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Chief Communications Officer

Communications Specialist/Teacher of the Year/Media Relations

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News and Press Releases

Education Headlines

January 23, 2015

Counselors optimistic about resurgence in schools
Tawnya Pringle was named one of the best school counselors in the nation this year, has won accolades from colleagues and students, and will soon be honored at a special White House ceremony.

Chabot to host 7th Bay Area International Children's Film Festival
OAKLAND – Magical seals, a determined tomato and a girl with a special pencil all come together at the seventh Bay Area International Children's Film Festival, held at the Chabot Space and Science Center this weekend.

West Contra Costa offers sites to three charter schools
RICHMOND – The West Contra Costa school district has made preliminary offers of sites to three charter schools, two of which it approved last year and a third that has been operating in a temporary site since September.

January 22, 2015

New school would offer more electives, have science/tech bent
WALNUT CREEK – Since the Walnut Creek School District board decided in November to open a new kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school – adding a seventh school to the district – little was known about what the curriculum at the new facility would be.

Parents, board, community get look at potential new school boundaries
WALNUT CREEK – Parents, teachers and board members got a first look Tuesday at a Walnut Creek School District boundary study which spells out possible changes for where hundreds of Walnut Creek kids attend classes.

Mt. Diablo High students seek angel investors of cutting-edge 'products'
CONCORD – There were the anti-gravity backpacks and hover skateboards, even before young inventors saw any “Back to the Future” footage.

January 21, 2015

Report says LCAPs need tighter focus
Calling the new state-mandated local accountability plans “a daunting undertaking,” the Legislative Analyst's Office called on the Legislature to allow school districts to write more focused annual plans for achievement.

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla introduces bill to help new teachers
Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla wants to help teachers succeed and stay in the profession, and she's introduced new legislation to help do just that.

Two Bay Area community colleges to launch four-year degree programs
SACRAMENTO – Fifteen California community colleges, including two in the Bay Area, are poised to be the first in the state to offer low-cost bachelor's degrees after a historic shift in California law.

January 15, 2015

Suspensions, expulsions down statewide
New state data show a steep drop in suspensions and expulsions of California students, continuing a recent downward trend. Altogether, 20 percent fewer students were expelled and 15 percent fewer students were suspended in 2013-14 than in the previous year.

Trustees deny countywide charter school after board president blasts performing arts education
PLEASANT HILL – The Contra Costa County school board unanimously rejected a proposed countywide performing arts charter Wednesday, following controversial remarks about performing arts education from board President Daniel Gomes.

Teen Council becomes highly-coveted city panel
lSAN RAMON – For Caroline Lee, it was watching a documentary that captured hidden perils of the overtaxing, stressful culture of student achievement in the United States that opened her eyes.

January 14, 2015

Education funding surges in governor's budget
Increases in state money for K-12 schools and community colleges are projected to slow starting in two years, when temporary taxes from Proposition 30 start drying up. But for now, there'll be buckets of money.

Contra Costa County Board of Education to vote Wednesday on countywide performing arts charter
PLEASANT HILL – The Contra Costa County Board of Education on Wednesday expects to vote on a petition to create a countywide performing arts charter school that seeks to open in the fall.

A calendar for 'citizen scientists'
Fifth-grade teachers from Martinez to Discovery Bay and Rio Vista to Clarksburg are receiving an updated resource guide this year aimed at getting students out of their seats and into the outdoors to explore the Delta as “citizen scientists.”

January 12, 2015

New campus clinic makes health services available to underserved students
RICHMOND – As a school district with many students who have limited access to health care, West Contra Costa has been a pioneer in bringing free health services to its school campuses.

Art, history, memories portrayed in San Ramon exhibit
SAN RAMON – It was one crazy, unexpected snafu after another – from the no-show photographer to the giant roasted pig that arrived late to their Hawaiian-themed celebration, May Chung said, recalling her wedding day, nearly 34 years ago.

