From the daily archives: Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Finley Elementary Commemorates 9-11-2001

Holtville, CA – Students at Finley Elementary gathered at the school’s flagpole to commemorate the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on our country.

Students wore red, white, and blue. Many of them waved small U.S. flags.

Representatives from the NAF El Centro Color Guard played TAPS as the flag was raised to half-mast.

Prior to the event, Holtville Fire Department Chief, Alex Silva, had arranged to coordinate the ceremony with Finley Elementary School in Holtville, Alabama. Students here sang “God Bless America” and communication was established via cell phone as children 2000 miles away sang in unison to the patriotic tune.

Sheriff Gordon Johnson was the special guest. Wearing his military uniform, he shared with students the importance of remembering those who defend our freedom and have sacrificed their lives to keep us safe. Officer Johnson served in Iraq and expressed the pride he still feels to wear his uniform.

Chief Silva remembered the fallen fire fighters who lost their lives that September day. In their memory, a bell was ringed three times. Chief Silva explained that this was done to let people know that the firemen had come home.

Teachers and parents were moved by the simple, but significant ceremony. The school principal, Mr. Martinez, plans to repeat the event next year.

Special thanks to the Holtville Fire Department, Sheriff’s Office, NAF El Centro, and For video of the event go to


Students and Their Teachers Compete for Cash Prizes Up to $5,000;

Nearly $115,000 and 54 All-Expenses Paid Trips to

Nation’s Capital to be Awarded

Arlington, VA – U.S. high school students and their teachers are invited to compete for nearly $115,000 in prize money by participating in the Bill of Rights Institute’s fifth annual Being an American Essay Contest. Top prize winners and their teachers will also receive all-expenses paid trips to the nation’s capital.

The largest high school essay contest in the country, awarding 180 students and teachers with cash prizes and attracting more than 50,000 essays last year, explores the rights and responsibilities of American citizenship. The contest is administered by the Bill of Rights Institute,a non-profit educational organizationin the Washington, D.C. area devoted to educating children about the Constitution and Founding principles. The sponsors include the History Channel and the Stuart Family Foundation.

“This contest is unique in that it gives students the opportunity to think about the important civic values communicated in our Founding documents, and embodied by American civic heroes,” said Dr. Jason Ross, Bill of Rights Institute Vice President of Education Programs. “This context is vital to helping students see their own acts of good citizenship as a meaningful part of the American experiment of self-government.”

Specifically, students are asked to share their thoughts on American citizenship by answering the following question: “What civic value do you believe is most essential to being an American?”

The top three student winners and their teachers from each of the nine geographical regions will be announced at a special Washington, D.C. Awards Gala in the spring of 2011, where they will be awarded cash prizes of $5,000 (First Place), $1,000 (Second Place), and $500 (Third Place). The winning students willalsoexplore the nation’s capital, meet contemporary American heroes and national leaders, and visit national landmarks.

Additionally, the contest will award 126 honorable mention prizes of $100 to seven students and their teachers from each region.

“The contest not only honors and awards sponsoring teachers, but also equips them with free lesson plans and other supplemental materials that meet state and national academic standards so they can easily incorporate the essay contest into their classrooms,” said Being an American Essay Contest Director John Croft.

Nearly 100,000 students have participated in the essay contest since it began in 2006. Now in its fifth year, the contest is the largest high school essay contest in the country.

“The Being an American Essay Contest is a wonderful way to awaken students’ interest in the ideas of the American Founding. The Stuart Family Foundation is honored to be one of the Contest’s supporters,” said Stuart Family Foundation Executive Director Truman Anderson.

Complete contest details can be found below. Further information, including submission criteria, lesson plans and background information on the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Founders and other Americans who have contributed to America’s shared civic values, are available at



  • New England: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont
  • Mid-Atlantic: New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania
  • South Atlantic: Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, D.C.
  • Mid-South: Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee
  • South Central: Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas
  • Great Plains: Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota,  South Dakota
  • Great Lakes: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin
  • Mountain: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming
  • Pacific: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, U.S. Territories, American Armed Forces Schools Abroad

SPONSORING ORGANIZATION: Bill of Rights Institute, Arlington, VA.

The Bill of Rights Institute, founded in 1999, is a nonprofit educational organization. The mission of the Bill of Rights Institute is to educate young people about the words and ideas of America’s Founders, the liberties guaranteed in our Founding documents, and how our Founding principles continue to affect and shape a free society.

FUNDING PROVIDED BY: History Channel (New York City, NY) and The Stuart Family Foundation (Chicago, IL).

CONTEST GOAL: To explore the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and the civic values that unite us as Americans.

ESSAY QUESTION: “What civic value do you believe is most essential to being an American? Trace the enduring importance of this value throughout the American story by discussing: a Founding document that reflects this value; a figure from American history who embodies this value; and examples of how you have and/or could put this value into practice.

ELIGIBILITY: Students in grades 9-12 who are U.S. citizens or legal residents and are either attending public, private, religious, or charter schools, being home-schooled, or participating in a GED or correspondence school program but are no older than 19 years of age. Military bases and U.S. territories are also invited to participate.

ESSAY LENGTH: No more 750 words.
  • Adherence to Essay Question
  • Originality
  • Organization
  • Writing Style
  • Depth of Analysis

JUDGES: High school teachers

STUDENT CASH PRIZES: Ten cash prizes per region will be awarded to students:

  • First Prize: $5,000 each
  • Second Prize: $1,000 each
  • Third Prize: $500 each
  • Seven Honorable Mentions: $100 each

TEACHER CASH PRIZES: Ten cash prizes per region will be awarded to the teachers of the winning students:

  • First Prize: $5,000 each
  • Second Prize: $1,000 each
  • Third Prize: $500 each
  • Seven Honorable Mentions: $100 each

WASHINGTON, D.C. TRIP: The top three winners (first, second and third places) from each region, their teacher, and a guardian will be awarded an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. in the Spring of 2011.

