TNLI Work for 2010-2011: Education Advocacy

Luke Laurie

TNLI Fellow

Summary of Advocacy Work for 2010-2011 School Year

Einstein Summit and HIV Prevention Education

 

 

STEM Education, The Einstein Fellowship 20th Anniversary Summit, Summer 2010

 

During the Summer of 2010, I concluded my work from the previous year by taking part in the planning, coordinating, and implementing the 20th Anniversary Summit of the Einstein Fellowship. This year-long project  was implemented by a volunteer committee of former Einstein Fellows, and culminated in a Summit that occurred over 3 days in Washington, D.C. in June of 2010. The highlights of the Summit included: approximately 100 attendees; several whole group sessions and break out sessions on timely STEM education topics; a Congressional Reception; guests from several Federal agencies, the White House, and the Legislative Branch; participation by a few current and former Members of Congress; a Published report of proceedings of the Summit, and a list of ten policy recommendations.

 

My personal work on the Summit included working on the Planning Committee, Chairing the Program/Agenda subcommittee that developed the topics for the sessions and drafted the program, facilitating the plenary session on STEM education and the Reauthorization of ESEA, and sitting on the panels of the opening plenary session, STEM Education Policy Panel Discussion. I also was the Facilitator of the Einstein Summit Policy Team, which put together the policy recommendations culled from all of the sessions of the Summit, composed a one-page summary, and distributed the recommendations to dozens of lawmakers in the House and Senate. Digitally, these recommendations were distributed to all Capitol Hill staff.

 

500 copies of the printed report: “From the Classroom to Washington: Einsteins on Education Reform” were printed and distributed by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology Education.

 

More information on the Summit can be found at the following URL:

http://sites.google.com/site/einstein20summit/

 

The Report from the Summit can be found here:

http://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/E20%20Summit%20Report.pdf

 

The Policy Recommendations can be found here:

https://lukelaurie.wordpress.com/2010/06/30/policy-recommendations-on-the-20th-anniversary-of-the-einstein-fellowship/

 

Policy Recommendations on the 20th Anniversary of the Einstein Fellowship

 

The Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellows, some of the nation’s leading educators, gathered in Washington, DC on June 28-29, 2010, for a 20th Anniversary Summit.  Hosted by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Summit brought together more than 80 current and former Einstein Fellows along with distinguished guest speakers from the White House, Federal agencies, national education organizations, and the U.S. Congress.  The goal of the Summit was to generate recommendations to inform and improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. The Summit covered a variety of educational issues, including national curriculum standards, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and educational equity.

 

Recommendations of the Einstein Fellows:

Support initiatives to enable school systems to implement innovative teaching practices in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Increase funding for Pre-K-12 education, especially programs that impact each child as opposed to competitive grants.  Federal funding is vital to the maintenance and development of STEM programs in states and districts.

Establish national standards for science education and support provisions in the reauthorization of ESEA that give equal treatment to science as to mathematics and language arts. Science knowledge and skills, as part of a comprehensive STEM approach, are vital for all students and provide 21st Century workforce skills, promote national security and global competitiveness.

Include K-12 teachers, such as Einstein Fellows, in the formulation of professional development or curriculum.  The real world experience of classroom teachers is an overlooked asset when new programs are developed.

Base school and student assessment on multiple measures and formative assessments.

Create and fund a program to place science specialists to teach and coach in elementary schools.  Elementary schools can benefit from the presence of competent STEM teachers who also have skills in working with K-12 students.  They can teach STEM and also model effective strategies as instructional coaches.

Support legislation that encourages research-based instruction and teacher training.

Support federal programs to purchase science equipment and provide STEM training to teachers at the K-6 grade levels.  This will enable the delivery of inquiry-based, hands-on science experiences.

Establish guidelines to ensure all administrators are competent and knowledgeable in STEM education.  Student success and instructional quality depends on strong school leadership.

Support initiatives and funding to enable states and districts to lengthen the school day or school year.

