Superintendent’s Update March 2021

A Message From all Superintendents and Charter Leaders of Santa Cruz County

The Santa Cruz County school community stands in solidarity against violence, intimidation, and racism towards Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and all communities of color. Anti-Asian violence has significantly increased since the start of the pandemic with more than 2,800 hate incidents recorded in the United States in 2020. These recent acts of hate, including the attacks upon elderly community members in the San Francisco Bay Area and the shootings in Atlanta, are symptomatic of long-standing systemic racism toward Asian American communities. These recent killings of 8 victims in Atlanta also underline the intersection of racism and misogyny and violence. Our hearts are with those who have been directly affected by these attacks and with our students and staff who are enduring the emotional impact of these racist events and fear for their families’ safety.

We strongly believe that there is no place for racial hate, discrimination, or violence in our schools nor in our community. Santa Cruz County schools are determined to ensure educators engage in cultural competency training and resources to build structural awareness about racial violence in our classrooms and create safer and supportive spaces for students. The Santa Cruz County Office of Education has compiled a library of anti-racism resources for educators and our community, which is available on our website at

As a community, we can and must take action to build a more racially-just future. One important action we can take is to listen and learn about the lived experiences of Asian American communities and the ways in which the effects of systemic racism continue to harm all communities of color. Racial justice movements of this past year have prompted direct dialogue about the harmful effects of white supremacy and emphasized an urgent need for equitable transformation in our institutions. Santa Cruz County schools are committed to deepening our responsibility to continued learning and racial justice as we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis and thereafter.

In Solidarity,

Santa Cruz County Superintendents and Charter School Leaders

New book on 2020 now available free for high school juniors throughout Santa Cruz County

The Santa Cruz County Office of Education has partnered on the development and distribution of a new book titled 2020 HINDSIGHT: Looking Back on a Tumultuous Year in Santa Cruz County. The book explores 2020 by retelling Santa Cruz County’s experience with the COVID-19 pandemic, social justice, wildfires, democracy and community through photography and words. The story is told through the eyes of noted local photojournalists Shmuel Thaler and Kevin Painchaud, with analysis and essays by local writers and leaders including Wallace Baine, Gail Pellerin, Dr. Misty Navarro, Jacob Martinez, Rachel Anne Goodman, George Ow, Jr., and many more.

Through the COE’s partnership, a free copy of the book will be made available to every high school junior in Santa Cruz County, as well as free curriculum for all teachers of U.S. history. The distribution of these materials has already begun. In addition, all proceeds from the book will go to the Community Foundation Santa Cruz County’s Fire Relief Fund.

Learn more about the project at

Department Updates

Career Advancement Charter & Career Technical Education Partnership

The Career Advancement Charter is beginning to meet with the Student Advisory Council to solicit feedback for our upcoming LCAP process and the return to in-person services. Students continue to work steadily to earn their high school diplomas. We are in the process of beginning to provide high school diploma services to a small group of adult students at the Vets Hall Shelter in Watsonville.

CTEP is also preparing to increase in-person learning opportunities at our various programs across the county. The hands on experience that is critical to so many of our classes will be a critical piece of student success. We continue to develop our Network Career Pathway and in collaboration with Cabrillo College, are excited to announce the opening of our FREE Spring Cybersecurity Camp starting March 15th through May 27th. All Santa Cruz County students, grades 9-12 are invited to register to participate in this 10 week event. This camp will consist of two, one-hour virtual sessions that will provide the basic concepts of Cybersecurity. As the use and application of technology grows exponentially every year, the need for experienced Cybersecurity professionals will continue to grow. This is a great opportunity for students to explore their possible interest in a Networking and Cybersecurity career.

Educational Services Update

The Educational Services Department is continuing the focus on providing high quality professional development for districts around distance learning and now hybrid learning. We have two important initiatives that are coming up. Mike Flynn, who works at Mt. Holyoke College, is an expert on mathematics education and innovative interactive online learning. He will be leading a 3 part professional development series for all TK-12 teachers in our county, to help teachers transition into hybrid instruction. We are also partnering with My Digital TAT2 to do parent outreach around digital citizenship. Their mission is to “empower students, families and educators to understand the power of technology and the impact of their online presence.” With so much of our education taking place online currently, we want to reach out to ensure that students know how to be responsible citizens in a digital world. We are also continuing our support for districts around the upcoming standardized testing (CAASPP and ELPAC). Our department is planning summer professional development offerings, including work on grading for equity, Ethnic Studies, environmental literacy, math (through the Silicon Valley Math Initiative) and more.

Annual Science & Engineering Fair Award

Winners of the March 13th Virtual Santa Cruz County Science and Engineering Fair (SCCSEF) have been posted on the Science Fair website.

The Santa Cruz County Science & Engineering Fair is a regional academic Science, Engineering, Technology, and Mathematics (STEM) competition for students in grades K-12. This annual event honors award-winning students and provides opportunities for advancement to state and international science and engineering competitions. This year, SCCSEF was hosted virtually to minimize the risk of COVID-19 to students and science fair judges.

The SCCSEF provides the following awards as well as support for students who qualify to compete at the California State Science Fair and International Science and Engineering Fair. The California State Science and Engineering Fair will be held April 12 – 13, 2021 virtually. The International Science and Engineering Fair will be held virtually May 9-14, 2021.

Category Awards Awards are provided to winning projects in each category, for the Elementary (4-5), Junior (6-8), and Senior (9-12) Divisions.

Special Awards Local, national, and international sponsors and partners award cash, prizes, and special honors.

Projects of the Year Monetary awards are provided to Overall & Runner-Up projects in each division:
                                    Overall            Runner-Up
Senior (9-12)            $1,000            $500
Junior (6-8)             $ 500               $250
Elementary (4-5)    $ 250               $125


For more information, email Jen McRae

State Poetry Out Loud Competition: Congratulations RJ!

The 2021 State Poetry Out Loud Finals marked the 16th year of the Poetry Out Loud program for high school students, which encourages youth to learn about poetry through memorization and performance. All but 11 of California’s counties participated in this year’s event, with 47 students competing for the state title. In response to the state’s current COVID-19 public health emergency, the finals were modified to be a virtual competition. An event program listing all participants and judges can be viewed at this link.

Arjun ‘RJ’ Medhekar, a sophomore at Pacific Collegiate School and Santa Cruz County champion, took third place.

Alternative Education

Alternative Education has completed student focus groups to solicit meaningful feedback from students regarding continuous improvement and in-person services.

We held our Professional Learning Options event this month, which is a collaboration between Alternative Education and Educational Services. We provided three learning options, which included Math, Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Environmental Science, and Arts education.

All of our sites are gearing up for in-person services, working closely with their administrative team to design increased, blended and safe learning options that meet the needs of their students.

Preparation for our upcoming Federal Program Monitoring is underway.

As more in-person opportunities are being offered to students, throughout the county, the Sequoia hallways are buzzing with excitement! Students are coming on to campus for support with technology and testing. The CTEP Construction Technology program is also inviting students to begin the essential project of building picnic tables, which will provide additional outdoor seating for the campus. Their efforts will leave a long lasting legacy to the Sequoia community.

El Nido High School on the Cabrillo Watsonville campus, is in the midst of an exciting writing project. The outcome is a publication of the students’ written works along with a self-portrait. El Nido will have a release party once they receive the books back from the publisher in May. We are looking forward to hearing the student writers share their pieces at a public reading!