Greetings from Pearl
I hope this newsletter finds you well as the school year marches along. The Alternative Education Collaborative (AEC) has been busy on many fronts and I am pleased to welcome many new members to the collaborative from school districts, CBO’s, city support services, and juvenile justice. We welcome all to the collaborative who are serving at-risk and struggling youth. It is through our collective work that we touch the lives of many students and families and help them on their education journey to a bright future.
The AEC meets quarterly and will have the next gathering on Wednesday, May 9th, at 4:00 p.m. We have a terrific guest lined up from Sacramento who will speak on the issues of Alternative Education. I hope you will attend! Watch for more details.
Public education in California continues to be racked by pressures whether budgetary from the State or Federal levels, continued policy requirements such as from No Child Left Behind, and the growing needs of students in the special education or language literacy arenas. Here in Santa Clara County we work to balance all of these issues to provide responsive, productive, appropriate, engaging, supportive programs for all of our students. It’s a complex world to try to balance though. We must stay in touch on broad issues. The AEC will be sponsoring ten attendees for an upcoming conference on public education funding. It will be held in Palo Alto and sponsored by EdSource. The better informed we are on education topics, the better we can provide for and advocate for our at-risk and struggling youth.
Last month, the AEC helped facilitate meetings with representatives from the National League of Cities, an organization that is also working on behalf of youth in our communities. We had good meetings and then connected to an audioconference by the NLC on “Dropout Recovery” highlighting successful efforts in Corpus Christi, Texas and hearing from the American Youth Policy organization working education reform issues. It was a great session. This month an audioconference will feature San Jose’s JET (Juvenile Education) Taskforce. Lots of good information sharing.
I hope you will find this newsletter filled with important and timely news related to alternative education and multiple pathways development. See the highlight piece on the Plus programs in San Jose Unified, read about the eye-opening trip for COE students to help victims from Hurricane Katrina, see the many Alternative Education teachers who were recipients of teacher mini-grants this year (we are proud of all of them!), see the various opportunities for funding, information and support, read about the state focus on Career Technical Education, check out the latest regarding state funding for public education and our local work on gang prevention and intervention through a federal grant with Communities Empowering Youth in the Department of Health and Human Services. And the list goes on. There is much going on! Stay informed, stay connected, stay energized as we work to improve the opportunities for all our young people.
I hope to see you at the May 9th AEC meeting or in the community. Thanks for the important work that you do on behalf of our youth to ensure they have multiple pathways to success!
Legislation Advocacy Needed (AB 143)
Assembly Bill (AB 143), a bill introduced by Assemblymember Joe Coto, allows charter schools serving exclusively at-risk youth to receive funding equitable to Community Day School funding will be heard by the education committee on April 11th. Currently all charter schools receive approximately $6500 per student per year from the state. At-risk youth have more needs than other students, such as a lower student to teacher ratio, innovative curriculum, as well as intensive tutoring and emotional counseling. The bill proposes a three year pilot in the counties of Santa Clara, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Alameda and San Diego that would allow charter schools serving these youth to serve up to 200 students per county, a total of 1000 students in all. Full text of the bill can be found by going to http://www.assembly.ca.gov/acs/acsframeset2text.htm and typing “143” in the “bill number” box.
Letters of support are needed now. A sample letter of advocacy written by our PACT colleagues is attached for reference – you can download and customize a letter of support. This could make a significant difference for a number of students in our county. Please write and fax to
Assemblymember Joe Coto
c/o Mike Welch
Capitol, Room 2013
Sacramento, CA 94249-0023
Misty P. Feusahrens
Assembly Education Committee
1020 N. Street, Rm 159
Sacramento, Ca 95814
(916) 319-2087 (ph)
(916) 319-2187 (fax)
Student’s Mission to Repair New Orleans
On February 10th, a group from San Jose traveled to New Orleans on a mission to repair a home in New Orleans damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The group consisted of six students from the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Ridgemont Community School, three of their teachers, members of Rebuilding Together/Silicon Valley, and the Order of Malta volunteers. The students participated in the restoration of the home of a 79-year-young great grandmother whose home was severely damaged by the hurricane. Since the hurricane, she was living with all of her belongings in one room. All alone and with no insurance, there was little hope that she would ever be able to repair her home.
For five days from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the students worked on Ms. Juanita’s home, repairing and installing drywall and insulation, light carpentry, painting, gardening and doing lots of hauling of construction material and debris. Our students were the youngest to ever participate in a program like this and worked very hard everyday. Not one student complained and all of them performed at a level that should make every member of our community proud! The students received such praise and recognition from everyone they met that they felt like celebrities. They visited an elementary school where they met with a group of 300 students who were left homeless by the hurricane. The school children prepared Valentine gifts and sang songs of thanks to our students.
