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CCSESA Newsletter2019

October Volume 17 / Issue 9

Leadership Link

Mr. Garth Lewis Yolo County Superintendent of Schools

  • “Our vision is to be a model of excellence in educational service, innovation, and impact.”

    What led you to become a county superintendent?

    I became a county superintendent because working toward transformational, systemic educational change intrigues, and at the same time, energizes me. Further, I learned a tremendous amount about the work of the county superintendent while working as the assistant superintendent for former superintendent, Jesse Ortiz, for four years. As a result of his leadership, and unwavering support, I was both inspired and encouraged to seek the superintendency of the Yolo County Office of Education (YCOE). Serving as the YCOE County Superintendent has provided me an opportunity to work with a team of skilled, creative, and innovative classified and certificated employees. As outlined in our YCOE mission statement, together, we are working:

    To provide inspiration, leadership, support, and advocacy that ensures equity and access to high quality education for all students.

    What inspired you to enter the field of education?

    I was inspired to enter the field of education for two reasons. First, I believe it was my destiny to become an educator because: (1) I have always loved to learn; (2) I have always loved to help others; and (3) Many of my friends, relatives, and colleagues say that I am a “people person”. Based on the three fore mentioned attributes, becoming an educator was just part of my natural personal and professional progression.

    My decision to become an educator was actually solidified while I was still in high school. As a high school student, I participated in a class entitled “Winning the School Game”. The class was taught by a community activist and educator and was designed to engage and inspire African American youth in learning activities that were designed to increase their academic achievement. At that time, I did not understand the research design of the class or pedagogical strategies being implemented, I just knew that I enjoyed the class immensely and learned a lot. Looking back, I believe that my participation in that class also inspired me to enter the field of education.

    Do you have a particular goal that drives you?

    On a personal level, I am driven to be the best father and husband that I can be. Further, with reference to my extended family, I am driven to be committed, supportive, and serve as a source of emotional support for all of my family members. As the Superintendent of YCOE, I am driven to create sustainable educational programs and systems that positively impact children, youth, families, and those with whom I work.

  • What objectives do you hope to achieve?

    One of my first objectives that I hope to achieve is to establish a culture of excellence and collective ownership of our YCOE work. Over the course of the past several months, we have revised our mission statement, defined cultural norms and core values, and developed our vision in anticipation of embarking on a process to develop and implement a multi-year strategic plan. Our vision is to be a model of excellence in educational service, innovation, and impact. This vision reflects our aspirational intent to plan, implement, and measure the efficacy of our work in a way that engages our YCOE team in continuous improvement and holds us accountable to support systemic change that is tied to student outcomes.

    What are your interests?

    I enjoy listening to music. Jazz, gospel, and reggae are among my favorite genres. Mountain and road biking are activities I also enjoy as biking helps me maintain my physical and mental health. Walter Mosley and Daniel Silva are two of my favorite novelists. If one asked my family, they would say I’m a “Wordscapes” addict. I, however, would not call it an addiction; an obsession . . . maybe. If warm sea water is available, I love to scuba dive. Jamaica has a special place in my heart as it is my father’s home country and it has great dive spots.

    Who are the special people in your life?

    Generally speaking, I have been blessed because I have several special people in my life. While each of them has played a different role, they have ALL contributed to my overall wellbeing—professionally, personally, and spiritually. My primary inspiration, motivator, supporter, and my boss, is Maria, my lovely wife. Maria teaches fifth grade at a Woodland Joint Unified School District elementary school. We have been through a lot over the years—mostly good, but in some cases, not so good. Regardless, I always know that she was and will be by my side through the good and bad. In addition, two other very special people in my life are my daughters. Both of them are doing exceptionally well in school. Izabelle, my oldest, is a freshman at UCLA, and my youngest daughter, Sofia, is a sophomore at Woodland High School. They have made, and continue to make, Maria and me very proud of them.

