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Archive for July, 2014

Middle and high school students can vote in mock statewide election this fall

Poster encourages students to vote in mock election

Poster encourages students to vote in mock election

To interest students in the candidates for governor and proposition issues on the November statewide ballot, the Secretary of State and Superintendent of Public Instruction are sponsoring an October 28 mock election.

“Mock elections are a great way for young people to experience firsthand what it’s like to make informed decisions at the ballot box,” said Debra Bowen, Secretary of State, in a prepared statement. “As students learn about the candidates and issues, they discover how government and politics affect every part of their lives.”

Since 2004, the Secretary of State’s office has sponsored a mock election for middle and high school students every two years. Participation has grown from 647 schools a decade ago to a record 735 schools in 2012, including 88 from the East Bay.

This year, the state is hoping that even more schools will sign up for the 2014 My Vote Mock Election, which will include the race for governor and all seven propositions, said Nicole Winger, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State.

“We have a few hundred registered and we’re looking to surpass our record of schools participating,” she said. “For some schools, it’s simply a civics or history or government teacher distributing the ballots on a single date.”

But at the other end of the spectrum, Winger said, some schools conduct mock debates between students who study the positions of candidates or proponents and opponents of ballot measures.

“Some students and teachers will really get into it and build classes around elections or civic engagement,” she said. “Some will pick issues, such as the water bond.”

A science teacher could use the Proposition 43 water bond proposal as a starting point for discussions about the drought and how it affects residents and farmers, Winger said.

The Secretary of State’s website includes information about registering your school at www.sos.ca.gov/elections. Click on “My Vote: Student Mock Election.” Schools that register by Sept. 19 will receive free instructional materials and student voter information guides in time for the election. Those registering by Oct. 27 can print materials from the website.

After the Oct. 28 mock election, registered schools can report their results to the Secretary of State to be included in an announcement of the statewide student voting results that will be released Oct. 29. Students can also get “I voted stickers” just like adult voters receive.

Posters and fliers on the My Vote website can help students understand that voting is one way for citizens to help make changes in the state.

One poster says: “Change your ringtone. Change your hairstyle. Change your playlist. Change your oil. Change your BFF. Change your shoes. Change your attitude. Vote. It may be the best change you make all year.”

Schools are encouraged to share ideas for making the mock election fun online. Ideas posted from previous mock elections include:

— Voting in official booths used in the real election or in booths created by wood shop classes

— Enlisting parent volunteers or students to act as poll workers and sign in students, before voting

— Creating “Vote Here” signs for the mock polling site

— Encouraging students to make posters for and against propositions

— Mock debates covered by journalism students with mock press passes

— Inviting guest speakers to address students about the election process and media coverage

— Encouraging students who are 18 or older to talk to classmates about their experience of registering to vote and voting

— Partnering with an after-school program, which could provide a pep rally the day before the mock election and count the votes afterward

Voting in the mock election can help engage students in assignments related to the real election.
“Part of the debriefing was to analyze voter participation in California and the nation,” one teacher wrote. “Students also analyzed and evaluated exit poll data. The fact that they participated in the mock election made these activities more meaningful and relevant.”

Will your school participate in the mock election?

Posted on Monday, July 28th, 2014
Under: Education, Election | 1 Comment »

Acalanes district “sues” residents, warning court may decide against them without their being heard

The Acalanes Union High School District has published the following legal notice in the Contra Costa Times, warning residents that the Contra Costa County Superior Court could take action that would adversely affect them, unless they respond by Aug. 18 to a complaint seeking to validate the issuance of $15 million in current interest bonds that will exceed the tax rate of $35.58 promised in the 2008 Measure E ballot language:

“NOTICE! YOU HAVE BEEN SUED. THE COURT MAY DECIDE AGAINST YOU WITHOUT YOUR BEING HEARD UNLESS YOU RESPOND BY AUGUST 18, 2014. READ INFORMATION BELOW.

AVISO! USTED HA SIDO DEMANDADO. EL TRIBUNAL PUEDE DECIDER CONTRA USTED SIN AUDIENCIA A MENOS QUE USTED REPONDA ANTES DEL 18 DE AGOSTO DE 2014. POR FAVOR LEA LA INFORMACION QUE SIGUE.

SUMMONS

NOTICE TO DEFENDANTS:

ALL PERSONS INTERESTED IN THE MATTER OF THE ISSUANCE BY ACALANES UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE ELECTION OF 2008 GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS AS AUTHORIZED BY THE NOVEMBER 4, 2008 PROPOSITION 39 BOND MEASURE ELECTION APPROVING THE ISSUANCE OF SUCH BONDS IN BALLOT MEASURE E, THE ADOPTION OF A RESOLUTION OF ISSUANCE OF GOVERNMENT CODE BONDS, THE SALE OF SUCH BONDS, AND PROCEEDINGS AND MATTERS RELATED TO THE ABOVE

YOU ARE BEING SUED BY PLAINTIFF:

ACALANES UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT

TO ALL PERSONS INTERESTED IN THE MATTER, PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that you may contest the legality or validity of the matter by appearing and filing a written answer to the Complaint not later than August 18, 2014.

Pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 861.1, any person who contests the legality or validity of the matter will not be subject to punitive action, such as wage garnishment or seizure of real or personal property.

YOU MAY SEEK THE ADVICE OF AN ATTORNEY IN ANY MATTER CONNECTED WITH THE COMPLAINT OR THIS SUMMONS. SUCH ATTORNEY SHOULD BE CONSULTED PROMPTLY SO THAT YOUR PLEADING MAY BE FILED OR ENTERED WITHIN THE TIME REQUIRED BY THIS SUMMONS.