HIV Prevention Education in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District

 

During the 2010-2011 school year, I spent considerable time pursuing local advocacy by continuing my work to improve HIV prevention education for junior high students in my school district. I had been working on this issue for four years through ongoing communication with other teachers, schools, and administrators. My district had not adopted or purchased new materials nor updated curriculum since before California updated its laws and guidelines governing the mandatory HIV prevention education in 2004.  Several discussions and meetings with Science Department chairs and life science teachers in the 2009-2010 school year had revealed that HIV prevention related health content was being taught with outdated materials, or in some cases not taught at all. Through my work and at my request the district began to hold meetings specifically to deal with this issue, during the 2010-2011 school year, to investigate the nature of what we were and were not teaching, to better understand the State’s requirements in this area, to discuss the sensitive nature of the subject matter, and to explore curriculum resources to help us meet our requirements and duty to our students.

 

My work included researching legal statutes, consulting State guidelines, talking with staff at the State Department of Education, reading health and sex education research, attending several meetings with administration and science teachers, building an extensive digital collection of resources for teachers, and making a presentation to the school board.

 

The results of this work allowed our district to create new policies to be in compliance with State law, and to begin the adoption process by piloting the Red Cross Positive Prevention Curriculum. I can happily report that I faced little resistance from the administration and the school board, though numerous discussions with teachers turned to debates over the nitty-gritty aspects of what and how to teach the sex-related content.

 

Below, I have included my comments to my school board upon the first introduction of the curriculum, prior to piloting. The remarks and our presentation of the curriculum was met with unanimous support and positive remarks from the entire board.

 

The curriculum materials were piloted and approved by the science teachers, and will now, during the 2011-2012 school year, go through the process of being cleared by various committees and going back to the school board for a final vote. I will participate in some of the presentations of the materials.

 

Link to the training workshop slideshow:

http://homepage.mac.com/mrlaurie/misc/hivinstruction.pdf

 

Link to the Positive Prevention Red Cross Curriculum:

http://www.positiveprevention.com/

 

Comments to the school Board on HIV Prevention Curriculum Pilot

 

I thank the board for allowing me to speak this evening,

 

In the field of education, we’re always operating within an economy of scarcity. Far from an ideal system for serving the needs of our students, we do not have not enough money, nor enough time, and we have too many students with tremendous needs; academic, social, behavioral, emotional and physical.

 

In the standards-based educational push of the last decade, we were caught up in fervor to enhance academic learning, specifically, of course, Math and Language Arts. Because resources and time are scarce, schools across the country eliminated programs and courses in the fine arts, health education, physical education, and even science. With this unbalanced approach, we were doing less to educate the whole child.

 

In our district, we haven’t done enough in recent years to provide our students with the health information and skills they need to make good choices about their sexual health.

 

The HIV Prevention Education requirement in State law is there to address issues that are vital to our youth. A large fraction of our students are sexually active, and many lack the knowledge and behavioral skills to protect themselves from disease or unintended pregnancy. Santa Barbara County has a teen pregnancy rate for latinas that is the highest rate in the State at 9%. That’s nearly 1 in 10 of our latina population, and three times the average rate for all California teens.

 

We all know that the challenges for teens who become parents are numerous. And challenging too, are the lives of our students who are being raised by young people who became parents too early themselves. We all bear the costs. And while the Red Cross curriculum is not specifically focused in preventing teen pregnancy, the same knowledge and skills they will gain from learning to prevent HIV will also prevent pregnancy and other sexually transmitted diseases.

 

The Red Cross Positive Prevention Curriculum provides a framework that teaches the means of transmission and prevention of HIV, but it also includes lessons on behavior and decision making, as well as identifying and avoiding risky situations, and developing refusal skills. The material in this curriculum is presented in a manner that is useful to teachers, and provides them with tools for handling controversial subjects sensitively.

 

I strongly encourage the board to support this committee’s work and to move forward with the pilot program for the Positive Prevention Curriculum. I also would like to encourage the board to support other improvements in health and sexual health education to provide our students with vital information and skills that will help them live healthy lives.

 

Thank you.

