Mike Myslinski at 650-552-5324 or 408-921-5769 (cell)
BURLINGAME – Media stories ranging from a look at one 10-year-old homeless boy’s struggle to fit in at his school to construction project woes sparked by layoffs in the Los Angeles Unified School District to one high school senior’s joy at winning a $100,000 science competition scholarship are among the works honored by the California Teachers Association’s 53rd annual John Swett Awards for Media Excellence.
Fifteen entries in the prestigious CTA awards contest were chosen by an independent panel of media professionals. The awards honor individuals, publications, websites, television and radio stations for their outstanding achievements in reporting and interpreting public education issues during 2011.
“These winners are using their skills to tell the story of public education in so many compelling ways,” said Dean E. Vogel, president of the 325,000-member CTA. “These journalists capture the challenges and triumphs that teachers and students experience across the state. Their insights shape public opinion and deserve special recognition.”
There were 90 entries this year. The winners will receive their awards during a reception in their honor this Friday night at the CTA State Council of Education meeting in Los Angeles. CTA also will take out a full-page advertisement in the July/August issue of Columbia Journalism Review magazine to list the winners and give them national recognition.
The award is named in honor of the founder of CTA, who was California’s fourth superintendent of public instruction. This year’s 15 John Swett Award winning entries are:
• Jill Tucker, San Francisco Chronicle, for her moving feature story about homeless students in the San Francisco Unified School District. She profiles a 10-year-old homeless boy who sleeps on the floor of shelters or in the laps of his parents in a park, but always finds a way to wake up and make it to his fourth-grade classroom, where he struggles to fit in.
• Sandy Banks, Los Angeles Times, for her feature column giving a voice to the cafeteria workers in Los Angeles Unified School District who she had criticized for their health benefits, until she visited their school kitchens and listened to how their benefits are mending families and keeping their children healthy.
• Connie Llanos, Los Angeles Daily News, for her series of investigative stories last year about layoffs in the Los Angeles Unified School District leaving dozens of district construction sites without full-time, state-certified inspectors to make sure projects were in compliance with building and safety codes. The chief of the district’s facilities department resigned after publication of these stories began.
• Diana Lambert, Sacramento Bee, for her news story about the financially strapped Sacramento City Unified School District hiring an executive chef last summer at a salary of more than $83,000. The chef ran the Bistro eatery at the district’s headquarters, but after deep district cuts, Lambert reported that members of the Sacramento City Teachers Association said the hiring “leaves a bad taste in their mouths.”
• Amy Crawford, San Francisco Examiner, for her news story about funding for vital arts programs in the San Francisco Unified School District having to rely on a patchwork of grants, PTA donations and other uncertain sources.
• Katy Murphy, Oakland Tribune, for a compassionate story and video on her education blog about how inner-city kids discover the importance of learning during the long summer break, and how low-income families face the challenges of affording summer camps and other programs that benefit student learning.
• Shannon Barry, Milpitas Post, for continuous coverage of education news in the Milpitas and Fremont Unified school districts. Her stories included a feature about a team of Milpitas High School students placing high up in a statewide science competition, the suspension with pay of the Milpitas superintendent concerning allegations about a relationship with a principal, and an emotional rally last spring against layoffs and cuts by the Fremont Unified District Teachers Association.
• Matthew Wilson, Cupertino Courier, won two awards. His feature story headlined “Plugging In” is about technology inspiring students to learn in Silicon Valley’s Cupertino Union School District and the Fremont Union High School District. His news article reports on outstanding Monta Vista High School senior Angela Zhang winning a $100,000 scholarship in the 2011 Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology for her research about the use of nanotechnology to eradicate cancer stem cells.
• Cosmo Garvin, Sacramento News and Review, for his investigative news story questioning the results and high costs of a school reform program in the Sacramento City Unified School District that designated seven low-performing campuses as “high priority” schools that received extra resources at the expense of other needy schools.
Journals, Magazines, Websites
• Louis Freedberg and Stephen Doig, California Watch, examined how per-student spending varies widely from school district to district, with the inequalities being due to federal funding, local parcel taxes and other factors, along with California’s school finance system being based on formulas established in the 1970s. This online news source is at www.californiawatch.org.
• Anthony Cody, Education Week blogger, is a former Oakland Unified School District classroom teacher who won for his successful “Living in Dialogue” blog entries about unfair attacks on teacher seniority rights, a successful “Save Our Schools” national rally in Washington D.C. last July with actor and public school advocate Matt Damon, and other vital education issues.
• Susan Luzzaro, San Diego Reader, for a series of online stories on mismanagement, cronyism and worse concerning school construction projects and building contractors involved in 2011 with the Sweetwater Union High School District and Southwestern College. A retired teacher with no formal journalism training, her muckraking investigations prompted more stories and scrutiny of these schools by mainstream media reporters as well.
• Mayra Flores de Marcotte, Campbell Patch, for her series of seven inspiring online profiles of high school graduates, their dreams, college plans and other hopes, in the Campbell Union High School District in Santa Clara County. Students share their thanks for teachers who made a huge impact on their lives.
• John North, KCLU Radio, Thousand Oaks, for a compelling, locally produced program titled, “Bullying: Kids in Crisis.” The one-hour documentary aired last October during national Bullying Prevention Month and was well-researched. It included interviews both with students who had been bullied and had done the bullying, along with experts in this field, and with educators who are struggling to stop bullying in their K-12 classrooms. North is the special projects reporter at the radio station, which is based at California Lutheran University and reaches Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village and Simi Valley to the south, and Santa Barbara and Solvang to the north.
The 325,000-member California Teachers Association is affiliated with the 3.2 million-member National Education Association.