    Other special people in my life include, but are not limited to, the following: My 91-year-old (Mummy) and 88-year-old (Nanny) grandmothers continue to be my pillars of strength and faith. Just hearing their voices on the phone have helped me navigate incredibly challenging situations. Likewise, their presence makes family celebrations all the more special. I am also grateful for my Aunt Lorraine, who provided a roof over my head for five years after I ran away from home at the age of 15. Finally, my YCOE team and many professional colleagues throughout the county provide me with a supportive professional community to do the work associated with being a county superintendent.


    Follow Superintendent Lewis on twitter @YoloCOE

From The Desk Of

Peter Birdsall Executive Director

As this column is written, a massive fire is burning a few miles north of the location of our October General Membership meeting and Windsor, the town just north of our hotel, is under evacuation orders. These events are a stark reminder of the importance of friends, families and homes. They also are a reminder of the multiple important roles played by county offices and the extraordinary collaborative spirit that is central to the success of CCSESA.

At our Awards dinner on October 21, Steve Herrington (Sonoma) was honored for his support of other county superintendents who have had to deal with the tragedies of large wildfires. At that same dinner, Judy Flores (Shasta) was recognized for her leadership concerning county office support of school districts, Tim Hire (Tulare) for the work of his county office on teacher recruitment, L. Karen Monroe (Alameda) for her leadership on charter school issues, and Barbara Nemko (Napa) for her advocacy on issues ranging from early education and technology to special education funding.

Part of our role as CCSESA staff is to help communicate and advocate on the wide range of issues that must be addressed by county superintendents. With regard to the current wildfire crisis, we have printed extra copies of the Emergency Recovery Guide recently approved by the CCSESA Board and will be distributing that to members of the Legislature and other state policy makers. It is a clear-and timely-example of the important role played by county offices of education. We also are beginning to contact state agency staff and leaders about the problems caused by the planned power outages, and the importance of addressing the impact on schools of the related planning, communications and funding issues.

The recent General Membership meeting also reaffirmed, but raised critical questions, concerning the unique strength of CCSESA that is provided by the expertise and work of the five Steering Committees. Like so much county office work, emergency recovery does not fit neatly into one committee—there are financial, instructional, human resource, student support and technology implications. CCSESA is deeply engaged in reviewing its structures and operations to recognize this interdependence, but at the same time building on the extraordinary breadth of involvement, expertise, and mutual support that has made county offices leaders in both education policy and implementation.

Results of Statewide CAASPP Assessment Tests Released

Earlier this month, State Superintendent Tony Thurmond publicly announced the statewide results of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) summative assessments for English language arts/literacy (ELA) and mathematics. School districts have had access to their own results since May.

The results indicated that for CAASPP, performance continues to improve slightly overall within grades as measured by the Smarter Balanced ELA and mathematics assessments. Statewide results in all tested grades showed that 50.87 percent of students met or exceeded standards in ELA, a .99 percentage point increase from 2018 and a 6.87 percentage point increase from 2015. In mathematics, 39.73 percent of students met or exceeded standards, a 1.08 percentage point increase from 2018 and a 6.73 percentage point increase from 2015.

State Superintendent Thurmond acknowledged the slight score increases but expressed deep concern that improvement is less consistent across the score range in the later grades of 7, 8, and 11, with a persistent percentage of students of color not meeting standards and, in several grades, showing declining scores from last year.

“Education equity should mean equity for all students and right now, we are not there,” said Thurmond. Read Mr. Thurmonds remarks in full, here.

The CAASPP Smarter Balanced and California Alternate Assessments for ELA and mathematics can now be accessed through the CDE Public Reporting website.


CAAASA Call For Submissions

The California Association of African American Superintendents and Administrators (CAAASA) is now accepting applications to present at their statewide professional development summit in Sacramento March 11-13, 2020.

“Every year, CAAASA works to provide a platform for the best and brightest ideas.”said CAAASA President Michael Watkins. “Sometimes they are new ideas; while other solutions are generation-tested and simply need to be brought back to the forefront.”

