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CCSESA Newsletter2020

MayVolume 18 / Issue 3

Leadership Link

Ms. Michelle Hutchins Mendocino County Office of Education

  • What led you to become County Superintendent?

    Having served as a district superintendent in two rural Northern California school districts, I realized the potential impact of strong leadership from the county office of education. I hoped that by becoming a county superintendent of schools, I could provide the kind of support and guidance that would allow district superintendents to maximize their limited resources, to allow them to provide students with every possible advantage.

    What inspired you to enter the field of education?

    The reasons I entered education can be summed up in two words: equity and engagement. I am passionate about igniting students’ desire to learn, all students, and providing them with the tools and growth mindset to do so.

    “Whether it’s at home or at work, I do my best to roll up my sleeves and solve problems.”

    Do you have a particular goal that drives you?

    County academic scores are low, and economic forecasts indicate most students are not prepared for the jobs of the future. As county superintendent, my primary focus is to help districts produce graduates who can succeed in today’s complex world.

    Expecting large groups of similarly aged children to complete the same task at the same time has led to an engagement crisis in education. Teachers work hard so the whole group can move on to the next task together. Student outcomes mostly look the same. When this paradigm plays out, children develop short cuts to get to the product or navigate to the teacher who “helps” the most. I believe the No Child Left Behind years exhausted our teachers and created apathetic learners skilled at test-taking.

  • Schools need to teach what cannot be Googled. When schools and communities work together to involve youth in solving real-world problems and give students access to mentors and industry-standard tools, both the students and the community advance. The right blend of teachers and technology used to explore and create new content—not just receive content passively—will develop a student’s ability to solve problems at a young age. The excitement for problem-solving is essential to prepare students for civic engagement. By not involving youth, we miss out on the benefit of the youth perspective and energy. It is about kids!

    What objectives do you hope to achieve?

    When I ran for this position, my platform included four main objectives: 1) confront chronic absenteeism by forming countywide attendance boards and teen courts; 2) decentralize services to overcome Mendocino’s geographic challenges; 3) assist local school boards in developing effective governance structures; and 4) inspire a culture of innovation. These remain largely in place, though I’m refining them. I’m now focusing on new ways to address chronic absenteeism, and I’m building a team and the relationships necessary to create more effective and efficient services.

    What are your interests?

    On a personal note, my interests are varied. I own a goat farm, so I make a lot of cheese. I also worked as a professional jeweler prior to teaching. In short, I am a hands-on, do-it-yourself kind of person, whether than means welding a broken wheelbarrow or birthing a baby goat. My father taught me to get up when I fall and to fend for myself, so whether it’s at home or at work, I do my best to roll up my sleeves and solve problems.

    Who are the special people in your life?

    My husband supports me, our farm, and family so I can do my job. My son is the reason I work so hard. He is gifted and has special needs, and I want an educational system that works well for him and for every child.

    Follow Mendocino County Office of Education on twitter at @MendocinoCOE

From The Desk Of

Peter Birdsall Executive Director

On May 20, the Education Coalition released its letter in response to the Governor’s May Revision. This letter is particularly important in the budget discussions because it represents a consensus among the major statewide K-12 education organizations. The core message of the Coalition letter is that we are opposed to the proposed cuts to K-12 education and that such cuts are incompatible with re-opening school campuses for the coming school year.

This year’s budget crisis is different in several important ways. The debate is not just about cutting school funding but doing so in an environment where schools must spend more in order to protect the safety of students and staff. Further, the value of education is not only the investment in the future by preparing California’s children, but the immediate impact of being able to fully re-open the state’s economy. Finally, legislators and education advocates know that the state has the tools available to avoid the proposed budget cuts.

There are only about three weeks for the Legislature and the Governor to reach a compromise on the budget. The ability of the education community to respond quickly with a consistent voice is a major reason the Education Coalition was established and has continued to work together since the devastating cuts to education that resulted from voter approval of Proposition 13 in 1978.

Following up on his success with Proposition 13, in 1980, Howard Jarvis sponsored Proposition 9, which would have imposed deep cuts to the personal income tax. Most political pundits commented that the Jarvis/Gann movement was unstoppable and predicted voter approval of Prop. 9. At that time, I was Director of Governmental Relations for State Superintendent of Public Instruction Wilson Riles.

Recognizing the failure of the traditional campaign techniques to defeat Prop. 13, Wilson agreed to serve as Chair of the campaign to oppose Proposition 9. His Senior Advisor, Marion Joseph, left state service to manage the campaign, and I co-wrote the campaign manual and provided trainings on constituency-based organizing. Our analysis was that organizing around constituencies like the education community, health community, and public safety was the most effective path to defeating another effort to cut funding for critical public services.

The success of the campaign to defeat Proposition 9 led to a realization within the education community that we are most effective when working together. In 1981, I left state service to start my own firm and my first client was Citizens for Education, a coalition of the same nine organizations that form the Education Coalition today. In the early 1990’s the group was re-branded as the Education Coalition, but the same structure of collaboration among organization leaders and advocates has continued now for nearly forty years. For 31 of those years, until I joined CCSESA, I served as the lead consultant for the Coalition. From 2004 until she joined CCSESA in 2011, Sandra Morales coordinated the Coalition’s advocacy efforts in the State Capitol.

As it currently operates, CCSESA’s strong involvement in the Coalition continues, including Steve Henderson serving as the Coalition’s Treasurer. We will know by June 15 how successful the Coalition has been at protecting the interests of K-12 education, but there can be little doubt that our collective efforts are most effective when we are voicing the same concerns and proposed solutions.

JCCASAC Celebrates 2020 Teacher of the Year

CCSESA’s Juvenile Court, Community and Alternative School Administrators of California (JCCASAC) Subcommittee honors Dr. Kelly Schwirzke from Santa Cruz County Office of Education (SCCOE) as JCCASAC’s 2020 Teacher of the Year. Described as, “an incredible, yet humble teacher-leader, dedicated to the success of each and every student,” Senior Director of Alternative Education Programs at SCCOE, Johnny Rice says he is, “proud (and lucky) to have her on the Santa Cruz COE team.” Among her many accolades, Dr. Schwirzke helped create a culture of dual enrollment and messaging that all court and community school students are college material. Described as “transformational” by her peers, Dr. Schwirzke puts her students in the driver’s seat and helps them reverse map their goals by drawing on each student’s individual strengths. Each year JCCASAC celebrates excellence and honors teachers who are exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable, and inspire students of all backgrounds and learning abilities while carrying out the mission and vision of JCCASAC.

CTC Offers Flexibilities To Mitigate Credential Impacts

In response to limited testing opportunities and changes to clinical practice due to school closures, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) has taken Commission action to offer candidates and programs flexibilities needed for credential progression during a global pandemic. All COVID-19 related flexibilities and changes can be found on the CTC website here.


51st Annual JCCASAC Conference Postponed

Due to COVID-19 , the JCCASAC Conference has been postponed until May 12-14, 2021. For more information, please visit the official conference website.

2020 Early Math Symposium

The Early Math Symposium is a professional development opportunity jointly sponsored by the California Department of Education, the California State Board of Education, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, First Five California, WestEd, the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association, the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools, the AIMS Center for Math and Science, and the California Early Math Project.

This free event will be held virtually on Friday, June 26. Register today here.

Upcoming Virtual Job Fairs

Statewide Virtual Event

May 28, 2020


San Diego County Office Of Education

June 2, 2020


Kern County Superintendent Of Schools

June 4, 2020


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