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Practice Makes Perfect: Music Students Shine at Certificate of Merit Exam

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La Vida Local

Written by Tara Leonard

SANTA CRUZ (March, 2010) - Eleven-year-old Isabel Corser sat at the upright piano, her blond hair still wet from swim practice, her bare right foot working the damper pedal as she played a lulling rendition of Sparkling Waters by Martha Sherrill Kelsey. Finishing with a confident flourish she said, “That piece is flowing, so it makes me think of a river moving. But my other one is completely different.” Turning back to the keyboard, she launched into a bouncy, happy Little Joke by Kabalevsky. “That one is more staccato,” she explained. “If you were walking, staccato would mean you pick up your feet quickly.”
Corser, along with more than 29,000 music students across California, is practicing for the annual Certificate of Merit music exam. For over 70 years CM, as students call it, has been sponsored by the Music Teachers Association of California (MTAC), a statewide network of professional music teachers. Here in Santa Cruz County, the exam takes place on Sunday, March 21.

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A Woman's Place Is On The Force

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La Vida Local

Written by Maria Gaura

SANTA CRUZ (February 2010) - When Patty Sapone was 20 years old and studying to be a police officer, she took a job working security at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk – the first woman ever to hold that position. There wasn’t much of a honeymoon period.
“It was rough-and-tumble,” Sapone said recently, grinning at the memory. “I got in a fight my second day at the job. I’d never been in a fight in my life before I put a uniform on.” Sapone won the scuffle. And she learned something about her abilities as a woman entering a traditionally male profession.
“I learned that I could jump in, and I could prevail physically,” Sapone said. “It’s not so much that you need a certain personality type to succeed (in police work), but you need the realization that you can do these things, and you can prevail.”
Sapone went on to thrive in a profession that is nearly as male-dominated today as it was when she took her first patrol job with the Santa Cruz Police Department in 1980.  Sapone retires this month with the rank of Deputy Chief, earned in the course of a 30-year career with the SCPD.

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Will Bankruptcy Strengthen the Santa Cruz Sentinel?

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La Vida Local

Written by Maria Gaura

SANTA CRUZ (January 2010) – After more than a year of increasingly urgent rumors, the Santa Cruz Sentinel’s parent company filed for bankruptcy protection January 22, a move expected to vaporize $765 million in bad debt and transfer most of the company’s stock to its creditors.
Losing more than three-quarters of a billion dollars would be considered a grim turn of events for nearly any company. But many media observers say they are cheered by the terms of the MediaNews Group bankruptcy, and expect it to benefit the Sentinel, its workers and news consumers in Santa Cruz County and beyond.
“I see all of this as good news for the papers, employees and debt holders of MediaNews Group,” said Mario van Dongen, a former Sentinel publisher who is now director of sales and marketing at the Portland Oregonian. “Cutting the debt … will give the papers some very important breathing room.”

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Three Cups of Tea Fundraiser Back by Popular Demand

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La Vida Local

Written by Tara Leonard

SANTA CRUZ (January, 2010) -- Moved by the community response to their inaugural tea cup fundraiser last February, Santa Cruz artists Steven and Bonnie Barisof are planning a second annual event on February 11 at the Rio Theatre. Inspired by Greg Mortenson's bestselling memoir, Three Cups of Tea, the event raises money for Mortenson's Central Asia Institute to help build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
"If you educate a girl, you educate a community,” Mortenson writes in his new book, Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books Not Bombs in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “The better educated a woman is, the less likely she will be to let her children join the Taliban…Their greatest fear is not the bullet, but the pen.” Or in this case, the potter’s wheel!

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Where's the Merit in Merit Pay For Teachers?