The deadline for submissions is Friday, November 1st. For more information, click here.

CAAASA also invites you to reserve your spot for their ongoing professional development sessions, focused on equity and social justice. The sessions, 16 in total, began October 16th, and are delivered by leading California superintendents and education leaders. The next session will take place on Friday, November 1st.  Register here.


CCSESA 2019 Fall Federal Advocacy Trip

Eight county superintendents from throughout the state joined this year’s CCSESA fall advocacy trip during the week of September 30th. In addition to 24 meetings on the Hill with congressional offices, members also met with the White House Office of Domestic Policy, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, and U.S. Education Department Assistant Secretary Frank Brogan.

Top priorities on CCSESA’s platform included a push to allocate an equitable percentage of new available dollars to education programs, the need for special education funding and regulatory reform, and strategies to increase Head Start income eligibility. Brochures and infographics on these issues can be found on the CCSESA website.

Superintendents also spent significant time sharing local stories related to this trip’s highlight issue – mental health. Whether caused by natural disasters, neglect, or abuse, all of the superintendents spoke about the students in their communities who have been impacted by trauma and who need ongoing behavioral health treatment and care long after first responders leave and emergency funds dry up.

As you have conversations with your Representatives in district, please feel free to use the brochure that CCSESA developed which highlights the mental health crisis among California youth and the importance of schools in creating solutions.

If you have questions about CCSESA’s federal advocacy trips or our federal platform, please contact CCSESA Director of Intergovernmental & Legal Affairs Amanda M. Dickey, Esq.


Big Win for Inclusion and Socio-Economic Diversity in Pre-K

In 2017, CCSESA was joined by a coalition of K-12 advocates in support of efforts to increase flexibility for local education agencies (LEAs) that operate programs for 3 and 4 year-olds. Working closely with the Department of Finance, the K-12 coalition was able to successfully negotiate a provision in the education budget omnibus bill that allows LEAs to opt out of Title 22 regulatory requirements if the LEA is already meeting the health and safety standards in Title 5 and the Field Act. CCSESA has been a strong and consistent proponent of this new flexibility because it significantly increases LEAs’ ability to operate inclusive preschool programs and increases socio-economic diversity in early learning by allowing LEAs to blend programs serving families from different income ranges (i.e. preschool and Transitional Kindergarten (TK)). This new “LEA Licensing Flexibility” took effect on July 1, 2019.

In spring of 2019, the California Department of Education (CDE) issued emergency regulations enacting the “LEA Licensing Flexibility” which significantly undermined the intent of the statute. Rather than granting LEAs more flexibility to create inclusive settings, the emergency regulations created burdensome and unnecessarily specific requirements governing facility square footage, playground equipment, storage space, temperature, and bathrooms, that would have cost LEAs millions of dollars to implement. After seeking feedback from our early education steering committee, County Offices of Education Program Administrators of Child Development (COEPACD), CCSESA reconvened the K-12 coalition and filed detailed comments in opposition to the legal and policy rationale behind the emergency regulations.

Last week, CCSESA learned that our efforts were successful – the new proposed regulations on “LEA Licensing Flexibility,” issued as part of the regular rulemaking process, removes nearly all of the concerning provisions that the K-12 coalition highlighted. The new proposed regulations can be found here. CCSESA’s coalition letter can be found here.

For questions about early education or the “LEA Licensing Flexibility” regulations, please contact CCSESA Director of Intergovernmental & Legal Affairs Amanda M. Dickey, Esq.


October 21-25 Is National School Bus Safety Week

Held during the third full week of October each year, National School Bus Safety Week is an active and evolving public education program and an excellent way for parents, students, teachers, motorists, school bus operators, school administrators, and other interested parties – to join forces and address the importance of school bus safety. Established to promote school bus safety, school districts throughout the country observe School Bus Safety Week. The theme this year is “My School Bus, The Safest Form of Student Transportation!” Every day, more than 25 million children ride in a school bus in the U.S., according to the National Association for Pupil Transportation.

