November 2014
 Gearing up for science

Our Educational Support Services department is preparing to support districts as they transition to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Scheduled for implementation beginning in 2015, the standards must be fully implemented in all schools by 2018. Like the Common Core Standards, the NGSS were developed through a collaborative state-led process, then adopted by states across the country, including California.
The new science standards are designed to reflect how science is practiced in the real world. Each of the standards integrates content, application of scientific practices, and concepts that cut across all types of scientific study. They will bring exciting new ideas to science education in K-12 schools.
To assist districts in preparing for and implementing the NGSS, we have assembled a group of Sonoma County teachers to provide teacher-led professional development. This group, known as the BaySci Leadership Team, was formed last summer when its ten members participated in intensive NGSS training at the Lawrence Hall of Science. Throughout this school year, their training will continue as they also begin applying aspects of the standards in their classrooms. Next year, the team will be ready to help others make the shift to the NGSS.

Anna Van Dordrecht, our teacher-on-loan for science, is working with Common Core director Karen McGahey and the BaySci Team to support this process. Beginning next year, members of the BaySci Team will help lead countywide professional development and site-based training in local districts. One goal of the training will be to help teachers see—and use—the linkages between the Common Core Standards and NGSS. By using cross-curricular content and strategies like project-based learning, teachers can reinforce aspects of the language arts, math, and science standards in a single unit of study.
SCOE is also preparing to hold two science-focused student events. The Synopsys-Sonoma County Science Fair takes place on February 27 and the Science Olympiad is scheduled for April 18.
I commend the Educational Support Services staff for developing a comprehensive strategy to enhance and improve science education in Sonoma County.
Steven D. Herrington, Ph.D.
Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools
 SELPA’s Adaptive Technology Center
The SELPA describes its Adaptive Technology Center (ATC) as “truly a joint effort.” The facility is located at La Fiesta Educational Center in Rohnert Park, next to our Special Education field office. It is staffed by SELPA employees and operates with funds provided by all 40 Sonoma County school districts. The ATC’s purpose is to provide equipment and technology for special education students whose disabilities require specialized adaptations.
The ATC was formed in 1985 and started with one person tinkering with switches and a soldering iron. Some of the early “pioneers” were Gary Graff, Bonnie Niewiarowska, and Debra Wilcox—and they are all still working at the ATC, using their creativity and technical know-how to provide new students with technology adaptations.
The changes that have occurred in adaptive technology during the past two decades are nothing short of amazing. Originally, there were almost no commercial products for this use. If students needed something, someone at the ATC had to make it from plywood and wires. Pictured below are two early examples. On the left, two “jelly bean switches” mounted on a plywood stand allowed students with limited mobility to indicate a preference. The photo in the middle shows a box with switches corresponding to food choices (juice, muffin, milk).

For today’s students, there are many commercially available products, and the creativity and skills of the ATC are put to the test in new ways. For example, an iPad becomes a more useful tool for some students if it has a plexiglass keyguard to prevent unintentional “touches” to the screen (pictured at right, above). This is one example of how students with disabilities might use an assistive device to enhance their ability to communicate.
But the ATC doesn’t just create devices for students—it also provides assessments, consultation, and training to school staff in augmentative and alternative communication technology, customized computer systems, special needs software, environmental controls, equipment adaptations, and assistive technology. The center provides these services in support of all Sonoma County students with disabilities, from birth to age 22.
Finding the tools that work best for each student and customizing them to meet individual needs is the focus of the ATC’s work—from its early roots to the present day.


A time of change for the County Board
This month brings major changes to the Sonoma County Board of Education. Four members of the BoardóJill Kaufman, Helga Lemke, Ray Peterson, and Kathleen Willbanksóare retiring and will attend their last meeting on November 6. A reception honoring them for their service will be held prior to that meeting and all staff are invited to attend. Please join us at 3:30pm in the Board Room to express your appreciation for their years of service. The Honorable Mike Thompson will be present to honor the County Board.
In December, three newly elected representatives will join the County Board. They will be introduced in next month’s edition of The Portfolio.

SCOE Bulletin: Design Thinking
The October issue of the SCOE Bulletin (pdf) showcases the design thinking process, an innovative approach to problem solving that is being used in schools and classrooms across Sonoma County—and in our own organization. Learn what it’s all about and see how three local schools have applied it on their campuses.

Volunteer nights at the Food Bank resume
Terri Walker in Human Resources is now coordinating the SCOE volunteer nights at the Redwood Empire Food Bank—and she’s looking for volunteers to help out. SCOE is scheduled to work from 5:00pm to 7:00pm on the third Monday of every month (or sometimes the third Tuesday). Please contact Terri Walker at or (707) 524-2824 if you would like to volunteer.
Here are the scheduled dates for this school year: November 17, December 15, January 20, February 17, March 16, April 20, May 18, and June 15. Sign up for one date—or all.
United Way campaign begins on Nov 17
The annual United Way campaign gives employees the opportunity to financially support effective local initiatives that help people in need. Please consider joining the effort to “improve lives locally” by participating in this year’s campaign. It will begin on November 17 and continue through December 12. You’ll receive information and a pledge form via email in the next few weeks.
Welcome new employees, hired in October
John Ayala, Teaching Assistant, Special Education
Sally Chacon, Program Assistant, Regional Career Pathways Alliance
Lucy Eang, Teaching Assistant, Special Education
Janet Jones, Legal Secretary, School & College Legal Services
Anne Layton, Executive Assistant, Superintendent’s Office
Marjorie Lear, Program Assistant, Child Care Planning Council
Deborah Willner, LVN/Teaching Assistant, Special Education

Oct 31 | Flex plan deadline
This is the last day to submit open enrollment materials for the Flex Plan. Information and forms are available at
Nov 6 | Reception for retiring County Board members
Join us at 3:30pm in the Board Room as we recognize four retiring members of the County Board of Education.
Nov 11 | Veterans Day
SCOE offices and classrooms are closed.
Nov 17 | SCOE volunteer night at the Food Bank
Contact Terri Walker at or 524-2824 to participate.
Nov 27-28 | Thanksgiving holiday
SCOE offices and classrooms are closed.

Send items for the Portfolio to Suzanne Gedney,