CTA Announces 21 Winners of John Swett Awards Honoring Media Coverage of Education in California

Media stories last year ranging from how soaring housing costs are pricing Bay Area educators out of their communities to a revealing exposé about the for-profit Virginia company behind a statewide online charter school to a Sacramento television station’s inspiring “Teacher of the Month” series are among the works honored by CTA’s 58th annual John Swett Awards for Media Excellence.

Twenty-one winners in the prestigious CTA awards contest were chosen recently by an independent panel of media professionals and retired college journalism professors. The awards honor individuals, publications, websites, television and radio stations for their outstanding achievements in reporting and interpreting public education issues during 2016.

“This year’s winners clearly care about telling the vital story of public education in California,” said Eric C. Heins, president of the 325,000-member California Teachers Association. “With skill, compassion and creativity, these journalists showed the triumphs and struggles that educators celebrate or overcome in their schools across the state. Their outstanding media work deserves this special recognition.”

There were 62 entries this year. The winners will receive their awards during a reception in their honor June 2 at the CTA State Council of Education meeting in Los Angeles.

The 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. Here are the 21 John Swett Award winning entries, with links to many of the outstanding works:


  • Nanette Asimov, San Francisco Chronicle, won two John Swett Awards. Her inspiring feature story concerned a baby girl abandoned at San Francisco State University in 1984 who later overcame adversities in life and graduated from SFSU in 2016. Her news story revealed how UC-Berkeley was reclassifying master’s degrees from “academic” to “professional” in a move allowing the university to charge much more for the programs. Read the stories here and here.
  • Joyce Tsai, East Bay Times, won two John Swett Awards. Her investigative news story looked at how educators are being priced out of Bay Area communities due to soaring housing costs. She also won for continuous coverage of education issues during 2016, including the departure of Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Antwan Wilson and a program for English learners from many countries offered by the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Read the teacher housing crisis story here. Samples of her continuous coverage stories are here and here.
  • Jessica Calefati, The Mercury News in San Jose, for a two-part exposé in April 2016 about how a Virginia-based for-profit company called K12 Inc. – California’s largest operator of virtual online charter schools – was profiting off taxpayers’ money. The investigation revealed the company took advantage of laws governing charter schools and nonprofit organizations. Read here and here.
  • Harold Pierce, The Californian in Bakersfield, for a feature story about how 11-year teacher Lisa Barton invests her “heart and soul” in educating her students at Berkshire Elementary in the Panama-Buena Vista Union School District. Read here.
  • Austin Walsh, The Daily Journal in San Mateo, for continuous coverage of education issues last year, including how the Bay Area’s rising cost of living contributes to the teacher shortage, and how San Mateo County districts are offering innovative incentives to attract and retain educators. Read samples of his winning stories here and here.
  • Kristen Hwang, The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, for continuous coverage of education, including a controversy caused when some students at Shadow Hills High School in the Desert Sands Unified School District began wearing homophobic symbols at school showing a rainbow crossed out by a red circle, prompting outrage from the local LGBTQ community. Read samples of her winning stories here and here.
  • Richard Bammer, The Reporter in Vacaville, for his weekly columns about the value of early childhood education, why teacher workforce diversity is important, and the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, among other well-written commentaries.  Read samples of his winning columns here and here.
  • Kelly Corrigan, The Burbank Leader, for a series of stories about a Burbank parent’s allegation of bias by the Burbank Unified School District against her learning-disabled son. Read here and here.
  • Esmeralda Fabian Romero, Hoy Los Angeles, for a feature story that highlights the proven benefits of early childhood education for Latino children with learning disabilities, and some of the barriers Latino parents face in getting access to information about programs. Read here.
  • Kristi Myllenbeck, The Cupertino Courier in Santa Clara County, for a news story about disputes concerning attendance boundary changes for Lynbrook High School in the Fremont Union High School District. Read here.
  • Ken Epstein, Oakland Post, for two stories about Westlake Middle School in Oakland Unified School District and how charter schools impact neighborhood public schools when charters use Proposition 39 to demand space on Oakland school campuses, as happened at Westlake. Read here and here.

Journals, Magazines, Websites

  • The nonprofit San Francisco Public Press won as a publication for a package of stories published in print in December about bilingual education in the San Francisco Unified School District. A team of reporters, editors and photographers produced a special report examining how San Francisco helped pave the way for California to embrace bilingual education. Read here.
  • The online investigative news site Capital & Main, for a revealing and well-documented series of stories by a team of reporters about the impacts of charter schools and privatization on the future of California public education in Los Angeles and statewide. Read here.
  • Anna Challet, Boom California online magazine, based at the California State University-Fullerton, for a feature story about vital education services for youths sentenced to juvenile halls and other centers in the California juvenile court system. Read here.
  • John Fensterwald, EdSource, the online education news site based in Oakland, for continuous coverage of education issues during 2016 that included the lack of accountability of California charter schools; how CTA chapters mobilized in the face of legal attacks to weaken public employee unions by targeting “fair-share fees” paid to cover the costs of union representation; and how some school districts are creating pay incentives to recruit veteran teachers. Read samples of winning stories here and here.


  • Ana Tintocalis, KQED Public Radio in San Francisco, for a September news story that aired as part of the station’s “California Report” about the State Board of Education moving beyond test scores to use multiple measures to gauge student and school success in California. Listen here.


  • KXTV News 10 (ABC) in Sacramento, which won as a station for six profiles of local inspiring teachers from the station’s popular, award-winning and ongoing “Teacher of the Month” series. The Sacramento County-area educators honored were Mary Hawkins, Carla Randazzo, Adam Shupe, Sara Lopez, Joel Francisco, and Nancy Preto. Watch here.
  • Dave Alley, KCOY 12 (CBS) in Santa Maria, for an in-depth look at how and why teachers’ salaries differ among Central Coast school districts, and how this affects the local teacher shortage. Watch here.
  • Melissa Caen, KPIX 5 (CBS) in San Francisco, for a news story in November examining how pro-charter school billionaires were pouring money into the Oakland Unified School District school board race to elect charter-friendly candidates. Watch here.


The 325,000-member California Teachers Association is affiliated with the 3 million-member National Education Association.