Celebrating Education Successes Across Monterey County

A New School Year Begins!

MCOE is proud to share news from late August and September 2019, where our staff, along with district and community partners, are beginning a new school year and making outstanding impacts on education throughout Monterey County.


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The award-winning JUST RUN youth fitness program of the Big Sur Marathon Foundation recently surpassed five million total miles run by kids across Monterey County since the program began in 2004.

JUST RUN celebrated the milestone achievement on Thursday, September 19th at Echo Valley Elementary School. More than 500 Echo Valley students participated in the event by running a short course around the school’s basketball court and outdoor field.

The JUST RUN team of Susan Love and Mike Dove, Monterey County Superintendent Dr. Deneen Guss, and Superintendent of North Monterey County Unified School District Kari Yeater, were in attendance.

JUST RUN is a free, website-based youth fitness program that promotes physical activity, good citizenship, and healthy eating through its Just Deeds and Just Taste components. It also fulfills physical education requirements. School leaders and teachers log students' miles on the website and students earn free incentives for mileage goals achieved.

To learn more about JUST RUN, sign up to attend the Informational Session at the Monterey County Office of Education on Wednesday, September 25 from 4 to 5 p.m. by emailing Susan Love at susan@bsim.org or visit JUSTRUN.org.

AmeriCorps Swearing-In Ceremony

Promising to “get things done for America,” forty-five new members of AmeriCorps were sworn in on September 10th to begin a year of service to the community. Dr. Deneen Guss administered the AmeriCorps oath during a ceremony at the Monterey Office of Education in Salinas.

The new AmeriCorps members will provide services through programs operated by the Monterey County Office of Education (AmeriCorps Monterey County United for Literacy), and California State University Monterey Bay AmeriCorps Volunteer Infrastructure Project (VIP).

AmeriCorps is a national program that engages more than 75,000 Americans in intensive service each year at nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups across the country. AmeriCorps members commit to a year of service to meet critical community needs in education, public safety, health, and the environment.

AmeriCorps Monterey County United for Literacy members serve a minimum of 1700 hours during the program year as reading tutors, offering one-to-one reading assistance to kindergarten through 4th graders during school and in extended programs at schools in Monterey County.

Laura's Barn Celebrates Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

The grand opening/ribbon cutting ceremony and open house of Laura's Barn Preschool and Child Care Center took place on Wednesday, September 11th. The atrium was packed to celebrate the school and MCOE’s partnership with Laura’s Barn, providing over 6,600 square feet of learning and fun for children.

Laura’s Barn is now open and accepting applications for enrollment for children ages 3 months to 5 years and offers full-time and part-time enrollment. Regular full-time enrollment is $1400/month, but MCOE employees are being offered a $200/month discount (to $1200/month). Monday/Wednesday/Friday and Tuesday/Thursday part-time openings are also available for $860 and $570 respectively (no discount available for part-time enrollment).

For more information and to enroll your child, please contact Laura Hair at 831-261-9897. Please also visit their website at https://www.laurasbarn.com/.

We are proud to see our MCOE facilities being used to provide early childhood care and education to our local families, and potentially, for the children of MCOE employees. We are thrilled to officially welcome Laura, her staff and families to the MCOE campus!

MCOE Employees of the Month for September

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On Monday, September 9th, Dr. Guss and MCOE leadership surprised two outstanding MCOE employees with the honor of being named September's Employees of the Month!

Please join us in celebrating:

Ismael 'Junior' Herrera, General Services and Summer Prather Smith, Migrant Education.

These two were also recognized at the Monterey County Board of Education meeting on September 11th.

We are thrilled to continue this monthly recognition and announce October's Employee(s) of the Month next month.

Have an employee you'd like to nominate? The process is easy and any employee can submit a nomination. Simply visit the online form here and honor your colleague today!

Employees can be nominated in one or more of the following categories:

  • Exemplary performance of responsibilities contributing significantly to the success of a Monterey County Office of Education program, service or special project;
  • Exemplary performance of customer service;
  • Exemplary performance in an outside community activity/program promoting the role of the Monterey County Office of Education or public education in general;
  • Exemplary attendance.

Employees are selected based upon the nomination’s rationale for why the nominee has gone above and beyond to stand out in an extraordinary way.

Congratulations to September's Employees of the Month!

New Faces at MCOE

MCOE has welcomed several new management staff members for the 2019-20 school year. We are proud to introduce them to you below!
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Darren Fort, Director, Maintenance, Operations, & Transportation

Darren Fort has spent the last 23-and-a-half years working for the Salinas City Elementary School District, serving the last five years as the Supervisor of Maintenance, Operations, Safety, Security, and New Construction.