To learn more click here, to order posters, contact the American School Bus Council at

School Bus Safety Poster


Bullying Prevention Month

National Bullying Prevention Month is a campaign in the United States founded in 2006 by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. The campaign is held during the month of October and unites communities nationwide to educate and raise awareness of bullying prevention. Download bullying resources for parents, teachers, and schools, here.

This CDE web page has bullying prevention training materials, publications and resources, including community-based organizations, for educators, parents, and community members for recognizing bullying behavior and approaches for determining how to respond. You can download social media assets, classroom activities guides, and more on PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center’s website here. CCSESA also has a list of Anti-Bullying resources on our Inclusion and Tolerance Resources page, which can be found here.

National Bullying Prevention Month

Instagram Rolls Out Anti-Bullying Feature

In an effort to “lead the fight against online bullying” , and in honor of National Bullying Prevention Month, Instagram rolled out a new feature called “Restrict”, to help fight bullying. When you “Restrict” another user, comments on your posts from that person are only visible to them, and not to other people. Restricted users won’t be notified that you restricted them, nor will they be able to see if you’re active on Instagram at any given moment or if you’ve read their direct messages. Fifty-nine percent of US teens have been bullied or harassed online, and 42% of cyberbulling victims reporting bullying on Instagram. Restrict mode was launched world-wide October 2nd. You can learn more about Instagram’s efforts to fight bullying, here.

Instagram has also partnered with PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and illustrator Leo Natsume to bring to life poster ideas developed during Instagram’s Teen Bullying Prevention Design Workshop. The posters, which you can download here, will be distributed to thousands of schools and community centers across the US. Instagram is also releasing global anti-bullying stickers in thier Stories feature, inspired by these designs to support anti-bullying initiatives around the world.

Restrict IG

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Announces 2020 California Teachers of the Year

Presented by California Casualty and supported by the California Teachers of the Year Foundation, the California Teachers of the Year Program began in 1972 to honor outstanding teachers and encourage new teachers to enter the profession. Thurmond, who recently launched a Teacher Shortage workgroup at the California Department of Education (CDE), said he is pleased to honor five outstanding and talented teachers who have made a great impact in their schools and communities. “It is important to motivate and inspire other educators,” he said, “champion the positive contributions of the teaching profession, and highlight the rewards of being a teacher.”

County offices of education nominate California Teachers of the Year applicants through their county-level competitions. CDE selection committees review applications; conduct site visits to evaluate teachers’ rapport with students, classroom environments, presentation skills, and teaching techniques; and interview the teachers. The State Superintendent then selects the five California Teachers of the Year and the National Teacher of the Year nominee. The 2020 nominees are: Sean Bui, Brenda Barreras, Mandy Kelly, Guy Myers, and Katya Robinson.

For more information on the award program, please visit the CDE’s California Teachers of the Year web page.

Juvenile Treatment Center Youth Embrace Horses in El Dorado COE Program

The El Dorado County Office of Education partnered with El Dorado County Probation to provide a special day of learning to teach students, who have encountered challenges and temporarily reside at the South Lake Tahoe Juvenile Treatment Center(SLTJTC), about horses, potential careers and social skills. Students started the morning with an introductory overview, safety briefing, and learned the importance of body language and interpersonal communication. Throughout the day, students learned about horse care, the equipment and how to mount a horse.

Students involved had visible transformations, with SLTJTC Principal Carey Buchannan noting that “…individuals have lived here for weeks not speaking a word to educators and now we are having conversations.” El Dorado County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ed Manansala added, “These unique experiences would not be possible without the strong partnership that exists between EDCOE and Probation. A special thank you to Chief Probation Officer Brian Richart for his commitment to an innovative partnership that focuses on creating conditions for students to experience care, hope and possibility.”

Read more here.

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