Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for the 'Contra Costa County Office of Education' Category

Congrats to Campolindo HS on its National Academic Decathlon championship title!

Campolindo HS Academic Decathlon team named National Champion for medium-sized schools 2nd year in a row!

Campolindo HS Academic Decathlon team named National Champion for medium-sized schools 2nd year in a row!

Congratulations to the Campolindo High School’s Academic Decathlon team, which has been named a National Champion for the second year in a row for medium-sized schools!

Campolindo placed 10th overall at the 2014 State Competition in Sacramento last March, competing against much larger schools several times its size. The overall winner went to the national competition, while the winners in the small and medium-sized categories competed online for their national titles, along with the second-highest scoring large schools.

Here is more about the accomplishment as described in a news release from the Contra Costa County Office of Education.

“Medium schools in this completion are high schools whose student population is between 650 and 1,300. Campolindo (California) was followed by New Jersey, 2nd place and Wisconsin, third place.

‘When I found out we won Nationals for the 2nd year in a row, I was incredibly excited,’ says Campolindo’s Academic Decathlon coach Paul Verbanszky. ‘The team has worked very hard to accomplish this. An opportunity like this does not come often in a lifetime. These are some of the finest students I have ever worked with in my 13 years of education!'”

Here is a link to final medium-school team and individual results:

Campolindo students were top-scorers in these categories as well. The students and team will be awarded trophies and medals, as well as scholarship money. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, presented the team with Congressional Recognition last week.

“I am really proud of how far our school’s Academic Decathlon has come in the three years I have been in it, and how successful it has become,” said Campolindo Academic Decathlon member Christoph Steefel, in a news release.

Teammate Graham Wade said, “I did not believe it at first, but I was really excited and happy that all of our hard work had paid off.”

Verbanszky teaches AP psychology and government/economics. He has been Campolindo’s Academic Decathlon coach since 2005.

The Academic Decathlon team is an after-school club with funding from donations and other fundraising.

“I am very proud of my students,” Verbansky said. “And, our team gives a big thank you to the Contra Costa County Office of Education for all of their support and hard work with Academic Decathlon, so that the students can have such a positive experience.”

The East Bay Regional Academic Decathlon is coordinated by the Contra Costa County Office of Education with the assistance of community volunteers. It provides an opportunity for high school students to compete as individuals and teams in a series of 10 academic tests and demonstrations.

The curriculum includes art, economics, language and literature, mathematics, music, science, social science, essay, interview, speech (prepared and impromptu), and a Super Quiz™. About 170 high school students from 10 schools participated in the regional event.

The theme for this year’s Academic Decathlon was World War I. The Super Quiz™ focused on the subject areas the participating students had been studying, such as science, art, economics and literature.

The Academic Decathlon was created by Dr. Robert Peterson, a former Superintendent of Schools in Orange County, who believed that everyone’s learning potential can be maximized through competitive challenges. The contest that has since become recognized as the most prestigious high school academic team competition in the United States, according to a news release. The U.S. Academic Decathlon was founded in 1981.”

Do you think more schools should send teams to the Academic Decathlon?

Posted on Monday, May 19th, 2014
Under: Acalanes school district, Contra Costa County Office of Education, Education, Moraga | 1 Comment »

Congrats to student journalists from local schools honored with Dean S. Lesher Scholastic Journalism Awards!

Northgate students celebrate their in-depth investigative journalism award.

Northgate students celebrate their in-depth investigative journalism award.

Every year, writers and editors at the Contra Costa Times take time out from their work to scrutinize news stories and photos by local students who have entered the Dean S. Lesher Scholastic Journalism Awards contest.

As always, the entries this year were impressive. But a few stood out from the rest.

Kat Rowlands, Bay Area metro editor for Bay Area News Group, presented 27 awards in 11 categories along with promotion manager Deborah Nordstrom, during a ceremony Wednesday at the Contra Costa County Office of Education.

Cheered on by proud parents and teachers, students accepted their awards, while also soaking up advice from Rowlands about how professional journalists approach their work. Many entries, she said, were judged based on style and quality of writing, accuracy of coverage and the thoroughness of reporting.

Photos were judged based on visual impact, content and composition, and quality of the image. Rowlands expressed a little disappointment that more students didn’t enter the in-depth or investigative reporting category and said she hoped more would attempt such projects next year.

“Honestly, that’s the toughest category for professional newspapers to pull off too,” she said, “because it takes a lot of time and a lot of upfront conceptual work about what the project is going to entail, and then many, many pieces have to fit together because so many different departments are involved in that.”