After high school, Mr. Fort joined the local Carpenters Union, competed the four year apprenticeship program, and worked as a Journey Carpenter for the next five years. During that time, he worked on the construction of several new Monterey County schools including the Salinas Adult School, Laurel Wood Elementary School, Vista Verde Middle School in Greenfield, and four new multi-purpose rooms at Bardin Elementary, Alisal Elementary, Frank Paul Elementary, and Virginia Rocca Barton Elementary

In 1996, he began working for Salinas City Elementary School District with the task of building schools. He then moved on to maintaining schools, and on to supervising the construction of new schools. He takes great pride in maintaining and providing a safe and clean environment for students so they can become highly successful.

In his downtime, he enjoys traveling with his wife, and spending copious amounts of time with their two granddaughters.

Welcome, Darren!

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Rod Garcia, Computer Science and Digital Literacy Coordinator II

Rod Garcia is a former elementary school teacher, most recently with the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, and lifelong science enthusiast. He has helped to develop and implement science programs for our local communities, as well as, transition schools to 21st Century learning environments. With the onset of increasingly digitized learning environments and opportunities, Rod is focused on innovating educational practices to prepare our students for the future. As part of the STEAM Team for MCOE Ed Services, Rod’s main focus is centered around supporting schools in their efforts to build Computer Science (CS) programs and opportunities for all K-12 students.

When there is an opportunity to relax, Rod's two favorite leisures are spending time outdoors adventuring with his family and loafing around watching sports with his dogs.

Welcome, Rod!

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Dr. Donna Smith, Program Coordinator for Homeless Services

Dr. Donna Smith has 27 years of diverse experience working in education. In her long career, she has worked as a teacher, principal, program manager, MCOE coordinator/administrator for BTSA, and district office administrator.

She began her career in Redwood City in 1986 as an elementary school teacher. For the next several years, she worked as a teacher-in-charge for an Outdoor Education Program for Migrant Students, a teacher-in-charge for summer school, and an elementary teacher. Donna then transitioned to serve as the program facilitator for adult school, facilitator and trainer for new teacher induction and administrator for professional development. She most recently worked with the Santa Rita Union School District as a District Administrator.

Dr. Smith has lived in Salinas since 1994. She is married and has been "mom" to five children. She is very excited to work at MCOE again and we are happy to welcome her back!

Welcome, Donna!

The County Office Learning Team

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The MCOETA, CSEA, and Management share the belief that working as a team is the best way to meet the diverse needs of our students. In order to do this, we, the MCOE team, have to create working conditions where every individual’s contributions toward providing the highest quality education is valued and supported. This is what leads to student success which is at the heart of our work.

MCOE is dedicated to a positive culture of collaboration by fostering opportunities for success and removing barriers that diminish excellent teaching and student learning. We are shifting from a top down approach to one that encourages innovation from the entire, unified organization. This is why we have formed the County Office Learning Team, a group comprised of representatives from CSEA, MCOETA, and Management. The goal of the County Office Learning Team is to develop leadership and enhance communication through various structures and processes where all employees have a voice as professionals.

Meeting monthly, the County Office Learning Team is working on the strategies and practices to improve and grow our organization.

On September 10th, the first Cohort of the County Office Learning Team met to learn about this groundbreaking process - of which MCOE is the first county to undertake it! - which empowers employees to build effective relationships, better understand one another, and ultimately, lead to better outcomes for our staff and students.

We will continue to provide updates to this work as we launch new strategies for problem solving and creating an environment and culture that ultimately leads to student success.

Congressional Visit to Main Street Middle School

On Thursday, September 5th, Dr. Deneen Guss, Monterey County Superintendent of Schools joined Congressman Jimmy Panetta on a visit to the brand new Main Street Middle School campus in the Soledad Unified School District. The tour of the beautiful new campus had visitors meeting with Yearbook and Leadership students and staff members. Congratulations and kudos to Soledad USD on this incredible new school!

Rancho San Juan Welcomes Students to State-of-the-Art High School

Salinas' newest high school had its first day of school Wednesday, August 7th, marking an exciting beginning for the freshmen and sophomores who will attend.

For the 2019-20 school year, Rancho San Juan High School is welcoming more than 800 pupils. Eventually, the school anticipates getting to 1,500 at full capacity.

As students arrived on their first day, welcoming messages and images lined the main pathway in chalk, where teachers and staff welcomed the students. A banner at the entrance said "Where the Magic Begins." The school clock tower was down the way, and the quad area was surrounded by the new, ranch-style buildings that will soon be filled with students learning.

