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Tri-Valley Community Outreach Dinner and the True Meaning of Thanksgiving

November 28, 2015

DSC_0605Many families celebrate long held Thanksgiving traditions. Some of these traditions include the menu, travel to certain locations or perhaps catching a movie once the last piece of pumpkin pie has been served. And, others begin to plot their strategies for “Black Friday.” However, was able to observe the development of a new holiday tradition right here in town.

DSC_0602On Thursday, a coalition of businesses, churches and community organizations hosted their 4th annual Tri-Valley Community Outreach Dinner. The event took place in Moran Hall at St. Raymond Catholic Church. The dinner was free and the intent was to provide a safe and accepting place for any and all citizens to enjoy a holiday meal. Of course, a gathering of this scope requires many hands and months of preparation. had the opportunity to sit down with one of the many volunteers, Rebecca (Becca) McFadden. Becca presently has four children in the DUSD system: McKay (11th grade/DHS), Ali (8th/Fallon), Isaac (5th/Green) and Travis (2nd/Green). Her eldest, Emilee, is a freshman at Brigham Young University. We were interested in how Becca became involved and what goes into this type of endeavor.  This is your second year in contributing to this event.  However, your level of involvement is significantly greater this year – please explain why.

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Should Dublin’s School Year Begin in Mid-August? Aug 15 Start Proposed for 2016-17

November 13, 2015

DUSD proposed calendar 2016-17I’m starting this article in the first person because I’ll present my opinion about the just announced proposal to the start the Dublin Unified School District school year 7 instructional days earlier for 2016-17 (proposed calendar: August 15, 2016 to June 2, 2017). I’m stating my opinion in the hope that you will state your opinion – in the form of comments and responses to the survey question below. Your responses and the survey results will be shared with the Board of Trustees and Superintendent Dr. Stephen Hanke – your voice will be heard.

I am strongly in favor of moving the start of the school year earlier – to mid-August as proposed – despite the one-time impact on the length of the summer break. I’ve been in favor of, and advocating for, this change for several years, including when I was on the Dublin High School Site Council.

Below is my argument in favor of the change, and I welcome and encourage a civil debate of this important proposal. Please share your comments at the bottom of this article and unlike School Board meetings, you are not limited to 3-minutes.

Why am I in favor of this proposal? Here are my top three reasons in stack rank order:

  1. Winter break becomes 100% family time. Currently, first semester finals are held in January, after the winter break. I’m strongly in favor of students being able to focus 100% on family during the winter break – no projects, no homework, no finals to study for. I believe all high school students will benefit from taking finals immediately after the end of the instruction period, and all high school students will benefit from the opportunity to completely disengage from school over the holidays.
    • “The early start is generally most beneficial to high school students who must reckon with high-stakes testing and college applications. Elementary and middle schools are seldom preoccupied with end-of-the-semester finals, but high schools are, and the early start enables them to align winter break with the end of the first semester. This precludes students from returning to school and taking their end-of-semester tests in a post-vacation fog.” – Back to school: More South Bay school districts move toward earlier start date
    • Moving the start of school earlier isn’t enough to provide 100% family time. The Dublin School Board needs to also implement policy concurrent with this change that explicitly bans any assignments or projects due after the break (including for AP courses).
  2. More time to complete AP courses for AP examsAP exam timing is set by the CollegeBoard (early May for 2016, one month before the end of the school year). Nearly 500 Dublin High School students currently take AP courses, and because of open enrollment at Dublin High this number will likely increase. Scoring well on AP exams has a direct benefit when applying to colleges, and are even mandatory for some universities. For some students, doing well on AP exams even enables graduating early, by transferring AP credits. The current Dublin High School schedule requires AP teachers to condense courses into less time because the AP exam schedule is immovable and out of the District’s control.
  3. Dublin is not doing something radical – we’re just catching up with many other Districts. Numerous Bay Area Districts have already start the school year in mid-August – here is a subset:
    • Palo Alto Unified School District (Aug 17 – Jun 2) – Calendar
    • Tamalpais Union School District District (Aug 19 start) – Calendar
    • San Mateo Union High School District (Aug 12 – May 26) – Calendar
    • Mountain View Los Altos School District (Aug 17 – Jun 2) – Calendar
    • San Francisco Unified School District (Aug 17 – May 26) – Calendar
    • San Jose Unified School District (Aug 12 – June 2) – Calendar

That’s what I think – but I’m just one parent. What do you think? Vote on the proposal and add your comments at the bottom of this article. A Q&A published by DUSD earlier today is included below.

