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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Lauren Foreman covers education for The Californian. Reach her at, at or on Twitter@TBCTheGrade.

Students advance to bee: Rik Bose, a sixth-grader at Ronald Reagan Elementary School, is not the hyper-focused student who studies long hours to make it to state then national academic competitions.

His mother, Piyali Bose, said he would much rather be playing basketball or tennis.

But Rik outperformed his peers at Ronald Reagan and outscored students throughout California to become part of the top-100 scorers in a written geography contest.

He is one of two students in the Panama-Buena Vista Union School District included in the group of 100 highest-scorers.

Rashya Anggaraksa, the other local contestant, is a seventh-grader at Earl Warren Junior High School.

Both students will compete in the 2014 California State geography bee Friday at Fresno State, and are aiming to represent California in the 26th National Geographic Bee -- a contest that the nonprofit National Geographic Society organizes.

Students in fourth- through eighth- grades participated in school-level geography contests earlier this school year, and winners took qualifying tests to place in state competitions. Questions tested student knowledge of borders, lakes, rivers and current events among other geographical facts.

"To make it there, it's an achievement in itself," Piyali Bose said.

Rashya prepares by studying atlases and reading newspapers and almanacs.

Rik said he has always been fascinated by maps and naturally developed an interest in geography while visiting a cousin in India two years ago. The two would take turns guessing countries and continents from clues they gave each other.

"And that kindled my real passion," he added.

The California state winner will receive $100 and a trip to Washington, D.C., to represent California in the 26th National Geographic Bee finals May 19-21 at the National Geographic Society headquarters. The national winner will receive a $50,000 college scholarship, lifetime National Geographic Society membership and an all-expense-paid trip to the Galapagos Islands.

Teacher of the week

Grady Walls, a music teacher and band director at Standard Middle School, said he plans to end 26 years of music instruction at the campus on a high note.

He led Standard band students to earn the highest rating at a California Music Education Association festival last month. Seven other schools in Kern County received the Superior rating, but what makes the Standard School District unique is the level of foundational training students receive in the district -- or rather don't receive.

Walls said the district does not employ a full-time or part-time music teacher at the K-5 grade level.

"Everything you hear in Standard is because they've learned it from me," Walls said.

He is only the district's second music instructor, having replaced Richard Grubbs in 1988.

When Walls began leading the music program, he had 12 students. He now leads between 150 and 200 students each year, and the band room is filled with trophies.

Walls said he has been able to transfer to students a passion for music that his uncle instilled in him from an early age. Walls teaches his students that success is a result of their work.

"The harder we work the better we sound," he said.

Supes lobby for more money

A group of superintendents from school districts throughout Kern County took a trip to Sacramento Tuesday to urge legislators and other policy makers to allocate more dollars to transportation, to support a school facilities act to finance more buildings in bustling districts and fill the gap between recent and pre-recession school funding levels at a faster rate.

Mary Barlow, a Kern County associate superintendent, said local administrators from districts both unified and union; large and small; and rural and urban met with state Assembly and Senate members to inform officials of how policy and spending decisions impact Kern County schools. Participating superintendents included those from the Kern High, Panama-Buena Vista Union and Tehachapi Unified school districts as well as the Kern County Superintendent of Schools.

Talking points covered:

* Local support for the governor's proposal to accelerate funding to back the Local Control Funding Formula in 2014-15 (from 16 to 28 percent) for K-12 school districts and county offices

* A call for more transportation dollars because state transportation allocations have not, since the late 1970s, included funding for enrollment growth

* Local support of the Kindergarten-University Public Education Facilities Bond Act, introduced in February, to place an education facilities bond on the November 2014 ballot

Science fair winners to advance

Judges released a list of 47 first-, second- and third-place projects Monday that were part of the Kern County Regional Science Fair and also qualify for the state fair.

See a complete list of local fair results on The Californian website.

Financial literacy scholarships

The Youth Financial Literacy Program, a local money management nonprofit for students, will award 16 scholarships 4 p.m. Thursday in the Mira Monte High School auditorium.

The scholarships are an outgrowth of the financial literacy program for underprivileged high school seniors and emancipated youth. Students cover financial literacy topics that include banking, budgeting, how to use credit wisely, identity theft and investment strategies.

Gre Clifton, an education specialist with the nonprofit, said she looks to add two high schools next year and expand program reach.

To learn more about the program, visit

Chess competition Saturday

More than 100 students from 10 public or private schools will compete in the annual Kern County Scholastic K-12 Chess Tournament Saturday at Foothill High School.

The competition starts at 10:15 a.m. The fee to participate in the contest, $25, is due Friday; and competitors must be members of the United States Chess Federation (USCF). Public entry to the event Saturday is free. For additional information, call Wade Tavorn at Foothill High, 366-4491.

What you're saying

Here's the latest buzz from The Californian's social media platforms:

Bakersfield College hosted Jane Goodall, world-renowned primatologist and conservationist, in a lecture about her research on chimpanzees Tuesday night. She attracted a sold-out crowd of about 2,650 attendees.

"What did you think of the Jane Goodall lecture?"

John Bloomquist, Facebook: "AWESOME! Need more speakers like her in Bakersfield."

Audrey Baker, Facebook: "I'm so envious of the people who got to hear her speak. Maybe next time for me."

Annie Flores, Facebook: "Her speech was so empowering and gave a lot of people hope for the future. I am honored that I got to hear her, meet her, and take pictures. Wow, amazing night"