This weekend is the one-year anniversary of The Last Normal Weekend, which as I pat myself on the back, I would say makes a pretty good title for any kind of movie someone wants to make about, well, The Last Normal Weekend.

If you're interested in submitting a Letter to the Editor, click here.

With school out for summer, parents look for field trip options for their kids whether it’s to the local library or an attraction further from home like touring national parks to get their Jr. Ranger badge. Nature options also include hikes in the Sequoias, walks on the beach, and boating on the lake. Educational options include trips to a mission, visits to college campuses or excursion to an exploratorium. A new local option is walking the Lindsay Labyrinth.

Father’s Day began in America, but is celebrated in 55 countries of the world. It has been an official national holiday on the third Sunday of June for over 50 years, but it also took over 50 years to establish it as such because the notion wasn’t as popular as Mother’s Day. 

Sal Khan, who has created thousands of videos to teach kids basic concepts on Kahn Academy, believes that a flipped classroom model using his video lectures at home liberates the classroom time for more value-added activities such as PBL, Project Based Learning. Sal designed a Summer School with STEM, Science Technology Engineering and Math, MakerSpace in Los Altos as a way to test out his theory.

As graduates head out into the job hunting market, resumes are high on their priority list. This time of year teachers and administrators also look for new career advancements as well. Adding a cover letter helps tell the story of how the applicant is uniquely qualified for that company’s position.

For teachers, Memorial Day signals the start of summer vacation and the joy of the freedom that entails. For families who have lost loved ones to war, Memorial Day triggers memories of the sacrifices and costs of freedoms.

This juxtaposition is jarring. The freedom of starting two months of summer break is exhilarating, but pales in comparison to the freedoms Americans are assured by the selfless service of those lost while serving our country.

It turns out the weary old joke about how other people can tell when lawyers are lying (when their lips are moving) might be in need of a new punchline: For some lawyers, it’s when they fill out their State Bar Association membership and renewal applications.

That’s the stunning takeaway from a new California rule requiring lawyers to be fingerprinted not only when they apply for bar membership, but also when they apply for renewal. Just days before the April 30 fingerprinting deadline, 158,000 attorneys had submitted fingerprints, 83 percent of active California lawyers.

When asked to assist with a commencement speech, I was reminded of the value of reflection. Taking time to pause and remember how far the journey has been brought smiles. Reflecting upon the days, weeks and years that have passed allowed the harvesting of the gems of experience. Students remembered viewing the eclipse at school last year and the passing of their principal this year. 

For the last few decades, California’s largest utilities and the state’s Public Utilities Commission have conducted an elaborate kabuki-style dance every two or three years, whenever the utilities applied for general rate increases.

Now the amounts at stake in these dramatic farces are rising to absurd levels, with all three of the state’s big privately-owned utilities suddenly asking that shareholders get rates of return on investment approximating what they could net from risky junk bonds.

Shonda Rhimes said, “I think a lot of people dream. And while they are busy dreaming, the really happy people, the really successful people, the really interesting, engaging powerful people, are busy doing.” As the school draws to a close, so do the year-end graduations and retirements which results in lots of dreaming and doing. 

Increasing ecological awareness led a million people to protest deadly smog and declining biodiversity on the first earth day April 22, 1970.  President Nixon and Congress responded by creating the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They also passed environmental laws to protect the air and endangered species. 

It’s never easy to convince Californians they should reverse decisions made by the legislators they elect, as Republicans led by the failed gubernatorial candidate John Cox discovered last fall.

Cox made his pet proposition, a referendum to repeal a 12-cent gasoline tax increase passed in 2017, the centerpiece of his run for governor, but saw it lose by a 57-43 percent margin, not even close.

The benefits and drawbacks of California’s moved-up 2020 primary election are now becoming very clear: Presidential candidates – especially the large corps of Democrats running – are now a ubiquitous presence in the Golden State, and they’re becoming conversant with California issues like never before.

Black holes have captivated the imagination of people, especially scientists, for decades.  I’m still geeking out about seeing the first image of a black hole. Technically, black holes are invisible because they swallow light. Since light is not emitted from black holes, scientists find them by the quasars that are being sucked into their massive gravitational pull. 

As they consider Senate Bill 50, many who are aware of the latest attempt by San Francisco’s Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener to solve California’s housing shortage believe the plan treats this state as if it were monochromatic.

Wiener offers the same basic solution for everyplace in this vast state of 58 counties and 482 cities, many of which are quite unique. Will the same tactics create significant amounts of new housing in Corona and Chico, Torrance and Trinity County?

School marquees across town are advertising the 20th annual Porterville Celebrates Reading literacy event on Saturday, April 13 from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm at Porterville Veterans Park. Filled with dozens of free literacy activities, this annual event for elementary school children is attended by thousands. 

