Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Thinking ahead

Radio Commentary

Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to anticipate it and head it off in the first place. It’s a skill that involves foresight and anticipation.

To help your teens develop these traits, bring up a situation that worries you and ask what they would do in that circumstance.

Listen carefully to their reactions. Treat their opinions with respect. Make suggestions, but avoid the temptation to lecture. That rarely works.

If you disagree with the approach that your teen has provided, ask her to consider alternative actions. Discuss different ways of reacting to a peer pressure situation.

Talk about the benefits and consequences of various alternatives. Have your teen figure out the best course of action based upon those consequences.

Leave the discussion open for further consideration, and make clear that you are always available to help clarify matters or offer suggestions.

If you don’t appear to be lecturing or judging, your teen is more likely to take you up on that offer.

The goal is to help your child think through issues calmly — not to force your opinion or get a reluctant promise.

Considering options in advance can head off problems before they arise and give your children the tools they need to react in a positive and productive way.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Good nutrition

Radio Commentary

Nutrition awareness is an essential part of health education.

This learning takes place during meals as a result of the foods provided. It happens throughout the day as well — at play, in the classroom, and during sports.

The meals children are served, and the skills they acquire at a young age, help to set lifelong eating patterns. That’s why it is important to teach good eating habits.

Make mealtime a pleasant and relaxed experience. Offer a variety of foods, prepared in different ways.

It makes good nutrition sense and it makes meals and snacks more interesting.

Regular physical activity is also important for good health. It burns calories, helps with weight control, and is important in preventing some chronic diseases.

When it comes to feeding young people, try to choose foods that are lower in fat and free of saturated fats.

For example, cook with lean ground meat when you barbecue.

Serve sandwiches on whole wheat bread. Add grapes or raisins to tuna, chicken, or turkey salad and stuff it into pita bread for variety.

Serve bean tacos, burritos, or chili for alternate sources of protein.

Well-nourished, healthy children achieve better in school. And these practices can help set the pattern for a lifetime of good nutrition.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Lofty goals

Radio Commentary

Recognizing the importance of education to our national well-being, the early leaders of our country created publicly funded schools to educate children from all walks of life.

They were seeking to do more than just teach children reading, writing, and math.

They believed a system of publicly supported schools ought to accomplish seven major goals:

  • prepare people to become responsible citizens
  • improve social conditions
  • promote cultural unity
  • help people become economically self-sufficient
  • enhance individual happiness and enrich individual lives
  • dispel inequities in education, and
  • ensure a basic quality level among schools.

These goals are worthy of our great democracy. But they are hard to measure.

In fact, many of these goals can only be evaluated over a span of many years, when we can finally see how students have applied their learning.

We hear critics of public schools call for alternatives that shift funding and responsibility for education to the private sector. And we hear calls for ever-more reliance on test scores to measure school achievement.

When we weigh these ideas, it is important to remember the whole picture of what we seek from public education.

We need to weigh suggestions against the lofty goals we had in mind when public education was first conceived. They remain essential in a democratic and free-market society.

Rotary of Santa Barbara honors high school teacher

News release

The Downtown Rotary Club of Santa Barbara selected Maggie Light as its outstanding high school teacher of the year. Light teaches English at Santa Barbara High School in the Santa Barbara Unified School District.

Since 1986, the club has honored outstanding teachers from South Coast schools each year. It awards a high school, junior high, elementary, and special education teacher with a certificate and a $1,000 check to spend on classroom needs.

Light was recognized at the club’s luncheon meeting Feb. 6.

“This kind of continuing support for local educators is so meaningful and important, “ said Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone, whose office coordinates the recognition with the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara. “Showcasing the exemplary efforts of classroom teachers makes a special impact on students and their schools. The annual Rotary awards provide recognition and resources for outstanding teachers to enhance the classroom experience.”

After 23 years of teaching English to high school freshmen, Maggie says she “absolutely loves it.” She is a teacher who feels the privilege of sharing the journey of learning with students. Her principal, John Becchio, says, “Maggie is a great teacher and much, much more. She works tirelessly to make the school culture and academic setting at the school the best it can be.”

Maggie has been the school’s yearbook advisor for the past 18 years, and is the lead teacher for the school’s Focus on Freshmen initiative, having been involved in the seminar program since its inception. She is a member of the school WASC accreditation Leadership Team and she leads one of the focus groups. She volunteers for an endless number of student events. Most important, says Principal Becchio, “She is a positive force for school reform and is always a student-centered voice on our campus.” Maggie was introduced to Rotary Club members as “all-enthusiasm, all the time.”