The R2 Project Part 1

Blog Post from Luke Laurie’s Teacher Blog: https://lukelaurie.wordpress.com/

My son received an R2-D2 aquarium as a gift a while back, but we never had it set up with fish. After siting around for a while as a decoration, I got the idea of putting some mechanical and electronic components into it and turning it into a robot. After all, I teach a robotics science class, and have a lot of LEGOs and other parts lying around. By doing this work around my students, I could show them a thing or two about design and troubleshooting a robot project like this.

To start, I needed the thing to be able to move, and I decided that it would be most fun if he could be remotely controlled. So I got out some VEX robotics materials that were going unused, and set about designing a driving base to match the R2 shell.

I started with a design that had large enough wheels to be pretty quick, but could still carry significant weight. I used some LEGO wheels for the front, which worked OK, but they had to slide around when R2 turned, and would most likely get stuck on carpet. The rear wheels were also too large to fit inside the R2 feet, so they wouldn’t do.

Deciding that the rear wheels were two big, I switched to smaller wheels that had about 1/2 the circumference. If I attached these directly to the motor in the same way as the larger wheels were connected, my robot would cut its speed in 1/2. That would be too slow for my taste.

So I put a couple of gears on there- a larger one with about 60 teeth attached to the motor, and a smaller one with about 30 teeth attached to the wheel axle. Bingo- the robot speed was right back up to the same speed as with the larger wheels, I just lose a little energy and add a little noise because of the gears.

 

The MESA Video

I’ve been a MESA advisor at El Camino Junior High as long as I’ve been a teacher; 13 years. Around the year 2000, I put together a video of how cool MESA is, and used it to get kids excited about careers in engineering and other technical fields. We’ve had hundreds of students in our MESA program over the years. Many have gone into technical fields, and many have gone to college, and all have benefited from the diverse experiences we offer them. Below is a link to that video. MESA is a great program, and should be a part of every great school. MESA is run out of the University of California Office of the President.

 

http://homepage.mac.com/mrlaurie/mesa.html

 

For more info on MESA- see the website.

 

Planning the Program for the E20 Summit

Blog Post at Luke Laurie’s Teacher Blog : https://lukelaurie.wordpress.com/

Teacher’s Network Leadership Institute Fellow, Policy Work for 2009-2010

The Einstein Fellowship 20th Anniversary Summit:

Planning the Program

Introduction:

During the 2009-2010 school year I committed myself to engaging in policy work, rather than action research. My initial plan was to advocate for policies to improve STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education. Little did I know, I would be swept up by a project that would become a national summit of leading STEM educators.

Background:

This year, 2010, marks the 20th Anniversary of the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship, also known as the Einstein Fellowship. This unique program brings teachers of science and mathematics to Washington, D.C. to work in the House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, and various federal government agencies, such as the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, NASA, and NOAA. Recipients of the fellowship are known as Einstein Fellows. They serve one-year terms living and working in Washington, D.C. With their extensive classroom knowledge, experience, and credentials, Einstein Fellows provide practical insights and “real world” perspectives to policy makers and program managers.

From 2006-2007, I served as an Einstein Fellow in the office of Congressman Mike Honda. During my fellowship, I had many opportunities to learn about policy, legislation, and government. I also had the opportunity to contribute to policy by advising the Congressman on education, appropriations, and environmental issues, and by participating in briefings and roundtable discussions on those issues. My work focused on education equity, enhancing science education, and improving the understanding of global warming. Following my fellowship year, I returned to the classroom, to continue my career teaching junior high science and robotics in Santa Maria, CA.

Summary of Work:

In Fall of 2009, I joined a group of former Einstein Fellows in conversations about the possibility of holding an event to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Einstein Fellowship, by bringing Fellows from the last 20 years together for an event in Washington D.C.. We formed a Planning Committee of fellows who were committed to spending a significant amount of time making all the decisions and preparations that would be necessary. Through numerous conference calls and thousands of emails, this grassroots event evolved to become the Einstein Fellowship 20th Anniversary Summit (called the E20 Summit by the Planning Committee), which will be held in Washington, D.C. from June 27 through June 30, at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. This summary was written after the planning process was complete, but prior to the actual Summit.