Area schools including Porterville Unified School District, the Burton School District and Rockford will host dozens of booths that promote literacy. Students get a paper stop sign necklace and after each literacy activity is completed, one side is hole punched. Once they successfully get a punch on all eight sides, they can turn in their completed stop sign for a new book. 

Given the obvious proclivities of the California Board of Parole Hearings, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that multiple “Manson Family” members are and will soon be up for release, just short of 50 years after they helped carry out the most notorious murders of the 20th Century.

April is Poetry Month. Poem-in-a-Pocket Day is April 18th so start looking for the poem you’d like to carry in your pocket to share with others on that day. 

Last week the Smithsonian TweenTribune offered student articles like Helen Wright’s National Museum of American History Blog about a Cheerful Depression poem. A brown paper bag was used by the Pinero family to send an inexpensive Christmas card to their friends the McCormicks in Massachusetts in 1933. Inscribed on the holiday card was this poem:

Albert Schweitzer once said, “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” 

Teaching takes a lot out of teachers.  The demands of the students, the curriculum, the delivery, the assessment, the reporting, the behavior management, and the schedule add up to a lot.

It’s pretty clear to anyone who’s watched firefighters try to control the massive blazes bedeviling California over the last two years that they have the right stuff. But questions have arisen over whether they are using all the right stuff.

The maker of a rival firefighting substance has cried foul over an exclusive contract between suppliers of Phos-Chek fire retardant fluids and the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as CalFire.

It turns out Gov. Gavin Newsom was deadly serious when he insisted as a candidate last year that California needs to build 3.5 million new housing units each year for the next ten in order to solve its affordable housing crisis. That’s a total of 3.5 million, more than double what builders around the state have put up in any of the last few decades.

Andrew Woodley, the new Director of Curriculum and Instructional Technology and for PUSD, has been speaking about the value of Cognitively Guided Instruction. Often referred to as CGI, this method is used to enhance math instruction in elementary school. It’s a philosophy of math that says students come to school with an innate ability to solve math problems even if they don’t know the standard algorithms. 

Just after Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first state-of-the-state speech, a major newspaper editorialized that perhaps he should become known as “Gov. Gaslight” because of the mind-bending way he announced a plan to switch the focus of California’s under-construction bullet train to the rather short run between Bakersfield and Merced, but then pulled back.

While sitting in my reading chair, I picked up The Glance, a book of poems by Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks. My favorite today was “The Mirror Between Us.”  

On Saturday, February 23, approximately 60 educators from K-12 grades attended a Google Summit at Porterville Military Academy. Jose Vasquez, director of STEM for PUSD introduced the Google certified educators who presented.  

The keynote address was given by Kevin Brookhouser, author of “The 20time Project: How educators can launch Google’s formula for future ready innovation.”  Kevin’s tenth grade students in Santa Monica spend one class period a week working on a project that solves a problem to benefit their community. At the end of the year, students have to deliver a 5-minute presentation on a red carpet like the TED Talks. 

In mid-2016, just before Donald Trump won the presidency, California’s Republican Party was on pace to become the third choice of state voters within three years, the first “major” political party to fall that low since Whigs became extinct just before the Civil War.

The pace quickened after that election. Democrats made small gains in voter registration, Republicans suffered losses and the “no party preference” category moved into second place among California’s registered voters even sooner than expected.

On March 2nd Dr. Seuss would celebrate his 115th birthday if he were still alive.  His legacy of delightful children’s books lives on in schools who celebrate Read Across America. Seuss had a nonsensical notion that reading should be fun and forever changed the way children’s books were written. 

Elena Aguilar, an instructional coach and author of several books, gives workshops for educators.  Her new online course about building trust in coaching relationships contains many principles that apply to teacher and student interactions as well. 

Many challenges need to be navigated when building trusting relationships. One of the stances Elena takes that helps her build trust is to simply be curious about the educator with which she is meeting. She asks questions to get to know them and how they approach their students.  

It was one of the biggest disconnects in last year’s elections. In early 2018, three months before the June primary election, 54 percent of delegates to a convention of the California Democratic Party voted to desert longtime U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and endorse the termed-out former president of the state Senate, Kevin de Leon of East Los Angeles.

Voters demurred. In the primary, rank-and-file Democrats backed Feinstein by about a 70-30 percent margin. But the party organization ignored them. Its executive board voted to endorse de Leon anyway in their Democrat-on-Democrat November runoff election. Again, Feinstein won.

When students decode printed text into spoken words, some call that reading. Educators know that saying the words doesn’t always mean that comprehension of the written text has actually taken place. To truly be a reader, one must say the words and know what they mean. 

California’s housing crisis was bad enough last year, when Gov. Gavin Newsom – then a mere candidate – called for building 350,000 new units every year for the next decade.