The Acalanes Union High School District has brought this action for the purpose of obtaining a judgment validating documents and processes relating to the issuance of bonds of the District (“District Bonds”) in an aggregate principal amount not-to-exceed $15,000,000 at a projected ad valorem tax rate of not more than $30.00 per $100,000 in assessed value which is projected to result in an ad valorem tax rate in excess of the initial projected tax rate for the issuance as originally projected in estimates included in Ballot Measure E, the November 2008 Proposition 39 Bond Measure Election approving the issuance of such bonds; the adoption of a Resolution Of Issuance Of Government Code Bonds; the execution of a Continuing Disclosure Certificate; and, the sale of such Bonds.

The purpose of the District Bonds is to raise money for the Acalanes Union High School District to fund projects to achieve energy-savings, for new and upgraded instructional facilities, and for needed repairs to school facilities, in addition to the other needs of the District as approved by the electorate voting on Measure E (which includes, to establish a ten-year technology fund, upgrade instructional classroom technology, replace worn, aging roofs, convert obsolete facilities into additional classroom space, upgrade electrical and energy management systems to improve efficiency and repair, construct, equip or upgrade school facilities), and, to pay all necessary legal, financial and contingent costs in connection with the issuance of the District Bonds.

CASE NO.: C14-01298

THE NAME AND ADDRESS OF THE COURT IS:

Contra Costa County Superior Court 725 Court Street Martinez, CA 94553

THE NAME, ADDRESS AND TELEPHONE NUMBER OF PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY IS: Sean B. Absher Jeremiah I. Nelson Stradling, Yocca, Carlson & Rauth 44 Montgomery Street, Suite 4200 San Francisco, CA 94104 Telephone: (415) 283-2240 Facsimile: (415) 283-2255

DATE: July 14 , 2014 Clerk, by D. WAGNER, Deputy [Insert Name of Deputy Clerk]
CCT# 5241182 July 18, 24, 31, 2014″
Appeared in: Bay Area News Group on Friday, 07/18/2014

Here are links to the documents the district filed in court.

Complaint seeking court validation to issue $15 million in bonds that will exceed tax rate promised in ballot language:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceUmI4cmJqbHlKT1k/edit?usp=sharing

Exhibit A (July 2008 Board Resolution Authorizing $93 million construction bond measure election):
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceMTUyT0VEZEtpZGc/edit?usp=sharing

Exhibit B (December 2008 Board Resolution certifying results of Nov. 8, 2008 Measure E bond election):
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceNGJJdHozZDNGSGs/edit?usp=sharing

Exhibit C (June 2014 Board Resolution authorizing issuance of $15 million in current interest bonds and seeking court validation for the issuance):
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceM3lOOEZ2RlRRSkE/edit?usp=sharing

Here is my most recent story about the validation issue, which includes some video clips from the June meeting where the board voted 4-1 to issue the bonds and seek court validation for their decision, since it will require property owners to pay more than the tax rate their were promised in the ballot language: http://www.contracostatimes.com/News/ci_26162494/Acalanes-district-seeks-to-validate-bond-issuance-exceeding-promised-tax-rate

I have received phone calls and emails from several area residents who are concerned about this issue and have indicated they may look into filing an answer to the court complaint. However, they are also concerned about the possible filing fee and are unsure how to go about filing an answer. Some believe this case could set a precedent for other districts that may also exceed tax rates promised in their ballot language.

Do you think district residents should contest the bond issuance?

Posted on Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014
Under: Acalanes school district, Education | 4 Comments »

How does your district’s accountability plan compare to others around the state?

Many school district officials are breathing sighs of relief this summer, after completing plans for the next three years that show how they will spend state money to benefit students.

The process was arduous and confusing to some, as they waited for details from the state Board of Education about how the plans should be created and what they should include.

Districts were supposed to ask parents, students and community members what their priorities were and to craft their plans based on the feedback they received. They were required to respond to comments and questions from the public in their final plans.

How well this process worked varied from one district to another. Some held community meetings, some created special advisory committees and a few wrote their own draft plans before ever meeting with parents or other stakeholders.

Now that the plans are done, the public can review them to determine whether they truly meet the needs of local students. Ultimately, the money is expected to improve student achievement, as well as school environments.

Local communities can hold districts accountable for following through on their promises by reading the plans on their district websites or comparing them to others on a site created by the nonprofit student advocacy group Education Trust-West in conjunction with more than 30 other organizations.

Called LCAP Watch, the site aims to compile every Local Control Accountability Plan in the state from 1,000 districts. Launched earlier this month, it can be found at http://lcapwatch.org.

You can review your district’s goals, planned actions and expenditures and find out how progress will be measured. After the next school year, districts must report how their actions have improved student outcomes, as part of requirements established under the state’s Local Control Funding Formula, or LCFF.

“Under LCFF, parents play an important role in deciding how their district spends state funds to serve all students, especially those who are low income, English learners, and foster youth,” said Valerie Cuevas, Interim Executive Director of The Education Trust—West, in a news release. “Every parent in California must have access to their district LCAP if LCFF is going to live up to its promise and full potential for our students.”

The site includes hundreds of LCAPs, including drafts and final versions. But Education Trust-West hopes to expand the database through crowd sourcing.

Visitors can see existing plans or add plans that have not yet been uploaded. These will be confirmed, then posted by an administrator.

The website also includes additional resources offering best practices for addressing state priority areas, including school climate and student engagement.

“We encourage parents, educators, and community stakeholders to view and share LCAPs,” said Carrie Hahnel, Director of Research and Policy Analysis at Education Trust-West. “We also urge them to engage with their local school districts to monitor and improve the plans over time as a way to ensure their schools meet the needs of all students.”

How does your plan compare to others in the state?

Posted on Friday, July 18th, 2014
Under: Education | 131 Comments »