Archive for September 26, 2015

Rio Hondo earns $2.6 million grant for Hispanic, low-income students

From staff reports
WHITTIER – Rio Hondo College will receive $2.62 million in federal funds to help Hispanic and low-income students prepare for the rigor of college courses, identify education goals and map achievable programs of study in order to shorten their time to completion, the college announced on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015.

The award is one of about 87 five-year Title V grants of up to $2.63 million each for individual institutions and up to $3.25 million each for cooperative arrangements awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to colleges and universities at which enrollment is at least 25 percent Hispanic.

At Rio Hondo, 70 percent of students are Hispanic.

“This generous grant will allow us to develop important new resources to significantly improve Rio Hondo College’s already highly successful model for ensuring student success,” said Superintendent/President Teresa Dreyfuss. “I’m excited to see the difference we will make in the lives of these students thanks to the innovative ideas our team has developed.”

Rio Hondo has received several of the five-year grants for Title V, Hispanic-serving institutions. The most recent grant, which spanned 2010 to 2015, helped the college create its popular Summer Bridge program, which eases the student transition from high school to college. The new grant will fund The Avance Project, aimed at expanding Rio Hondo College’s capacity for fostering student success by establishing a yearlong integrated and connected success pathway for first-year students to persist into their second year.

Avance is Spanish for advance.

“Our goal is to create a continuum of integrated academic and student service supports for our first-year students,” said Barbara Salazar, Interim Assistant Dean and Title V Grant Project Director for Rio Hondo College’s Office of Student Success & Retention. “We have learned that strong guidance during the students’ first year is critical to ensuring they get the most out of their college experience.”

Avance’s components include a summer math academy, a guaranteed first-year schedule, a seminar course so students can explore discipline-based career paths and focus on a continued program of study, and regular tutoring, counseling and coaching.

In addition, Rio Hondo College will celebrate and support Avance students through a first-year seminar conference, where they can learn more about different college disciplines, hear both student and professional presentations, and present their own field-related research inspired by the first-year seminar course.

The grant will fund training for faculty and staff for the first-year seminar course and ensure they are attuned to the California Standards instructional approaches being used at local high schools.

“Our new array of expanded student services underscores our commitment to pursuing every avenue to ensure our students will be successful when they leave Rio Hondo College, whether they choose to attend a four-year university or tackle a career in today’s highly competitive job market,” Board of Trustees President Madeline Shapiro said.

Avance will run from Oct. 1, 2015 through Sept. 30, 2020, serving 200 students in its initial year and adding 100 students annually until participation peaks at 600 students in its final year.

The ‘real’ Watergate scandal

From staff reports
In a mostly unknown side of Watergate, former Whittier College alumnus Geoff Shepard (’66) will present a case against President Richard Nixon’s prosecutors through his recently published book, “The Real Watergate Scandal: Collusion, Conspiracy and the Plot that Brought Nixon Down” at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015 in the Wardman Library at Whittier College. A reception is slated at 5:30 p.m.

Geoff Shepard will rebuke prosecutors in the Nixon Watergate scandal at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015 at the Wardman Library at Whittier College.

Shepard was one of the transcribers of the White House tapes that eventually led to Nixon’s resignation in 1974.

More than four decades have passed since Watergate, one of the greatest presidential scandals in American politics, which continues to cause great debate and discussion. Richard M. Nixon ’34 resigned from his post as president of the United States, becoming the only presidential resignation in our nation’s history. But does the American public know what happened behind the scenes?

“My book focuses on the judicial and prosecutorial abuse in the Watergate trials and unearths astounding elements of collusion between the trial judge and the special prosecutors,” said Shepard, who served as the principal deputy to the president’s lead defense lawyer, J. Fred Buzhardt.
Shepard said he has uncovered evidence behind a comprehensive plan to remove the 37th president from office. Shepard shares in his second book about the Nixon administration his findings from his research.
“Going through 200 to 300 memos from the prosecution was like going through the playbook of the opposing team’s coach for the championship my team lost,” Shepard said.
Shepard’s career had an explosive growth in a short amount of time. A standout undergraduate, he earned a scholarship to attend Harvard Law which catapulted him to the Nixon White House as a White House Fellow in 1969. He was assigned to the Treasury Department and following his fellowship year, Shepard joined the Domestic Council staff at the White House, where he served for five years.
Shepard, who later on had a 35-year career in the insurance industry, shares several parallels of his life with President Nixon besides working at the White House and having the same alma mater.
As a first-year student, the Santa Barbara native took the required English course taught by long-time Professor Albert Upton. Upton’s teachings, based on his ground-breaking book, “Design for Thinking,” transformed generations of students’ way of analyzing, classifying, and communicating, including Shepard’s.
“As one of the youngest lawyers working in the White House, I wrote many memos on policy issues for the Domestic Council,” Shepard said. “President Nixon liked my approach and I suspect he could perceive Upton’s influence in them, since he also had Upton as his professor at Whittier way back in the 1930s.”
Shepard was a political science major and always knew he wanted to become a lawyer. He later became the first recipient of the Nixon Scholarship.
“I attended the student scholarship luncheon put on by the Republican Women’s Club of Whittier and Richard Nixon sat next to me,” said Shepard. “I wasn’t expecting him to be there.”
At this point, Nixon had been vice president of the United States, ran unsuccessfully for governor of California, and had dropped out of politics and relocated to New York to practice law.
“In his luncheon speech, Nixon compared the student government issues in his own campaign as student body president, with those of my own,” Shepard said. “I was very impressed.”
Young Shepard must’ve made quite the impression on Nixon because he later found out that the former vice president had doubled the amount of his scholarship.
Since 2010, Shepard has helped produce a series of Nixon Legacy Forums focusing on President Nixon’s various public policy initiatives. The forums are co-sponsored by the Richard Nixon Foundation and the National Archives, and have been broadcast on C-SPAN’s American History channel. More than 30 such forums have been produced to date.

