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South San Francisco responds to recent violence

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment
By RJ Refuerzo
Increasing violence and homicides have been a problem for South San Francisco citizens in recent years, but the grotesque 2010 statistics have the city taking a more active role in the struggle to curb violence. Public meetings have been called to consider the rise in homicides and other crimes in the past few months and to improve public relations between police officers and civilians.

San Mateo County recorded 20 homicides in 2010, not including vehicular manslaughter or other means deemed justified by peace officers. This number has steadily risen since 2009, in which 14 homicides occurred. From 2000 to 2006, the number escalated from 10 in 2000 to 33 in both 2004 and 2005 before dropping to 23 in 2006. It stayed below 20 until the triple homicide in December.

Campus Security Officer Laura Janero said that the gang problem had been anticipated to travel down the peninsula, according to law enforcement. “From being in the business for 22 years, I honestly believe that there’s really no one to blame; it’s just the way things are going,” Janero said. “The sudden surge of violence is a concern and we all want to pitch in as a community and give all the information we know to law enforcement and to anybody else who needs our help.”

Three Linden Avenue homicides on December 22 have brought about new concern, and in response the City Council proposed and later passed a $400,000 program to hire four additional officers to promote synchronization between the force and the neighborhood and add a second police officer as a school liaison. The Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center has been working in conjunction with the San Mateo County community to figure out the best way to meet the needs, according to the PCRC Associate Director Michelle Vilchez. The committee came into play by coordinating with South San Francisco High School after 15-year-old Jose Lopez Manuel was killed in a drive-by shooting earlier in May of 2010.

Janero hopes that the $400,000 grant will work, and aims to follow up in any way she can at El Camino. “Get all the right people to say they’re going to do what they need to do, and it should work,” Janero said. “Everybody in the community has to get in there and make it work. And we’ve got good students that I’ve seen in the years that help us in security turn those kids around too. We can do it; we just need as many people as possible to do it.”

 

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Staying on track with Senior Project

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

By Rebecca Gigi

As the start of second semester rolls around, many seniors are feeling the pressure when it comes to beginning their Senior Projects. Senior Project is a “community minded learning experience designed to stretch a student personally, socially, and intellectually, and challenge them in a way they haven’t been challenged before.”

With all the deadlines for important documents needed to complete the project, seniors may feel the stress in trying to keep up with it all.

“Trying to get the paperwork signed can be very difficult because there are a lot of papers to keep track of and tryin to get a hold of mentors by the specific dates,” senior Amanda Cotla said.

As of right now, seniors should have their topic selected with their teacher’s approval, the Mentor Agreement form, Parent Permission Letter, and Plagiarism form signed as well as having their Proposal Letter and first draft of their paper completed. The total of 30 hours (15 with a mentor and 15 doing community service related to their topic) should be well on their way.

Teachers suggest that whenever students have the slightest question, one should ask immediately to avoid leaving out any details or paper work needed in the future.

Newly introduced this year to students was the need to create a blog online to record their experiences while working with their mentor and community service. The blog will be a part of the portfolio that contains everything students should have recorded during their project that both teachers and panelists will be looking at during presentations in June.

Overall, students need to remember that Senior Project is helping them prepare for life after high school and it’s challenges, as well as helping with communication skills, finding jobs, etc.

“I feel like it’s a good project to help students become more independent when they leave high school and are on their own,” Cotla said.

 

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Superintendent Cohen resigns

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

By Catherine Tadina

Dr. Howard Cohen officially resigned as superintendent of the South San Francisco Unified School District December 17, 2010 amid allegations of questionable hiring practices. Associate Superintendent Adolfo Melara has temporarily assumed Cohen’s duties for the remainder of the 2010-11 school year.

Cohen’s attempt to hire interim Assistant Superintendent Vince Kilmartin as the interim bond liaison to manage the $162-million Measure J bond at the November 18 board meeting resulted in a disagreement between Cohen and the Board of Trustees. The board deemed this hire as an unethical use of district money. After the fallout at the November 18 school board meeting, Cohen filed an unexpected leave of absence December 6.