The trip was partially supported by Cathy Culver and Lockheed, who provided many of the necessities for our students to participate. A lot of thanks goes to Lockheed for their support, but most of all to Cathy Culver, who arranged tours for our students at the end of every workday. Our students learned about the history of New Orleans, explored the Ninth Ward, and were astonished at the devastation they witnessed. They were shocked that there were no mountains in New Orleans! To see the spray painted numbers of those who died in each house and the messages left by those who were able to escape had a significant effect on the students. They remarked at how high the numbers on the houses were the closer they came to the levy. The sheer destruction of the hurricane was amazing to the students! The students enjoyed Cajun food, tasted Café au Lait with beignets and gathered beads from Mardi Gras floats and balconies along Bourbon Street. They also learned that New Orleans was home to the richest free men of color before the Civil War. Their visit was truly a science, geography, math, economics, English, history, and government lesson all rolled into one.
Throughout the week, people were constantly approaching our kids, thanking and praising them for their work. At the closing dinner that Friday evening, the entire audience gave our students a standing ovation. Our students were overwhelmed and humbled! One student remarked, “It made me feel like I was somebody. It felt really good!”
Ms. Juanita now has new vinyl floors, a freshly painted white house with blue trim, new banisters, framing, electrical wiring, new bathroom and light fixtures, screens, windows and doors. Our students will always remember how they helped Ms. Juanita have a home in which she can live once again. Upon returning, each student remarked how this was the “best experience EVER!” All of the students expressed a new appreciation for things they had taken for granted and felt like a contributing member of society. Each one volunteered to go again!
It is important to recognize and honor the good deeds of our Alternative Education students that everyone in our community has labeled “at-risk.” Our community school students deserve recognition and praise from OUR community for a job well done and proving once again that if we put our hard work, trust and faith in our youth, we cannot go wrong! KUDOS to them and their teachers!!!
Communities Empowering Youth Project Update
The Communities Empowering Youth (CEY) Project, in its first year of a three-year federal grant funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services, is focusing on carrying out concurrent capacity building activities by its three partnering agencies: United Way Silicon Valley(UWSV)/AEC—the lead agency, Catholic Charities San Jose (CCSJ), and California Youth Outreach (CYO). Below is an update on recent activities.
• UWSV/AEC is gathering information through a community needs assessment relating to gang violence to identify community assets and “service gaps” that impact youth at risk of joining gangs or those already affiliated with gangs. This information will be used by the partner agencies to inform program planning and organizational capacity building. The information gathered will be compiled in the form of a report that will be disseminated to county, city and community-based service providers, among other stakeholders.
• Catholic Charities San Jose and California Youth Outreach are conducting organizational assessments to target capacity building to better serve youth and their families affected by gang affiliation or proximity.
• Catholic Charities San Jose is formalizing its Youth Development and Youth Intervention Curriculum using a “Training of Trainers” approach into a publishable format to be piloted in Year Two and disseminated in Year Three.
• California Youth Outreach is refining its Youth Intervention Specialist Training Curriculum into a guidebook to be accompanied by video clips and other audiovisuals. Dr. Barbara Varenhorst, nationally recognized pioneer of the peer-mentoring model, is serving as consultant to CYO on this curriculum development project.
We will keep you updated on our progress!
Contact person: Pearl Cheng, Project Director, (408) 345-4390 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Countywide Collaborative- Juvenile Court Education Task Force (JET)
The Santa Clara County Juvenile Court Education Task Force (JET), spearheaded by Silicon Valley Children’s Fund, is a county wide collaborative working to improve educational outcomes for foster youth. JET’s goals include the development of interagency protocols as well as the successful implementation and launch of a web-based Foster Youth Information Network.
Guided by State and Federal laws pertaining to the education of wards and dependents of the court, JET has begun the work of delineating agency roles and responsibilities, creating tools to facilitate interagency transfer of foster youth records, and developing agency flow charts that will guide the delivery of improved education solutions for Santa Clara County foster youth.
The short-term success outcomes of JET will result in countywide compliance with all federal and state mandates pertaining to foster youth education and improved educational services for youth as a result of all agencies having access to accurate and timely information including School Records, Placement History, Social Worker Contact Information as well as Health and Immunization records. The long-term impact will result in improved educational outcomes for Foster Youth, including decreased truancy, increased high school graduation rates and post-secondary entry and success rates.
The agencies currently represented on JET are the Juvenile Court, Silicon Valley Children’s Fund, County Office of Education, Department of Family and Children’s Services, Probation Department, Office of the District Attorney, Office of the Public Defender, Legal Advocates for Children and Youth, School Districts, Foster and Adoptive Parents and Community Based Organizations that provide services to Foster Youth.
As over half of CA foster youth do not attain a high school diploma these are clearly a population of concern. Each year in Santa Clara County more that 3,500 children ages newborn to eighteen are removed from their homes due to serious child abuse and/or neglect. This system will allow for the easy identification of foster youth, the systems they are in contact with, their history and records, and a vehicle to track and monitor their performance.
For more information or to participate in the JET efforts in Santa Clara County, please contact Minh Ngo, Executive Director of the Silicon Valley Children’s Fund. email@example.com 408.558.5430 www.svcf.org