Says Light, “My literary hero is Stargirl. Like her, I want to connect with others — in this case my students, by accepting them for who they are and what they bring to the table of learning first. It is when I am able to validate their personal and academic potential and journey that I can then ask them to stretch their thinking and their idea of self through the act of critical reading, skilled writing, and productive discussion.”

Maggie attended local schools, is married to Mitch Light, a fourth grade teacher at Mountain View School, and they have three wonderful children.

Santa Barbara Rotary is pleased to honor her and awarded her a plaque and a check for $1,000 to be used in the classroom. Rotary salutes Maggie Light, an outstanding teacher in our community.

The Rotary Club of Santa Barbara meets at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort in Santa Barbara for lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Fridays. Recipients of the club’s Teacher Recognition Awards are made with the assistance of the Teacher Programs and Support Department of the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

For more information, visit or

Friday, February 27, 2015

THRIVE Santa Barbara County releases 2015 Baseline Report

News release

Are our children on track for success?

THRIVE Santa Barbara County is releasing the 2015 Baseline Report showing data
regarding six key outcomes for student success along THRIVE’s cradle to career
pathway. The report shows both the critical needs and the bright spots regarding
education in the region. The data in the report is provided to everyone in our
community — parents, support organizations, businesses, public agencies, policy-makers,
educators, and children themselves — to serve as a common tool that communicates
shared goals; thus motivating action and driving change. THRIVE aims to follow-up the
Baseline Report annually, with report cards tracking the same six key indicators for
student success: from the percent of students deemed ready-to-go as they enter
kindergarten, up to the percent of high school graduates who complete a post-secondary
certificate or degree program within six years of graduating high school. To read the
Baseline Report, follow this link:

Currently, representatives from four communities — Carpinteria, Isla Vista, Guadalupe,
and Santa Maria — are among the many partners working together to achieve the
common goals of success along the cradle to career pathway. THRIVE Project Manager,
Laura Camp asserts, “An essential part of THRIVE’s role is to improve our communities’
abilities to gather, analyze and act on data. The Baseline Report is a starting point — it
gives us all the same frame of reference. Improvement on each step of the pathway is
necessary to achieve our cradle to career goals.” THRIVE Santa Barbara County is part
of the national STRIVE Together Network and one of 50 initiatives in 26 states across
the country using data to support students from cradle to career. The partnership seeks to
identify what is producing positive educational results for children, how to improve and
expand upon the currently existing efforts, and how to effectively allocate resources to
ensure the greatest impact for each student.

THRIVE Santa Barbara County marks the first time public schools, government agencies,
public charities, businesses, private foundations and other key stakeholders have come
together in a long-term partnership to focus on achieving systemic change that will
ensure the success of ALL children in Santa Barbara County. THRIVE offers the leaders
of the many excellent youth programs and organizations throughout the county a
structured way to share data and align resources around common outcomes so that all
children will have the best opportunities in life.

Key outcomes for success on the THRIVE pathway: Kindergarten Readiness, English &
Language Arts Literacy, Mathematics Proficiency, College/Career Readiness, Post-
Secondary Enrollment, and Post-Secondary Completion.

For more information, contact Laura Camp, THRIVE Project Manager, 964-4710,

ext. 4400, or, or visit

Growing up at risk

Radio Commentary

Peter Benson’s book, “The Troubled Journey,” paints a portrait of youth from sixth through twelfth grade.

In it, he made an interesting observation.
He wrote: “It is not clear whether growing up now is riskier business than it once was, or whether we are simply doing a better job naming and counting problems that have existed before.

“It doesn’t really matter,” he wrote. “What matters is that there are too many casualties, too many wounded, too many close calls.”

Looking around our community, it is clear that he is correct.

His recommendation is one we can all agree with. He wrote: “Our highest national priority should be to mobilize our collective energy, commitment, and ingenuity to ensure a bright future for each and every child.”

It is hard to argue with that worthy goal.

The good news is that efforts are underway locally to help in that battle, particularly through various nonprofit and government organizations, and through our local school districts.

We should not, and cannot, rest until we make sure we’ve given every child an equal chance to succeed, in a safe and supportive environment.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Business, community leaders to be principals for a day

News release

Almost 40 Santa Maria Valley business and community leaders will have a unique opportunity to be a principal for a day at public and private school campuses on Wednesday, March 11 when the Santa Maria Valley Industry Education Council (SMVIEC) and the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors and Convention Bureau co-sponsor the popular Principal For a Day event.

They will spend the morning at a school site to learn more about the challenges facing educators. It is a unique opportunity to interact one on one with the school principal and create ongoing partnerships.

