COMMUNITY BACKS LITERACY: Wide-eyed and grinning, a group of Owens Primary School kindergartners watched performer Bob Mills "Sky" blow through a wooden train whistle Tuesday.
From the checkered carpet of their classroom, they shouted choo-choo and pulled imaginary levers above their heads for Mills to sound the horn.
The activity was the closer to a literacy event that each of the primary classrooms participated in at Owens.
A group of 37 emergency workers, Bakersfield Condors, school board members and other volunteers like Mills read to students in the teacher-driven literacy initiative.
Joyce Victor, the kindergarten teacher who organized the event, used a $2,000 Target Corp. grant to purchase more than 1,000 books for students in low-income neighborhoods who Victor said might otherwise not have access to literature.
"They don't have the money to really build a home library," she said.
And many families do not have transportation to a library.
"It's unfortunate," Victor said.
She has been writing grants to support literacy in the community since 2003, and she began organizing the book giveaways last year.
She said her goal was to place books in the hands of children.
"That's what's important," she added.
TEACHER OF THE WEEK: Karen Girardi, a retiring third-grade teacher at Owens Primary School, blended into a line of nearly 30 staff members in the Bakersfield City School District who plan to retire this year.
The 26th annual BCSD retirement banquet had attracted the group to a DoubleTree Hotel banquet room May 15. And the future retirees were awaiting their time on stage to be honored.
Girardi's bio stood out among the early honorees.
She has served as a mentor teacher in the BCSD Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) program, earned an Owens Primary School Teacher of the Year honor and received the prestigious California Association of the Gifted Distinguished Service Award.
But the moment she says she will never forget happened at an annual Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) fair in 2011.
A former student of hers shook her hand and said:
"Mrs. Girardi, I won first place in the Science Fair this year, and I just wanted to say thank you. I couldn't have done it without you."
POSTER CONTEST WINNERS: The Kern County Water Agency recognized 12 student winners of an annual poster contest that close to 400 students entered.
First place winner Hadiyeh Pishvaei, a second-grader at Valley Oaks Charter School, accepted her framed poster and award Wednesday at Valley Oaks Charter.
The purpose of the contest was to educate students about Kern County's water supplies, the importance of water and conservation. This year's theme for the contest was "Capture Every Drop -- Be Water Wise."
Other winners include:
* 2nd place: Khushkirath Kaur of Lum Elementary School in the Panama-Buena Vista Union School District.
* 3rd place: Joel Morales of College Heights Elementary School in the Bakersfield City School District.
* Honorable mention winners: Rickaye Karns, Mariah Macias, Ivy Jimenez, Alina Osoy, Matthew Abad, Lalima Saini, Justine Zamora, Teresa Marmolejo and Sofia Medina
SCHOOL TO SEE NEW PRINCIPAL: Quailwood Elementary in the Fruitvale School District will welcome a new principal next year -- only the third in the school's history.
Kim Carlson, vice principal at Endeavour Elementary, will take over for longtime administrator Steve Duke Aug. 4. The school board appointed Carlson May 13.
Duke, who has been Quailwood's principal for 26 years, announced his retirement from the K-6 campus at a school board meeting April 8. Duke is only the second principal in the school's history, according to a Fruitvale district press release.
Quailwood was recognized as a California Distinguished Schools site twice and a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence once under Duke's leadership.
"He's amazing," said Mary Westendorf, the Fruitvale superintendent.
"We're going to miss him very, very much," she added.
BLOOD DRIVE: Houchin Community Blood Bank honored local high schools for their donations to the blood bank May 16 at a year-end awards luncheon held at the Petroleum Club of Bakersfield.
Twenty-six high schools collected 6,047 units of blood, which Houchin says could save as many as 18,141 lives.
Category winners of a High School Blood Drive Challenge for 2013-14:
* Petite school winner, Immanuel Christian High School in Ridgecrest, collected an average of 43 units.
* Small school winner, Bakersfield Christian High School, collected 110 units.
* Medium school winner, Robert F. Kennedy High School in Delano, collected 136 units.
* Large school winner, North High School, collected 394 units.
* Stockdale and Highland high schools tied with the most walk-in donors during crucial summer months -- May to mid-September. Both schools collected 63 units.
* Liberty High won a new award for sending the most students --115 -- to two donor centers.
UNION VOTES 'NO CONFIDENCE': The Delano Union Elementary School Teachers Association is urging the school board to reassign Martin Bans, assistant superintendent of human resources in the K-8 Delano Union School District.
A group of 221 union members backed the effort to show disapproval of Bans' leadership style last week in votes of "no confidence." Sixty-three union members voted against the showing of "no confidence."
Bans did not respond to several attempts to contact him this week.
Mark Kotch, president of the teachers association, said the union is "intent on making a little noise in the community" to see members treated better.
He said Bans has retaliated against outspoken union leaders, including himself, with threats of discipline or dismissal.
"We're going to try to influence the board to either do something about his behavior, reassign him or otherwise get rid of him," Kotch said.
Ramon Cardenas, the Delano school board president, said Wednesday that the board has not decided on a course of action regarding the "no confidence" vote.
CSUB VIDEO HONORED: The Cal State Bakersfield public affairs and communication department earned a Gold film award in the 2014 Hermes Creative Awards, an international marketing and communications competition May 1. Irma Cervantes, CSUB public affairs coordinator, produced the winning work -- a short promotional film titled "CSUB Celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the Grapes of Wrath." The production also received a gold 2014 AVA Digital award and a 2013 Gold MarCom award.
To view the video, visit tinyurl.com/p5f6xc3.