One of Our Nation’s Best

Source: Daniel Thigpen, Folsom Cordova Unified School District  |  2016-08-26

Andy Kotko of Mather Heights Elementary, teacher earns highest honor: Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics & Science Teaching. --Photo by Folsom Cordova Unified School District staff

Andy Kotko, a first-grade teacher at Mather Heights Elementary School, has been named by President Obama as one of the best math and science teachers in the country.

The White House honored Kotko on Monday with the 2016 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the highest recognition bestowed upon the nation’s math and science teachers.

Kotko has twice been a finalist for this prestigious honor. Kotko and 212 other winners from throughout the country will receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation and travel to Washington, D.C. on Sept. 8.

Kotko makes learning look effortless in his classroom. His young students dig deep - and have fun - while exploring complex mathematical concepts through hands-on projects and group work. 

“Teachers transform lives by inspiring and equipping students as lifelong learners,” Kotko told the National Science Foundation. “I am grateful for the many educators who have invested in my teaching practice as well as for the colleagues and families that work beside me each day. This honor is also a testimony to the great effort of the students under my guidance who work diligently to grow in their mathematics understanding.”

Andy has been an educator for 14 years and is a founding teacher at the District’s Academy for Advanced Learning, a public magnet school at Mather Heights Elementary focused on inquiry and project-based learning. He also earned National Board Certification in 2007, one of the most difficult professional designations to earn in teaching.

“Our school district is fortunate to have a teacher of Andy’s caliber on our team, and our students are even luckier,” said Folsom Cordova Superintendent Deborah Bettencourt. “Andy embodies the very best of the profession, and we are proud for him to represent the hundreds of teachers in Folsom Cordova schools who work tirelessly to improve students’ lives.”

Kotko is also a leader outside of the classroom. This year, he is chairman of the California Teacher Advisory Council, an organization that provides teacher expertise to policymakers whose decisions impact science and math instruction in the state. In 2014, Kotko spoke to Congress about improving teacher-training in universities.

Kotko earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from California State University, Sacramento.

Los Rios, WEAVE Launch New Confidential Reporting Partnership for Sexual Assaults

Source: Teri Winkley, Los Rios Community College District  |  2016-08-26

The Los Rios Community College District today announced the launch of a new sexual assault awareness, education, confidential reporting and support program in partnership with WEAVE, the region’s widely respected provider of crisis intervention services for survivors of relationship violence and Sacramento County’s sole rape crisis center.

The Los Rios Colleges – American River, Cosumnes River, Folsom Lake and Sacramento City – have long-held procedures in place to support those who report sexual assault, which includes sexual violence, relationship violence and stalking.

Until today, those who wanted to report such assaults could make those reports to the Los Rios Police Department or any of the college’s designated Title IX officers. In addition, all college employees who receive information about sexual assaults are required to forward such reports to their college’s Title IX Officer. College Title IX officers are responsible for the coordination and administration of the District’s policies related to identifying, investigating and combating sex discrimination and sexual harassment.

But today’s announcement creates a third and confidential option: The District has contracted with Sacramento-based WEAVE to make available to the Los Rios Colleges community a trained advocate to provide a wide range of information, support and referrals to students, staff and faculty who want to report sexual assaults confidentially. In the months ahead, the WEAVE Confidential Advocate will also work with Los Rios personnel to prepare and present sexual assault awareness and prevention campaigns throughout the District.

“We are fortunate that few of these assaults and crimes are reported at the Los Rios Colleges, but even one occurrence is too many,” said Los Rios Chancellor Brian King. “With WEAVE as our partner, Los Rios will do a better job of educating our students, staff and faculty about this topic and about preventing such attacks, and we will do a better job of supporting members of the Los Rios community who are reporting them.”

Founded in 1978 as a non-profit, WEAVE is Sacramento County’s primary provider of crisis intervention services for all survivors of intimate partner and sexual violence, regardless of gender identity. WEAVE provides 24/7 response, outreach and assistance to those survivors.  At the same time, the District – in coordination with WEAVE – is releasing a new comprehensive 33-page sexual assault education and resources guide for the Los Rios community. The guide is available online at

“We are thrilled to partner with the Los Rios Community College District to expand resources available to students who have experienced sexual assault or intimate partner violence,” said WEAVE CEO Beth Hassett. “We applaud Los Rios for creating an additional option for students in reporting a sexual assault and for being leaders in building a campus system that prioritizes the needs of survivors.”

