Teachers of the Year are Sarah Clancy from Live Oak Elementary School, in San Ramon and Courtney Konopacky from Stone Valley Middle School, in Alamo. Both honorees teach in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District.

With the TOY program dating back to 1973, this is only the third time that the two county TOYs came from the same school district: 1979-1980 school year, when both Joseph Hipple and Ann Rowe represented the Mt. Diablo Unified School District and in 2018-19 when Kelly Perkins and California State TOY Rosie Reed also represented the Mt. Diablo Unified School District.
Sarah Clancy
Courtney Konopacky
ROP Courses Meeting the Challenges During COVID-19
While instructing students during a pandemic, there is no doubt that creative and talented teachers have been forced to improvise as they turned their classroom lessons into virtual courses. Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) Regional Occupational Program (ROP) teachers have certainly met the challenge with their courses, many of which are hands-on instruction, such as auto technology, medical interventions, and robotics.

 “This pandemic has caused all of our educators to change what they do and how they do it,” Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Lynn Mackey said. “I am proud that ROP teachers are still able to educate and engage students in rigorous, relevant instruction. The fact these hands-on classes have been able to still provide value in a virtual setting speaks to the commitment and imagination of these teachers and the ability of students to adapt to an unpredictable and ever-changing environment.”

Working directly with the school districts, CCCOE currently spends over $8 million to fund 263 ROP classes at 20 high schools in the county, serving more than 8,000 students who take part in courses as varied as automotive technology, sports medicine and play production. This funding comes from a combination of CCCOE’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), a K12 Strong Workforce Program Grant, and a Career Technical Education Incentive Grant (CTEIG).

Since its creation in 1975, CCCOE ROP has been a career and technical education (CTE) provider that prepares both high school students and adults for a wide range of careers and further educational opportunities. The ROP course of study combines classroom instruction with hands-on learning; ROP teachers are fully credentialed and experienced in their related industries. For example, a high school technology teacher will be hired to teach a robotics course.

Students enroll and attend the ROP classes at their High Schools. To learn more about ROP, as well as other CCCOE College and Career Readiness programs, visit our web page.


At Dozier-Libbey Medical High School in Antioch, Sports Medicine students have had to shift their normal “hands-on” activities to the virtual world. Sports Medicine teacher Kim O’Leary said despite the challenges of moving her lessons to an online format, her second-year students were still able to design a virtual instructional project successfully.

“They were to create, determine the criteria, write the rubric, and help judge a teaching tool [video] titled: 'What Does a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Degree Ankle Sprain Look Like?'” O’Leary said. “In this class, we assist students learn career skills in the field of Sports Medicine, through a combination of academic and ‘hands-on’ activities – which are quite challenging virtually. Our standards include things like anatomy, basic first aid, taping, injury evaluation, concussion management, and blood born pathogen training, along with much more career technical training.”

Current Sports Medicine students said the class still provides engaging lessons despite being held online. Senior Nattaliya Vatananan said internship opportunities attracted her to the class. “Last year, I was able to do the sports medicine internship and be the student trainer for Antioch High School's wrestling team and some Antioch’s football games,” Nattaliya said. “I enjoy learning the different ways to tape up a body part in the case of an injury. It's great to be able to have the class time to learn and perfect the skill. Then, in the internship I was able to use what I learned often. During COVID-19, my family members get to be my taping practice subjects -- haha.”

Vatananan plans on majoring in Kinesiology in college, and hopes to become a sports medicine physician’s assistant or work in emergency services.

First-year Sports Medicine student Sofia Hernandez decided to take the Sports Medicine class after enjoying the First Responders course she took last year.

“I was interested in how injuries were treated while playing a sport,” Hernandez said. “Everyone will get hurt throughout their lifetime and I always have wanted to be prepared, so I can know what I had to do to help make the injury better. I do enjoy wrapping the foot when we must do those activities. My sister is also taking the class with me, so we practice our wrappings with each other. Mrs. O'Leary is a great teacher. She teaches us how the injury occurs and what we can do to prevent it and treat it. This makes class fun and interesting through these difficult times.”

Hernandez, who is a senior, said she is interested in a career in the medical field after college.

Leary reports about a recent and successful project that her second-year students accomplished.

"My 2nd year students were tasked with designing an instructional project," O'Leary said. "They were to create, determine the criteria, write the rubric, and help judge a teaching tool titled: 'What Does a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Degree Ankle Sprain Look Like?'”

To review the Ankle Sprain Video Project, click the photo below.

