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Monday, January 06, 2020


Contest at OCC challenges students to simulate Mars rover mission
Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa will serve as the Southern California hub for NASA’s ROADS on Mars Student Challenge, which will give local students a chance to complete a simulated Mars mission — and possibly win a trip to the Kennedy Space Center for the next rover launch. ROADS, in this context, is short for “Rover Observation And Drone Survey.” The April 25 regional competition at OCC will task students in grades three through 12 with virtually delivering and retrieving their own Red Planet rovers, resolving a host of engineering, programming and logistical challenges along the way. The deadline to sign up for the contest has been extended to Jan. 30, and registration is free.


Two forums set to understand, combat hate incidents among Orange County students
After a year of news from Orange County that included high schoolers posting Nazi salutes and swastika-shaped images to social media, area educators and human relations advocates are stepping up efforts to address hate in schools. Two forums will be held this month as part of “Building a Stronger, United Community By Addressing Hate-Motivated Incidents in Schools,” organized by the Orange County Department of Education and the Orange County Human Relations Commission. A Tuesday, Jan. 7, event is for students, their families and the community; a follow-up forum will be held Jan. 22 for teachers and school administrators.

Winning a spot on Orange County education board becomes flash point for 2020 elections
The once low-profile Orange County Board of Education has already been attracting statewide attention in recent months, a result of an unprecedented legal battle with its superintendent. Now the board is becoming a flash point for the 2020 elections, as partisan politics is playing a key role in what are supposed to be nonpartisan races. Three of the five board seats currently are held by conservative Republicans. And that majority has voted to approve new charter schools and to sue Superintendent Al Mijares over who has final approval of the agency’s $250 million budget.

Santa Ana students offer history tours of their city Saturday, Jan. 4
The history of Santa Ana will be told through the eyes of high school students, on special tours slated for Saturday, Jan. 4. Five local high school students created the tour and will serve as guides aboard a trolley in the downtown area, weaving in information they learned through a program last summer at the Heritage Museum of Orange County. The information will focus on the diversity of Santa Ana, which last year celebrated its 150th anniversary. “The tour will connect the past with the present,” said Kevin Cabrera, the museum’s executive director.


County schedules forums about hate incidents in schools
The Orange County Human Relations Commission is joining the county Department of Education in presenting two forums this month exploring the impact of hate incidents on schools, students and communities. The first forum will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Department of Education headquarters at 200 Kalmus Drive in Costa Mesa and will focus on discussions by parents and students on their experiences with bias and hate on school campuses. Information gathered from the meeting will help inform the second gathering — meant for teachers, counselors and school administrators — at 8 a.m. Jan. 22, also at the department office.

Financial troubles upend this tiny L.A. County school district since its former superintendent’s suicide
Word reverberated through the Lennox School District in early June that former Supt. Kent Taylor was found dead in his home — shocking news that followed the popular leader’s abrupt resignation in April without public explanation. Taylor had recently certified the financial good health of the Lennox district, which he promoted as a model of innovative programs in engineering, dentistry and online studies. But in the months since his death, later ruled a suicide, deep troubles have been unmasked in this tiny school district that serves mostly low-income Latino students, 93% of whom qualify for free lunches and whose academic achievement is below state standards.


What’s Ahead in 2020 for Capistrano Unified School District?
A vote on regional bond measures to upgrade schools will be a big topic for the Capistrano Unified School District in 2020, along with other issues, CUSD Board of Trustees President Jim Reardon said during a phone interview. The bond measures will be on the March 2020 Primary Election ballot and, if passed, will secure educational facility upgrade and school renovation funds for San Clemente, Dana Point, Aliso Viejo, and Laguna Niguel. Classrooms and buildings at San Clemente High School will be renovated, among other upgrades, if voters approve the bond.


Discrimination lawsuit against Sacramento City Unified schools may end up in settlement
Months after advocacy groups sued the Sacramento City Unified School District for discrimination against students with disabilities and black students, the district and the plaintiffs may seek a settlement. The news comes after a federal court granted the mutual request in December for a seven-month stay of the litigation for the class-action lawsuit. The lawsuit, filed in September by the Black Parallel School Board on behalf of three students, says the district segregates, denies students with disabilities, and specifically black students with disabilities, the right to an education side-by-side with their peers, and disciplines them more frequently.


How school districts manage teacher pay amid budget woes
As North County school districts contend with difficult budget choices, they must determine how to pay teachers competitive wages while also trimming spending. Those decisions are key, as employee pay and benefits make up the vast majority of school districts’ budgets. And hiring and retaining talented teachers is central to their mission, educators said.


The Learning Curve: The Clear Impact of Incomprehensible Schools Jargon
An overlooked section in a recent state audit called out San Diego Unified and other districts across the state for their use of jargon, over-complicated explanations and redundant information, all of which “reduced transparency” in the state funding process.


Tech entrepreneur pays off outstanding reduced-price lunch debt at Oakland Unified
Hundreds of Oakland Unified students who receive reduced-price lunches but fell behind on their payments during the fall semester will start the new year debt-free, thanks to tech entrepreneur Payam Zamani. Zamani, 48, who founded the Walnut Creek tech firm One Planet, donated $15,600 to the district to cover the outstanding lunch debt. Biochemist Scott Siler donated another $1,000 on top of that.

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