Among other things, the WEAVE Confidential Advocate will:

  • Work a combined 20 hours a week from designated office space at each of the Los Rios Colleges, roving from college to college.  The WEAVE Confidential Advocate will also have an email address and cell phone number and be accessible 24/7. The email and phone number access were launched today. The on-campus office hours will begin on September 12.
  • Help those who have been sexually assaulted to report the assault to the police or appropriate college Title IX Officer, if the assistance is requested.
  • Help those individuals or third parties with information and referrals to medical and counseling services.
  • Accompany those individuals to any medical visits, court proceedings or college proceedings, as requested.
  • Engage with Los Rios students, faculty, staff and administrators to create and present educational and outreach programs regarding sexual assault and sexual assault prevention.

The WEAVE Confidential Advocate will keep the identity of the reporting party and the contents of the report confidential unless required to disclose it by law. Disclosure is required if the reporting party is a minor, the conduct occurred while he or she was a minor or if a court requires the WEAVE Confidential Advocate to testify.  The WEAVE Confidential Advocate will report anonymous data about the report to the college in a way that keeps names and other personal information of the reporting party confidential.

More than 75,000 students take classes at the four main Los Rios Colleges and six education centers.  For 2014, the last year for which statistics are available, a total of 23 sex-related crimes were reported on or near Los Rios’ 10 college and educational center campuses under the federal Clery Act: 2 forcible sex offenses; 4 non-forcible sex offenses (incest and statutory rape); 8 reports of domestic violence; 2 reports of dating violence; and 7 reports of stalking.

About WEAVE Confidential Advocates

California state law provides for a client confidentiality privilege or “confidential communication” between a certified sexual assault/domestic violence counselor/advocate and someone who has reported a sexual assault or domestic violence. To serve as a WEAVE Confidential Advocate assigned to Los Rios, a counselor/advocate must work in a rape crisis center, have completed a combined 68 hours of training in sexual assault and domestic violence and received certificates proving completion of both training programs.

About Los Rios

The Los Rios Community College District is one of the nation’s most respected learning institutions and the second-largest community college district in California, serving the greater Sacramento region. Los Rios includes: American River, Cosumnes River, Folsom Lake and Sacramento City colleges; six major education and outreach centers; and specialized workforce and economic development programs, for regional businesses, governments and organizations. Los Rios colleges offer AA/AS degrees, certificates and transfer-education opportunities in more than 70 career fields. The District’s 2,400 square-mile service area includes all of Sacramento County, most of El Dorado County and parts of Yolo, Placer and Solano counties. More than 75,000 students are enrolled in the four Los Rios Colleges. For more information, go to

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Sacramento County Seeks Poll Workers for Election

Source: Sacramento County  |  2016-08-26

Sacramento County’s Office of Voter Registration and Elections is calling upon civic-minded citizens to work at polling places for the upcoming November election.

No prior experience is necessary, and training will be provided. Workers will be provided a stipend for their training and service on Election Day.

Citizens that are fluent in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Hindi, Korean and Japanese are strongly encouraged to apply as poll workers.

“We are grateful for the poll workers who serve their communities on Election Day,” said Sacramento County Registrar of Voters Jill LaVine. “It’s a rewarding experience, and the work they do is vital to the integrity of the election process.”

Poll workers must meet the following criteria:

  • Be at least 18 years of age or be a high school student that is at least 16 years of age and in good academic standing
  • A resident of the State of California
  • Be able to read and write in fluent English
  • Available to work on Election Day from 6:00 a.m. until all duties are completed (approximately 10:00 p.m.)
  • Attend a mandatory training class prior to each election (approximately 2½ hours)
  • Have transportation to and from the training class and to the polling place on Election Day

With their supervisors’ permission, County and State employees can work on Election Day while still earning their regular salary, plus earn the stipend from volunteering at the polling place.

Poll worker applications, stipend information and more are available at the Voter Registration and Elections Poll Workers website.

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Senator Nielsen Asks Constituents to Stand Up for Law Enforcement

Story and Photo by Margaret Snider  |  2016-08-26

California Senator Jim Nielsen (left) was the guest speaker at the Rancho Cordova August luncheon.  He is shown here with Sacramento County Sheriff and Congressional candidate Scott Jones.