The luncheon event will also include a presentation of computer packages to students through the Computer Connections program. A joint partnership of the SMVIEC and the Chamber, the Computer Connections program offers new computer packages to students who are unable to afford one. Since the program began in 2002, more than 200 students have received equipment. Students who receive computers are identified by their school district as children who would benefit from having a computer at home to help with their schoolwork.

This program is made possible through the generosity of the Chamber of Commerce, many local businesses, nonprofit agencies, and caring individuals who want to support students in their success at school.

More information is available by contacting Peggy Greer, SMVIEC Liaison, at 349-0443.

Vaccines are safe and essential

News column

Local doctors are worried. School nurses are worried. Cancer patients are terrified. The number of parents opting out of vaccinating their children has now reached a critical mass, putting at risk not only their own children, but the entire community. Particularly at risk are young and old alike taking anti-cancer medications, those with autoimmune diseases, infants, and the elderly. The metaphoric “herd immunity” is now in grave peril.
Yet the science is unequivocal. Vaccines are safe. Period.
Given the geometric spike in cases of autism several years ago, people began casting about for an explanation of the cause. A theory was hatched that the vaccines themselves, or the binding agent that enabled several vaccines to be administered in one dose, was a possible cause. Some celebrities — not scientists, celebrities — latched on to the theory and used their celebrity megaphone to spread that disinformation. Concerned scientists launched studies to prove or disprove the theory. The early studies, with a few hundred data points, were clear: there was no causal link. Subsequent studies have now provided hundreds of thousands of data points, nearly a million, with the same conclusion: No causal link whatsoever. But the misinformation persists.
There are two major contributing factors.
The first, ironically, is a function of the success of efforts to eradicate these diseases. For a while, they were gone. Young parents, concerned about their children’s safety, simply have no vision and no memory of the scourge of these childhood diseases when they were rampant. Parents were terrified. Polio, measles, mumps, and whooping cough caused agony and worse among generations of children. One moment a parent would have a happy healthy child, and the next, polio would cause the child to be lame, maimed, or need an iron lung to breathe. And those were the survivors. Measles, mumps, and whooping cough made children unbearably miserable, and sometimes caused lifelong side effects.  One local grandfather recalls that as a young child he thought the actual formal name for public drinking fountains was “whooping cough” because whenever he ran to drink from one his mother would shriek, “NO! Whooping cough!” It’s hard now to imagine the terror parents lived with at the time.
When the causes and cures for these diseases were finally discovered, parents rushed to get their children protected. They considered vaccines a godsend. No longer would their children face the horror of these awful diseases. In time, the vaccines were so successful that these diseases was virtually wiped off the earth, or confined to small remote civilizations.  Sufficient numbers of the community were vaccinated so that even if one or two cases somehow emerged, the community as a whole was safe.
Scientists estimate that safety number for “herd immunity” is 95 percent. Hence the campaign, “Strive for 95.”
In several communities we have now fallen below that number. This places at grave risk all those whose immune systems are compromised: cancer patients, those taking cancer-suppressing drugs, those with autoimmune diseases, infants too young to be vaccinated, and the elderly.
There is another group at risk, which is the second major contributing factor to the problem we face. Though the vaccines have been proven to be absolutely safe, a small number of those receiving them do not have successful outcomes, and are not entirely protected. Boosters are essential, and help with this issue. But for some young people the vaccines are not entirely effective. These young people can contract the disease if exposed. This factor also leads some parents to decide against vaccinating, placing their children at far greater risk.
At root, the decision to opt out of vaccinating has proven selfish. Parents always make the best decisions they can regarding their own children’s well-being, and the decision to opt out is no doubt motivated by noble impulses, but it is based on misinformation and it can be proven deadly to others and to the community at large.
We have already seen evidence of this selfishness through the outbreak of measles in Disneyland. Children most at risk — those suffering from cancer or terminal illnesses, or those with compromised immune systems — often “make a wish” to go to Disneyland. They can no longer go there in safety, and those visits have been stopped. How sad that these children’s one joy has been taken away by those who profess to care about children.
It is said that in recent years we have lost the community spirit that used to be this country’s glue, binding us all together. At every level we see fewer and fewer acts done for “the good of the order,” and more done for purely self-serving purposes. This is not who we are as a nation or as a community. If we don’t act properly because it’s the right thing to do, we should at least realize that in the case of vaccines, it is in our own best self-interest.
Vaccines are safe. The community’s health depends upon the greatest possible number of people having immunity. Be smart. Be safe. Be wise. Make sure your own children are immunized, and every young person you know. This is one case where the future really does depend on us.