Laura Woods teaches the Play Production course at California High School, in San Ramon. “In Play Production, our students learn all aspects of producing a play, from design to building to execution,” Woods explained. “Students learn costume, sound, light, set, and make up design. When in person, we learn power-tool training and get on the light and sound boards. We compete at a statewide theatre festival against 65 other schools and then perform the play for our home audience.”
Ryan Gee, ROP Play Production Tech student
Any other year, the class would be finishing up planning for the upcoming production’s physical backgrounds and props. Soon after, the students would begin putting their handy-work skills to build the planned stage sets.

But it is 2020, and things change.

Woods and her students will offer William Shakespeare’s Hamlet for California High School’s Winter Show.
“My techies, who usually build the theater’s set have been learning Adobe to bring our play to life over Zoom. The students have been researching the time period of 1949 for costume and prop examples and are busy making Elsinore Castle, a mob-owned castle casino in New York City,” Woods said.

The class is still working out details, but the plan is to record each actor in front of a green screen that Woods will mail to them, along with a costume from the 1940's and any necessary props.

Woods will direct the play from Zoom, while the tech students record the actor and splice together the video, she explained.

“They tell me they will be able to add numerous actors in one scene,” Woods said. “I honestly cannot wrap my head around this, but my students are super tech-savvy and have a full plan.”
ROP Play Production student Ryan Gee, a senior, said taking the class in a COVID-19 world has forced him to learn new skills.

“This class has given me the opportunity to learn and experience more within the theatre production world,” Ryan said. “Initially, I was going to be a lighting technician, but as our class is virtual due to Covid-19, I have been enjoying editing with Adobe Premiere Pro in order to bring the vision for our Virtual Hamlet to life. Play Pro is such an amazing class even within the virtual environment, so I'm excited to combine my skill with technology and experience in the theatre to create an incredible show.”

The class is still working out details, but the plan is to record each actor in front of a green screen that Woods will mail to them, along with a costume circa 1940's and any necessary props. “I will direct the play from Zoom, while my techies record the actor and then splice together the video,” continues Woods. “They tell me they will be able to add numerous actors in one scene. I honestly cannot wrap my head around this, but my students are super tech-savvy and have a full plan.”


Elizabeth Rodriguez teaches Careers with Children at Freedom High School, in Oakley, where she has her students working virtually with younger children in the Oakley elementary schools. “ROP goals are to give hands-on internship experiences to students in careers they are exploring. In this class, our students are working with children, early childhood through 5th grade,” Rodriguez said.

Though many would think this class is for students who want to be teachers or child-care workers, Rodriguez said students find themselves in a variety of fields. “Some of my students want to become teachers, but most all of them want to work with children in some way such as in dentistry, social services, law enforcement, medicine, etc.,” she said.

Currently, there are 32 ROP students on Zoom calls with preschool thru 5th grade classes one day a week. Students are observing, helping take roll, calling on students during question/answer time, reading stories to groups, singing, leading brain breaks, helping with counting and ABC skills, and other classroom teaching duties that are now taught virtually.

For the past 23 years, Rodriguez has been quite successful in reaching out to Oakley elementary school teachers and asking them to serve as mentors to her students. “Most of my mentors are happily willing to take on a high school intern and involve them in ‘their world’ of education.”

“My students work from the lessons the mentors give them, especially during the first semester, but my students learn how to plan, prepare, and teach lessons in my class so by the last five weeks of school they know how to put a lesson together for let's say science according to a unit being taught in the internship classroom,” Rodriguez said.

One of Rodriguez's students is here leading her kindergarten class in a virtual lesson on words starting with the letter R.
COVID-19 has certainly introduced our ROP classes with challenges, but our teachers and their students have prevailed with creative virtual lesson plans and learning goals.
30th Annual Contra Costa County Model United Nations Conference
On Saturday, November 14, 150 high school students, representing 6 high schools, skipped their usual weekend social activities to tackle current world issues at the 30th Annual Contra Costa County Model United Nations Conference. Usually held at Diablo Valley College, in Pleasant Hill, this year's Model UN was held virtually, due to COVID-19.

This academic event is produced and directed by CCCOE and coordinated by Best Delegate. The day-long event enhances high school students’ understanding of the United Nations and its role in global issues. Participating students (delegates) each represent a nation and negotiate on that country’s behalf. This year’s top two schools were The Harker School (Distinguished Delegation) and California High School (Outstanding Delegation).