State Senator Jim Nielsen shared his views with guests at the Rancho Cordova August luncheon on August 19. In his address, Nielsen blasted Governor Jerry Brown and the legislature, for Proposition 47 and the “resulting tens of thousands of dangerous, unrehabilitated individuals” who have been unleashed upon society. “The handcuffs have been taken off of them, and they’ve been put on our law enforcement officials,” Nielsen said. “It’s open season on those men and women who protect our lives. We have to come back and stand up for them, and it’s a lonely fight.”

At the same time, Nielsen said he found it amusing that he and Brown have been allies on a number of issues, one being the rainy day fund, and another the Proposition 1 water storage investment program. “The rainy day fund, he invited us down for the signing ceremony in his office,” Nielsen said. “We shook hands and laughed how this was a part of both of our legacies.”

Nielsen complimented the Rancho Cordova area’s elected officials, in particular Assemblyman Ken Cooley. “As far as matters related to serving the District, the people that we represent,” Nielsen said, “we’re side by side on all things, working together. That’s good teamwork. That’s the way representative government ought to be.”

Nielsen, a successful farmer and rancher, grew up on a small farm in the San Joaquin Valley and has a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business. He was elected to the State Senate in 1978 and was Republican Leader from 1983 to 1987. In 2008, he was elected to represent the state’s 2nd Assembly District in the State Legislature, and elected to the State Senate for District 4 in January 2013.

As Chairman of the Board of Prison Terms, he reviewed the life histories and cases of many death row inmates, and ten times had to vote yes or no for the governor to grant clemency. “Now that’s a long way away from the farm,” Nielsen said. “I never dreamed I’d ever have that kind of responsibility, and that was the hardest, most stressful responsibility and job I’ve ever, ever had. If anyone under my employ ever made a mistake, the consequences were immediate and dire.” Against abolition of the death penalty, Nielsen said it was a just sentence, and there are those who deserve it.

In response to a question regarding veterans, Nielsen, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, said the committee is concerned and working on a number of issues, including reaching out to troubled veterans and helping discharged veterans re-enter society. Nielsen is hoping to expand a program presently used at San Quentin to help incarcerated veterans return to a useful and successful role in society. The unique concerns of female veterans are also being addressed.

“I’m a big fan of Senator Nielsen,” said Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones, also a candidate for Congressman, 7th District. “He has a lot of history, and as you can tell by the speech today, he still has just a tremendous amount of passion for the things that he does.”

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IRS Warns of Back-to-School Scams

Source: Internal Revenue Service  |  2016-08-25

People should be on the lookout for IRS impersonators calling students and demanding that they wire money immediately to pay a fake “federal student tax.”

The Internal Revenue Service recently warned taxpayers against telephone scammers targeting students and parents during the back-to-school season and demanding payments for non-existent taxes, such as the “Federal Student Tax.”

People should be on the lookout for IRS impersonators calling students and demanding that they wire money immediately to pay a fake “federal student tax.” If the person does not comply, the scammer becomes aggressive and threatens to report the student to the police to be arrested. As schools around the nation prepare to re-open, it is important for taxpayers to be particularly aware of this scheme going after students and parents.    

“Although variations of the IRS impersonation scam continue year-round, they tend to peak when scammers find prime opportunities to strike”, said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “As students and parents enter the new school year, they should remain alert to bogus calls, including those demanding fake tax payments from students.”

The IRS encourages college and school communities to share this information so that students, parents and their families are aware of these scams.

Scammers are constantly identifying new tactics to carry out their crimes in new and unsuspecting ways. This year, the IRS has seen scammers use a variety of schemes to fool taxpayers into paying money or giving up personal information. Some of these include: Altering the caller ID on incoming phone calls in a “spoofing” attempt to make it seem like the IRS, the local police or another agency is calling; Imitating software providers to trick tax professionals--IR-2016-103; Demanding fake tax payments using iTunes gift cards--IR-2016-99; Soliciting W-2 information from payroll and human resources professionals--IR-2016-34; “Verifying” tax return information over the phone--IR-2016-40; Pretending to be from the tax preparation industry--IR-2016-28

If you receive an unexpected call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here are some of the telltale signs to help protect yourself.