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By Andy Waddell, Special to SantaCruzWire
SANTA CRUZ (December 2009) - Teachers take tests. In addition to all the exams I endured to get through college and acquire a master’s degree, I have taken the CBEST, the CLAD, the CSET, and probably a few others I have forgotten, sweating with a number two pencil in hand, and paying hundreds of dollars for the privilege, all in order to teach high school English.
Teachers give tests. We administer finals, read essay exams, proctor SATs, and enjoy the sadistic thrill of passing out pop quizzes. Although you run into the odd dreamer now and then who says, “those things are meaningless” and insists only on “authentic assessment,” most of us cannot conceive of education without the forced, timed exhibition of knowledge known as a test.
Why then are teachers so reluctant to be paid according to their students’ performance on a test?

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Bamboo Bikes - Santa Cruz Cycle Maker Goes Global

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La Vida Local

Written by Maria Gaura

LA SELVA BEACH (December 2009) - Custom bike builder Craig Calfee has spent two decades crafting featherweight bicycle frames out of high-tech carbon fiber, and selling them to elite cyclists. But his travels in Africa got him thinking about a different type of building material - and a different type of bicycle rider.
The result of Calfee’s brainstorm is Bamboosero, a line of moderately-priced bikes with frames made of bamboo. The frames are engineered to Calfee’s high standards, but handmade by craftsmen in Africa, Asia and Latin America out of locally-sourced bamboo. While Bamboosero aims to do good, it isn’t a charity – it’s a business partnership with an altruistic edge. Bamboosero aims to bring desperately-needed skilled jobs to developing nations by training workers, helping them set up workshops, and marketing their products in wealthier countries.
“We’re trying to develop a market, and an industry,” Calfee said. “And the way to start is by selling bikes in the U.S. and Europe. By just being good customers we can have a huge impact on people’s lives.”

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Top Authors Help 'Beat' Go On

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La Vida Local

SANTA CRUZ (December 2009) - Dennis Morton leaned across a table at Santa Cruz County’s Juvenile Hall reading aloud a paragraph penciled by a 14-year-old boy. The topic was the boy’s first drink and he wrote that the alcohol had felt like “medicine” for how it made his problems fade away. Morton, a teacher and radio-show host, nodded his head slowly at the paragraph’s conclusion. “That was a very full story in six lines,” he said. “How did it sound to hear what you wrote?”
The boy, dark-haired and built like a linebacker, dropped his head. “It sounded good,” he said shyly.
Exchanges like that go on each week in juvenile detention facilities across the San Francisco Bay Area. They’re at the heart of a program called “The Beat Within,” which aims to promote literacy and provide positive recognition for teenagers behind bars. Each week, the program distributes a thick newsletter featuring writing and artwork from incarcerated teens, along with essays from men and women doing harder time in prison.
Now a score of writers – from bestselling author Karen Joy Fowler to novelist Laurie King – are pitching in to help keep the program alive in Santa Cruz’s Juvenile Hall.

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Trans-Africa Cyclists Rally for Tour of California

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Written by Maria Gaura

SANTA CRUZ (December 2009) - The Tour of California bike race is an eight-day, 750-mile trek that summits a couple of mountain passes and includes at least one heart-stopping ascent per day. Big whoop. Santa Cruz filmmaker Brain Vernor has ridden a road race that makes Levi Leipheimer’s recent Tour of California victory look like the pony ride at the county fair. And Vernor rode his race lugging a backpack full of camera equipment.
Admittedly, the elite riders in the Tour of California pedal a lot faster than Vernor and the fifty or so other participants in the 7,500 mile Tour D’Afrique, an annual road race that wends from Cairo, Egypt, to Cape Town, South Africa. And yes, the ToC athletes put in thousands of training miles preparing for the main event.
But they don’t sleep on the ground for four months at a stretch, they don’t ride for weeks on unpaved roads, and they almost certainly don’t eat stewed camel meat after a day in the saddle. Vernor has done all of the above, and filmed the experience, creating “Where Are You Go”, a documentary of the 2008 Tour D’Afrique.

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Keeping Kids Healthy, Without the Politics

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By Zach Friend, Special to Santa Cruz Wire
SANTA CRUZ (November 2009) - The recent funding crisis facing the state Healthy Families program, which provides much needed health insurance to California’s children, highlights an oft-ignored reality; that our failed state budgetary process and ideological entrenchments have a real-world effect on the health of actual children.

