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Media stories last year ranging from a profile of a dedicated Bay Area music teacher to a public radio station’s look at the teacher shortage in San Diego County school districts are among the works honored by CTA’s 59th annual John Swett Awards for Media Excellence.

Eighteen winning entries were chosen by an independent panel of working journalists, media professionals and a retired college journalism professor. The awards honor individuals, publications, websites, and television and radio stations for their outstanding achievements in reporting and interpreting public education issues during 2017.

“These skilled reporters all helped tell the story of education in California with clarity and creativity,” said CTA President Eric C. Heins. “They’re keeping the ‘public’ in public education by detailing the challenges and triumphs that educators and our students encounter. Their outstanding work clearly deserves to be honored with this special recognition.”

There were 61 entries this year. The winners were honored during a reception at the CTA State Council of Education meeting in June in Los Angeles. The John Swett Award is named in honor of the founder of CTA, who was California’s fourth superintendent of public instruction and a crusader for public education.


JILL TUCKER, San Francisco Chronicle, won for a series of stories about the importance of providing music in Bay Area public schools and the role it plays in nurturing and inspiring students. She profiled music teacher Tim Wilson, a former principal trumpet player in the San Francisco Opera orchestra, who over four years built a music program — and spent $300,000 of his own money on it — at Lovonya DeJean Middle School in Richmond.

NANETTE ASIMOV and MELODY GUTIERREZ, San Francisco Chronicle, won for their continuous coverage of financial red flags in the University of California’s Office of President Janet Napolitano, which included reports of interference in a state audit and the office’s amassing of $175 million in a hidden reserve. The reporting led to a new law against tampering with a state audit.

GARY WARTH, San Diego Union-Tribune, for a news story in February 2017 about a controversial estimated $124 million budget deficit in San Diego Unified School District causing the school board to consider laying off 850 educators and support staff.

RICHARD BAMMER, The Reporter in Vacaville, for continuous coverage of school issues, such as career technical education and homelessness among Solano County students.

ALI TADAYON, East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, for a November 2017 news story about Oakland students, parents and teachers opposing millions in proposed Oakland Unified School District program and staff cuts that were coming before the school board for final action.

CLAUDIA MELÉNDEZ SALINAS, Monterey Herald, for a series of stories last year about controversies in several Monterey County school districts over whether police officers should be stationed on campuses. THE CALIFORNIAN in Salinas, for several articles about state agricultural pesticide regulations and the dangers pesticides pose to workers in the fields and to students in Salinas Valley public schools.

KHALIDA SARWARI and KRISTI MYLLENBECK, Silicon Valley Community Newspapers, for a news story on how several Santa Clara County school districts complied with a state law about sexual health education that took effect in January 2016. It required more comprehensive curriculum for middle and high schools.

MATTHEW WILSON, Cupertino Courier, for a feature story about a local high school student and her successful cartoon strip called “The Breadsters” that takes a humorous look at teen issues around family and school.

KEN EPSTEIN, Oakland Post, won two awards for a news story examining how some political leaders and conflicting legal opinions helped engineer state control of Oakland Unified School District in 2003 when it faced a financial budget crisis; and for continuous coverage of education news including stories about a middle school PE teacher who launched a successful program where eighth-graders mentor incoming sixth-graders, and the Conejo Valley Unified school board’s approval of a policy requiring teachers to alert parents before students read well-known books such as The Catcher in the Rye that are deemed by the California Department of Education as having mature content.

Journals, Magazines, Websites

JOE ESKENAZI, Mission Local online news site in San Francisco, for a news story about hardball organizing tactics of the Innovate Public Schools pro-charter advocacy operation based in San Jose at meetings for parents held at local sites in San Francisco, including a public middle school.


MEGAN BURKS, KPBS Public Radio in San Diego, for a news story about the impacts of the teacher shortage in San Diego County school districts, and a look at possible solutions, such as paying educators more, increasing education funding, and providing more professional development.


KXTV ABC 10 in Sacramento, for 2017 profiles of local inspiring teachers from the station’s popular, award-winning “Teacher of the Month” series, including profiles of Sacramento County area educators Gavin Bering, Kellie Welty, Jessica Cisneros-Elliott, Anna Cacciotti, Anita Kamath, and Christine Lewis.

DINORAH PEREZ, Telemundo 52 in Los Angeles, for coverage of the September 2017 rally by United Teachers Los Angeles to support the DACA program. UTLA donated $60,000 to community groups helping people pay for and process the $495 renewal applications to extend their protections from deportation.

JADE HERNANDEZ, KABC-TV in Los Angeles, for a segment in September 2017 on the UTLA rally in which a middle school teacher who is a DACA recipient is interviewed.

LAURA ANTHONY, KGO-TV (ABC) in San Francisco, won for live coverage of a protest by Oakland Unified educators and parents in November 2017 about the district’s proposed cuts in education programs that ended up reaching into the millions.

KVIE-TV (PBS) in Sacramento for its Inside California Education television series, which examines the challenges and successes in our public schools in 30-minute episodes. A joint venture of NationalEdOnline and KVIE, the segments air on PBS stations across California.