Exclusive to the Westside Observer

Carol Kocivar On Education

By Carol Kocivar ©

December 2008 - December 2010
Newer Carol Kocivar Columns 2011 - present


How many times has the 'forgot password' question on your computer asked "What is the name of your favorite pet?"

Well, year after year after year it was an easy answer.

But last week, when I was asked one more time, it reminded me that my favorite pet—a 20 year companion—no longer lives at my house.

When Terry, my husband, asked me today what I was going to write my column about, I said it was about friends—old friends.

(That sure beats telling him I was writing about my dead cat.) Hey, guess what, this is a column about a dead cat. A well-loved and long-lived companion.

His introduction to our house and the human family was a little unusual. We got him about two days after our daughter broke her leg. I attribute his human mind-reading qualities to the fact that this tiny grey kitten spent the first two months sleeping on a couch next to my daughter: Total human companionship from a teenager confined by a heavy cast on her leg.

A true California cat, he started out as a real foodie. Before we convinced him that dry kibble really was the food of choice, he spent his time stalking fresh fruits and vegetables, with tomatoes a particular favorite.

(He also dutifully brought in extremely large rats, which he placed at the bottom of our stairs, for us to admire. Most of the time they were comatose. Sometimes, not.)

Even after he was converted to the kibble diet, he never lost his food curiosity, spending every meal—our meal, that is—sitting on his own stool at the table observing our culinary delights.

I know you won't believe this but our cat could actually talk. And the older he got, the broader and more diverse were his cat chats. He would become particularly vocal on Saturday mornings—yelling upstairs to us because we were late for breakfast.

He also was very protective of our house. A watch cat—taking care of everything.

When our kids were young, we had a number of rabbits in our backyard who were particular friends of our cat. One day, while I was upstairs on the computer, the cat ran in and out of the room and then back to the window overlooking the back yard. Back and forth, back and forth—trying to get my attention.

Finally, I followed to discover that he was trying to get me to run outside to scare away some dogs who had invaded the home of our rabbits.

Every evening we would sit together. He was the only one who really knew my reading habits. He knew my favorite TV soaps. He also spent any number of hours on my lap—paws on the computer—helping with emails.

A couple of weeks ago, when Terry was away on a trip, my cat seemed to be losing ground to old age. (He was over a 100 in human years.) Staggering a bit, but still wanting to spend some time outdoors, I watched him carefully as he spent some last few hours in his favorite spot in the sun.

As I write this, no longer with my favorite friend at the keyboard, I marvel at the rewards we have from our pets. And how our lives are enriched each day by their presence.

And I know I will never forget, especially as my entry into my computer asks me to type his name.

Feedback: kocivar@westsideobserver.com

December 2010

The Race to Nowhere

Last night, I went to the gym and spent 45 minutes racing to nowhere. Fast, slow, standing, sitting, spinning and spinning and then I got off in the exact same place that I started.

It is time well spent. Spinning gives you time to think, like "How did Janet Jackson record songs that are just about my pace?"

In case you have never been spinning, it is a stationary bike on steroids. Link it to music and an instructor with some drill sergeant talent—and …well…there you go.

One of the best parts of spinning is that it gives you time to dream.

Your mind wanders. You free yourself of worldly tension. You get to ask yourself some of the most important questions, like:

"How come the woman in front of me has absolutely nothing on her that jiggles?"

This is followed immediately by the on-going and impossible dream:

"Maybe if I did this every night for the next three months I could wear one of those halter tops that lets everyone see I have nothing that jiggles.

Ah…but only moments later…15 minutes into the spinning class…you ask yourself the same question you ask yourself EVERY single time you come to spinning:

"Do I really think I can keep up this pace for FORTY FIVE LONG MINUTES?"

I am here to tell you that I actually did it.

Surrounded by 20-somethings who do this spinning thing as a warm-up for an additional session of weight lifting, I kept the pace and the faith.

I even decided—during a slight lull when the instructor urged me to drink more water—OMG—did I forget that again? —On how I was going to vote on two important ballot measures.

Ha—you thought I would not get this message into this column! Fooled you.

Here are my recommendations on two initiatives:

PROPOSITION 25 – SUPPORT Simple Majority Vote for State Budget

This will change the legislative vote requirement to pass the state budget and budget-related legislation from two-thirds to a simple majority.

It retains the two- thirds vote requirement for taxes.

Proposition 25 moves in the direction of real reform and gives the majority the ability to set priorities for spending the revenue we do have. It also changes negotiations over the budget to give the small minority less of a stranglehold on the process.


This initiative statute repeals recent legislation that would allow businesses to lower their tax liability.

When California has cut billions from public schools, colleges, and services for poor children, and when the State is facing more budget deficits, it is not the time to grant huge tax breaks to a small number of large corporations. In these tough economic times, everyone must pay his or her fair share.


Carol Kocivar feedback: kocivar@westsideobserver.com

November 2010

Have You Joined Yet?

That's a pretty easy question. My guess is that almost everyone will answer, "Yes".

The next question is a little bit harder. "What can I do in my community to help?"

As someone once said, " Let me count the ways."

And let me count the ways that parents in our community are helping children by joining the PTA.

Last week, I was at Lowell High School and a PTSA father was volunteering in the bookstore helping to sell school materials. Find out more: http://www.lowellptsa.org/volunteer.html

The PTA at Herbert Hoover Middle School keeps parents well informed through email news about up coming events—from a beach clean up to planning parent programs at the school. Find out more: Here

Just up the hill at the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts PTSA, parents have put together a web site listing all kinds of activities that support the students—including a school beautification day! Find out more: http://www.sfsota-ptsa.org/ You can even sign up for email alerts notifying you about up coming student performances!

The number-one reason to join the Parent Teacher Association is to benefit your child.

But there are many more advantages. Here are just a few:

• Get Connected. There's no better way to know what's happening in your school.

• Discover Great Resources. The PTA offers a variety of programs designed for parents as well as students.

• Tap into a Network. PTA functions provide opportunities to meet other parents and teachers, build rapport and discuss parenting issues that are on your mind.

• Watch yourself Grow. By volunteering with your PTA, you gain valuable experiences and personal confidence. It's an opportunity to put your skills and hobbies to good use for a good cause.

• Speak Up. Because PTA is a forum for exchanging ideas, you are encouraged to make suggestions and more effectively suggest change at your child's school.•

• Help Your Child Succeed. PTA fosters parent involvement. Parent involvement has been proven by three decades of research to be the greatest predictor of student success.

• Witness Improvement. By getting involved at your child's school you'll be part of the solution, helping to make positive changes. Local PTAs play an important role in fundraising to provide building improvements, curriculum-based programs, social events – all vital to a school's success.

• Be a Role Model. By becoming a PTA member, you'll be demonstrating to your child the importance you place on education.

Anyone who chooses to support PTA can become a member. PTA is the nation's oldest, largest and highest profile volunteer organization working on behalf of public schools, children and families.

You can join the PTA at your school or –if by chance you don't have children at a PTA school or your kids have graduated— you can still join!

Golden State PTA is a statewide organization allowing individuals and businesses without a local school affiliation to join PTA and maintain contact with California State PTA. When you become a member of Golden State PTA, you join with California's statewide membership in support of the education, health, and well-being of children and youth.

Want to help children? Join PTA: www.capta.org

Feedback: kocivar@westsideobserver.com

October 2010

What'd I say???

