The Grade Blog

Wednesday, May 14 2014 06:30 PM

THE GRADE: Graduation, budget and scholarship plans

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Lauren Foreman covers education for The Californian. Reach her at lforeman@bakersfield.com, at Facebook.com/TBCEducationReporter or on Twitter@TBCTheGrade.

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    By Contributed photo

    Lisa Rountree, a 29-year-old first-generation college student, will graduate from Bakersfield College Friday at Memorial Stadium.

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    By Contributed photo

    Tammy Blackburn is a second-grade teacher at Pauly Elementary School.

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By LAUREN FOREMAN, Californian staff writer lforeman@bakersfield.com

BC GRADUATION FRIDAY: Bakersfield College was not Bakersfield College when the first group of 13 students began the postsecondary program in 1913.

It was known as the junior college division of the Kern County High School District, and classes were held in the basement of the Commercial Building on a three-building school site that is now Bakersfield High.

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ABOUT YOUR REPORTER

Lauren Foreman covers education for The Californian. She writes in this spot every Thursday. Contact her at lforeman@bakersfield.com, at Facebook.com/TBCEducationReporter or on Twitter @TBCTheGrade.

Now, BC's main campus spans 153 acres and has about 20 classroom buildings and a football stadium that holds more than 20,000 people.

Like the size difference then and now, the makeup of the 2014 graduating class also differs greatly from that of the first group of 13 -- all of whom were white. BC officials said diversity is a distinguishing mark of the 2014 class and the general student body.

But while administrators celebrate diversity, they recognize that the educational culture has also negatively changed since 1913.

Sonya Christian, BC president, said students -- embedded in a college-going culture in 1913 -- were better prepared for higher education. Now, the college must provide more services for students who are not prepared for college-level work, and more than 80 percent of students are first-generation college attendees.

"So they're not only trying to learn math or writing," but college is "a foreign country," Christian said.

Lisa Rountree, a 29-year-old first-generation college student, said she remembers feeling overwhelmed when she visited college campuses after high school.

"It seemed like something I just wasn't going to be able to accomplish," she said. "For 10 years, I didn't even try."

But when she and her husband, both youth pastors, moved from San Diego to Bakersfield, she decided -- with urging from church members, family and friends -- to begin BC in the summer of 2012.

She earned a 4.0 GPA her first semester and will graduate with an associate's degree in liberal studies Friday.

"My parents didn't even graduate junior high," Rountree said.

She added that a degree will mean a lifetime of security for her family.

"It just means that really you don't have to live in the past," she said.

Her goal is to become an elementary school teacher and later an instructor at Bakersfield College.

"I don't have to live like my family in the past," Rountree said.

Rountree will join more than 1,100 students at the BC graduation ceremony Friday. It will begin at 5 p.m. with a free dinner for the first 5,000 guests on the lawn north of Memorial Stadium. The commencement processional will begin at 7 p.m. BC alumni and retirees are invited to follow graduates in an honor lap.

TEACHER OF THE WEEK: Tammy Blackburn, a second-grade teacher at Pauly Elementary School, often reminds her students that her job is to help them learn but that they too have a role -- to learn as much as they can every day.

"They're not coming to school so they can sit and not participate in their own learning," she said.

Hard work, Blackburn added, is an important lesson for them.

"If something is valuable to you and you have to work for it, then you're going to cherish it much more," she said.

Blackburn has been an educator for 14 years. She said the students keep her coming back.

"I enjoy my job," she said, " helping kids learn."

KHSD PLANS FOR FUTURE: The Kern High School District will host an interactive simulcast Thursday to gather feedback on a three-year draft of district goals known as a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP).

The simulcast -- which will begin at 6:30 p.m. -- will take place in the district board room, 5801 Sundale Ave. The public can also give input via video cameras and microphones at Foothill, Arvin and North highs.

The LCAP draft -- which will shape KHSD spending -- is the a result of feedback from students, teachers, advisory groups and others. It includes goals to boost next year's graduation rate by 1 percent; increase electives offered by 1 percent; and if funding permits, cut class sizes by 2 percent.

The state began requiring all districts to establish the plans, part of a new school funding formula, this school year. The KHSD board plans to adopt a final version of the draft June 23 in a regularly scheduled school board meeting to meet a state deadline of July 1.

To view the draft, visit tinyurl.com/n3otk9m. Email opinions on it to lcap@kernhigh.org.

GOV RELEASES BUDGET: Gov. Jerry Brown released a $75.9 billion revised K-12 education budget Tuesday that includes few significant differences from a January plan that will trickle funding down to local school districts next school year.

Legislators ultimately determine whether the budget plan is enacted; but in the meantime, school districts will use the proposed plan to inform spending for next year.

Mary Barlow, associate superintendent of Kern County Superintendent of Schools (KCSOS), said the most significant aspect of the budget is an assurance that the state will give districts more money at the front end of an eight-year funding plan intended to return districts to pre-recession levels of funding.

Other substantive changes for Kern County districts, according to the KCSOS, include a $26.7 million increase to assess network capabilities to support high-speed Internet; a less-frequent process for schools that serve more free- or reduced-priced meals to check student eligibility for the meals; and greater state employee and employer contributions to the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS), which is $72 billion under-funded.

Schools in the Arvin, McFarland and Delano school districts have at least 80 percent of students who receive free- or reduced-price lunches -- the state threshold for those eligible to implement the less frequent eligibility process.

SCHOLARSHIP SEASON: * Francisco Ojeda, who graduates from Garces Memorial High School May 21, was selected from a pool of more than 52,000 applicants this year as a Gates Millennium Scholars. The scholarship program awards 1,000 scholarships yearly.

* Paramount Education Programs will distribute a Paramount-record of 105 college scholarships to students throughout the Central Valley Thursday and Friday. The program provides college scholarships of up to $6,000 a year to graduates from a Paramount charter school in Delano and the children of employees at Paramount ag companies in the Central Valley.

* A local chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. -- to which, full disclosure, I belong -- awarded more than $8,000 in scholarships to 21 black students in the organization's 35th annual Kappa Omega Omega chapter graduation awards program held May 5 at St. Peter Restoration Community Christian Ministries. Organizers said the purpose of the scholarship program is to recognize African-American students who in 1979, when the event began, were rarely acknowledged for their academic achievements. Marilyn Hightower, who earned a 4.07 GPA at Ridgeview High School; and Cimone Whitmore, another Ridgeview student, received the two largest scholarships. Hightower earned the $1,000 Norma Boyd Memorial Award, and Whitmore earned a $1,300 Miss Fashionetta pageant scholarship.

WHAT YOU'RE SAYING: Here's the latest buzz from The Californian's website:

The Californian published an article online last Thursday about Richland School District Superintendent Ken Bergevin resigning the position he has held since 2007. He is on paid administrative leave through June 30, when the resignation goes into effect.

Pipa: "He was not a bully... Teachers called him that because he made lazy teachers work!!!"

Jrwkilleen: "I can't imagine why it took so many years to get rid of this jerk."

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