Kilmartin once worked with Cohen in West Conta Costra County Unified School District, and later at the at the Waterford Unified School District, where Cohen had hired Kilmartin’s educational firm Total School Solutions to manage the district’s master plan. In Waterford, Cohen was accused of mismanaging district finances, hiring unnecessary TSS staff and costing the school board $124,000 instead of the initial $33,000 intended for “polishing the school’s district plan. Cohen had also initiated pay increases of 5.2 percent, including a raise for himself, five months before the school board approved them.

As Cohen signed a three-year contract with the South San Francisco Unified School District, the district is bound under contract to pay Cohen with his full salary of $171,289 and benefits—while he is on administrative leave—until his term expires on June 30, 2011.

Science teacher Sanjay Makhijani was “extremely shocked” at the fact that Cohen is being paid the full salary and has been critical of the board’s decision in signing Cohen with the three-year contract.

“[Cohen’s salary] could have paid the salary of two teachers for the year,” Makhijani said. “Yet, we had layoffs of two valuable teachers”

Upon moving to the South San Francisco Unified School District, Cohen had attempted the same practices. In addition to attempting to hire Kilmartin from TSS, Cohen pushed for administrative salary increases at a time when the district was forced to lay off teachers, reduce programs, and school budgets.

The School Board is currently in the process of searching for, interviewing and eventually hiring Cohen’s replacement. As of February 28 the board is actively looking two possible candidates, Melara and former SSFUSD Superintendent George Kozitza.

 

The expense of Senior Ball

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

By Marivic Victoria

On May 1, 2011 the Senior Class will be holding their Senior Ball at the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Due to the cost of such a high class venue, the Senior Class is still in need of fundraising to pay for the event.

The cost of holding Senior Ball at the Academy of Sciences is approximately $40,000. To raise the funds, the Senior Officers have put on fundraisers throughout the year in order to reduce bid expenses. “Senior sweaters and homecoming t-shirt sales brought in majority of the profit,” Senior Class President Charlene De Castro said. Another large sum has come from snack boxes and selling food and drinks like nachos and Eggettes after school.

To date, the Senior Class has been able to raise most of the money but still has around $2000 left. “Of course we’re trying to exceed that goal so bids will be even cheaper, but that’s only possible with some help from our class,” Senior Class Secretary Matthew Tan said.

To meet the May deadline, the senior officers have set up a few more fundraisers in order to reduce bid prices, such as the annual Rent-A-Senior on held on February 16. Students had the opportunity to bid on seniors who put themselves up for auction with the proceeds directly to that senior’s ball bid.

Seniors have also sold different types of deserts from Gateway Company in the hopes of paying off the last of the expenses. There are delicate delights such as Moca Cake, Lava-Licious Hot Fudge Cakes, and Brown Poppers.

Tan felt strongly in “doing it big” for the Senior Class and that they deserve that much.

Another fundraiser being held will be a Bingo Night on March 29 in El Camino’s cafeteria. Each ticket will be $40 and only for eighteen year olds and up. Each sold ticket from a senior will knock off $15 from their ball bid.

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Filling out the FAFSA with ease

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

By Christen Alqueza

FAFSA Night, an evening assembly put together by El Camino’s Counseling Department, was held on Tuesday, January 11 in the Little Theatre. Financial aid guru Paul Wrubel from Palo Alto guided college-bound seniors and their parents through each step of filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Despite the lack of publicity of FAFSA Night, the Little Theatre filled up quickly with a crowd of about 125 students and parents, while 30 Spanish-speaking families met in the library for the Spanish presentation by experts from Skyline.

All eager to learn how to cut today’s escalating college costs, families were told about the impact of the burden of tuition on the working class, briefed on how the federal government uses the information from FAFSA to determine how much to grant each family, then guided step-by-step on how to fill it out.

On stage, Dr. Paul Wrubel — a former high-school administrator and expert on college funding with a Stanford PhD — lightened the mood by relating to the audience’s disdain for the filing process as he went on about the relatively droll subject, jokingly calling it a “stupid process.”

Wrubel has been coming to El Camino annually for FAFSA Night on his mission to universalize access to post-secondary school. He’s written hundreds of articles on the subject and was even featured on talk shows to spread his wisdom.