By Carol Kocivar ©2010

Please excuse me… but whenever I spend a little too much time in Sacramento or at an education conference I hear a little bit of a Ray Charles riff…

Why, just the other day we had a conversation to authenticate the reflective drive so we could utilize and unpack the structures that created the sustainable and seamless architecture.

You Betcha

This must resonate with you in a true pedagogy as we work to ensure transparency.

Ah…a 21st century skill!

We promise to hold all the stakeholders accountable with this high leverage transformative strategy.

Pushing the box or outside the envelope?

We can no longer work in silos but must work smarter not harder to implement the powerful connections.

Can I do this on Twitter or do I need a Facebook Account?

We have to be very clear that this is non-negotiable—a powerful vision for the future.

No tweaking here.

This is truly the new way of working—Did I mention we are breaking down silos?

The farmer in the dell, the farmer in the dell, hi ho Hi-ho, the derry-o

The farmer in the dell

And that's a wrap.

The bottom line


Sept. 2010

Baby Baby

Don't worry. I don't go around telling my friends I have the cutest and most beautiful granddaughter in the whole wide world. I would never do that. Never ever.

I am too cool. I am more into technology than baby boasting.

On Cue: I take out my iPhone and say:

"Have you seen Camera Genius? It lets you zoom in to take a close up. Here… look at the definition in this baby's picture."

And then…

"Take a look at this neat app. I've been using the iVideo camera and love the color and sound. Watch closely. You can see this baby start to roll over and grab for her toys. Nice color, huh? Did you see her put her toes in her mouth?"

The slide show:

"My daughter just sent me this mobile me gallery. You can watch a slide show and even put captions on the bottom of each picture. See the baby watching the fish in the aquarium?"

The video chat:

"Do you know how to record an iChat? Take a look. I have a small collection of chats right here on my computer. It's really easy. You can even save them on itunes. The sound is really quite amazing. Hear the baby cooing?"

By this time, I might just have let it slip that this photogenic baby is my BABY BABY.

Well, not exactly mine. She lives with my daughter and her husband.

Look, here is a picture of the three of them. Don't you think her eyes are just like her dad's?

They are coming to visit next week. I have this cute little App called flash for free.

If I take a picture and the room is too dark, I just select the photo and it will lighten up just as if you have a real flash on your iPhone.

There is one more thing I am going to try when she gets here: iTalk.

Maybe— if I am really conscientious—I can record her first real word: " Grandma."

In addition to being smitten with her new granddaughter, Carol hosts a radio show on education issues and volunteers with the PTA. Have you joined? Just click here: http://www.capta.org/sections/membership/join-support.cfm

Feedback: kocivar@westsideobserver.com

July 2010

State Budget Crisis Hits Local Schools and Children

As you walk into Dianne Feinstein elementary school in San Francisco, there are 13 empty chairs near the front door. Each chair has a pink heart and the name of the teacher.

Each chair represents a staff member scheduled to be laid off.

At nearby Lowell High School, parents are holding emergency PTA meetings in response to a proposed school budget that cuts more than 19 full and part-time positions.

These are schools in our neighborhood, responding to the impact of state cuts to education funding. The story is the same in neighborhoods throughout California.

Currently, the California ranks 47th among all states in its per-pupil spending-- $2,856 less per pupil than the national average.

In the past two years, the state has cut $17 billion from schools, and deep cuts to social services have added to the burden borne by children and families. An additional approximately $2.4 billion is now being proposed in new cuts to schools.

Most Californians, according to a recent poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, believe there is not enough state funding going to public schools, and a majority single out K-12 education as the area that they most want to protect from spending cuts.

The California legislative analyst has consistently recommended that additional revenues are needed to close the state's $20 billion budget gap. These recommendations include a menu of tax changes, such as:

• 'The alcohol tax rates have not been updated since 1991. Given the significant societal costs associated with drinking, we think it is reasonable to maintain the real value of these taxes.

• We also suggest aligning the vehicle license fee with local property tax rates, as it represents a tax on property—with the proceeds going into the General Fund."

For more information on these recommendations, go to http://www.lao.ca.gov/handouts/FO/2010/Revenues_201011_Budget_051110.pdf

For parents and teachers who have watched this budget scenario play out year after year, California seems to have invented déjà vu all over again.

But this time, not only is there advocacy by many organizations including the PTA for a balanced approach to the budget that includes additional revenue, a law suit was just filed.

A press conference—at AP Giannini Middle School in San Francisco—announced the filing of this historic lawsuit against the State of California requesting that the current education finance system be declared unconstitutional and that the state be required to establish a school finance system that provides all students an equal opportunity to meet the academic goals set by the State.

The lawsuit was filed by a broad coalition, including more than 60 individual students and their families, nine school districts from throughout the State, the California School Boards Association (CSBA), California State PTA, and the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA).

The suit asks the court to compel the State to align its school finance system—its funding policies and mechanisms—with the educational program that the State has put in place.

To do this, plaintiffs allege, the State must scrap its existing finance system; do the work to determine how much it actually costs to fund public education to meet the state's own program requirements and the needs of California's school children; and develop and implement a new finance system consistent with Constitutional requirements.

"We require students to meet high education standards and then deny them the resources they need to meet those standards," said Jo A.S. Loss, president of the California State PTA. "We must have a system that allows schools to deliver a high-quality education for all children – in good times and in tough times."

For more information about the school finance lawsuit, please visit www.fixschoolfinance.org.

Feedback: kocivar@westsideobserver.com

June 2010


The Art of Closing the Achievement Gap


My husband always kids me when I look for something.

The joke in our house is that I have to ask him for help in finding something that is right in front of my eyes. For some reason, my mind creates a picture of where something should be…and it is not open to actually seeing where it is.

So what does this have to do with closing the achievement gap? Lots. In all our efforts to help students do better in school we may be overlooking the obvious--something that is right before our eyes.

Take a mind trip back to kindergarten.

How do you remember the alphabet?

My bet is that you still sing the alphabet song you learned when you were about 5 years old. It is embedded in your mind—just like the sound you hear when you see Y-M-C-A or R-E-S-P-E-C-T. (Sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me.)

Boom Boom Pow. Hey I love the Blacked Eye Peas.

Just in case you need something more scientific than the personal experience of millions of kids, take a look at a study just completed in the New York public schools:

Analyzing data from more than 200 New York City schools over a two-year period, this report—Staying in School—Art Education and New York City Gradation Rates-- shows that schools in the top third in graduation rates offered their students the most access to arts education and the most resources that support arts education.

Guess what? It also showed that schools in the bottom third in graduation rates consistently offer the least access and fewest resources in the arts.

Other national studies show that students who are most at risk of dropping out cite participation in the arts as their reason for staying in school.

Which kids get the most arts? If you guessed poor, black, and Latino students, BZZZZZZ. Try again.

Staying in School—Art Education and New York City Gradation Rates-- has significant national implications, especially for California.

Our most recent studies on arts education show that almost nine out of 10 California schools (89 percent) fail to offer a standards-based course of study in dance, music, theater, and visual arts.

More than one in four schools (29 percent) do not offer a standards-based course of study in any of the arts disciplines.

What can we do about the achievement gap?

It's right before our eyes. More Arts…for ALL students.

Feedback: kocivar@westsideobserver.com

May 2010

Celebrate Talent
in Our Schools

I don't know about you but I love the way you can now click events on your email and theyby magic—show up on your calendar.

Some of the best events in town are the visual and performing arts programs by students in our public schools.