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Stronger Neighborhoods and a Safe City

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By David J. Terrazas, Special to Santa Cruz Wire

SANTA CRUZ (November, 2009) -- It was exactly one day prior to a scheduled event where residents were set to gather downtown to mark the 20th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake when Tyler Tenorio was senselessly murdered. The anniversary event would memorialize the death and destruction that Santa Cruz suffered two decades earlier as a result of a natural catastrophe. More pointedly, the event would also celebrate the remarkable efforts of residents who tirelessly worked together with a sense of optimism to rebuild a broken city. 
It is a tragic coincidence that it has taken the murder of a sixteen-year-old boy to catalyze our community to work together again to find solutions to address an entirely different type of challenge – ensuring that Santa Cruz is a safe and sustainable city for future generations.

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How Weird is My City? Santa Cruz Redefines "Normal"

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By David Hoban, Special to Santa Cruz Wire
SANTA CRUZ (November 2009) - In 1968 my wife and I lived in London. Having been natives of Philadelphia, a colonial city with neighborhoods named after those in London, we were soon at home. So, it was with surprise in 1972, when we moved to Santa Cruz, that we found ourselves, culturally like fish out of water.
On every day of the year except Halloween, I often found myself confused. I couldn’t tell who was in costume at any given time. There was the ever- changing Santa Cruz top ten: The Sun Man, Ginger, The Dancer, The Shopping Bag Lady, The Umbrella Lady, The Rainbow Lady, and occasional men in suits. Surely in Philadelphia they would have been institutionalized. Yet here they were a part of a fabric of tolerance. What the hell was going on here?

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Hungry for Books: Monarch School Students Read for the Record

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Written by Tara Leonard

SANTA CRUZ (October, 2009) -- Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar is about a ravenous young insect on his way to becoming a beautiful butterfly. For children everywhere, the ability to read is critical in helping them to spread their academic wings and succeed in school and beyond. That’s why, on a sunny October morning, students at Monarch School in Santa Cruz joined others around the globe in reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar as part of Jumpstart’s Read for the Record program.

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"Lower Walnut, Indeed!" My Downtown

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By Don Rothman, Special to Santa Cruz Wire
SANTA CRUZ (October 2009) -- We cross all sorts of thresholds everyday. Awakening from sleep, we cross one. There are the literal ones as we walk from room to room or leave the house. When we get in our car or saunter into a coffee shop, yet others. We notice them especially when something unexpected happens. The word for threshold in Latin is liminal. A modern dictionary tells us the word now means “belonging to the point of conscious awareness below which something cannot be experienced or felt.” I’d like to borrow this evocative word to describe my experience of downtown Santa Cruz, a place that periodically is scorned for its low-life, frightful vulgarity and underworld ambiance. I descend into the downtown just about everyday, and I guess I’ve been fortunate not to have succumbed to oblivion, rage, or numbness. In fact, I love this daily descent, a stark contrast with profound similarities to my 34 year ascent up to the City on a Hill, UCSC.

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Bike Traffic School - Tough Love on Two Wheels

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Written by Maria Gaura

SANTA CRUZ (October 2009) - Five students sit in Gary Milburn’s classroom, all assigned to traffic school for running stop signs, going the wrong way, or wearing iPod headphones while threading through traffic.
The four men and one woman are quiet, resentful and a little embarrassed to be here, but Milburn’s first comments catch them by surprise. “You’re all here because you did something right,” Milburn says, with complete sincerity. “You rode your bike instead of driving a car.”

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Pogonip Closure Brings Relief, Resignation

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Written by Tara Leonard

SANTA CRUZ (September, 2009) -- Park regulars have responded to the closure of a portion of Pogonip with a mixture of relief and resignation. As details emerge about a thriving drug operation in the area, city agencies appear overwhelmed and under-funded in their fight to maintain control of the 640-acre city park. Meanwhile, park visitors wait and wonder what will happen next.

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