The crunch is worse this year, with some of those who lost their homes to last fall’s disastrous wildfires now added to the tens of thousands already homeless and living on streets around the state and hundreds of thousands more who are housed, but overcrowded beyond the limits of many local codes.

No sooner had Gavin Newsom taken the oath of office as governor than he made it clear he will not fear becoming the new face of the national “resistance” to President Trump.

Before Newsom took office, plenty of other Democrats were fighting Trump’s policies, which aim to reverse multiple environmental and social policies designed by both Democratic and Republican presidents of the last 50 years.

Every Wednesday afternoon teachers meet in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) to emphasize best practices.  As teachers reflect on their practice and collaborate with colleagues, they can improve student learning.  When they discuss content coverage, instructional practices and assessment tools, they can learn from each other’s expertise. 

 Teaching can feel fairly isolating.  With so many demands to create content, deliver in an engaging way, and assess what’s been learned, it’s hard to find time to connect with an expert down the hall. Managing behaviors, contacting parents, grading work, and learning new technology tools all take time. 

If there’s one classic line in the controversial movie “Vice,” it probably comes early in the film, when then-Vice President Richard Cheney is portrayed thinking about the World Trade Center attacks of 9-11 as “an opportunity,” rather than a tragedy.

So it might be today in California, where tragedies partly of its own making afflict the state’s largest utility, whose chief executive has left the firm just when it says it will declare bankruptcy.

After eight years of service, Mike Kirst recently retired from his position as the president of the State Board of Education in California.  He collaborated closely with Governor Jerry Brown to establish new educational policies. Kirst hopes funding for teacher and principal training will be sufficient to sustain the new academic standards for student achievement and that the public will continue to support the new more rigorous system.

It’s been almost 41 years since Proposition 13 passed in 1978, lowering property taxes for every home, apartment building, commercial structure, farm and parking lot in California.

Keeping teachers teaching, requires resilience. They must weather the storms of student’s behavioral needs and rebound regardless of the challenges such as staffing changes and curricular demands. 

There were a lot of lessons from the fall election campaign whose results only recently became completely final, including these: President Trump has no clout beyond his vocal base, women voters can swing control of one or both houses of Congress, unpopular taxes can survive even if they were enacted on just a narrow vote. 

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced last week that ten grants of $1 million each will be awarded to professional development companies who partner with comprehensive curriculum developers to make an impactful difference in student learning.  They cited a recent study showing that high quality curriculum that teachers have been trained to use has a greater positive effect on student learning than was acknowledged. 

With the arrival of the New Year, many contemplate professional New Year’s resolutions, but what motivates keeping them? Generally, people want to be good at their work because it makes them feel good. Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, claims that most believe external rewards like money are what motivate people, but his research found that this is an outdated notion. 

The Democratic Party didn’t really get off the ground until it found a leader in Thomas Jefferson. Similarly, the Republican Party amounted to almost nothing before Abraham Lincoln put it on the political map.

From across California, the obituaries for the California Republican Party have come thick and fast ever since the November election. After all, the GOP’s onetime national stronghold in Orange County now lacks even a single Republican in Congress.

With technology changing every industry on the planet, computing knowledge has become part of a well-rounded skill set for graduates, yet fewer than half of all schools in the United States teach computer science. 

More than a year before he won election as California’s next governor, Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom did not hesitate for a moment when asked what’s California’s biggest problem. “Income inequality,” he said in an interview then. He repeated that evaluation in subsequent sit-downs during the campaign.

All industries are being changed by technology so computer science has become relevant to almost every career. The U.S currently has over half a million openings for computing jobs, and these jobs are expected to grow at twice the rate of all other jobs.

Things were slightly bittersweet at Dianne Feinstein’s Election Night celebration in San Francisco, which marked her easy reelection to a fifth full term in the U.S. Senate, where she has been arguably the most influential Democratic member for the last few years.

Thanksgiving traditions transform a bit each year. This year the feasting was quite a global experience. Hearing perspectives from those raised in different cultures helps to expand everyone’s viewpoints. Sharing their gratitude for events of the past year melted the collective hearts.  

Last month hundreds of educators in Porterville heard Mike Mattos from Solution Tree present about building the collaborative culture of a Professional Learning Community (PLC).

Tim Brown is a dynamic speaker who promotes Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). 

Last month he began his presentation to hundreds of Porterville educators with questions. “Did you come to this event today ready to learn? What impact do you intend to have on the next generation?  What’s your internal motivator?”  

As a 28- year veteran of the fire service, I am proud to lead such a diverse group of firefighters and serve as your Fire Chief. The men and women that serve our Department are bound by a commitment to help all those in need and constantly pursue ways to enhance our services to the public.