Here are the winners.

Scholastic Journalist Award for leadership:
Caroline Theirry of Northgate High School and Shalaka Gole of California High

Best Editorial/Opinion Writing:
1 – Cole Souder, Las Lomas High School
2 – Michael Wong, Acalanes High
3 – Sam Fraser, Acalanes High

Best News Writing:
1 — Shalaka Goal, The Californian, California High
2 – Clare Varellas, Blueprint, Acalanes High
3 – Sarah Cole, The Page, Las Lomas

Best Column:
1 – Rachel Kastigar, Acalanes Blueprint
2 – Scott Dresser, Las Lomas Page
3 – Sean Cremin, Northgate Sentinel

Best Lifestyle or Feature Writing:
1 – Cara Doran, The Page, Las Lomas
2 – Adrienne Lee, Blueprint, Acalanes
3 – Joyce Ho, The Californian, California High School

Best Design Presentation:
1 – California High School, The Californian
2 – Hercules Middle High School, Titan Template
3 – Las Lomas High School, The Page

Best Sports Writing:
1 – Luke Finkel, California High
2 – Kelsey LaCour, Northgate Sentinel
3 – Jonathan Hawthorne, Las Lomas

Best Photography:
1 – Brad Wash, Blueprint, Acalanes High
2 – Brendan Foster, Acalanes High
3 – Amir Sagafi, California High, The Californian

Best In-depth or Investigative Reporting:
1 – Northgate High School, Sentinel

Best website:
1- Acalanes Blueprint
2 — California High

Overall Excellence:
1- Las Lomas, The Page
2- California High, The Californian
3- Hercules Middle High School, The Titan Template

When presenting the overall excellence awards, Rowlands asked students to comment on their work. No one from Las Lomas was present.

The California High award winner said she was proud of a story her paper did about a teacher who was treated unfairly by the administration, which included a YouTube video that got more than 1,000 hits and an online story that garnered several reader comments.

Hercules High student Joshua Bueno said some community and faculty members objected to a few of the paper’s stories, but the newspaper didn’t back down.

“Our year was very turbulent to say the least,” he said.

His classmate, Jobel Vecino, agreed.

“I’d say the greatest part about this year,” he said, “was learning how to grow a thick skin and not let anybody’s criticism get to us.”

Video clips from the awards are posted at

Do you think school administrators should censor student newspapers?

Posted on Friday, June 14th, 2013
Under: Contra Costa County Office of Education, Education | 1 Comment »

Contra Costa County 7th and 8th graders invited to explore college and careers during Friday ‘COOL Nite’

There is still space available for walk-ins at the 4th Annual free “COOL Nite” on Friday aimed at showing seventh-and eighth-graders and their parents in Contra Costa County that College Offers Opportunities for Life.

Here’s more information from a news advisory:

“WHAT: More than 200 Contra Costa County current seventh- and eighth-grade students, as well as their parents/guardians, will be attending a dynamic evening to learn more about their future opportunities in education and career, at the 4th Annual COOL Nite (College Offers Opportunities for Life), this coming Friday evening, at California State University, East Bay, Concord Campus. Presented by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) and the Contra Costa Community College District (CCCCD), this FREE informational program will offer useful workshops on how to be successful in high school, prepare for college, and explore exciting careers.

ACTION: Along with the workshops, there will be an exhibit hall featuring local businesses and college representatives for attendees to meet with and gather information. (See COOL Nite’s program for scheduled events.)

WHEN: Friday, May 4, 6:30-9:00 p.m.

WHERE: California State University, East Bay, Concord Campus, 4700 Ygnacio Road, Concord.

ADDITIONAL INFO: For additional event information, contact Hilary Dito, CCCOE, at (925) 942-3396.”

The exhibit Hall opens at 5:30 p.m. and the program begins at 6:30 p.m. Food will be available for purchase.

Do you think it’s important for students to start thinking about college and careers in middle school?

Posted on Thursday, May 3rd, 2012
Under: Contra Costa Community College District, Contra Costa County Office of Education, Education | No Comments »

Campolindo retains title as county Academic Decathlon champ

Two Academic Decathlon teams from Campolindo High in Moraga again bested their competition during the annual Contra Costa County competition, sponsored by the Contra Costa County Office of Education.

Since the Alameda County Office of Education doesn’t put on a similar event, Contra Costa also hosted two schools from that county in its competition, with Irvington High from Fremont winning.