“We are pleased to see high school students throughout our county, the Bay Area, and beyond participate in our Model UN program,” Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Lynn Mackey said. “It is certainly admirable that during the challenges of COVID-19 that these students and their advisors found the extra time to learn about the United Nations and world issues. When you watch the students in committee sessions, it is evident of the hard work and preparation they have put in, as they successfully discuss, persuade, and work with fellow committee members on real-world problems and complex international relations.”

Contra Costa Semifinalists in the 2021 National Merit® Scholarship Program
In late September, officials of National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) announced the names of approximately 16,000 Semifinalists in the 66th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. These academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $30 million that will be offered next spring.

Contra Costa County is well-represented with 96 semifinalists.

To be considered for a Merit Scholarship® award, Semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the Finalist level of the competition. Over 90 percent of the Semifinalists are expected to attain Finalist standing, and more than half of the Finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar® title.

“We could not be prouder of our county’s National Merit Scholarship semifinalists,” Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Lynn Mackey said. “This past school year has been a very busy and challenging period for our honored group, yet they found the time to file a comprehensive scholarship registration form and write a detail essay, while also maintaining a stellar academic record, earning scholastic awards and honors, and much more. We also salute these students’ families and teachers for their support.”

Two County Schools Honored as National Blue Ribbon Schools
Recently two Contra Costa County schools have been chosen as 2020 National Blue Ribbon Schools, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced recently. During his proclamation, Thurmond congratulated 33 California public schools that have been chosen. This prestigious award honors public and private elementary, middle, and high schools that close achievement and opportunity gaps and where students achieve high learning standards.

“Congratulations to these schools for creating and sustaining tremendous programs that allow students to reach their full potential, leading to a successful future,” Thurmond said. “This recognition is well-deserved, and these programs are a model of success that we can all look to in terms of ensuring that all students are thriving.”

Contra Costa County’s two schools honored with the prestigious award were:
  • Green Valley Elementary School, Danville, San Ramon Valley Unified School District 
  • Hidden Hills Elementary School, San Ramon, San Ramon Valley Unified School District

“We would like to congratulate Green Valley Elementary and Hidden Hills Elementary Schools for receiving this national recognition,” Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Lynn Mackey said. “The National Blue Ribbon Schools award certainly confirms the hard work of students, families, and educators in creating safe and welcoming schools where students successfully master rigorous academic offerings.” 

Kennedy Art Teacher's Work Featured at de Young Fine Arts Museum
Steve Mainini at the de Young Museum artist reception
In celebration of San Francisco's de Young museum’s 125th anniversary, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco announced The de Young Open, a juried community art exhibition welcoming submissions by artists from the nine Bay Area counties.

This past July, 16-year Kennedy High School (Richmond) Visual Arts Teacher Steve Mainini received the exciting news from the de Young that two of his works were selected from a pool of more than 11,500 submissions; he joins more than 700 fellow Bay Area artists as part of the exhibition.

The special exhibit features 877 artworks. Works span media including painting, sculpture, photography, textile, and works on paper were selected by artist judges Enrique Chagoya, Mildred Howard, and Hung Liu.
Maninini's accepted works are titled Wonderland for Ava and Homage to Michelangelo, both entries are pastel drawings on Lenox 100 paper.

Always teaching, Mainini crafted his paintings in his classroom and used them as examples to teach his visual arts classes during the past three school years. Mainini teaches three sections of visual arts: beginning, advanced, and AP.

The optional theme for the exhibition, On the Edge, derives from both the Bay Area’s geographic location on the Pacific Rim, but also the region’s historical reputation for leading-edge, cutting-edge, or edgy culture and creativity.

“It’s quite the honor,” Mainini said. “Being able to know that my work is going to be on the walls of the de Young Museum is, it’s unbelievable. That’s one of the things that I’ve always dreamt about.”

“I’ve wanted to be an artist, since I was four,” Mainini added. “And I’ve been to museums, I can’t even tell you how many museums I’ve been to or how many times, but every time I leave I think ‘you know, one day, I’m gonna have my work on a museum’s wall!’"

Mainini attended the preview showing for Donors and Artists in early October. "It is an amazing show and I am so honored to have my artworks selected."

The de Young Open exhibition will run between October 10, 2020 – January 3, 2021.
Wonderland For Ava
Homage to Michelangelo
County's Community College District has new Chancellor

A first-generation graduate, Bryan Reece, shows what California educational success looks Like.
Brentwood Teacher Honored with Literacy Award

School teacher Karen Eaton was recently selected by the American Literacy Corporation to receive the Outstanding Contributions to Literacy award for the 2019-20 school year.