Sacramento Schools to Have Smaller Class Sizes

Sacramento Schools to Have Smaller Class Sizes

There are many schools in the nation that do not have the budget to develop smaller classroom sizes. As a result, one teacher must come equipped to handle thirty plus students in their classroom. Several teachers find it harder to teach a larger number of students, because they are unable to give each child that “one on one” direction. One school district in the Sacramento area is determined to change the ratio of students to teachers for the next school year.

Unified School District plans to reduce class size

The Unified School District in Sacramento City plans to reduce class sizes for thousands of students between kindergarten and third grade. Currently, the average number of students per teacher in the district is 30:1, but the district would like to see a ratio of 24:1. Many believe that this will help improve learning, especially in those first, prime years of elementary school, when students are developing basic learning skills.

Teachers will also be able to organize the classroom so that it is not overcrowded, allowing more space for educational activities. In order to reduce class size, the district will have to employ more teachers, which is great for the job market. Sacramento City Unified has 47 schools, and plans to add 75 new teachers to meet the needs of the new classroom ratio.

Main reasons for the ratio change

A new formula throughout the state of California will provide districts more money if they reduce their classroom sizes by the year 2020. Jose Banda, the Superintendent of the Sacramento City Unified School District stated that they would be following through on what the state of California has set as a requirement. He believes smaller class sizes are better for both kids and teachers. Classroom sizes were largely talked about to be reduced during the 2015-2106 school year, however nothing was ever put into place. The reason classroom sizes average about 30 students is because of budget cuts and economic hardships. Fortunately, as time has gone on, the economy has improved and the state is able to provide schools with better funding. This change in classroom size is expected to cost the district about $7.5 million per year, to include salary and benefits to new employees.

A look at changes in the future

In creating new ratio classroom sizes for students and teachers, the Sacramento City Unified School District will be on target for the way several other districts in the state operate. Several Sacramento teachers have long advocated for smaller classroom sizes, and are happy that the district will implement classroom size reduction in the following school year. The reduction to 24 students in grades K-3 might not happen right away.

They might be able to reduce to 27:1, one year, and eventually make it to 24:1 by 2017. It is the hope of many teachers that this change happen in the older grades as well.

Liz Guillen, director of legislative and community affairs for Public Advocates, says that the district could use extra state funding to reduce class sizes in other grades. This extra funding is usually provided for education for English learners, low-income students, and foster students.

California Oil and Gas Division Chief Resigning

Last week, California’s chief oil and gas regulator decided to step down, after working in the position for a little over 18 months. Steve Bohlen announced his resignation through a formal letter, stating that he plans to return to a previous position at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which helps security in the United States through developing science, technology, and engineering. Bohlen plans to stay on as an unpaid science adviser to the division. What exactly does this mean for oil and gas production in the state of California?

Initial talks of Bohlen stepping down

Bohlen was hired and immediately had to work with controversy in his department, in regards to its oversight of hydraulic fracturing, and other drilling operations. Complaints were also made when it was learned that oil companies were allowed to inject waste-water from drilling into aquifers, protected by the federal government. This was going on for years, a lot of the times without permits. These revelations gave insight into how oil and gas drilling operations happen in the state. Now, oil and gas production in California is under stringent regulations and oversight, much like the loan industry now is for payday and car title loans. Even with the criticism and changes made to the division. Bohlen said that the future looked bright, and he was working to get all the issues solved. He was appointed the position in April 2014, and spoke with Governor Jerry Brown in April 2015 about a possible return to his old place of employment.

Who will replace Bohlen?

It is expected that Governor Brown will appoint Ken Harris to the position. Harris is currently the executive officer of the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. According to Hollin Kretzmann, who works for the Center for Biological Diversity, the new chief oil and gas regulator will need to address the concerns in California about water contamination, as well as the safety risks from drilling and fracking. He believes the division still is far too close with the oil industry that it is supposed to regulate. Hopefully, the next person in this position can look at all the details and move forward in a way that Bohlen couldn’t.

Could personal business cause Bohlen to call it quits?

Many are wondering if Bohlen’s departure had anything to do with another controversy, surrounding a call Governor Brown made, asking Bohlen to check out his family’s Colusa County Ranch home for any potential oil and gas. People were saying that this was a complete misuse of state funds because it was a personal matter. However, Bohlen said it took an hour of his time, and he was baffled by the controversy. Would this really be a reason for his resignation of such a powerful position?

It is uncertain why Bohlen decided to step down from his position as chief oil and gas regulator. Maybe the controversy of the field was too much for him, or maybe he was more interested in furthering his career with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. This was his first position in the oil and gas field, and it might not have been the exact career path he was looking for. Governor Brown said that Bohlen brought strong leadership skills and a valuable scientific expertise to the job. Whatever his reason, he will surely be missed by many who have worked with him over the past year.