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Veterans Day Ceremony at Frederiksen Elementary School Resonates with Current and Former Students

November 11, 2015

DSC_0451DUBLIN, CA–Veterans Day continues to include a rich history and embodiment within DUSD – largely due to the efforts of Catherine Brown and Jamie Perez at Frederiksen Elementary School. Tuesday rang the bell for a ten-year continuous recognition of this very significant celebration at Fred. The relationship is significant – given the close proximity of Fred to the RFTA Camp Parks and the students that attend Frederiksen. By design, Ms. Brown and Ms. Perez have actively worked outside their scope of work to effectively structure and practice an assembly that would provide a positive impact across all five grade levels. The purpose would also educate the students as to the importance and impact of how all active and retired service members create a positive impact upon our lives.

For many students, this was an eye-opening experience. While it would be somewhat easier to read about them exploits in a textbook or online, it is a rather different opportunity to actually shake hands with a Veteran and to express a personal “Thank you for your service.” while in their company.

DSC_0442The gathered assembly heard from Colonel Jon Ellis that described the importance of this assembly. Subsequently, Major Jim Lyon discussed the impact of Flanders Fields. Following there were numerous musical performance by all students across grade levels. was fortunate to engage with a Frederiksen Elementary School graduate, Matthew Rosefield that performed “Taps” as a part of the Veterans Day Ceremony. Matthew is a current 11th grader at Dublin High School and is an active member of the DHS Irish Guard Marching Band. We reached out to him to receive his feedback on today’s events. Until your moment late in the program, you were able to simply observe the entire assembly.  We would imagine that today’s experience was vastly different than what you experienced as a 5th grader at Fred.  Please share what went through your mind during this morning’s ceremony. 

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Dublin High School Coder Hania Guiagoussou Wins Oracle Duke’s Choice Award for Java-based Water Saver Project 

November 8, 2015

DSC03720DUBLIN, CA–According to Forbes, computer science graduates have the highest starting salaries of any major. And an NPR report noted that “the number of women studying computer science was growing faster than the number of men” until 1984. The Apollo space program on-board flight software, critical to the Apollo 11 mission, was written by famed programmer Margaret Hamilton. Then something changed, and ever since, for reasons that are difficult to fully understand, men have dominated the lucrative computer science and engineering field.

We started our popular Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Series to profile inspiring women in STEM fields, and today we add Dublin High School junior and Java coder Hania Guiagoussou to that distinguished group.

151027_DukesChoiceAwards_0097Hania (as she is known by many) was born Rabha Al-Adaouia Guiagoussou in Montreal, Quebec to Amouna Mahamat Alio and Mahamat Hissein Guiagoussou. As a Canadian / Chadian / American, Hania is an example of Dublin’s diverse community. She is also a Java coder who was recently the youngest recipient of Oracle’s 2015 Duke’s Choice Award (which celebrates innovation in the use of Java technology) for her WaterSaver project.

That recognition, however, is just the latest in a series of awards for a project that began in Dublin High School’s Biology with Research class, which requires all students to complete a science fair project. Hania’s project, completed last year, was a top 3 project (out of 300 entries) in the computer science and mathematics category at the Alameda County Science and Engineering Fair. From there Hania went on to enhance her WaterSaver project to tackle larger environmental issues in her home country of Chad, specifically the rapid disappearance of Lake Chad (now down to 20% of its original size). Her project won 3rd prize at the Toumai Innovation Competition during SITIC 2014 (a pan African technology conference held in Chad). She was the youngest Chadian winner, was awarded a cash prize of $10,000 and even met the President of Chad Idriss Déby. Locally Hania recently won a Dreammakers & Risktakers Award from the Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group.

I recently caught up with Hania and her family, who treated me to a sampling of African tea and coffee, in their Dublin home. Hania’s enthusiasm for technology and coding, and her conviction to be a role model for other teens, is infectious.

James Morehead: Before we talk about your WaterSaver project, for someone whose only impression of coding is what they see on TV or in the movies, what is coding all about?