Mouse Squad of California teaches students to become tech whizzes
PLEASANT HILL – When teachers at Valley View Middle School have trouble with their computers or need help learning new software programs, who they gonna call? The Mouse ¿Squad.

January 9, 2015

Obama proposes free community college
President Barack Obama has unveiled a proposal to make the first two years of community college free for students who are diligent about working toward a degree.

Report gives state low marks on preschool
California ranks 45th in the nation in its efforts to support the education of its youngest children, according to a report by Education Week released today. That's despite the fact that the report ranks California well above other states in preschool and kindergarten enrollment.

Legal volunteers sought for countywide Mock Trial program
PLEASANT HILL – Third-year law students, as well as practicing and retired law professionals, are invited to assist with the Contra Costa County Office of Education's annual Mock Trial competition next month.

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CCCOE Press Releases - 2015

January 2015

Karen Sakata Sworn In as Contra Costa County's
New Superintendent of Schools

Superintendent of Schools Karen SakataPLEASANT HILL, Calif., January 5, 2015 – On a bright, shiny, and a bit chilly morning, more than 300 attendees witnessed former Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) Deputy Superintendent Karen Sakata be sworn in as the county's new superintendent of schools. She is the county's first female superintendent schools, as well as the position's first Asian American.

The program's opening awed the crowd with Los Medanos College student Justin Everhart singing a spectacular acapella version of the National Anthem. This was followed by Sakata's introduction and remarks made by Joseph A. Ovick, Ed.D. Dr. Ovick, who officially retired his 18-year service as the county's superintendent of schools on this day, told the crowd: “With her wealth of experience and great reputation here in Contra Costa County, we are very excited about Karen taking over as the new superintendent. Karen is a proven, dynamic leader who is passionate about life-long learning. She has tremendous knowledge in all aspects of school leadership, and our students, educators, and administrators will certainly benefit from her guidance.” Following his speech, it was Dr. Ovick's final duty to introduce and swear in his elected successor.

After being sworn in, Sakata told the crowd, “Our agency has an amazing reputation in Contra Costa County and beyond, thanks largely to Dr. Ovick's leadership during the past 18 years. What I want for students in our county is what I always wanted for my own children – to be ready for college and work, to follow their passions, and to be good citizens.”

The exciting morning also included words of grateful thanks to Dr. Ovick and overwhelming confidence in Sakata, made by the county's Board of Education Vice President Pam Mirabella. In addition, the audience heard a moving poem written and read by Kathy Moore, curriculum coordinator, San Ramon Valley Unified School District and poet laureate for the City of San Ramon.

Sakata literally finished the ceremony with a bang (numerous bangs, actually), as she joined her fellow drummers with the Diablo Taiko Club, to perform two exciting rhythmic pieces.

Sakata, who was elected as the Contra Costa County superintendent of schools in the past June 2014 election, had been the CCCOE's deputy superintendent. While serving in this position, Sakata also directed the agency's Human Resources department. Before transferring to Human Resources, Sakata was the CCCOE's associate superintendent, student programs and services, from July 2008 to July 2010. Prior to joining the CCCOE, she spent 14 years as principal of Ayers Elementary School in Concord (Mt. Diablo Unified School District). Earlier in her professional career, Sakata worked primarily as a special education program specialist, special education teacher, and administrator in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Her teaching positions include special education teacher, speech and language pathologist, resource specialist, and an early childhood specialist.

Sakata holds an M.A. in speech pathology from San Jose State University and a B.A. in psychology from the University of California, at Berkeley. In addition, she has earned a number of education-related certifications, credentials, and licenses. She and her family reside in Danville

Contra Costa County High School Mock Trial is looking for legal professionals to volunteer a few hours of their expertise

MARTINEZ, Calif., January 8, 2015—Bay Area soon-to-be, practicing, and retired law professionals are needed to provide assistance to their future brethren at the upcoming 34th Annual Contra Costa County High School Mock Trial Program, held in the early evenings throughout the month of February, at the Martinez Court Rooms. Last year, 130 Bay Area practicing and retired attorneys and sworn judges, as well as third-year law students volunteered their time with the Mock Trials.