Sacramento School Official Arrested for Sexual Assault

Joshua Vasquez, a 31-year-old program leader for the City of Sacramento’s after school program, START, allegedly sexually assaulted a minor in his care. Vasquez was arrested on November 20th, and was being held at the Sacramento County Main Jail under charges of “oral copulation with a victim less than 10 years of age.”

The incident of sexual assault allegedly occurred at Sacramento’s Mark Twain Elementary School while Vasquez was working with START and part-time with the Sacramento City Unified School District. Because the victim is a minor, a name will not be released.

Sacramento Police Department released a statement saying that they believe there’s a possibility of more victims related to Vasquez during his time with the school programs, and their Sex Assaults and Child Abuse Unit is continuing to investigate the allegations. They urge any victims or citizens with information regarding the investigation to come forward, and call the Sacramento Police Department at (916) 264-5471.

After Vasquez was released from Sacramento County Main Jail, he was released from the Sacramento City Unified School District, place on administrative leave by the City of Sacramento, and has since resigned from his city position.

Mark Twain Elementary School and the school district released this letter to parents and the public upon Vasquez’s arrest after the sexual assault charges:

Dear Mark Twain Families:

Today, Sacramento Police Department investigators informed school administrators that a part-time Mark Twain employee is under investigation for alleged child sexual assault. This employee also works for our city-operated after school program. Upon receiving this information, the employee was immediately released from service by the district and will not be back on campus. We are cooperating fully with police investigators and providing as much information as we have available to help them with their case.

I want you to know that we take these allegations extremely seriously and that the safety and security of our students continues to be a top priority at Mark Twain. I will continue to keep our school community updated with as much information as possible while still protecting the privacy of all involved and the integrity of the police investigation. If you have any questions, please contact the school office.”

Vasquez was not immediately arrested in the investigation, so information regarding his identity was only recently released. The Sacramento Police Department confirmed that they “do not believe that he poses an immediate risk to the public,” in a recent news release. “Due to the sensitive nature of the allegations,” the department also announced, more information regarding the case, the alleged victim, and Vasquez will not be released.

Although the sexual abuse allegations were taken with the utmost seriousness, parents are fearful of past incidences of sexual assault that may have occurred at other times throughout the duration of Vasquez’s employment with the City of Sacramento and the school district. The allegations also raise national concern about the hiring and screening process of school and city employees, and the ability of childcare providers to be alone with children without others noticing.

Sacramento County Sheriff Launches Bid for Congress

California residents received some election news in mid- November, when Sacramento County sheriff, Scott Jones, announced he was running for Congress. His announcement came at a press conference held on Monday November 16th, in Rancho Cordova. Jones is running as a Republican for the county’s 7th Congressional District, and will be competing against Ami Bera, a Democratic Representative.


Jones campaign issues

During the public announcement, Jones gave his initial ideas as a platform for his campaign. Two of the biggest issues he stressed were immigration policy and national security. Jones is known for his criticism of President Obama’s careless enforcement of immigration laws. Even with comments made about Obama’s policy, the Republican candidate did not suggest any changes to the federal immigration system, and only made note that additional border security should be implemented. It is his belief that national leaders are actually driving the nation closer and faster into disaster, when it comes to the war on terror. Criticism of Obama’s administration was mentioned a second time, when discussing their approach to terrorism after the attacks in Paris. Other campaign issues, such as economic assistance to veterans and seniors, were also mentioned during the press conference.


Jones vs Bera: Does he have a chance?

After Jones announced his candidacy for congress, the talk has been on whether he can beat opponent, Ami Bera. Bera just barely won reelection in 2014, with less than a percentage point, and has constantly been a top target for the Republican Party. Most recently, Bera was the center of hot debate and criticism over his support of the Pacific Rim trade deal by the Obama Administration. This trade agreement was made with twelve Pacific Rim countries, and has a goal of enhancing matters of economic policy. Several have protested the treaty due to the secrecy of negotiations, and controversial clauses. With Bera’s public criticism and slim reelection numbers, Jones is sure he can take over the vote and win against his Democratic opponent.


Jones already receiving public backing

As a Republican strategist, Hector Barajas has stated that he believes Jones and his campaign are safe. In his remarks about the immigration system, Jones’ main focus is public safety. Since he is a county sheriff, he is looking at the immigration system from a law enforcement perspective, Barajas stated when addressing Jones’ campaign publicly. Barajas stated that risk to his campaign can come from discussion of two groups. The first group is children who have entered the country illegally by their parents. A second group includes those who have entered the country illegally and are undocumented, but have followed all laws during their time in the country. You can learn more about Jones’ bid for Congress, including videos and more, here.


Jones made note that even with his bid for Congress, he will not resign, nor take a leave of absence from his current position as County Sheriff. In 2014, Jones was elected to a second term as sheriff and will not be up for reelection until the year 2018. We have to see how his current position and congressional campaign will either work to his benefit, or disadvantage.