Parents’ rights pivotal in Common Core lawsuit

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute

By Brad Dacus


Pacific Justice Institute

LOS ANGELES – A new lawsuit is alleging that school district officials in Southern California broke the law by not telling parents about their rights to decline involvement in the controversial Common Core testing.

Pacific Justice Institute filed suit Monday, Sept. 14, 2015 in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of Concerned Parents of California. The defendant in this case is Walnut Valley Unified School District, though a ruling in the case could affect many other districts as well. The lawsuit states that WVUSD did not comply with state law and regulations requiring them to inform parents of the right to decline participation by their children in statewide assessments.

“Just like everyone else, school districts must follow the law,” noted PJI attorney Michael Peffer, who is the lead attorney in this case. “They may not agree with it, but they cannot ignore it. The statutes and regulations in this area are clear and unambiguous. The district doesn’t get to pick and choose which rules it will follow.”

The troubled rollout of the recently-adopted Common Core State Standards continued last week with the disclosure that just 44 percent of California students met the standards in English, and only 33 percent in math. The statistics were even worse in Los Angeles County, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, said, “As we’ve just been reminded, the implementation of Common Core continues to be a disaster, and many parents want no part of it. Parents have the right and responsibility to do what is in their children’s best interests, and California school districts have the legal obligation to make sure parents know their options.”

PJI previously confronted Calabasas High School after the principal threatened retaliation against students whose parents opted them out of the common core testing. The principal reversed course after receiving a demand letter from PJI which prompted inquiries from FoxNews.


Council gives solace in student death

WHITTIER – Mayor Fernando Dutra and the Whittier City Council expressed their deep sorrow on Tuesday following the death of 19-year-old Whittier student Hun Joon “Paul” Lee. Lee, a special-needs student, was found unresponsive on a school bus contracted by the Whittier Union High School District about 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015.

Dutra said, “The City Council and I extend our heartfelt condolences to the Lee family upon the loss of their son. Please know that the Whittier community has been greatly touched by this terrible tragedy and is supporting you in our thoughts and prayers as you navigate the days to come.”

The city confirmed the Whittier Police Department is investigating the incident and will continue to work with the Whittier Union High School District, transportation company, and other entities as appropriate during the course of the case.


Rio Hondo, El Rancho join to build Pico Rivera Education Center

By William Diepenbrock
VMA Communications
WHITTIER – Rio Hondo College is partnering with El Rancho Unified School District to open a Rio Hondo College Educational Center in Pico Rivera, bringing the promise of higher education closer to home for thousands of residents.
When completed in fall 2016, the $1.3 million center will be the third satellite site established by Rio Hondo since 2010. Other sites serve South Whittier and El Monte.

“Our mission at Rio Hondo is to support our community by providing access to college education opportunities,” said Superintendent/President Teresa Dreyfuss. “These centers are bringing that mission closer to home across our service area.”

The satellite sites circle Rio Hondo College’s hilltop campus, with Pico Rivera to the southwest, El Monte to the north and South Whittier to the east. The Pico Rivera center will sit on 2.4 acres at El Rancho Unified’s former adult school at 9426 Marjorie St., across the street from El Rancho High School.

The college will upgrade seven buildings spanning 6,720 square feet to create a collegiate identity and integrate 21st century learning tools into six classrooms and an office. The site will include a shaded campus quad and 1.3 acres of parking. Rio Hondo College’s Board of Trustees and El Rancho Unified’s Board of Education both unanimously approved the center in meetings this summer.

“Through our partnership with Rio Hondo College, we will continue to expand post-secondary opportunities for our students and school community, which will lead to more students being college- and career-ready,” El Rancho Unified Superintendent Martin Galindo said.

“Our partnership with Rio Hondo College is another step toward the transformation of El Rancho Unified School District into one that is second to none,” said Dr. Aurora Villon, president of the El Rancho Unified Board of Education.

“The satellite campus will increase the accessibility our students and the community have to a higher education and professional development. We look forward to a robust course offering that will complement our curriculum and give students the opportunity to earn college credit. This is another step toward preparing our students for a 21st century global society,” Villon said.

The satellite campuses help Rio Hondo reach students who otherwise might not be able to attend college.

“It’s highly rewarding to know that by creating campuses of convenience, we’re also delivering the promise of a higher education to a larger share of our community,” said Board of Trustees President Madeline Shapiro. “I’m also excited to be deepening our partnership with El Rancho Unified School District. Like us, I know they are dedicated to providing their students with every opportunity for success.”

The College began planning its satellite expansion in 2004, when voters passed Measure A, a facilities bond for upgrading college facilities. The South Whittier Education Center opened in August 2010. The El Monte Education Center opened in spring 2013.

“Pico Rivera residents will be well served by having our own satellite campus,” said Board of Trustees Vice President Vicky Santana, whose district includes the community. “We will transform a closed facility into a thriving educational facility. Satellite campuses make it convenient for students who are juggling multiple responsibilities to maintain their educational goals despite challenges with time or transportation, and at Rio Hondo, we put our students’ needs front and center.”