His tips included avoiding scam sites like fafsa.com, which actually charges applicants, and to file the FAFSA as soon as possible, since grants are given on a first-come, first-served basis. He also revealed several common misconceptions about financial aid, such as the belief that one will save money by living off campus, which is not necessarily true: If one indicates on the FAFSA that he/she is planning to live on-campus, the government will recognize that as more need for aid, and they may bestow them with even more money. Another myth that families often accept as true is that a family’s income is too high to get anything out of filing the FAFSA.

Wrubel cleared the haze on the subject, clarifying that everyone who files for it will receive some offer from the government, even if it is in the form of a loan.

“He gave us useful information, like to just put the money you have left after paying all your bills away and how to get as much financial aid as possible,” senior Chloe Cruz said.

Families should go to tuitioncoach.com, a site which Wrubel himself co-founded, to find more tips on paying for tuition.

Although it is already months into the 18-month filing period, potential applicants have nothing to lose.

 

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Hamlet on Alcatraz field trip

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

By  Rebecca Gigi

English teacher Mary Sobrero and her Advanced Placement English students attended a production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet staged on Alcatraz Island October 30. Students were led on a 1.5 mile tour around Alcatraz while simultaneously being lead through the narrative journey of Hamlet.

“I can only do so much to bring it alive in the classroom. Hamlet on Alcatraz was a ‘site-specific’ performance where the whole island was the set of the play. Hamlet would run off after someone and we would follow,” Sobrero said.

Sobrero found out about the opportunity when her roommate found a flier for the trip in a coffee shop. “She knows I am a dork for Shakespeare,” Sobrero said. Students were also excited to watch the play with a different interpretation after having been reading the play and watching the movie in class for several weeks.

“I personally thought it was pretty awesome on Alcatraz not on a stage like a usual play,” senior Jilian Gomez said.

Field trip participants left campus at around 1:30 p.m. in order to take BART to the Embarcadero station and walked to Pier 33 to catch the ferry. The trip cost students $40 including the ferry. Cancellation of the field trip had been on the minds of students all week due to the rainy weather conditions, but the weather ended up cooperating on the day of the trip with students arriving back at BART around 8:30 p.m.

Before the ferry could dock, the play immediately started with the opening scenes from the play and continued to follow the actors up and down hills, into old jail cells, and though restricted areas of the island.

“It was cool to follow the play around instead of staying in one location, you felt like you were part of the play,” senior Chrystal Bowdry said.

Overall students seemed to have only positive comments once the play was over and gravitated to the scene when Hamlet’s love interest Ophelia goes mad over the news of her father’s death.

“The atmosphere was just so haunting,” senior Colin Reid said. The scene took place in an old, abandoned portable located near the edge of the island as the audience walked around and watched Ophelia crazily throw herself on the floor as the players and audience watched in awe.

“I thought the play was fantastic. It really captured Shakespeare’s image and brought it to life,” Bowdry said.

 

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Helping Hand: More tutoring opportunities available for students

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

By Rj Refuerzo

Work it out: Seniors Wendell Uytengsu and William Lai work on math problems during Martens's after school calculus tutorials. (Photo Katrina Nolasco)

With the increase of interest in extra academic help, this school year may be known as “the year of tutoring.” After school tutorials sponsored by the math department and the AVID program are being held several times a week in Room 11 with math teacher Demian Martens, Room 7 with math teacher Stephanie Lopes, and in Room 33 with AVID 12 teacher Adam McLearan.

Starting as early as the beginning of September, Martens’ own mandatory calculus tutorials served as a starting point for the expansion of the math department tutorials, which encompass several math courses per tutorial session. `

The AVID tutorials are unique in that neither McLearan nor any other teacher takes part in the actual assisting of students. “It’s a student-created and student-led tutorial,” senior Muhammad Nausherwan, a fourth-year AVID student said.

Before attending, students are recommended to complete an AVID tutorial request form, which is a single-sided sheet that asks the student to provide pertinent information about what help they need. “Since there are a lot of different questions across the many subjects, the sheets are necessary for grouping kids together and making the tutorial run smoothly,” Nausherwan said.

Each Thursday, students in algebra 2 and below can go to Room 7 with Lopes, and students taking a course higher than algebra 2 meet with Martens in Room 11 every Tuesday. AVID tutorials are every Wednesday in Room 33 with McLearan.

 

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