Cota article gets mixed reactions

I have received both positive and negative reaction from an article that ran today titled Montebello School Officials Plan to demote Principal Cota.

Many parents left me messages saying they are grateful the article ran and they only wish an article could be written about each teacher and administrator that might be let go.

A handful of other parents said they do not support Cota and they do not feel he is a good principal.

On a side note, while writing this article I once again found members of the Montebello School Board nearly impossibly to get a hold of. Board President Marcella Calderon did not return numerous phone calls.

The only board member who commented and proved to be helpful was Vice President Gerri Guzman.

Arcadia HS play probes life and death

For those who like their art tinged with a little controversy and probing questions about the meaning of life, go see Arcadia High School’s run of Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “The Shadow Box,” which runs at 7 p.m. March 25-28, in the school’s Little Theater, 180 Campus Drive, Arcadia. (626) 821-8370, Ext. 1129.  Its star, Nikki Caiello, recently won a drama competition at Fullerton College.

Here’s the story…

ARCADIA – A buzz has been brewing on the Arcadia High School campus over the drama department’s production of “The Shadow Box.”

Michael Cristofer’s play, which won the Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award
in 1977, and runs through Saturday, March 27, deals not only with the
taboo topic of death, but it also involves a gay couple, a drug addict
and language many might consider “objectionable.”

“It is a little controversial for a high school
play,” said Director Steven Volpe, who teaches drama and English at the
school. “It does have a little bit of mature content…but it is so
well-written…and the themes are so relevant to our time.”

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Nikki Caiello plays Maggie with Matt Burstyn as Joe in Arcadia High School''s
production of "The Shadow Box" during a dress rehearsal on March 19, 2008.
(Staff photo by Leo Jarzomb)

Creating hope in Uganda


Jose Villapando, 17, right, gets advice from classmate Andy Sanchez, 17, as he makes a book about art around the world for school children in Uganda during their class at Santana High School in Rowland Heights.

In the elective writing class “Creating Hope,” the students will write their own books for the charity Books of Hope. The class has already shipped one set of books to Africa.

Find the entire story at the Rowland Heights Highlander.

The end of an Odyssey?

Last night, March 19, was the unveiling of what about 140 eighth-graders at Royal Oak Middle School had worked on for the past six weeks: a gigantic roller coaster.

The coaster, as well as large annual projects like an archaeological dig and a Rube Goldberg machine, seem to be well-known features of the school’s Odyssey Program.

However, there’s much more to the program than that. Charter Oak School District assistant superintendent Mike Hendricks said The Odyssey Program is a core designed to enhance the learning experience and build close relationships between students and teachers through creating small groups of kids who are overseen by four teachers throughout their middle school years.

Unfortunately, there’s been rumor that this may be the end of the Odyssey Program.

Why? Last year Royal Oak did away with their sixth grade. Sarah Brady, an English teacher within the Odyssey Program, said that when Odyssey was established in 1998, it was set up as a three-year program. Now that the school only houses seventh and eighth graders, the dynamic of the program is a bit disfigured.

And no, it’s not a funding issue. Projects like the roller coaster are all paid for through booster clubs and fund-raising.

Maria Thompson, eighth-grade assistant principal at Royal Oak, says it’s a teacher scheduling issue at this point. The budget DOES affect that scheduling, however. In other words, if the budget doesn’t support the teachers needed to fully schedule these core programs, then…well, no more core programs. Sounds like it still does boil down to a money issue in the end.

But, while the district supports it and everyone seems to love it, Odyssey is still up in the air at this point, according to pretty much everybody.

“It’s a great project,” Hendricks said. “As far as the future (of the project), I don’t know what the future is.”

Bassett Unified holds meeting regarding cuts

Assemblymember Ed Hernandez (D-57th District) fielded questions during a “Town Hall” meeting at Edgewood
Academy in La Puente on Saturday, March 15.


The meeting was set up by the Bassett Unified School District to get input from parents, teachers and community members on the pending state budget cuts to education.

The proposed cuts may result in as much as $1.9 million in cuts to schools in Bassett’s budget next year.
“We are probably in the most difficult budget crisis in the history of the state of California right now,” Hernandez said.
“And the governor wants to balance the budget on the backs of our children and our educational system.  The money that we need to pay for all the services is not there.”
Hernandez said an increase in revenue is needed to solve the problem.
“There is a message that you have to send to the legislature – do not cut our budget – we need to increase revenue,” he said. 

Torch Middle School receives honor



Torch Middle School received a special recognition on Friday, March 14, and a banner to hang in front of the school, from the California League of Middle Schools for becoming one of only three schools in California to achieve 2008 “California Schools to Watch” status.

Dr. Irv Howard, “California Schools to Watch” program coordinator, told an audience at Torch of students, parents, teachers and administrators that the award is provided to schools that have demonstrated they are able to respond to the needs of middle school students and that they value academic excellence, the importance of families and culture and that they have the support from the community and parents “to make that school truly work.” 
“The incredible teachers here and the students are doing an outstanding job and truly are deserving of this unique award,” Howard said.  He added that representatives of other schools will continue to view Torch as a model in an attempt to pattern their own teaching practices after Torch. 

Rally in Montebello

Word has been going around that parents are expected to rally at a Montebello Unified School Board meeting on Thursday.

A parent I spoke to today said they are upset because the school principal at Fremont Elementary school was given a pink slip.

Montebello gave pink slips to 40 percent of their administrative staff.

According to other parents the board has been very hush-hush regarding proposed layoffs.

Mt. SAC Board to give themselves a raise

The Board of Trustees for Mt. San Antonio College are expected to give themselves a raise at a Wednesday meeting.

Board members currently make $750 a month if they attend all meetings. The student trustee gets $400 a month.

They are slated to vote on 5 percent raise for all members.

It would increase their monthly salary by $207.50 for a grand total of $957.50 a month.

Do you know how much your Board of Trustees or School Board makes?

Montebello may cut 40 percent of administrative staff

This just in from Montebello Unified School District.

“In a response to the massive budget cuts proposed by Governor Schwarzenegger, MUSDs Board of Education recently voted to notify nearly 40 percent of certificated administrators that their positions may be changed, reduced or eliminated. The district is working to keep budget reductions away from classrooms.”

We have all been hearing about massive cuts and reductions but 40 percent of your administrators is quite a hit.

Is America ready for a woman president?


Is the country ready for a woman president?

This was the subject of an interesting panel discussion sponsored by Mt. SAC as part of its celebration of Women’s History Month.

LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina, left, offered many insights in the subject, including her strong support of Hilary Clinton as the presidential candidate.

Jean Schroedel, chair of Claremont Graduate University’s Politics and Policy Department, added her professional opinions on the subject of gender in American politics.

Read more about it in an upcoming story in the Rowland Heights/Walnut Highlander.