Coordinated by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE), Mock Trial is an academic event provided for high school students. The hands-on educational program was created to help students acquire a working knowledge of our judicial system, develop analytical abilities and communication skills, and gain an understanding of their obligations and responsibilities as participating members of our society. This year's trial: People v. Shem – an art theft case, featuring a pretrial argument on the Fourth Amendment.

“I encourage all my fellow law professionals to join us in serving as volunteer Mock Trial judges and attorney scorers,” says Contra Costa County Presiding Judge Steve Austin. “Not only is it a wonderful service to our county's high school students, but you will really enjoy watching them in action. You will be impressed with the skill these young men and women demonstrate in our courtrooms. Every year I volunteer, I am continually amazed at the obvious time each student has invested to participate in this challenging academic event.”

2014 Mock Trial winning artist

Teams of high school students work with teachers and volunteer coaches to prepare their version of the criminal case, from both the prosecution and defense perspectives. Students assume the roles of trial attorneys, pre-trial motion attorneys, witnesses, clerks, bailiffs, artists, and court journalists. Mock Trial judges and attorneys score their performance and provide immediate feedback. Winning teams advance through seven rounds of competition. The county's champion advances to the State finals. This year, there will be 18 Contra Costa County high school Mock Trial teams competing.

Volunteers will score two competing schools that argue the cases in their assigned court. Each night, will begin with a 15-minute rules and regulations session, then the volunteers will go into their scheduled courtrooms to serve as Mock Trial judge and scorers. The Mock Trials' scorers are made up of Bay Area deputy district attorneys and deputy public defenders, as well as public-sector, private-practice, and corporate lawyers. In addition, seasoned law students are also welcome to participate. A practicing or retired judge or commissioner will preside over each trial, and also serves as one of the trial's scorers.

Teams from the following 18 Contra Costa County high schools will be competing:
Acalanes (Lafayette), Alhambra (Martinez), California (San Ramon), Campolindo (Moraga), Clayton Valley Charter (Concord), De Anza High (Richmond), Deer Valley Law Academy (Antioch), Dougherty Valley (San Ramon), El Cerrito (El Cerrito), Hercules Middle/High (Hercules), Heritage (Brentwood), Kennedy (Richmond), Las Lomas (Walnut Creek), Miramonte (Orinda), Monte Vista (Danville), Northgate (Walnut Creek), Pinole Valley (Pinole), and Richmond (Richmond).

Schedule for 2015 Contra Costa County High School Mock Trials:

Preliminaries: February 3, 5, 10, 12, 5:00–7:30 p.m. (Nine competitions each night)
Quarterfinals: February 17, 5:00–7:30 p.m. (Four competitions)
Semifinals: February 19, 5:00–7:30 p.m. (Two competitions)
Final and Consolation: February 24, 5:00–7:30 p.m. (Two competitions)

Mock Trial will be headquartered at the A.F. Bray Courthouse, 1020 Ward Street, in Martinez.

Interested volunteers can learn more by visiting the CCCOE's Mock Trial Web page, or contacting Jonathan Lance at (925) 942-3429.

The two highest-scoring teams will advance to the finals on Tuesday, February 24. The winning team will then represent Contra Costa County at the California State Mock Trial competition, held in Riverside, Calif., March 20-22. The California state finalist team will then compete in the National Mock Trial Competition, held in Raleigh, NC, May 14-16.

In 1977, the Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF) introduced the concept of mock trials to the Los Angeles schools. In 1980, the program expanded to the state level. The California Mock Trial Program currently involves more than 36 counties and over 8,000 student participants from more than 400 teams. Approximately 1,500 attorney volunteers serve as team coaches and scorers, and 500 Municipal, Superior, and Appellate Court judges preside over the trials.

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October 2014

Ebola Facts and Information From Contra Costa Health

The following is a letter to Parents, Students, School Employees, and Volunteers from Contra Costa Health Services.