Both the Campolindo and Irvington teams will advance to the state competition representing Contra Costa and Alameda counties, respectively.

Here’s more information about the competition from a news release I received today:

Campolindo High School Returns as Contra Costa County’s 2012 Academic Decathlon Champion

PLEASANT HILL, Calif., February 9, 2012 – Last night, during an exciting awards reception, it was announced that Campolindo High School (Moraga) Red Team successfully defended its title as the overall team winner of the 2012 Contra Costa County High School Academic Decathlon. Along with Campolindo Red Team’s triumphant return, the school’s Blue Team also repeated its second place standing from last year, as well. This year’s third place team went to Acalanes High School (Lafayette). The Campolindo Red Team will now represent Contra Costa County at the California State Academic Decathlon, to be held in Sacramento, March 15-18. (This year’s National Academic Decathlon will be held in Albuquerque, N.M., April 26 – 28.)

Also noteworthy, of the two Alameda County participating schools, Irvington took first place; the school will represent their county at the California State Academic Decathlon. (Alameda County Office of Education does not produce a county-wide Academic Decathlon.)

Directed by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE), and with the assistance of community volunteers, the county’s Academic Decathlon provides an opportunity for high school students to compete as individuals and teams in a series of ten academic tests and demonstrations. The curriculum includes art, economics, language and literature, mathematics, music, science, essay, interview, speech (prepared and impromptu), and the Super Quiz™. More than 155 participating high school students had been studying and preparing for this event with their coaches since September. This year’s Academic Decathlon theme was The Age of Empire, and the Super Quiz™ will focus on the topic of The Age of Imperialism: The Making of a European Global Order. The Super Quiz™ included readings on such topics as mercantile empires, the Atlantic economy, motives for imperialism, the role of technology in the age of imperialism, New Imperialism, tactics of colonial rule, and decolonization and postcolonial immigration.

This year’s participating teams represent the following high schools: Acalanes (Lafayette), Antioch (Anticoch), California (San Ramon), Campolindo (Moraga), Dublin (Dublin), Freedom (Oakley), Irvington (Fremont), Las Lomas (Walnut Creek), Miramonte (Orinda), and Pittsburg (Pittsburg). Acalanes High School has won the past four years. High school teams are made up of nine students, grades 9-12, with a maximum of three students in each of the following divisions: Honors (3.75-4.00 GPA), Scholastic (3.00-3.74 GPA) and Varsity (2.99 GPA and below). High schools that have more than nine students who want to participate in Academic Decathlon, can field more than one team, e.g., Campolindo’s Red and Blue Teams. The teams can also bring guests or alternate participants from their school.

During the awards ceremony, many individual awards were also given out. (All Academic Decathlon statistics will be posted on the CCCOE’s website in the very near future.)

The Academic Decathlon was first created by Dr. Robert Peterson, former Superintendent of Schools in Orange County, California. Firmly believing that everyone’s learning potential can be maximized through competitive challenge, Dr. Peterson set in motion the contest that has since come to be recognized as the most prestigious high school academic team competition in the United States. The program spread rapidly throughout the states due to the success and excitement it engendered. USAD was founded in 1981.”

Do you think this competition is a worthwhile event for the Contra Costa County Office of Education to organize?

Posted on Thursday, February 9th, 2012
Under: Alameda County, Contra Costa County Office of Education | 4 Comments »

County Board of Education to hear Clayton Valley High School charter appeal Dec. 7

Expecting a large crowd, the Contra Costa County Board of Education has changed its meeting place to the Pleasant Hill Elementary multiuse room Dec. 7, when it will hear the Clayton Valley High School charter appeal.

The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7 at the school, located at 2097 Oak Park Blvd. in Pleasant Hill.

The County Office of Education has not yet posted the agenda:

Normally, the county does not upload the agenda packet to its website. However, the public is entitled to request copies of agenda materials by calling 942-3380 or visiting the County Office of Education at 77 Santa Barbara Road in Pleasant Hill.

The board secretary told me this will be a public hearing, where trustees will listen to public comment. Trustees don’t expect to make a decision on the appeal until Jan. 11, she said. Therefore, she does not expect a staff report to be issued Dec. 7, but she does expect a staff recommendation for the Jan. 11 meeting.

The Mt. Diablo school district’s Parent Advisory Council will meet the same evening from 7-9 p.m. at the district office, 1936 Carlotta Drive in Concord:

The Mt. Diablo school board denied the charter conversion petition in a 4-1 vote, based on a staff recommendation that determined petitioners did not meet financial requirements:

Do you think the County Board of Education should approve the charter conversion?