The Planning Committee conceptualized the event to be less of a celebration, and more of an opportunity to have a meeting of minds, to share ideas and build upon the vast and varied experiences of Einstein Fellows. We divided the work into three subcommittees: Fundraising; Logistics and Budget; and Program. The Fundraising Subcommittee successfully harnessed the support of government agencies, science and education organizations, and industry partners to provide funding to carry out the objectives of the E20 Summit. The Logistics and Budget Subcommittee coordinated the venues, vendors, and bookkeeping. I took leadership of the Program Subcommittee and became the Chair to coordinate the development of the substantive components of the Summit.

The goals of the E20 Summit, as stated in our proposal, were as follows:

  • Publish and disseminate a formal report of the E20 Summit proceedings with key recommendations to inform ESEA (the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, commonly known as No Child Left Behind) and improve STEM education;
  • Recognize the accomplishments of Einstein Fellows and their collective contributions to policy, programs and the advancement of K-12 STEM education;
  • Promote the professional capabilities of Einstein Fellows, and other nationally recognized teachers, to national, state and local STEM education stakeholders;
  • Illustrate the efficacy of the Einstein Fellowship program as a best practice of STEM policy inclusion for teachers and professional development model;
  • Formalize and strengthen the Einstein Fellowship network.

It was a joy to work with the other members of the Planning Committee and the Program Subcommittee. On many aspects we shared common goals. Where we disagreed, we discussed our differences in a constructive manner and found compromises that everyone could accept. All participants had served as Einstein Fellows within the last twenty years in various offices and agencies, and were from many different parts of the United States. Most were science teachers of various disciplines, and some taught mathematics. The wealth of knowledge and experience in the group was incredible. Each Fellow had many valuable connections that we were able to draw from as valuable resources to implement the goals of the Summit.

The Program Subcommittee formulated the content of the Summit. Through a lengthy brainstorming process and a series of collaborative discussions, the Subcommittee created a list of possible topics around which workshops, panel discussions, or roundtable discussions could be created. The group solicited input from active members of the Planning Committee, as well as other Fellows who might attend the Summit. From this input, we created a schedule covering topics pertinent to Einstein Fellows, and relevant to the current national dialog on STEM education. We assigned facilitators to manage the sessions and worked with them to connect with experienced speakers and panelists in positions of authority within the appropriate fields. Throughout this development process, all relevant information was compiled into a document that would become the final Program for the Einstein 20th Anniversary Summit.

The final Program is a 21-page document, and includes the following elements:

  • A welcome statement
  • A description of the three locations for events, The Wilson Center, The Rayburn House Office Building, and The J.W. Marriott Hotel in Washington, D.C.
  • A brief agenda summary
  • A detailed program of all sessions and events
  • The text of H.Res. 1322, a Congressional Resolution Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Einstein Fellowship, which passed the House on June 15, 2010.
  • A list of the Planning Committee and Subcommittee members.
  • Brief biographic information about all of the facilitators, panelists, and featured guests
  • A full list of approximately 200 Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellows from the first 20 years.
  • A list of sponsors and supporters

Looking Ahead:

Following the Summit, a report of the findings will be published by the Wilson Center and distributed nationally. In addition, we will be forming an Einstein Policy Team, which will work to promote and advocate for ways to improve STEM education using the findings of the Summit. The Einstein Policy Team will be involved in advocacy at the local, State, and National level. It is our hope that through this advocacy, we will be able to make notable contributions and give teachers a stronger voice.

More info on the Summit can be found at the official website:

http://sites.google.com/site/einstein20summit/

The Einstein Fellowship 20th Anniversary Summit

Blog Post: https://lukelaurie.wordpress.com

Einstein Fellows in the Library of Congress

The Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship is a special opportunity for math and science teachers to work in Washington D.C. in various government agencies or in the U.S. Congress, in order to contribute to federal policy. Participating teachers are expected to take their experience back to the classroom or education community in order to become teacher leaders, however, some many have stayed in positions working on education or science policy. During my fellowship, I had the opportunity to work in the U.S. House of Representatives with Congressman Mike Honda of Silicon Valley, working on issues related to education and the environment.