The IRS Will Never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

If you get a suspicious phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do: 1) Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately. 2) Search the web for telephone numbers scammers leave in your voicemail asking you to call back. Some of the phone numbers may be published online and linked to criminal activity. 3) Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page or call 800-366-4484. 4) Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes. 5) If you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040.

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Volunteers Age 50+ Needed by September to Help Sacramento Area Kids Learn to Read

Source: Kristin Thébaud Communications  |  2016-08-25

Local residents ages 50 and up are needed by September to help kids read, as part of United Way California Capital Region’s partnership with AARP Foundation’s Experience Corps. Volunteers will be placed in Sacramento-area schools and will partner with small groups of students in kindergarten through third grade to help them improve their reading. For more information, visit to sign up for an upcoming information session.

“We know that improving children’s early literacy has a direct impact on their success in higher education, and we know that higher education is the equalizer that breaks the cycle of poverty,” said Stephanie Bray, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “As adults, we can give back by helping many more children grow up prepared for success.”

The program will take place in Center Joint Unified, Elk Grove Unified, Robla and Washington Unified school districts. Volunteers will spend two to three hours a day in the classroom two days a week helping students read at grade level and beyond, and providing consistent support to the same teacher and students over the course of the school year. Volunteers receive 25 hours of training in literacy and classroom management.

United Way California Capital Region is leading the program in the Sacramento region through a four-year grant from AARP Foundation, a grantee of the Social Innovation Fund (SIF). In August 2015, AARP Foundation received $3 million from SIF, a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency for volunteering and service programs. The SIF fosters public and private collaborations to evaluate and grow innovative community-based solutions that work. In just five years, the SIF and its private-sector partners have invested more than $876 million in compelling community solutions. As a result of $295 million in federal grants and more than $581 million in non-federal match commitments, the SIF has made grants to 39 institutions and 353 nonprofits working in 40 states and the District of Columbia. This subgrant award is the result of an open competition held by AARP Foundation to identify and select promising organizations in high need communities to implement and rigorously evaluate the Experience Corps model.

The local program is part of United Way California Capital Region’s Square One Project, a 20-year promise to significantly increase the number of local students who graduate from high school ready for success in college and beyond. Through nine decades of work and research across Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties, the local United Way now believes ending poverty starts in school and is working to ensure kids meet important milestones for success in college. To donate or volunteer, visit

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Principal Peter Maroon of Mills Middle School Recognized

Source: Ashley Stidham, City of Rancho Cordova  |  2016-08-25

Pictured from left is Vice Mayor Donald Terry, Mayor David Sander, Principal Peter Maroon, Councilmember Linda Budge, Councilmember Bob McGarvey, and Councilmember Dan Skoglund.

Principal Peter Maroon of Mills Middle School was recognized by the Rancho Cordova City Council at the August 15 meeting for receiving the 2016 Sacramento County Office of Education’s Principal Arts Leadership Award. Principal Maroon was nominated for this award for his dedication to promoting the Visual and Performing Arts education program at his school. He has worked tirelessly to secure funding to purchase and maintain quality instruments and is making the music program full time for the 2016-17 school year.

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Farm Laborers Will Bear the Brunt of Agriculture Overtime Changes

Source: The Office of Tom Berryhill  |  2016-08-25

Senator Tom Berryhill (R-Twain Harte)

Senator Tom Berryhill (R-Twain Harte), who is also a lifelong farmer, issued the following statement upon Senate passage of Assembly Bill 1066 (Gonzalez D-San Diego), legislation to change California's agriculture overtime rules:

“Today's vote underscores how out of touch urban elites are about farming and the farming economy. The ebb and flow of work hours on a farm goes with the territory.  These big city elitists haven't the slightest clue about growing seasons and the urgency required to get crops in on time. The laborer that currently works 10 hours will only get 5. The work still needs to be done but it will now be done with two 5 hour workers.”

“Farming is a business like no other, and California is the agricultural engine of this country. Today folks who've never set foot on a farm, who think food comes from the grocery store, are telling us how it should be done.  Very sad to see an ignorant and arrogant policy devastate the very people it hoped to help.”