Here are a number of events that I hope you put on YOUR calendar!

Love's Philosophy: An Opera Gala

Sunday, Apr 18, 2010 | 2:00 pm

San Francisco School of the Arts,

Drama Studio, 555 Portola Dr., SF

Tel (415) 695-5700 to confirm time and dates.

Talented youth from San Francisco's acclaimed performing arts high school, SOTA, will be featured in an afternoon of operatic selections from Don Giovanni, Iolanta, The Magic Flute, Semele, Eugene Onegin, Idomeneo and more. This is a rare opportunity to hear digital-age youth perform classic works. Come support public arts education in San Francisco and hear fabulous music at an affordable price.

Peer Gynt

Fri. Apr 16 at 7:30pm | Sat. Apr 17 at 7:30pm

Fri. Apr 23 at 4:30pm and 7:30pm

Sat. Apr 24 at 2:00pm and 7:30pm

School of the Arts Theatre Department

555 Portola Dr., SF

Tickets: Adults $15 Students (K-12) and Seniors $10

SOTA DRAMA STUDIO (In the Gym, enter through the "Red Doors," lower level, below the student parking lot)


Tel (415) 695-5700 to confirm time and dates.

The West Coast Premier of the new adaptation of Peer Gynt by David Henry Hwang and Stephan Muller of Henrik Ibsen's Henrik Ibsen's classic is revisited with the use of contemporary metaphors and language.

Band Concert

Fri Apr 9 7pm – 9:30pm

Orchestra - Spring Concert

Thu, April 15, 7:30pm – 9:30pm

Lowell High School Performances

101 Eucalyptus Drive, SF

Tel. 415-759-2730 to confirm time and dates

Young At Art

May 8-16, 2010

De Young Museum

Golden Gate Park

The San Francisco Unified School District proudly unveils Young at Art; an 8 day celebration of student creativity in visual, literary, media and performing arts hosted by the world renowned de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park from May 8-16, 2010 (closed Monday, May 10, 2010).

For the past 24 years this unique San Francisco event, (formerly San Francisco Youth Arts Festival), has been a point of destination for families, teachers, artists and community members from San Francisco and beyond. The promise of equity and access in arts education for all students K-12 during the curricular day, made real by the SFUSD's groundbreaking Arts Education Master Plan, finds its point of destination in Young at Art, where all who attend may see for themselves the inspiration and creativity inherent in all of our youngest San Franciscans!


Feedback: kocivar@westsideobserver.com

April 2010

Why Can't We All Agree on Children?

Last week, I drove back and forth and back and forth to Sacramento.

I know the route by heart, and so does my car. The first test drive of my NEW car 16 years ago was a trip back and forth and back and forth to Sacramento. The car was filled with school children and soccer bags, headed straight to a two-day tournament.

I was thinking of the kids and their schools and their hopes and their dreams last Sunday as I drove, in that same car, across the bridge over the Sacramento River.

I always veer off the freeway just before we get to the City and take the scenic route so I can watch the dome of the state capitol come into view.

It reminds me of why I come. This is where they make decisions that affect our children.

This is where they decide if there is money to pay for small classes so our youngest children can get the individual attention they need.

This is where they decide if children with toothaches can get to go to the dentist or end up in the emergency room.

This is where they decide if there is money for arts and music and dance and drama in our schools—the creativity tools for all children.

This is where they decide if our children can have as many school days as children in other countries.

This is where they decide if children get vision screenings or end up never ever seeing what the teacher writes on the board in the classroom.

For the past several years, this is where they have decided to cut billions and billions of dollars from our schools and from our children's services.

This year…this time…we can't sit on the sidelines.

My trip last week was to the California State PTA legislative conference, where parent volunteers from throughout the state learned about the impact of the budget on education and children's services.

Budget cuts threaten an entire generation of children.

It is time for everyone who cares about the future of our children and the future of California to join together.

Why can't we all agree on children?

Please take a moment to join with the PTA to support the more than 9 million children in California:

Action Steps: Join your PTA:


Join the PTA Campaign to support our more than 9 million children: www.capta.org

Feedback: kocivar@westsideobserver.com

March 2010

"Don't I know you from somewhere?"

We kept looking at each other, not so silently thinking, "Don't I know you from somewhere?" Where do you shop? Were our kids in pre-school together?

More and more, the answer seems to be we pass each other in sweat clothes at the YMCA. I see my neighbors from across the street more frequently at the Y than on the corner.

I was at a work meeting the other day when we finally figured out we "knew" each other because we see each other in the hallway at the Y.

New Year's resolutions are drawing many at the oddest hours to sweat on stationary bikes.

I can just hear the kids saying, "Get A Life!" Well, that is what we are doing on Friday evenings at 5 PM lifting weights.

My YMCA of choice is Stonestown. I can combine a walk to the Y with weights and stretching and back again in an hour.

And you know me. It is a chance to not only listen to music but to also try out the latest App on my phone. Too cool. A full body workout just a click away.

I don't know if it is luck or whether kids really sometimes DO use parents as role models. But I now get a kick when I visit my kids and they take time in their day to work out.

The really nice thing about the Y is that it is not only a place to work out.

Its mission is to "build strong kids, strong families and strong communities by enriching the lives of all people through spirit, mind and body."

There are programs for kids, teens, seniors that go way beyond lifting weights. Here are some highlights of recent student Excel programs:

The Jose Ortega After School program participated in the Lights On After School event, which brought awareness for the need of after school programming.

Aptos Middle School students participated in ExCEL's annual Youth Action Conference—going to workshops on tutoring, preparing for the future, public speaking, and conveying ideas effectively.

The Sheridan After School Program is working on a gardening project.

The Miraloma After School Program gardening group did significant work in the after school garden area. The kids have been cutting down, clearing out, and composting all of the shrubs and debris. The Stop Motion Animation class has been working on short stop-motion films, complete with lighting and sets.

The Lawton PRIDE After School Program now offers a Fencers' Club.

So even if I may miss a day or two at the gym, I know involvement with the Y not only literally strengthens me but also strengthens my community.

You can catch me at the Y at about 6. (You guess whether AM or PM.)

(In the spirit of transparency, I am a member of the Board of Directors of the Stonestown Family YMCA.)

February 2010

When I was a little girl I could not tell the difference between Thanksgiving and my mother's birthday.

In my house, everyone … and I mean everyone … came to our house in late November for my mom's birthday. The meal was always the same—turkey, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, and lots of stuffing.

A childhood mystery: Did someone somewhere declare that on my mom's birthday everyone in America would come together to celebrate?

I was amazed that the newspapers actually ran stories about how to celebrate. Special recipes … autumnal decorations … all targeted for that special day in the last week on November.

We lived in an old farmhouse that looked out into fields with maples. My grandmother played the piano. As she played, we could see:

"The falling leaves drift by the window ."

Funny thing about memories: My mom is turning 91 and clear as day I can see our old house and still smell the turkey in the oven.

And my mom … let me tell you … I still think we all should be celebrating her.

She got her Facebook page before I did.

During this healthcare debate, she was the one who sent me the email to alert my elected officials about the importance of a woman's right to choose.

She is busy knitting a blanket for her first great-grandchild.

She watches Korean soap operas and Meet the Press.

She is part of a Great Books discussion group.

She always finishes her Christmas shopping online before I even make my list.

Did I mention that in younger days, she taught school and was on our local school board?