2010 marks the 20th Anniversary of the Einstein Fellowship. Consequently, several fellows are working together to plan the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship 20th Anniversary Summit, also known by the planners as the E20 Summit.

The 20th Anniversary Summit is destined to be an event for the ages. The Summit will bring together current and former fellows, some of whom returned to the classroom to be leading science and math teachers, and others who became policy experts, legislative aides, or took positions in the administration. The Summit will be a meeting of the minds of people with experience in the classroom as well as public policy, to address the pivotal issues of the day, in Education, in Policy, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).

The Summit will produce a written product, possibly the “Einstein Report” collecting the wealth of knowledge of Einstein Fellows, and offering policy recommendations to improve education.

I’m looking forward to this amazing experience.

The Einstein Fellowship 20th Anniversary Summit will be held in Washington D.C., June 27-30, 2010.

For more information on the Summit, or to become involved see the official website:

http://sites.google.com/site/einstein20summit/

The Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship: Perspectives of a Science Teacher Working in the U.S. House of Representatives

I spent a year working in the U.S. House of Representatives on education and environmental policy in 2006 to 2007. In the Summer of 2009, I returned for a brief while to reprise my role. The following paper describes my experiences.

Download or view the .pdf of this paper

famouspeople

Al Gore, Luke Laurie, Mike Honda-in photo on the wall of the official Capitol "Shaft"

Overview
The Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship is a federal program that awards outstanding teachers of mathematics and science with the opportunity to work on federal policy in Washington D.C. for one year. The author was a recipient of the Einstein Fellowship in 2006, after working for nine years as a junior high science teacher specializing in robotics and engineering outreach. This paper summarizes the process of receiving the fellowship, the work completed during the fellowship year, and the perspectives of a classroom teacher working directly on education policy. The author returned to the classroom at the culmination of his fellowship year. On the eve of the 20th year of the Einstein Fellowship, readers may discover the significance of this program, and, if willing, pursue the fellowship and policy work themselves.

Education Cuts – Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year gets Pink Slip

A victim of California’s deep education cuts in the Spring of 2009, the Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year for 2006-2007, Mr. Ron Zell, received a pink slip and was informed that his services were no longer needed, in spite of his award-winning programs and amazing contributions to the community of Buellton, California.

When people hear that teachers like Mr. Zell are receiving pink slips, all across California, they express shock and indignation, that is somewhat different from the way that these cuts are discussed abstractly. It’s one thing to say California is cutting 11 billion in education and that 30,000 teachers are receiving layoff notices. It’s another thing entirely for people to learn that their community schools are ending the programs that they’ve had for decades, and that some of their most prized educators may soon be unemployed, with little opportunity to teach elsewhere.

THIS IS WHAT EDUCATION CUTS MEAN.

About 85% of education funds are used to pay for staff. When cuts occur, it is inevitable that teachers and other education employees will lose their jobs.

Some people don’t understand that this 85% ratio is a result of education spending being HIGHLY EFFICIENT. True, we spend a lot of money on testing, some on transportation, some on facilities, etc. But when it comes right down to it, almost every penny of education funds is used to pay for people who work with students. We don’t have enough money to waste. Cuts to education, therefore, directly cut services to kids, reduce course offerings, and make class sizes larger. Conversely, education increases, like those proposed by the Obama Administration, directly increase offerings to students, decrease class size, and make jobs for teachers and other education professionals. California cannot continue to hold onto any hope of maintaining or improving its economy without providing the public services needed by its citizens and demanded by the companies that make or would make their home here.

Ron Zell has written the following letter about his plight, and I would like to share it with you:

Thank you students, parents, teachers, and involved citizens.  Thank-you for being here, for turning out to support teachers and students in this statewide Day of Awareness and support for our schools, Pink Day.