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PCRT’s “South Pacific” Opens Saturday at the Firehouse Arts Center, Through Nov 22

November 6, 2015

Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre - South Pacific - 21Pleasanton, CA — The Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre‘s first production of the 2015-16 season, “South Pacific”, opens this Saturday Nov. 7 and runs through Nov. 22 at the Firehouse Arts Center in downtown Pleasanton. The Rodgers and Hammerstein classic is set against the dramatic background of an idyllic South Pacific island during WWII and intertwines the themes of romance, duty, and prejudice to create a story that is all at once hilarious, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking. The musical features memorable Broadway musical numbers including “Younger Than Springtime,” “Some Enchanted Evening” and “There is Nothin’ Like a Dame.”

Based on the anecdotes of a real-life U.S. Navy commander who was stationed on an island, the musical follows two intercultural love stories: Nellie, a spunky nurse from Arkansas, falls in love with Emile, a French plantation owner on the island who has two children from his late Polynesian wife; at the same time, U.S. Lieutenant Cable falls for a beautiful island native named Liat. Both Americans find themselves struggling to reconcile their own cultural prejudices with their amorous feelings, all the while under the dark cloud of a war that is coming ever closer to their island paradise.

Director and choreographer Joy Sherratt: “What draws me as a director to this musical is that the story being told is layered with a real moral conflict that audiences can relate to today. To fall in love completely challenges and changes the way one thinks and this struggle is what breaks hearts and binds true love.”

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Meet Dublin High School’s New Drama Director Scott Di Lorenzo

November 4, 2015
(photo credit: Anissa Rashid)

(photo credit: Anissa Rashid)

Scott Di Lorenzo’s career in theatre was started by an accident that every high school student can identify with: a scheduling conflict.

Growing up, Dublin High School‘s new drama teacher hated talking in front of anyone: not to his classmates, not to his teachers, and especially not from a stage. A naturally shy person, Mr. Di Lorenzo might have shied away from public speaking of any kind indefinitely, had it not been for a middle school elective mishap.

“I was in 7th grade and I was in my second year of Home Economics, I liked Home Ec. very much – cooking, sewing – I enjoyed it all. But the [counselors] told me that I couldn’t take Home Ec. for a second year.” Instead, 7th grade Mr. Di Lorenzo had to pick another elective. “The only other electives at the middle school were theatre, band and choir. So I thought, which one of these will require me to talk the least? I joined band without knowing how to play an instrument and after about a week the band teacher suggested, ‘maybe you should try something else’. Well I definitely didn’t want to take theatre because then I’d have to get up in front of people which would be really awkward, so I joined choir.”

What Mr. Di Lorenzo didn’t know was that all choir students were required to try out for the school musical, a fatal flaw in his scheme. But that was okay: he had a Plan B. ”At the musical auditions I thought, ‘oh yeah, no problem, I’ll just do the worst audition ever; I’ll sing really badly and they just won’t want me. Fine, done.’ That was when I realized that, if you’re a boy in theatre, you’re going to get a part.” And he did: the mayor. “I had three lines and, ultimately, it was the most fun experience of my life, and I’ve never stopped doing theatre since.”

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New DPIE Board Member Joel Simone on How a Literature Course Changed His Life

October 27, 2015


Joel Simone

Dublin Partners in Education (DPIE) recently hosted a very successful Celebrity Waiters event at the Shannon Community Center. The evening featured a full sit down dinner and a variety of both silent and live auction items. The night then concludes on the dance floor. As one of the principal fundraisers, this evening raises thousands of dollars which are then used to support a multitude of projects/programs that benefit all students across the Dublin Unified School District.

On Saturday, one of the volunteers working the bar was DPIE’s newest Board Member, Mr. Joel Simone. He is a 1997 graduate of Dublin High School. He is the principal owner of Diablo Valley Design. It is an enterprise that assists businesses to get found on the internet. The mechanisms utilize include web design, online listings and pay per click advertising. Interestingly, his association with DPIE began over a beer at Three Sheets on Village Parkway. In a small group that included the Dielissen family, the topic of DPIE’s website and internet presence was raised. Joel didn’t hesitate to offer his assistance. One thing led to another and it culminated in Mr. Simone joining the organization in a more formal manner.

By itself, this could have been an interesting anecdote to share. However, when we sat down with Joel, he revealed a much more impactful story about the direction of his career, the passion to help underserved students and how one instructor at Las Positas College permanently changed his focus and his mission in life.

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