CONTEST START DATE: September 1, 2010

DEADLINE FOR ESSAY SUBMISSIONS: December 1, 2010. All essays must be submitted by a high school teacher at




Stacie Chandler and Betty Predmore directors of “WOVEN” Women of virtue empowerment network

The Women of Virtue Empowerment Network (WOVEN) has an exciting opportunity in front of them.  They have recently been selected as a contender in the Pepsi Refresh Everything Project.  Each month, Pepsi awards over a million dollars to community organizations and individuals who are trying to make a difference in the communities.

WOVEN’s project and purpose is to assist women throughout the Imperial Valley by providing a support center where women can come together for small group sessions on such topics as conflict resolution, marriage, parenting, building confidence, finding hope, and other topics that relate to women and their daily lives.  All services are provided in a safe and confidential environment and individual sessions are also available upon appointment.  Pepsi felt that this project was worthy of being considered, and placed WOVEN in the running for the September award.

The top 10 vote-getting projects in each category are chosen strictly by the votes they receive.  WOVEN directors Betty Predmore and Stacie Chandler are asking for the help of their communities.  “We need everyone to log on and vote every day until the end of September” states Stacie.  She also hopes that “everyone will spread the word to their families, friends, and neighbors.”  Adds Betty, “This is an awesome opportunity for the Imperial Valley residents to have a vote in where some of Pepsi’s funding will go and bring it to our valley.  It is also a great opportunity to help this organization continue to provide these free services to women in our valley.”

To vote for WOVEN in the Pepsi Project, log onto  On your first visit to the site, you will be required to register before voting.  You can return to that site each day through the end of September to cast your vote for WOVEN.  You may also vote via text by texting 102097 to 73774.

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Two longtime Imperial Valley educators have joined the Imperial County Office of Education’s Educational Services Division, each bringing years of experience as school administrators to help ICOE meet the needs of school districts and students countywide.

Elena Castro, who last served as assistant superintendent for academic services for the Calexico Unified School District, has been named ICOE’s assistant superintendent for the Educational Services Division.

Juan Cruz, formerly principal at Kennedy Middle School in the El Centro Elementary School District, has been named senior director of Curriculum and Instruction within the Educational Services Division.

Both will be leaders in a division directly involved in trying to improve student knowledge, academic achievement and ultimately help students on their way toward preparing for college and university.

Superintendent Anne Mallory said Castro and Cruz are important additions for ICOE as their knowledge of educational issues, their years of experience and their creativeness in addressing challenges will prove critically important, in particular, during difficult economic times.

“The programs administered under the Educational Services Division are critical toward meeting the needs of not only thousands of students, but also the needs of each school district that is facing a challenging time due to the state budget,” Mallory said. “Elena and Juan have the background to ensure the ICOE is fulfilling its role in servicing the critical needs of this county’s students and each school district.”

Castro and Cruz, who already are hard at work in their new positions, said they look forward to facing the challenges ahead. Each said they chose to join ICOE to further their passion for helping students.

Castro, who as assistant superintendent of the Educational Services Division, will oversee such departments as Curriculum and Instruction, Migrant Education, the College Going Initiative, District and School Support, TEAM GEAR UP, and AVID, said she understand the challenges ahead.

“We are being asked to do more with less,” she said, referring to state cuts in education spending.

Castro said her 31 years in education, including as a teacher, as a staff developer, as a principal and as assistant superintendent in Calexico, have provided her the knowledge to help school districts as they strive to meet student needs.

Cruz, who worked as a teacher and then transitioned into the position of principal in the El Centro Elementary School District said, he has worked “in the trenches” to problem solve and can put that knowledge to use to work alongside school districts on the issues they face.

As senior director of Curriculum and Education, he will work directly with school districts on professional development to aid districts in providing high quality, standard based instruction and effective assessment practices.

“The needs of the students do not go away even in difficult times,” Cruz said.

Both administrators said ICOE is an important resource for all school districts throughout Imperial County, and they view it as their role to make sure school districts and the students served by those districts understand all the ways ICOE is there to address needs.

“Our goal is to bring Imperial County Office of Education to the forefront as a service organization,” Castro said.

Cruz added: “We have the resources right here in our own backyard and we need to make everyone aware of that and we need to live up to that.”

Both Castro and Cruz have followed similar paths to their positions with ICOE. Both were raised in the Imperial Valley, Castro in Calexico and Cruz in Brawley. Both graduated from local high schools and went on to attend Imperial Valley College.

After IVC, both attended San Diego State, Imperial Valley Campus where they earned bachelor’s degrees in liberal studies. Both went on to earn master’s degrees in curriculum and education from the local SDSU campus. Castro earned her administrative credential from the SDSU campus in San Diego and Cruz earned his credential from Redlands University.

Both started out as migrant education aides before becoming teachers and then school administrators.

Both said they share a passion for meeting the needs of students and said as parents of students still attending area schools, they are firm believers in the importance of the public school system.

They added as they join Imperial County Office of Education, they look forward to advancing ICOE’s mission under Superintendent Anne Mallory to make a difference for the children and families of Imperial County.

“Anne has a vision for this county and it is a vision we both embrace,” Cruz said. “Bottom line, the students are the ones we are here to serve.”

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