Understanding Interactive Process Meetings

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Have you recently heard about an Interactive Process Meeting (IPM) and didn't know what it was? Read below for a brief summary of why these meetings take place!

The interactive process is the collaborative effort involving the employer, employee and the employee’s supervisor to discuss information about the nature of the disability and the limitations that may affect the employee’s ability to perform the essential job duties due to a work or non-work-related injury, disease or disorder. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 mandates that all employers must engage in an interactive process to determine if a reasonable accommodation of the employee’s disability can be made.

At MCOE, we engage in the interactive process as a good-faith effort to discuss the limitations and/or performance issues an employee’s disability may pose. The purpose of this discussion is to determine what (if any) accommodation may be needed. The Human Resources Department will contact the employee and the employee’s supervisor whenever an IPM is needed. This process is not meant to be intimidating or disciplinary in nature.

MCOE is committed to keep an open, collaborative and effective line of communication with its employees relating to the IPM process.

Pennies for Patients

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The Monterey County Office of Education is a proud supporter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).

Dr. Deneen Guss recently met with Karen Lewis & Michelle Purgason, representatives for LLS's school-based programs in the Silicon Valley/Monterey Bay area regarding our counties continued participation in LLS’s philanthropy program, Pennies for Patients.

Pennies for Patients is a three-week science-based service learning program for elementary, middle, and high schools. Pennies for Patients aligns with our responsible commitment in educating students that community service is part of a well-rounded education. While these activities are completely voluntary, MCOE would like to encourage 100% participation within our districts.

When we choose to participate in emotional wellness, community service programs like Pennies for Patients, we aid the LLS in serving more local patients and saving more lives. Schools participating in Pennies for Patients receive tremendous supplemental educational resources such as a comprehensive STEM curriculum with integrated and dedicated Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) activities, as well as participatory funds from Amazon reinvested back to our schools, free of charge. This is a great way to integrate core SEL competencies into your school in an organic, philanthropic, and engaging way.

To learn more, please visit https://www.studentseries.org/ or email michelle.purgason@lls.org.

All-Star Shout-Outs!

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Left, Dalila Brito of Salinas; Right, Paul Song of Gilroy

Monterey County Students Attend Stanford Summer Program

Dalila Brito from North Salinas High School and Andrea Martinez from Soledad High School are two outstanding Monterey County students who participated in Stanford Horizon Scholars Program this summer.

Each year the Horizon Scholars program provides MCOE's Migrant Education program with two slots in their summer program. These students are perfect examples of how, when given the opportunity, our students can and will soar!

For more information about the program and to read about Dalila's experience, read the Stanford News article here.

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MCOE's Alicia Diaz-Infante

Congratulations to MCOE's own Alicia Diaz-Infante, Student Data Analyst in Educational Services. She fought and won 1st place at the National Judo Champion and brought home Gold!

Congratulations Alicia! We are so proud of you!

Blue Zones Project MCOE

Blue Zones changes are happening all across MCOE and employees are already feeling healthier and happier!

CSA Deliveries

September kicked-off the first deliveries of local produce to MCOE Main. MCOE has partnered with two local farmers to provide veggie box deliveries to our employees. We would love for everyone to take advantage of this great and convenient service. Employees can choose from J&P Organics or Spade & Plow. Both companies offer seasonal fruit and veggie boxes. Spade and Plow has the option of adding a variety of additional selections such as eggs and bread to all boxes. J&P has boxes that include eggs and flowers.

Employees can choose from weekly or biweekly deliveries. Boxes will be labeled with the employee name and delivered to the MCOE Main warehouse. Once the boxes have arrived, an email will be sent to all employees notifying them that they can pick up their delivery.

To register please click on the links below.

J&P Organics

Spade & Plow

Walking Path

A one-mile walking path with markers has been installed surrounding MCOE Main. The markers include motivational sayings and has encouraged more of our employees to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather during breaks!

More to Come

Stay tuned for more Blue Zones changes, including a breakroom facelift and purpose workshops!

The Monterey County Office of Education is proud to be a partner in the Blue Zones Project Salinas.

Blue Zones Project® is a well-being improvement initiative designed to help make healthier choices easier by encouraging changes to communities that lead to healthier options. When individuals and organizations participate — from worksites and schools to restaurants and grocery stores — the small changes contribute to huge benefits: lowered healthcare costs, improved productivity, and ultimately, a higher quality of life.

Learn more about Blue Zones here! Visit Blue Zones Project Salinas here.

Mark Your Calendars

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Have a story for E-News? A staff shout-out? A fantastic photo?

Send your news to jhull@montereycoe.org today for future editions!