Senator Berryhill represents Rancho Cordova, the counties of Amador, Calaveras, Inyo, Mariposa, Mono, Stanislaus, Tuolumne and parts of Fresno, Madera, Sacramento and Tulare. For more information, see

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Cordova Football Returns ‘Seasoned’ Players on Defense

By Mike Bush  |  2016-08-25

A Cordova football defensive player brings down a Capital Christian running back in their controlled scrimmage last Saturday. Tonight, Friday, Cordova plays for real when it hosts Rio Americano in the home and season opener at Lancers Stadium. 
--Photo by Rick Sloan

Led by a trio of linebackers, the Cordova High School football team is looking to make some noise on defense this season.

All seniors, the three returning linebackers returning this season to run the Lancers’ 4-3 base defense is strong side linebacker Michael Gonzalez (6-foot-1, 190-pounds), who also starts at right offensive tackle. He is followed by middle linebacker Kenny Haney (5’11, 195) and weak side linebacker Jason Johnson (6’0, 185).

Last season, Gonzalez had 70 tackles, while Johnson had 68 and Haney 58. Johnson also had two fumble recoveries.

“Kenny is getting some looks from some (colleges),” said Cordova head coach Darren Nill of Haney. “There are several schools that are interested in Kenny.”

Nill considers Gonzalez as “the most seasoned we have” in terms of seniors who played extensively as juniors last season.

At the line, Nill, who calls the defense, states that the Lancers will use “players by committee” in the trenches. That includes the offensive linemen will be shuffled onto the other side of the ball. Those players are Zariahn Zimmer (6’2, 290), who plays offensive left tackle; Fidel Romero (left guard), sophomore Austin McCoy (center) and Joseph Salcedo, a junior who started as a sophomore last season. But McCoy’s season was cut very short when he broke his leg in the Lancers’ first game of the season against Pioneer of Woodland, and was out for the rest of the season.

“The offensive linemen will be playing defensive tackle,” Nill said.

Looking to start at defensive end is Clifford Bright (6’0, 220), a junior who started as a sophomore last year. Bright had 58 tackles and three quarterback sacks last season. Josh Colvin (6’3, 185) will play the other defensive end spot. A junior who also played as a sophomore last season, Colvin played extensively in the second half of last season. Another player expected to see time at defensive end is Kelechi Njoku (6’0, 210).

When the Lancers use a nose guard on defense, most of the reps will go to Zimmer.

In the secondary, Terrell Johnson returns as the Lancers’ strong safety. Last season, Johnson lead Cordova in tackles at 100, plus two interceptions. Vying for playing time at the same spot is Tyreke Tate, a junior at 6’0 and 190.

At free safety, another sophomore makes the move for the Lancers in Alvin Banks (5’11, 170), who Nill calls “very talented.” Banks is projected to be a two-way starter; he’s also one of the Lancers’ wide receivers.

“He’s that talented,” said Nill of Banks.

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Lancers Ready for Home Opener

By Mike Bush  |  2016-08-25

The Cordova offense, seen here competing against Capital Christian in a controlled scrimmage last Saturday, is looking to run for many yards in tonight’s home and season opener against Rio Americano. 
--Photo by Rick Sloan

Tonight, Friday, has finally arrived for the Cordova High School football team.

The Lancers will open the season against Rio Americano at Lancers Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The Rio Americano-Cordova junior varsity football game will play prior, and is slated to start at 5:15 p.m.

The contest against the Raiders is the first of three pre-season home games for Cordova. But next Friday, the Lancers trek to San Joaquin County to play at Chavez of Stockton.

After next week’s contest, Cordova will host Rio Linda (Sept. 9th) and Vista del Lago of Folsom in a battle of schools in the Folsom-Cordova Unified District on Sept. 16th.

After the Vista del Lago contest, the Lancers will hit the road again for their final non-league game, at Foothill on Sept. 23. Then the Lancers will have the bye week. Cordova starts Sierra Valley Conference action on Friday, Oct. 7th when Galt pays a visit to Lancers Stadium.

The Lancers play two of their five conference games at home; the other will be hosting El Dorado on Oct. 21st. Cordova will play at Union Mine (Oct. 14th), Liberty Ranch of Galt (Oct. 28th) and closes out the regular season at SVC rival Rosemont on Nov. 4th.

Last Saturday, Cordova football fans had a chance to see the varsity and junior varsity football teams in action in a controlled scrimmage against the Capital Christian grid squads.

Last year, Cordova went 5-5 overall and 1-4 in the SVC.

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