Posted on Monday, November 28th, 2011
Under: Contra Costa County Board of Education, Contra Costa County Office of Education, Education, Mt. Diablo school district | 14 Comments »

Mt. Diablo Flex charter school has decided to wait a year before opening

NOTE: This post has been updated to clarify the date of the letter.

Mark Kushner, who heads up the Mt. Diablo Flex charter school that received conditional approval from the Contra Costa County Board of Education, sent an Aug. 15 letter to the board and county superintendent, informing them of the school’s intention to wait another year before opening (until fall, 2012).

Here’s his letter:

“Dear Board Members and Superintendent,

This letter is to update you on the progress of Mt. Diablo Flex Academy, an innovative charter school approved by your board about a year ago.

Significant Interest in Innovative Flex Model

As you may know, we were very pleased, with almost no advertising, to have received over 350 applicants for the 6th – 12th grade Mt. Diablo Flex Academy with a goal of opening with 250 students and the rest being on a waitlist. The Contra Costa Board of Education condition of approval requires that we open with at least 125 students.

For the board members who were not part of the charter process, Flex Academy will be one of the state’s first fulltime blended learning models, an onsite school combining the academic advantages of online education with the advantages of a tradition school.

Every student gets a free loaner laptop. Students and teachers are onsite five days a week with the teachers leveraging an online curriculum; this is in no way a virtual school or an independent study program.

In particular, the families told us they appreciated having 130 electives, self pacing and more attention for this children when they need it. Average class is size is designed to be five to seven students at a time, enabled because the teachers don’t have to teach all the material.

Instead, the world class interactive online curriculum provided by K12, Inc, the country’s largest provider of online curriculum (now serving students in all 50 states and now 62 countries) helps the students learn much of the material.

Flex Public Schools, the nonprofit holding the charter, already operates a Flex Academy in San Francisco (which by the way is doubling in size this Fall for its second year) and about to open one on September 6 in Morgan Hill, South of San Jose, called Silicon Valley Flex Academy.

Decision to Postpone Opening One Year Due to Facilities Challenge

However, as you likely heard, and as we were allowed to do by our charter approval, we made a tough decision to open a year from now rather than this Fall, believing that it is better to open well and in a space that works effectively rather than trying to squeeze the innovative program into a space that didn’t fit our model.

More specifically, we appreciated being offered a Proposition 39 site by the Mt. Diablo Unified School District at Glenbrook Middle School, but upon reflection decided that this site was too small (only fitting 125-150 students) and not configured appropriately for our learning lab model.

We also found a number a number of private sites that worked well in terms of size, space configuration, and affordability, but were not able to get the zoning and permits we needed to open in time. We feel confident that with an extra year we will have a wonderful space ready for the school for Fall 2012. Though disappointed, most of the families told us they would wait a year and enroll when we open.

National Attention for the Flex Model

We look forward to bringing Flex model and the latest in blended learning to Contra Costa County. As you may know, experts from Harvard believe that over 50 percent of American high schools will be partly online with nine years (see e.g. the new books ‘Disrupting Class’ by Clayton Christensen, and ‘Liberating Learning’ by Terry Moe). Flex Public Schools is leading this effort.

In connection with this, please see the attached articles about Flex:

1. A recent national Education Week article about blended Learning, describing the trend of blended learning and highlighting, among others, San Francisco Flex Academy.

2. A recent article from the Innosight Institute describing types of blended learning models, including one category called ‘Flex,’ named after our model.

3. An article from the Harvard Education Review describing blended models and mentioning San Francisco Flex Academy, among other schools.

In addition, in case you are interested, there is a recent video about San Francisco Flex Academy at and a story about the school by ABC news as well.

The proposed Mt. Diablo Flex Academy has the same model, as does Silicon Valley Flex Academy. We believe this model is one for the future as it enables more personalization by teachers. If you would like me to update the board and staff in person, please let me know.

We look forward to serving the families of Contra Costa County with this innovative model and hope that some of the local districts adopt part of our model. We have many districts and counties that have visited our San Francisco campus, as have some of you. We welcome visits from any of you to either of our Flex schools, and will work hard to open in the Mt. Diablo district area next Fall.

Very truly yours,
Mark Kushner
Executive Director, Flex Public Schools’

Ps: I have heard that the board may be reviewing charter research. I still teach at Stanford University on charter schools, and am happy to present on California and national charter school performance if that is helpful.”