To Parents, Students, School Employees and Volunteers: With the news of the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and of the recent arrival of the disease in the United States, many of you may have questions and concerns. At this time there are no confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola in Contra Costa County, or any reported cases in California, and the risk of someone becoming infected in our community remains very low.

As your county public health department, we at Contra Costa Health Services wanted to share the facts about Ebola, and let you know about the proactive steps being taken to keep the community as safe as possible from Ebola and other serious diseases.

Many people are understandably concerned about the possibility of becoming exposed to Ebola through travel, particularly air travel. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has some information regarding this on its website:

It is important to understand that Ebola can only be spread through direct contact with the blood or other body fluids of a sick person. Infected people become contagious when they begin experiencing symptoms, which include fever, vomiting and diarrhea.

Ebola does not spread through the air. The only people who are likely to become infected with Ebola are those who are in direct contact with a person who is or was sick at the time of contact. In this case, “direct contact” means that the body fluids of an Ebola patient would need to touch your eyes nose, mouth, or through broken skin.

Though the risk of an Ebola case appearing in Contra Costa County is low, we must still be prepared and are taking steps to protect our community. All of the county's hospitals and other parts of the healthcare system are working together to ensure that our plans are up to date for safely detecting, isolating and treating Ebola patients to protect the public and contain the disease, should the need arise.

We are in regular communication with the school districts to ensure your schools are informed about the latest developments on this disease.

To learn more about Ebola, or to keep up with local information about the disease, visit The CDC also maintains current information about Ebola at If you have any questions about Ebola, contact your healthcare provider or call the Contra Costa Public Health Communicable Disease Program at 925-313-6740.

William B. Walker, M.D.
Director and Health Officer
Contra Costa Health Services


Prevention Tips for Enteroviruses

The following is a letter to School Administrators, Teachers, and Daycare Providers from Contra Costa Health Services.

As your school prepares for cold and flu season, please remember that the Contra Costa Public Health is available to answer questions, provide information and support your efforts to protect students and staff from getting ill.

One of the most important ways that you can help is to encourage staff, students and families to get their flu vaccine as soon as possible. Annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months and older.

We also hope you will promote frequent hand washing with soap and water at your school, and teach younger children how to do a good job. We have included links to hand-washing signage that you can post in hallways, bathrooms, classrooms and the lunch room.

We are counting on you to let us know when an unusual number of students in a class get sick with a respiratory illness OR have vomiting or diarrhea. We can provide advice about when to send notifications to families, how long children should stay home from class and how to help people who were potentially exposed to a disease.

Many of you have questions and concerns about Enterovirus-D68 (EV-D68), the respiratory illness affecting children across the country. We do anticipate EV-D68 cases in Contra Costa County, and are working with local hospitals and providers to test people hospitalized with serious respiratory infections. EV-D68 is concerning because it can be serious for certain people, particularly children with asthma or other respiratory conditions.

There are more than 100 types of enteroviruses, and they are very common in children. This enterovirus, EV-D68, is not new – it was first identified in 1962 – and it mostly causes symptoms that are similar to those of a cold or flu, such as cough, sneezing, runny nose, body aches, or fever. Many children infected this year by EV-D68, however, do NOT have a fever.

EV-D68 can spread from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or contaminates a surface with respiratory secretions. It can also spread through contact with stool (poop). Measures we can all take to stay healthy include:

  • Avoid touching the face (nose, mouth and eyes) with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Encourage everyone to cover their coughs and sneezes.
  • Wash frequently with soap and water. Alcohol-based hand cleaners do not kill enteroviruses.

Clean often-touched surfaces, such as toys and door handles, especially if someone is sick. Disinfect them with a diluted bleach solution (1/4 cup bleach to 1 gallon water) or another EPA-approved disinfecting product that indicates use for non-enveloped viruses (such as norovirus).

The Contra Costa Public Health Communicable Disease Programs can be reached Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 925-313-6740 (phone) or 925-313-6465 (fax).
More information may be found at or

October 2013

Bats Can Carry Rabies—Don't Bring Them to School

Has anyone ever brought a bat to your school or classroom? It happens more than you might think.