Let me introduce myself, – My name is Ron Zell.  I am the music teacher for the Buellton Union School district.  I teach over 500 students per week in classes from Kindergarten to 8th grade.  I am the 2006 Jonata School Teacher of the Year. I am the 2007 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year and a nominee for California State Teacher of the year.  In 2008, I was selected  to speak at State Education Conferences in Sacramento, San Francisco, and the Central Coast.  My topics were “Quality in the arts and in Education”, “Technology in the arts and in education”, and the importance of Community in the Arts and in Education.


In  2009, I have a new distinction. I have received this years token of appreciation from the State of California for my years of service to my students and my community. I have received my pink slip.   This is the way that California shows its gratitude and also its farsightedness in planning  for education   I have been laid  off,  pink-slipped in Buellton.

Myself, and nearly 30,000 or so of my colleagues services are no longer required, says the state.  Colleagues who like myself, give of themselves daily, are over-worked, underpaid, and directly influence the future of millions of young people in this state.  Thank-you very much says California.  You’ve done a great job, but we have mismanaged the finances of this state so badly that we need your help.  Would you just walk away from a career where you are desperately needed, and we’ll ignore the sacrifices that you, and every teacher like you have made daily to bring quality and excellence in education to the students you teach.


We get paid, says the state of California, to govern, and to plan and prepare for the future. We just never thought that there would be an economic downturn.  We thought we could keep spending, and  borrowing, raising taxes and selling lottery tickets, and everything would be okay.  We didn’t think that we would ever be called to account for the billions of dollars we waste each year.  We just kind of forgot about planning ahead for education. After all, – its only kids, and they can’t vote.   Now we HAVE to cut the education budget.  How else do you expect us to pay for our mismanagement.  And you teachers, – You know all of those years of schooling, and training, and experience, and sacrifice and caring and giving, that everyone of you do.  – Sorry about that.  Maybe students won’t notice the over-crowded classrooms that they’ll be forced to be in next year. Maybe parents won’t notice the wider achievement gaps, the loss of programs, the lower test scores, or the unsafe campuses that will result from overcrowding, and too-few teachers.


I can’t conceive of what this state will be like with the undervalued, underfunded and understaffed education system that will result from these budget cuts.  I do however fear that the state will need more money in the very near future for new projects, like the new prisons that it will need to hold these kids who will be dropping out of our failed educational system.  Hey, – Maybe we can even afford to put arts programs in the prisons, because the arts are one of the few interventions that has been proven to mediate violent behavior in abused children.  Too bad  we can’t afford the Arts in our schools now, but then, that’s another part of our state’s not planning ahead.


I am furious that billions of tax dollars go to investors and banks, and insurance companies because they are “too important to our economy to let fail”.  Yet our state can justify taking billions of dollars away from children to pay for their irresponsible handling  of our state finances.  I am not at all politically correct on any of this.   I’m a teacher, and I believe that the only investment that we can’t afford to let fail is the investment in our kids.  Only that investment will  result in positive change for our country, growth in science, space exploration, technology, energy conservation, creativity, the arts, culture and a better future for the next generation.   Without quality education, we are looking at a spiraling  decline in our culture, and in our way of life.


Did you hear my Band earlier.  They’re pretty good, They’re not real good yet of course, because they’re young, they’re learning. They haven’t had the time necessary to fully learn or develop their skills, but they’re working on it.  Some of them have only been playing their instruments a few months, some for 3 years.  Oh they’re getting better, but in this current budget crises, they may never get the opportunity to develop their full potential in music or the arts, or in their creativity.  It takes years of dedication and instruction and practice to become proficient on an instrument, or at writing, or to become a great artist, actor, or dancer.  Of course, now there will be no music program next year, because the state and my district have determined that “my services are no longer required”.


Of all the damage that this new budget will do to education, it is in the arts that it has delivered a mortal blow.  My pink slip is one testimony to that, but right now, around the state as I speak, hundreds of arts programs are being eliminated.  The director of the High School Program here in the Valley has also been given his pink slip.  Building a program takes years.  It has taken me 10 years to develop the program in Buellton to be as effective as it is.  But the state and my district have determined that my “services are no longer required”.  Without  some sort of miracle, the arts in Buellton, or Solvang, or College school district, or the High school or any of the other districts in this Valley will not survive.