My little girl memories seem right on target:
There is a reason they call it Thanksgiving. Thanks mom— from the givee to the giver.

December 2009

A Night On The Town

Chicago, Chicago that toddling town.

I just sent my mom 13 email photos of a shopping trip to Whole Foods in Chicago. Cheese plates...sushi...chocolate desserts with raspberries...

Tucked away in a nondescript neighborhood is the third largest Whole Foods in the world. Yes. It does cover a complete city block. And yes, there is wine bar.

Let me explain my Saturday night. I am visiting my daughter who is about to have a BABY!

Our idea of evening fun was grocery shopping. This follows our morning idea of fun -- a breakfast burrito and French toast.

Did I mention my daughter is about to have a BABY?

(I felt a little like that famous incident with the first president Bush--who went out shopping and discovered the electronic checkout at the grocery store.)

After we passed the truckload of fresh apples and the pork loin and the six types of prawns in sauces from Thailand to Italy, my son in law asked if we should get some wine. Silly me. I thought he meant a bottle to bring home

Nope. He steered me over to the wine bar--where I could select various flights of wine for the tasting.

Flights of wine! I didn't even have to make a reservation.

However, from looking over the young folks in front of the wine crystals-- I could recognize some frequent flyers.

Que sera sera... Whatever will be will be. I tasted a tinsy glass of Pinot to help me navigate the rows of Almond milk and sparkling waters.

My daughter got a sarsaparilla. Did I mention that she is going to have a BABY?

I am in Chicago for a baby shower. And I am sending pictures galore to MY mom.

Friday night featured some home shots of her first grandchild with a side view of the great-grandchild to be.

Saturday --the wild night at the grocery store followed by homemade beet and carrot soup. (I learned something: Don't worry if you forgot the recipe. Just check it online at the store.)

Sunday was the shower. Women from work and play sharing well loved baby books. (Doesn't every newborn get a Barak Obama coloring book?)

We shared baby stories and salmon and potatoes and asparagus and salad. Whew...Love those little tomatoes.

And homemade cupcakes and cookies.

Did I mention my daughter is going to have a BABY?

November 2009

Psst….Have you joined PTA?

More than one person has asked me why I still go to PTA meetings. Good Question!

After all, both my kids have already graduated from our public schools.

The answer is easy. And it has nothing to do with fundraisers or selling candy or sweatshirts.

It has everything to do with our commitment to our children and to the future of our community and our country.

It is parents—in communities throughout California and the United States—working together to improve the lives of all children.

More than a century ago, the first meeting of the California Home and School Child Study Organization occurred in San Francisco in 1897. That's right. Progressive from the start, San Francisco is the birthplace of the organization we now know as the PTA.

For more than a century, PTA has reminded our nation of its obligations to children and provided resources and important information to parents and teachers. Whenever young people's education, health, safety, or well-being were threatened, PTA members were on the forefront of working to resolve those challenges.

PTA has been instrumental in the passage of important laws and guidelines that we sometimes take for granted:

Creating a separate criminal justice system for juvenile offenders

• Enforcing child labor laws

• Building Kindergarten into the public school system

• Supplying federally funded hot-lunches — that now feed more than 26 million children a day.

• Supporting school bus safety regulations

• Creating the content-rating system for television programs — yes, PTA supported the creation of that ratings indicator you now see in the upper-left corner of your TV screen.

If you look up and down the streets of San Francisco, you can literally see the work of the PTA. The yellow crosswalks in front of our schools are the result of PTA advocacy.

• Small class size? Think PTA

From parent education to college fairs, from arts programs to field trips, from teacher appreciation events to health and fitness programs, mothers and fathers and grandparents and guardians are volunteering through the PTA.

Now, more than ever, we need to work together.

Now, more than ever, we need to remind our elected officials of our responsibility to children.

Everyone is invited. Just contact your local school to join PTA.

For more information about PTA, click on to www.capta.org

October 2009

No More Pencils…No More Books

© 2009

When I was a little girl, we sang a short verse on the last day of school. 

No more pencils
No more books

No more teachers' dirty looks

Well ...Not exactly a blast from the past. 

But unfortunately…it now describes too many of California's classrooms. With budget cuts in the billions, our children will start a new school year not only with not enough pencils and not enough books but not enough everything. 

Anyone who cares about our children and the future of our state should be angry...very very angry. 

Larger class sizes mean children struggling to read will not get the help they need. 

Too many high school students won't have the courses or the counselors as they compete for fewer and fewer seats in college. 

Art and music give children the skills they need for academic and personal success. Now they are cut from our classrooms. 

Talented teachers... librarians nurses…custodians...Laid Off.

Yes …we should be very angry ...not only for the loss to our children but because this did not have to happen. There were choices. The only option was not severe cuts to education and children's services

Choosing to solve the budget crisis primarily with these cuts, rather than identifying sufficient new, ongoing revenue, was not the best choice for children. Our responsibility to children is not cut in tough economic times. 

So where do we go from here? 

When school opens for the year, get involved.

Join with nearly a million PTA volunteers throughout California in our campaign for budget reform. 

Funding education and children's services is not an issue of left versus right. 

It is a fundamentally an issue of right or wrong. 

Get involved. Help do the right thing for our children and the future of California.
For more information on how to get involved, go to the California State PTA web site: www.capta.org

September 2009

A Good Summer Read

There is hubris of sheer certainty that comes with youth.

Now, I am not so certain I know it all.

In fact, the older I get, the less I know I know.

And this has nothing to do with forgetfulness.

Listen… and you will learn.

I was reminded of this last week at a conference on the arts. We were given a homework assignment. Read this:

"Cultural responsiveness, racial identity and academic success: a review of the literature.

This research, commissioned by the Heinz Endowments, looks at the connection between racial identity and school success.

For anyone who grew up with headlines and battle lines over school integration, this is important research.

It talks about the traditional mainstream view that "achievement for racial minorities is dependent on assimilation into white society." And once this occurs, student will succeed.

Hmm. Fast forward to the achievement gap.

This literature review questions some basic assumptions:

Noting that desegregation increased equity in resources and fostered civil rights, it also finds it "undercut the value of education for African Americans."

The number of black teachers declined and " because of the cultural change in the teaching force, racial uplift and religion were no longer central aspects in the education of black children."

" The research shows that many children use their culture and racial identity every day in striving for success in school and life, only to have their race, language and culture disparaged in the process."

"When culture is suppressed or denied, students are educationally disempowered. They find it hard to use their culture to learn."

The conclusion of the literature review: "Culturally responsive pedagogy and positive racial identify can play major roles in promoting academic achievement and resilience for African, Latin, Asian and Native American children."

This research, written by Drs. Mary Stone Hanley of George Mason University and George Noblit of the University of North Carolina, recommends designing programs that:

Use culture to promote racial identity

Use culture and racial identify as an asset

Education about racism and racial uplift

Employ the arts

Develop caring relationships

Assume success

Promote active learning, problem based instruction and student involvement

Include the community

Acknowledge the challenges.

You can find out more at the web site of the Heinz Endowment: www.heinz.org.

July/August 2009

Invest in Children

Whoever first said, "Crisis creates opportunities" must feel like a pig in mud.

With a $21 billion dollar shortfall --a shortfall bigger than the budgets for many countries--it seems we have an abundance of opportunities in California.

And I am not talking about the opportunities to cut funding for children's health insurance or to cut billions more from an education budget that makes our investment dead last in the nation.