Do you believe students in the Mt. Diablo school district would benefit from the Mt. Diablo Flex Academy program?

Posted on Tuesday, October 11th, 2011
Under: Contra Costa County Office of Education, Education, Theresa Harrington | 1 Comment »

36 Contra Costa and Alameda county students to receive ROP awards

Thirty-six students from Contra Costa and Alameda county schools will be honored Wednesday for outstanding achievement in Regional Occupational Program classes that give them hands-on experience in fields such as computer graphics, culinary arts and journalism (my personal favorite).

The Contra Costa County Office of Education administers the 361 state-of-the-art classes, which serve 11,000 students in 33 high schools Contra Costa and Alameda county high schools. ies that .

The teens will receive their “Students of Excellence” awards for outstanding achievement in ROP classes from 4-5 p.m. at the Lafayette Veterans Memorial Building, 3780 Mt. Diablo Blvd. in Lafayette.

Each student will each receive a certificate of merit and a $200 scholarship.

Congrats to the winners! (List is alphabetical by city)

Albany High School
Albert Chang, Computer Graphics, Instructor Jeff Castle
Cristina Spampinato, Culinary Arts, Instructor Leone Avery

Antioch High School
Garrick Ridolfi, Advanced Automotive Technology, Instructor Bobby Sturgeon

Deer Valley High School
Jazmine White, Journalism Productions, Instructor Charleen Earley

Berkeley High School
Madeline Angell, Sports Medicine, Instructor Jamie Faison
Camilla Dayrit, Advanced Photography, Instructor Lucinda Daly

Heritage High School
Sophia Ackelbein, Publications/Yearbook, Instructor Ken Silman
Kathryne Barsanti, Architectural Design, Instructor Barbara Worden
Patrick Berhan, Law Enforcement Careers, Instructor Matt Carr

Liberty High School
Jessica Caraballo, Desktop Publishing, Instructor Sharon Johnson
Starkisha Haskell, Medical Front Office, Instructor Cindy Powell

Concord High School
Christian Salazar, Accounting, Instructor Laurie Harris

San Ramon Valley High School
Jackie Lang, AP Environmental Science, Instructor Cindy Egan

Monte Vista High School
Alexander DeBoni, AP Computer Science, Instructor Bhupinder Anwar

Hercules High School
Chloe Lew, Journalism Productions, Instructor Natalie Wojinski
Richie Phelps, Careers in Teaching, Instructor Janet Headington

Acalanes High School
Blake Marggraff, Accelerated Biotechnology and Research, Instructor Jay Chugh

Alhambra High School
Erin McCauley, Advanced Sports Medicine, Instructor Scott Pygeorge
Mike Railton, Cabinetmaking, Instructor Jay Heeb

Campolindo High School
Jarrett Milner, AP Computer Science, Instructor Carol Paymer

Freedom High School
Eric Stone, Fire Science, Instructor Ben Whitener
Shannon Nuku, ROP Careers with Children, Instructor Elizabeth Rodriguez

Piedmont High School
Katherine Lim, Sports Medicine, Instructor Stan Nakahara

Pinole Valley High School
Devon Powell, Sports Medicine, Instructor Dan O’Shea

Pittsburg High School
Jasmine Juarez, Accounting, Instructor Phil Lucido
Ajay Kumar, Architectural Design, Instructor Andreas Kaiser

Richmond High School
Maria Martinez-Resendiz, Advanced Photography, Instructor John Ohlmann

Kennedy High School
Brian Phan, Digital Photography, Instructor, Steve Pinto
German Rodriguez, Advanced Web Design, Instructor Lane Good
JeremyWard, Computer Systems Maintenance, Instructor Alex Pakter

California High School
Talaivosa Hingano, Advanced Sports Medicine, Instructor Shane Borchert
Steven Lau, Journalism Productions, Instructor Brian Barr
Sydney Venierakis, Careers in Teaching, Instructor Cindy Bonagura

Dougherty Valley High School
Jason Jirjis, Advanced Sports Medicine, Instructor Juli Westcott
PamelaSendee, Careers in Teaching, Instructor Tom Ladouceur

Las Lomas High School
Masha Ksendzova, Analytic Forensic Science, Instructor Peat Sutherland

More information about the program is available by visiting Click on “ROP Students of Excellence Awards Ceremony.”

Do you think ROP classes are valuable?

Posted on Tuesday, May 10th, 2011
Under: Contra Costa County Office of Education, Education, Theresa Harrington | No Comments »