I don’t believe that everything is hopeless however.  I’m an optimist like my dad.  I believe in miracles, and miracles was even my topic at one of those state conferences that I spoke at last year.   I entitled it. – “Community, the heart of the Arts”.  If you look around, and walk around the park today, you will find tables, and volunteers already in the business of making miracles.  They’re called volunteers, and donors, and concerned parents and citizens. They support the arts education that occurs in many of the schools in this valley already.


Fourteen years ago I started a non-profit organization called “The Joyful Note Music Education Foundation”.  Its purpose was to provide music in schools in Santa Barbara county that had none. Joyful Note brought the only music that there was  to hundreds of kids in dozens of schools around this county for several years.  After moving to Buellton, I relaxed my efforts with Joyful Note, partly because the importance of the arts was again being discovered by our educational system, and partly because of the strong support for the arts Buellton.  Little did I know that one day, Joyful Note Music would be again be needed to save the music, only this time it would be at my own school.  I never thought that it would be necessary to do the same thing in Buellton that Arts Outreach, and the Solvang Education Foundation, and the High School supporters, and the Valley foundation and dozens of other organizations in this valley have so wisely done for theirs.  That is to keep the arts alive by private funding, and to save yet another generation of children from being impoverished in the visual and performing arts.  Stop by the table over there with material from Joyful Note, and the other organizations that are represented.  Take some information, give them your name, volunteer, donate. Find out how you can help out.  Next year, Joyful Note Music may be the only music program in Buellton, because “my services are not required” by this state

This is ‘Pink Day’, and you are all wearing Pink to protest the idiocy of this annual ritualistic sacrifice of teachers.  I thought it might be good to conclude my talk today by letting you all hear what a pink slip actually sounds like.  This is mine.

“Notice of Recommendation Not to Re-Employ – March 12, 2009.
Dear Mr. Zell, – “Please take note that I have recommend(ed) to the Board of Trustees of Buellton Union School district that notice be given to you that your services will not be required by this school district for the ensuing 2009-2010 school year.  At the regularly scheduled board meeting held on March 11, 2009 the Board of Trustees voted in favor of this decision.


I regret that I am constrained to give you this notice.  My reason for such action is as follows;
The following particular kinds of service will be discontinued or reduced for the 2009-2010 school year: 1. Elementary Teaching – 2.0 FTE,  2. Music – 1.0 FTE.

Because of the foregoing reasons, it is necessary to decrease the number of certificated employees of the District.  You are further notified that there is no probationary or permanent certificated employee with less seniority retained who is rendering service which you are credentialed and competent to render.

Enclosed is a copy of Sections 44949 and 44955 of the California Education Code for your information.  Please take notice that I am recommending that you not be re-employed in this school district…..Very truly yours.  – Tom Cooper, Superintendent.”

I can’t tell you how devastating the emotional effects of a note like this are. Anger, frustration, humiliation, helplessness, hopelessness.  When I received this letter, it was like someone reaching inside and taking my heart out, because my heart is in the music program.   My heart, my passion is teaching these kids, but my State and my district say that “my services are no longer required”.

You know something people, That is a lie.  My services are required, desperately, and so are the services of every teacher in this state who got one of these  pink slips this month. Stop this madness. Fund education and invest in our children.

Oh, – and one other thing.  This Pink-Slip. I intend to send it to  Governor Schwarzenegger, and a copy to my state Representatives, and the Senate and Assembly Education Committees.  What if all 30,000 teachers in the state that got pink-slipped did that.  Maybe that would help them to see the irreparable damage they are doing to our kids. You can help too, write your state representatives and the governor.  Let them know that you think that education is too important to let fail.     Thank-you.

(Ron Zell is also the President of the Buellton Education Association.  You may contact Ron at buellteach@gmail.com or through Joyful Note Music at joyfulnote2@gmail.com)