Welcome to another issue of Connection, the quarterly newsletter highlighting the work taking place at the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) and in public schools throughout Contra Costa County.
In this issue, we will also feature the success of students participating in poetry competitions, mock trial and academic decathlon competitions; the Teacher of the Year from the CCCOE; and the grand opening of a new school in Pittsburg. I hope you enjoy this edition.
I also wanted to take this opportunity to update you all on COVID-19 and our progress at getting students back to in-person instruction.
It has been just over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to shutdown school buildings and transition to a distance learning model to teach students. After much planning and effort, I can report that most school districts in the county will return to some form of in-person instruction this Spring. Already 12 of our 18 districts have in-persons instruction on their campuses. Students served by County Office programs will return to in-person instruction on April 12.
This is a welcome milestone for many students and families. The staff here at CCCOE and I look forward to welcoming students and families back to in-person instruction.
I also recognize that there are people who are not comfortable sending their children back to school at this point, and I understand and respect their decision.
The county office and the school districts has developed, refined and submitted safety plans and protocols; gathered an abundance of personal protective equipment for students and staff; and equipped classrooms and offices with the necessary equipment for a safe return to in-person instruction. COVID-19 testing protocols are in place for staff, and all educators have been given access to vaccines.
Things will look different than when we left campuses 12 months ago. Many classrooms will have fewer students in them and there will be new processes and procedures for traditional school activities like lunch, recess and pickup and drop off. Your individual schools will have more specific details on what has changed and how you can prepare your students to return.
As we return to more familiar rhythms and routines, I encourage you all to continue following the county health department’s guidelines and orders. Even though the COVID-19 numbers continue to improve, we should all continue to wear face coverings, keep physical distancing, avoid crowds and get vaccinated to continue protecting ourselves and our community from COVID-19.
Thank you for your continued support of the schools and students in this county.
Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools
Poetry Out Loud:
Pinole High's Jermaine Gitana Selected as 2021 County Champion!
On February 19, the Contra Costa County Arts and Culture Commission announced that Pinole Valley High School's Jermaine Gitana as their 2021 Poetry Out Loud Champion! Earlier in the month, the Commission held a live virtual screening of the top poet awardees on Facebook and CCCOE's edTV. Esmeralda Noyola from Deer Valley High School won second place and San Ramon Valley High School's Tessa Brubaker took third place. The County Finals also featured impressive high school participants Patricia May Villanueva (Prospects High School), Michael Miralles (John Henry High School), Kyla Erika Nano (Concord High School), and Kaleigh Thurman (College Park High School).
Gitana, told the virtual audience, “I am a 17 year-old senior at Pinole Valley High who is part Black and Filipino. I enjoy playing instruments, making music, swimming, singing, and most of all reciting poetry.” His performances of the poem Written By Himself by Gregory Pardlo and piano accompaniment by D. H. Lawrence proved to be a winning combination.
Special Education Specialist Named as this Year’s CCCOE Teacher of the Year
Sarah Buhre, a deaf and hard of hearing specialist, was named the Contra Costa County Office of Education’s Teacher of the Year at a virtual ceremony in early March. Since 2000, Buhre has worked with infants and toddlers in the Early Start Program at Diablo Vista Elementary School in Antioch.
“This office serves the highest-need students in Contra Costa County,” Superintendent of Schools Lynn Mackey said. “Without dedicated, skilled education professionals like Sarah Buhre, we would not be able to serve the children and families who need us. This past year has been difficult, to say the least, but I am proud of the efforts Sarah and all of our teachers have made on behalf of students.” Buhre has made home visits an integral part of her work as an educator, building relationships with families who are adjusting to life with a special-needs child.
Sponsored Learning Hubs Provide Safe, Healthy Routines for Students During COVID-19
Recognizing the challenges families are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) partnered with childcare centers and non-profit organizations across the county to provide Learning Hubs for students primarily in Transitional Kindergarten through 5th grade.
With a $2 million investment for the 2020-21 school year, CCCOE-sponsored Learning Hubs are serving more than 250 students in 17 locations across the county. The organizations offering learning hubs include YMCA of the East Bay, the cities of Richmond and Oakley, the housing authorities in Pittsburg and Rodeo, the Learning Center in Pittsburg, STAND! Transitional Housing, in Concord, The Growing Room and Kid’s Country in Danville, and Bright Futures in Richmond.