I am talking about the opportunity for our elected officials to put aside partisanship and actually be leaders.

I am talking about the opportunity to create a common vision for the future of California.

I am talking about the opportunity to create a budget based our vision and dreams--not on failed partisan positions unrelated to the health, welfare, and economic needs of the 6th largest economy in the world.

This is a vision based on an old-fashioned word: responsibility.

We have a responsibility to provide our children with the skills they need to become productive workers in a democratic society.

We have a responsibility to protect the health and welfare of our most vulnerable citizens-- our children and our seniors.

We have a responsibility to protect our environment.

So when we hear that the only option is "cut, cut, cut" we ask the most basic question:

Are you creating a budget based on a strategic plan for the future or are you only playing with numbers?

We must dispel the notion once and for all that cutting vital services is our only option.

Our future is not a zero sum game.

And that means we need to look at revising how we make budget decisions.

At the top of the list should be changing the vote requirement for passing a budget to 55 per cent or a simple majority. California is only one of three states that requires a two thirds vote.

Now and for the future-- we need to recognize that the best economic recovery plan is to invest in our children.

Thank You!

Here is a little memory test.

Close your eyes. Now try to remember your elementary school teachers.

I did that the other day and while I may misplace my keys or my cell phone, I have not misplaced the mental pictures my teachers—each one.

I attended a two-room schoolhouse and can still remember sitting around the piano—the highlight of the week—and hearing my teacher play. (As an aside, this was also snack time and we ate pecans and walnuts from a sack—no kidding!)

I remember practicing for the school play. I remember learning how to do wood work. I remember learning the national anthems of countries throughout the world.

Long ago? Yes. But these memories are made everyday in our schools.

May is the time to say Thank You. Thank you for the skills and caring that indeed last a lifetime.

Saying thank you makes a world of difference. You can do it with a simple handwritten note or an email.

Here are some more ideas from the PTA that you can use to recognize the teachers and to increase public awareness about the important work teachers do.

Host a special breakfast or lunch for your school's teachers and staff. If space allows, invite parents, school board members, the district superintendent, district personnel, and prominent community leaders to join you at the event in showing appreciation for teachers.

Create a giant teacher thank-you card for display in the school community. Place markers by the card so community members can add their words of thanks.

Start a "teacher feature" on a school or library bulletin board. Each week or month, profile a different teacher. Include quotes by and about the teacher, as well as the teacher's picture, background, hobbies, and philosophy of education. Alternatively, use the school or PTA newsletter to publish interviews with teachers and stories about teachers' accomplishments. Consider having students conduct the interviews and write the stories. Publish stories throughout the year.

Ask each teacher what his or her favorite book is and buy a copy for or have a copy donated to the school library. Include in each book a bookplate with the name of the teacher who chose the book.

Present certificates of appreciation to all teachers, as well as to substitute teachers, aides, and other support staff.

Take out an ad in the local newspaper to thank the teachers in your school or district.

The San Francisco Education Fund has a GREAT "Thank a Teacher Today" web page-- http://www.thankateachertoday.org/ you can visit for even more ideas.

May 2009

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

When I was a kid there was a movie title that scared the heck out of me:
"Invasion of the Body Snatchers." No Way. No How would I ever go and see that one.

Fast Forward.

I went clothes shopping the other day—something I avoid for years and years. In my own private economic stimulus package, with three way mirrors highlighting every move—my first thought: OMG. Invasion of the body Snatchers had come to haunt me.

There is no justice.

Please tell me. Why do they feature clothes that hang perfectly on the rack—but so imperfectly on the bod?

I thought we had passed consumer protection laws with teeth until I tried on some of those great aqua sweaters.

With an apology to Barack Obama, I spent what felt like an Olympic triathlon moving and removing items. My percentage rate was lower than a leading pitcher's batting average.

I felt like I was part of one of those seriously flawed ethnic jokes asking how many …..

How many pairs of pants must one woman try on to find just ONE to fit?

Did I mention this was at an outlet---with 30 per cent off the 60 per cent off the 10 per cent off?? They were throwing things at you just to get them out of the store and I could barely catch.

There is a phrase that comes to mind:

Too may cooks spoil the broth?…No. Umm.

If it is too hot get out of the kitchen? No. Umm.

You are what you eat?? No. No. No.

When I got back from shopping I felt exhilarated—I know I spent more calories in the front of the three-way mirror than a run around the lake.

I marked the calendar. Several years hence I will do this again.

No pain. No gain. Dare to compete!

© 2009 Carol Kocivar April 2009


You are what you App

It was halftime at my soccer game. As I looked around at the women on the sideline, recovering from sprints and a little pushes here and there, I realized they were suffering from the same thing I was—a little App deprivation.

After grabbing some water, they reached into their soccer bags and pulled out their toys. ipods and iphones emerged. Teammates sat together checking out each other's favorites.

GPS and wi-fi conversations saturate the air.

The mom with young children showed a handheld filled with educational games for the kids and a Free San Francisco Guide to tour the City.

This is happening on and off the soccer field. A woman at work had pulled me aside to watch life-like Koi swim around raindrops on her handheld.

A grocery-shopping guide took front stage at a meeting.

My son—the master of SimCity—divulged his latest addictive game: Field Runner

So what do I have? Who am I in the App world?

First…addiction is NOT a word I would use. "Disciplined" would be my word of choice.

I make sure I check out new additions to this ever-growing list of toys at least once a week. That, of course, is on top of reading a few online reviews in between.

What do I use most?

I love a little thing called TIDES. In my opinion, the best place to jog in San Francisco is along Ocean Beach. Click on to TIDES and I see it is 3.1 miles from my house and the low tide today is at 2:33 am (2.6ft)

When I am not using TIDES, WORKOUT keeps me busy at the gym. I have a hard time remembering the sequence of a good workout. This little toy takes me through jumping jacks, crunches, lunges, overhead presses and the quad superman. With videos.

I downloaded ART on a whim. And have not hit the delete button. It features the works of the world's greatest visual artists—a little bio and lots of pictures.

REAL EASY is my eye into the world of real estate. Ever see a "for sale" sign as you are driving around and wonder what the price of the home is? This little thing tracks your location and tells you the prices of houses in the neighborhood.

Okay. Okay. I skipped my game list. It is ever changing.

But I have to confess I still love toy trains and spend a few spare moments setting up tracks and listening to train whistles as my engine emerges from a tunnel.

© March 2009 Carol Kocivar

OMG! Another Bad Budget 4 Kids :-(

By Carol Kocivar Copyright 2009

Sometimes I think Yogi Berra lives in Sacramento.

How else do we explain yet another budget proposal to cut billions of dollars from schools and children's services?

"Déjà vu all over again?"

A Sacramento Senior Moment???

Is there something in the water up there that causes people to forget our basic responsibility to children?

Just as Education Week announces that California has dropped to 47th in the nation in per pupil spending, a budget proposal comes along that makes 47th look good—cause we are heading for dead last!

Parents said they were "Mad as XY@#!" when just a couple of billion dollar cuts were proposed the last time for our schools.

Stand back folks. The proposed cuts now reach $10.8 billion over the next 18 months.

Join me in texting the following to Sacramento: 9 P911 PA PAL PAW

(Ok. Okay I had some help on this ):

9= Parent is watching

P911=Parent Alert

PA=Parent Alert

PAL= Parents Are Listening

PAW= Parents are Watching

The Message:

Our responsibility to children cannot be cut in bad economic times.