Three times in the past year, the Public Health Division of the county health department has received reports of elementary school students bringing bats to classrooms for show-and-tell. In two of those cases, parents gave their children the bats to take to school with them. These parents didn't realize bats are often carriers of rabies and they were putting their kids and others at risk. Please make sure parents, students and teachers know that bats should never, ever be brought to school.

Of the 252 animals that tested positive for rabies in California last year, 227 of them were bats. Handling a rabid bat can result in exposure to the virus through unnoticed scratches or bites (bats have very small teeth and sometimes people don't realize they've been bitten). Even coming into contact with a dead bat can be dangerous.

Though rabies infections in people are rare in the U.S., once symptoms begin rabies is almost always fatal, making it crucial that an exposed person receive treatment to prevent rabies. Fortunately, none of the children who brought the bats to their schools got sick, although one child did need shots because the bat she showed her teacher later tested positive for rabies.

These episodes at Contra Costa schools reinforce the need to educate people about the risks of handling wildlife, especially bats.

For more information about rabies, including what to do if you do have contact with a bat, please visit

January 2012

Controlling the Spread of Norovirus in Schools
and Child Care Settings

Outbreaks of norovirus infection are more likely to occur during winter months within institutions such as residential facilities, hospitals, long-term care facilities, schools, and child care settings. The virus is easily spread from person-to-person through direct contact, contact with contaminated surfaces, and ingestion of contaminated food. This information is provided by Contra Costa County Communicable Disease Control to assist with the recognition and control of norovirus infections in schools and child care facilities.

Norovirus Characteristics
The typical symptoms of norovirus are nausea, vomiting, low-grade fever, abdominal cramps, and watery, non-bloody diarrhea. Vomiting is more common in children. Symptoms usually develop within 24 to 48 hours after exposure, but can appear as early as 12 hours. Illness typically lasts 12 to 60 hours and usually will resolve on its own.
Norovirus is spread very easily from person to person, and people can become infected with the virus in several ways, including:

  • Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus.
  • Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus, and then eating or placing their hand in their mouth.
  • Having direct contact with another person who has norovirus. Examples include, caring for someone with illness, or sharing foods or eating utensils with someone who is ill.

The virus can persist on surfaces in the environment for weeks and is not destroyed by many disinfecting products. When an individual with norovirus handles or prepares food and drinks improperly, they can contaminate those items and can cause infections in people who consume those products; therefore, food workers with diarrhea or vomiting should not work until at least 48 hours after their symptoms have stopped.

Re-infection can occur multiple times during a lifetime. An outbreak of norovirus infection is suspected when more than two students and/or staff in a facility or classroom have symptoms of this virus, starting within a 48 hour period. Report any suspected outbreaks to Communicable Disease Programs at 925-313-6740.

Diagnosis and Treatment
Individuals with diarrhea and vomiting should drink plenty of fluids and follow the control measures on the next page to prevent spread in their households. There is no vaccine or specific therapy for norovirus infection; treatment is supportive and focuses on preventing dehydration. If symptoms do not improve, individuals should contact their primary care physician. Confirmatory laboratory testing for norovirus during an outbreak can be arranged through the Contra Costa Public Health Laboratory by contacting the Communicable Disease Program. During community-wide outbreaks or periods of high norovirus transmission, laboratory diagnosis may not be necessary.

Control Measures
Strict infection control practices are necessary to control norovirus spread. Hands should be washed vigorously with soap and warm water for> 20 seconds:

Wash Hands AFTER:

  • Toilet visits
  • Cleaning up vomit or diarrhea
  • Changing diapers
  • Handling soiled clothing or linens
  • Contact with a symptomatic person
  • Sneezing, coughing

Wash Hands BEFORE:

  • Eating or feeding children
  • Food preparation
  • Serving food
  • Providing healthcare services

Read Complete Article Here
Contra Costa Health Services Link

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Page updated on: January 23, 2015

Rev: 0.4-010514-BETA4