The partnership between the Contra Costa County Office of Education and community-based organizations showcases how Learning Hubs have been a vital resource to communities during this life-changing time and for parents who are essential workers.
Campolindo takes first place in 2021 High School Bay Regional Academic Decathlon
After a strong comprehensive and competitive contest, Campolindo High School in Moraga was named the 2021 High School Bay Regional Academic Decathlon, earning the privilege of representing Contra Costa County in the upcoming 44th California State Academic Decathlon competition. Following Campolindo, were Vanden High School (Fairfield), second place; and Davis High School (Davis), third place.
The Solano County Office of Education hosted the Academic Decathlon in February, which attracted 240 students from 15 high schools in, Alameda, Contra Costa, Imperial, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma, and Yolo counties.
Dougherty Valley High School Earns Impressive Award with Video Documentary
Dougherty Valley High School student Agamroop Kaur earned a $1,500 award for her second-place documentary (West Division) in the 17th Annual C-Span StudentCam National Video Documentary Competition. The video documentary competition encourages students to think critically about issues that affect our communities and our nation.
Kaur’s honored video is titled BIG Tobacco BIGGER Epidemic and portrays the dangers of youth vaping and the marketing of such products. Her video will air throughout the day on April 6 on C-SPAN. Here is a link to her six-minute video: https://www.viddler.com/v/d83d91b6.
Dougherty Valley High School student Agamroop Kaur
“When I saw the C-SPAN StudentCam advertisement I thought this was the perfect opportunity to bring together my first-hand experiences and knowledge to advocate for preventive policies and actions to a larger audience, including legislators,” said Kaur said.
On March 2, The Contra Costa County Office of Education celebrated Read Across America Day with special guests reading virtually to the students of the Floyd I. Marchus School, in Concord. Before reading her selection of Both Sides of the Fence, by Teresa Bateman,
Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Lynn Mackey told the students, Read Across America is one of my favorite days of the year, because I enjoy reading so much! I love how we can be transported to another time and location.”
CCCOE Senior Director, Student Programs and Services Nick Berger reads The Sweetest Fig, by Chris Van Allsburg.
The Floyd I. Marchus School Nurse Sarah Berry chooses The Witch Boy,
by Molly Knox Ostertag.
CCCOE's Special Education Director Tom Scruggs read Mr. Peabody's Apples, by Madonna.
Pittsburg USD Celebrates New Parkside Elementary School
On March 4, the Pittsburg Unified School District’s Facilities Department hosted a virtual Ribbon Cutting Ceremony to celebrate the district’s new Parkside Elementary School. The new 85,976 square-foot Parkside Elementary School is located at 985 West 17th Street in Pittsburg, California. It was constructed on the same campus as the previous school, which was built in the 1950s.
The official ribbon cutting of the new Parkside Elementary School.
Parkside Elementary School
“I’m incredibly proud of the new Parkside Elementary School,” said Jeff Varner, Parkside Elementary School principal. This school is more than just a school, it is part of the community. This new school was made possible because of the taxpayers in Pittsburg and I thank them for supporting schools and education in our community.”
California High Named Contra Costa County Mock Trial Champions
The 40th Annual Contra Costa County High School Mock Trials Awards Ceremony was held virtually on the evening of February 18. Opening the event, Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Lynn Mackey gave the welcome and message to the attendees, followed by remarks made by Contra Costa County Superior Court Presiding Judge Rebecca Hardie, and the Mock Trial coaches presented their Coaches Awards to their exceptional-performing students. This was followed by the announcement of individual awards that were recorded by the volunteer Mock Trial judges and attorney scorers during the four opening preliminary rounds. The ceremony concluded with naming of this year’s championship team: California High School (San Ramon).
“As like numerous other counties in California, this was a challenging year for our High School Mock Trial program,” said Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Lynn Mackey. “Due to COVID-19, this was the first time in 40 years that we were not able to hold our trials in one of the Martinez courthouses, but instead held the competitions via Zoom Meetings. This year’s Mock Trial success was because of a group effort between our volunteer judges and attorneys and our staff, as well as the patient and dedicated team coaches and their determined students. Congratulations to all of you!”
Olympic Continuation High School Earns Special Award
Olympic Continuation High School in Concord was named one of the state’s 27 Model Continuation High Schools for 2021, California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced earlier this month.
Olympic Continuation High School, part of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District, was among only three Bay Area schools to receive the award. Del Valle Continuation High School in Livermore and San Andreas High School in Larkspur were the other two honored in the region.