The smartest economic recovery plan for California is to invest in children.

We must find a balanced approach to the budget crisis that includes sufficient new revenues to protect children and the future of California.

These budget cuts threaten an entire generation of children. They devastate schools and colleges. The cuts will totally change public schools in California as we know them. Here is just a short list of what is on the chopping block:

Small class size

Arts and Music

Science programs

Sport programs



Instructional Materials

Bus Transportation


Para Professionals

Health services

And more…that is the really scary thing!

Cuts of this magnitude fail the basic test of good government. They hurt our children.

February 2009

One More List

I am astounded by the lists everyone is compiling to help our newly elected president.

Well, here One More List for economic times.

File this under the folder: Working Smarter Not Harder.

And don't send it to TheNEWprez@whitehouse.com. Send it to parents and community members.

Subject Line: What we can do to improve our schools without having to sell more sweatshirts and giftwrap.

Now don't take this as advice that we don't need to invest more in our children and our schools.

With education funding in California among the lowest in the nation, that is NOT what this list is about.

It is about the power of partnerships. It is the idea of leveraging resources. It is about welcoming parents and community into our schools.

As schools are being asked again to do more with less, it suggests that the first thing we do is NOT ask parents to hold another fundraiser.

Let's first look at our family community partnerships in a systemic way.


Family involvement helps children succeed.

A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement, a 2002 research synthesis of more than 50 studies, finds that there is a positive and convincing relationship between family involvement and student achievement.

Take note: This holds true regardless of race/ethnicity, class, or parents' level of education.

Look at the major educational research and you will find the Power of Partnerships.

Take the recommendations of the California P–16 (Pre kindergarten through Higher Education) Council convened by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell:

  • Develop Partnerships to Close the Achievement Gap
  • Conduct a Climate Survey

The List. The List. Give Me the List!!!

Here is the list. How is your school doing?

PTA's National Standards for Family-School Partnerships

1: Welcoming all families into the school community—Families are active participants in the life of the school, and feel welcomed, valued, and connected to each other, to school staff, and to what students are learning and doing in class.

2: Communicating effectively—Families and school staff engage in regular, two-way, meaningful communication about student learning.

3: Supporting student success—Families and school staff continuously collaborate to support students' learning and healthy development both at home and at school, and have regular opportunities to strengthen their knowledge and skills to do so effectively.

4: Speaking up for every child—Families are empowered to be advocates for their own and other children, to ensure that students are treated fairly and have access to learning opportunities that will support their success.

5: Sharing power—Families and school staff are equal partners in decisions that affect children and families and together inform, influence, and create policies, practices, and programs.

6: Collaborating with community—Families and school staff collaborate with community members to connect students, families, and staff to expanded learning opportunities, community services, and civic participation.

You can find more information, including assessment tools and a parent survey, on the web sites of the California State PTA www.capta.org and the National PTA www.pta.org

December 2008

Voting for Kids

I love our democracy!

But I do get a little confused when I pick up the 272-page San Francisco treatise and see that it is called voter information "pamphlet."


Maybe treatise??

Maybe encyclopedia??

Even with the benefits provided by the voter simplification committee-- it is a stretch to call this evening read a pamphlet. I can cruise through the Land's End catalogue in minutes. I breeze through the worldwide adventures of the National Geographic in little more time than it takes to clear the dishes.

But the pamphlet—I am sooo glad they give you plenty of time to read it.

Since Terry and I each get one, we have a pamphlet conveniently placed-- one on each floor of the house. Available at all times---night and day.

Ummm. Bad TV commercial?

Time to pick up the pamphlet and mark off another page.

Note to self: Finished the simplified explanations. Now read the small print.

My grandma used to play a song on the piano –the line I remember most: The days grow short—as we reach November.

Now I am pretty sure she was not referring to the aforementioned pamphlet, but --you never know.

(What? You haven't finished the pamphlet?)

I will NOT even mention the 143 page State General Election Guide.

Here is some help for those who are really interested in VOTING FOR KIDS.

(Please refer to the title of this article in case you are becoming a little disoriented right about now.)

Voila! I will give you a Reader's Digest version on a couple of issues:

The California State PTA—which advocates to secure adequate laws for the care and protection of children-- has taken the following positions on the state ballot:

Support-- Proposition 3, the Children's Hospital Bond Act, Grant Program, Initiative Statute.

(See pages 20through 23 of your state voter guide and pages 82 through 84.)

Oppose-- Proposition 6, the Police and Law Enforcement Funding, Criminal Penalties and Laws, Initiative Statute.

(See pages 40 through 45 of your state voter guide and pages 106 through 120.)

Most Important: Vote

November 2008

Time, Time, Time Is On ...

Terry says I over schedule. My calendar equals mc squared. I have one of those computer calendars where you type in multiple events until the little boxes spill into each other in various colors of angst.

My calendar generates alarms to warn you of up-coming events.

Just before you finish one event—a text message shoots across the screen: Warning: You are just about to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Now the nice thing about those little alarms is that they sit on your computer screen all day—hour after hour—to remind you of your snafu.

I dutifully file every event as it flows into my life.

• All the Sunday soccer games for the season.

• Every strategic plan meeting

• Every retreat

• Every meeting for work

• The world's longest list of PTA meetings.

Don't tell anyone but I scour the productivity applications for help. I have downloaded multiple "To Do" lists—testing to see which one will actually do what I need to do. (Psst. I know what to do. I want someone to do it for me.)

People make a living giving advice on how to fit 48 hours into a 24 hour day.

How about this: "Discover where you are wasting time."

Hmm. Why last week—while I was hovering over my productivity activity-- I created a great Tina Turner collection I listen to when I walk to work. You are the best—better than all the rest. Whwww. Love it.

(That is NOT wasted time.)

Another piece of advice: Do not multitask. Never on my watch will I multi-task. Never. Never. Never.

And I will not eat another piece of chocolate. Never. Never. Ever.

OOOps. Sorry. Gotta Go.

October 2008 Copyright Carol Kocivar 2008

Stand Up for Children

As I write--our state budget is more than two months late.

School districts are cutting transportation and counselors and arts and music. They are increasing class size. This is bad news for our children and bad news squared for the future of California.

Social services are stretched thin. Cuts target critical services to California's children and families.

The battle over the budget reminds us that not all decisions affecting our children happen at our local school or even at our local school district. Decisions in Sacramento control funding for our schools and children's services.

For those parents who may be asked to up the ante in local fund raising: A word of warning: You can't close at $15.2 billion dollar state budget shortfall selling sweatshirts and gift-wrap.

The best fundraiser we can hold is to join together as advocates for children.

• It's time to tell our legislators to Stand Up for Children. Our students didn't create this budget crisis and their futures shouldn't be sacrificed to solve it.

• It's time for lawmakers to put partisan politics aside. Our students and schools need real state budget solutions, not gridlock.

• It's time to take a balanced approach of cuts and revenue increases in order to solve the state's budget crisis.

The California State PTA supports the original Conference Committee Budget because it takes a balanced approach and generates new revenues to prevent even deeper cuts to education and children's services.

Parents need to let their legislators know they oppose any efforts that would undercut the Proposition 98 school-funding guarantee in future years.

Our public schools have already experienced more than $500 million in unexpected budget cuts this year—forcing many schools to lay off teachers and education support professionals as well eliminating art, music, and vocational education programs that help students learn and succeed.

These cuts come at a time when California already ranks 46th in per-pupil spending, and dead last in the number of counselors, librarians and school nurses per student.

The simple fact is California's schools need additional revenues to provide our students with the education they deserve.

The recent "Getting Down to Facts" studies from Stanford University show that California seriously under funds its public schools and would need to spend 40 percent more to ensure that all students meet the state's rigorous academic standards. The studies also show that other states like New York spend 75 percent more on students than California.

We must pass a budget that does not compromise our most important obligation—to support the education and welfare of children.

• A budget that makes severe cuts to children's healthcare, foster care and other support services fails the test of good government: It hurts our children.

• A responsible budget doesn't make people choose between the health of children and their education – both are essential.

• We must focus on how much we need to invest in our children, not how much we can afford to cut.

• Only by adequately investing in our children today, can we ensure that California has a viable economy in the future.

• If there is not enough money in the budget now, just imagine how little there will be when we have an uneducated California.

Just imagine how strong, vibrant and successful California will be if we are willing to invest in our children today.

September 2008

What I Say...

The meeting was almost over. My friend leaned over and whispered, "Why didn't you listen? You spent the whole time text messaging. I saw it!"

Text Messaging? No Way!

What she saw was a furious blur of thumb motions.

Remember what we learned in biology? The ability to grasp objects between the thumb and the finger is a skill that distinguishes us from other primates.

Everyone now talks about new skills for the 21st century. Thumb Usage for the 21st century is now at the top of the list.

But I digress. Back to text messaging. No Way. No How.

That furious blur was note taking. I love collecting quotes. And hopefully, good quotes.

The trick then is to convert them into day-to-day conversation.

Someone complain to me about taxes? Hmmm:
"Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society." Oliver Wendell Holmes

Are you a little depressed?
"We are the possible." "We are the rainbows in somebody's clouds." Maya Angelou

Perhaps a comment on the state of education…. What we really need is for our kids to spend more time memorizing facts! Let's see:
"Imagination is more important than knowledge." Albert Einstein

I keep a little note pad and every time someone turns a phrase that I like, I jot it down.

Conventions. Meetings. Trainings. Thumbs twirling, I capture the lilt with 21st century skills.

A documentary on Leonardo Da Vinci: Minute by minute, today becomes yesterday.

An administrator's professional development:
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. John Quincy Adams.

A favorite for almost any occasion:
Goals are dreams with deadlines.
Diana Scharf Hunt

And now, as anyone with a thorough history of American Cinema would say:
That's All Folks.
NOTE: first used at the end of a 1930 Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoon spoken by Bosko.

Copyright 2008. Carol Kocivar

July-August 2008

Your Future is In Our Classroom

The headline on the billboard: " Your future is in Our Classroom."

Quite the story: The billboard is in San Diego. The classroom is in Fort Worth, Texas.

It's on the radio. It's in the newspapers. Other states are offering signing bonuses to California teachers who are being laid off. Yes. That's right. Signing bonuses.

Because of the budget crisis, thousands of teachers have been notified they may not have jobs next year and the human resource departments in other states have their eyes on them. What a way to close California's achievement gap.

What a way to make California schools great again.

It's not as if we don't know we have a teacher shortage. Studies indicate that about a third of California teachers are nearing retirement and that the state will need about 100,000 additional teachers within the next decade.

Hmm. Let's see. Don't give our schools enough money. Lay off teachers.

Let's do the math. It's really quite a simple equation:

Combine low salaries and cuts in support for education in the state budget and the Future of Our Teachers may indeed be in Texas or Nevada or Hawaii.

According to "Getting Down to Facts" ---the largest independent investigation ever of how California governs and funds public education:

"After adjusting for salary differences across states, Texas spends approximately 12 percent more than California; Florida, approximately 18 percent more; New York, approximately 75 percent more, and the rest of the country, approximately 30 percent more, on average…"*

*September 2007

When the school doors close for summer vacation, let's make sure they do not slam shut on the future of some great teachers who are enticed away from the Golden State so they can make a down payment on a house or maybe even just buy a car.

Please continue to let your elected officials know that our children need more resources right now to have the best chance in school and the best chance in life.

It really is up to us to make sure our elected officials make the right decision for our schools and our children and the future of California.

June 2008

Thank a Teacher Today

A couple of weeks ago—as I walked into the principal's office—I heard a voice calling my name.. Hmm. Strange. I've never been in this school before. Even stranger...in an instant...I recognized the voice and the face that went with it.

My daughter is now...as they say...a young adult. But in that instant, I heard the voice of her kindergarten teacher. Now formally retired, she is a substitute when needed at the San Francisco elementary school near her home.

"Lucky kids. Lucky school," I thought.

And I remembered a "thank you" note I wrote years and years ago.

It was May, the end of my daughter's first year of school. I wanted to let her teacher know that my daughter had looked forward to going to school every single day. I wanted her to know that my daughter sang the phonics lessons at home just before going to bed.  I wanted her to know that we hung the monthly calendar art projects on the refrigerator door.

As I heard my name, I thought "Wow, what a memory." How can she remember my name?

As I turned, she asked how my two children were...again by name.

I couldn't help but ask. With the hundreds and hundreds of students over a career of teaching, how did she remember my children's names?

She smiled. She told me she remembered all the children. Every one.

Is there a teacher who has made a difference for you and your child?

In schools throughout San Franciso and throughout California, there are thousands and thousands of teachers who every day help our children develop the skills they need to become responsible adults.

From encouraing the love of reading to sparking an interest in science or the arts, our teachers are on the front line of the future.

In 1984, the National PTA created teacher appreciation week in May.

I encourage you to take a moment to say "thank you."  You can do it in many ways. Here  are some ideas  from the PTA :

E-mail a thank you.

Ask parents to drop by for a before-school coffee reception for teachers.

Ask parents to contribute classroom materials, such as poster board, stickers, high-quality chalk, stamps and ink pads, books, and other supplies, to their children's teachers.

Create a wall of fame for teachers; post quotes from students, parents, and principals on the special contributions of each teacher.

Make banners recognizing Teacher Appreciation Week and hang them in the halls and common areas.

Present each teacher with a certificate of appreciation at a schoolwide assembly.

You can find more teacher appreciation ideas on the Californa State PTA web site at www.capta.org

May 2008

Flunk the Budget Fridays

Want to do something special next Friday? Want to help the kids in San Francisco and children throughout California? Well … I have something for you.

In response disastrous proposed cuts to education and children's programs in the state budget, the California State PTA is urging ALL school communities to participate in Flunk the Budget Fridays.

Parents, teachers, community members…. everyone interested in the education and well being of children, is invited to join!

Every Friday. Every Week. Until the Budget is flunked! And on April 25, every community is urged to create a BIG event so that up and down the state all our elected officials will hear loud and clear:

• We oppose any cuts to education
 and children's programs in the state budget.

• This budget flunks the basic test of good government: It hurts our children.

• Our children did not create this financial crisis and they 
should not have to pay for it.

Events are already underway. The parents at Lowell High School kicked off letter writing to legislators. Students at Commodore Sloat told their elected officials not to cut funding. Parents at Miraloma elementary school are making phone calls.

Check out the California State PTA web site at www.capta.org to find out what other schools are doing

Why are they so upset?

Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed a 10 percent cut to education funding from the state budget, slashing up to $4.8 billion from California public schools. Under this proposed budget, SFUSD stands to lose $40 million.

Currently, California's per-pupil spending is one of the lowest in the nation; according to a recent Education Week report, California spends approximately of $1,900 less per student than the national average.

What YOU can do:

Friday is the day that state legislators typically spend in their home districts, instead of in Sacramento. To make sure legislators hear directly from the people they listen to most – their local parents and constituents – PTAs across the state are planning to hold Flunk-the-Budget Fridays that call special attention to the harmful impact the proposed state budget cuts will have on children.

Sample Activities

• "Can You Hear Us Now?" Ask parents at your PTA meeting or at a rally in front of the campus after school to take out their cell phones and call their legislators on the spot

• Field Trip. Take a group trip to your local legislators' offices. Bring parents, students, teachers, business leaders, community members, etc. Bring signs and wear buttons. Let them know ahead of time that you plan to gather in front of their office – invite them to come out and speak to your group and to listen to your concerns.

• Meet the Press. Make sure your local newspapers and news stations understand your opposition to the budget cuts.

• Local Forum. Hold a special meeting that allows parents, students, teachers, and others to express how budgets cuts will affect them. Groups in your area can collaborate to demonstrate their concern for the state's children.

• Letters and More Letters. Many parents have already delivered letters to their legislators and the governor opposing the budget cuts. This is a great way to show how strongly you feel about protecting children. Everyone can take a few minutes to write a letter. Collect all the letters and deliver them in-person to your legislators in their home offices on Fridays. Invite local media along on your deliveries.

Be Creative

Flunk-the-Budget Fridays are an opportunity to demonstrate in creative ways your passion for the well being of all children. The best ideas are ones that you think up and carry out – and that stick to the main message: Flunk the budget.

You can find more information and resources on the California PTA web site: www.capta.org

April 2008

Pink Slips in the Mail:

Shame on You!

The blossoms on the trees.

The sweet smell of night-blooming jasmine.

And oh yes, pink slip in the mail to thousands of the most important people in our community: Our teachers. Our administrators. And other school staff.

Pink slips. What a quaint way to refer to the letters from school districts telling their staff there is not enough money to pay them.

Pink Slips.

This isn't one of those school rituals we should be proud of. It is one of the most shameful budgetary rituals of Spring

San Francisco "Nearly 400 teachers and 140 administrators in the San Francisco Unified School District will receive pink slips March 15 — warnings that their jobs could be eliminated this summer due to budget cuts." (San Francisco Examiner 2/28/08)

Plug in another city and you will find similar headlines.

Berkeley Unified School District: The school board has indicated that the district will likely be forced to lay off counselors and college advisors, and to reduce or eliminate nutrition programs, after-school programs and transportation. The superintendent recently warned that everything but bare necessities is "on the chopping block." [The Daily Californian, 2/5/08; The Berkeley Daily Planet, 1/25/08; Oakland Tribune, 2/13/08]**

Los Angeles Unified School District: The state's largest district is facing $560-million in potential cuts to its budget through 2008-09. The combined sums, according to news reports, would amount to the district's biggest shortfall ever, and would be equivalent to closing 22 high schools, firing 5,750 employees or instituting an 8% pay cut for all employees. The district's superintendent notes, "When I first saw the governor's proposed budget, quite frankly, I was in a state of shock." [Los Angeles Times, 2/21/08]**

The California State PTA is organizing events throughout the State to Flunk the Budget. Flunk this proposal to cut nearly $4.8 billion from our schools. If you thought Proposition 13 was bad---as they say—you ain't seen nothing yet.

Take Action Now: Call your elected officials and tell them:

• I oppose any cuts to education and children's programs in the state budget.

• This budget flunks the basic test of good government: It hurts our children.

• Our children did not create this financial crisis and they should not have to pay for it.

If you are reaching for the phone, here are the numbers:

Leland Yee

(916) 651-4008 (415) 557-7857

Carole Migden

(916) 651-4003 (415) 557-1300

Fiona Ma

(916) 319-2012 (415) 557-2312

Mark Leno

(916) 319-2013 (415) 557-3013

March 2008

Take My Pulse.

Take my pulse. Take my temperature. Now tell me AGAIN how the Governor proposes to cut education funding for our schools?

How many zeroes are there in 4.4 billion dollars? $4,400,000,000.00

In the year of education reform, the Governor explains the problem:

"Two challenges require our immediate attention as we begin 2008. First, we must close a shortfall of $3.3 billion in the current fiscal year, which will grow to $14.5 billion next year without swift and decisive action. And second, we must take steps to avoid a potential shortfall in the state's cash reserves this July and August, and potentially in March."

In the year of education reform, the Governor proposes some solutions in his budget:

"First, I propose to reduce spending by implementing a 10-percent across-the-board reduction to nearly every General Fund program, and to have those reductions take effect on March 1st.

THIS SPRING--EVEN BEFORE THE KIDS CAN FINISH THE SCHOOL YEAR--the Governor proposes to reduce total funding for K–12 schools and California Community Colleges by roughly $400 million.


And then next year, the other shoe really falls. Well, it won't be a shoe that falls. It will be kids who fall behind.

The Governor proposes to suspend the minimum funding guarantee for schools by $4 billion. Hmmm: $4,000,000,000.00 (I keep counting those zeroes. Is that really right?)

Now you might be interested to know that according to a recent report from Education Week, California spends $1,900 less per student than the national average. Our state dropped from 43rd to 46th in the nation in just a few short years. The report gave California a D+ in per-pupil spending!

Hmmmm. This really is quite a clever strategy to improve our schools.

No one would ever have thought of this. We will improve our schools by a combination of innovative techniques.

Pick which one --or even several-- of these imaginative solutions:
• Lay off thousands and thousands teachers
• Increase class size
• Lay off bus drivers and janitors and food service workers
• Reduce spending in the classroom

This budget flunks the basic test of good government: It hurts our children.

February 2008

speelll check

shhh. Ooops. Its sohard to do this wth my hands hidden under the table. Theboarf neeting is underway but I cnat ..oops ...cant put this pda down.

Evr since I got this toy I have been in a slef imposed try out fr multitaskig
my sisaters husand just got a new hand held which I tried d ut I rally could not use the keybrd verry well.

After all, I have beeb using this pne for so lpng that I really have it down put.
its really pretty easy. np one can even notice I am not payong full attention. I certainly can meet my fiduciary repsonabulity hands down.

speakong of hands down, this thong..thing has been magnifient in developong eye thumb coordination.

Its a transferable skill. I have dropped a lot fewer vegetBLES in my lap sine I started usibg this.
I can text my kids really quickly. But this kids seem so unresponsive. They don't seem to uderstand my facilty with this new tchnogy. Yould think I was into ur space...hmmm my space...whose space???

don't let anyone tell you that you can't do tow or thee things at once.

Remember the presidential debate over walkibg and chewing gum?

Well I assure you that I can even run, listen to nusic on my oopod...hmm ipod and oops.
Slow down I almost ripped over my shooos.

you night surmise that I have had one too many pinks..rinks...hmm drinks. Not soo.. I never rink and rite..write..iam really careful about abiding by proper pda protoocal.

Never ever lift a glaff wheb you are pda ing. If you lift it while you are holdding your hands under
the talbe ..it is big trouble.

Splat...not only can you hurt your thumbs but ypu put your expensive toy risk.
Do u think I am being a kttile silly. Tis is sooo east...esay..sample in fact. If you are having the same amout of fu nn with tour knew toy..p.ease end me an...enail.
You can reach me at cjpcivar * pda central.com

December 2007