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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Lauren Foreman covers education for The Californian. Reach her at lforeman@bakersfield.com, at Facebook.com/TBCEducationReporter or on Twitter@TBCTheGrade.

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Charley Nunley created this winning poster, "Food Grows Where Water Flows," for the Farm Water Poster Contest sponsored by the California Farm Water Coalition in recognition of Water Awareness Month.

PARAMOUNT FUNDING: A local agriculture and education collaborative will use $9.9 million in new state funding to launch a Paramount Agriculture Career Academy (PACA) for 120 Kern County students and 130 other pupils.

The first participating PACA schools -- Paramount Academy, Avenal High School between Fresno and Bakersfield, McFarland High School in Kern County and Sanger High School southeast of Fresno -- will begin camps later this month.

Paramount is one of 39 consortia that will get a slice of a $250 million state pie.

The Tehachapi Unified School District, the only other local grant recipient, will receive $526,789.

The California Department of Education announced the award May 30 as part of the California Careers Pathway Trust, a one-time $250 million grant program.

The goal of the grant is to prepare students for high-demand careers.

PACA will introduce students to agriculture careers and match them with mentors and internships in its four-year program.

The ag academy is the product of a regional collaborative between Paramount Academy charter school in Delano, four school districts, three community colleges, six major agriculture production and processing companies and Paramount Education Programs.

Eric Barba, a senior director with the Paramount consortium, said the hope is that the students will end up working for Paramount companies that together have about 350 openings each year -- positions that often go unfilled.

"There's a skills gap between what companies need and what high schools are producing," Barba said.


Stephanie Meeks, a special education teacher at Evergreen Elementary School, wrote in an award application essay that when the average person walks into a classroom and hears screaming and crying they may think, "What's going on? Is someone hurt?"

But the sounds are norms in her pre-K and kindergarten classroom, norms in many special education classes.

Meeks, who finished her fourth year as an educator this year, said she was honored as the Bakersfield City School District special education teacher of the year this year. The district also nominated her and five other teachers for Kern County Teacher of the Year.

Meeks teaches students with moderate to severe disabilities.

"Students in my classroom are held to the same standards as those in general education," she wrote.


Dozens of local K-12 schools held graduation ceremonies in the time between Bakersfield College's grad ceremony May 16 and Cal State Bakersfield commencement events next week.

But before the year-end events gave way to the summer recess, local students -- future college grads included -- stockpiled awards for their work.

* CSUB Geology students -- Linda Anderson, Nick Moreno and Azael Salinas -- will each receive a Geological Society of America/ExxonMobil Field Camp Scholar Award, a $2,000 scholarship to attend a six-week long Wasatch-Uinta Summer Field Camp.

The award, announced May 27, was awarded to 20 out of 130 applicants, and the camp is intended to prep students for geosciences careers.

* Students from Veterans Elementary School, in the Norris School District, swept the top three spots in the Farm Water Poster Contest -- according to a California Farm Water Coalition news release sent May 21.

Charley Nunley, a student in teacher Hillary Rawlins' fourth-grade classroom, earned the first-place prize of $150. Breanna Marquez won the second-place prize of $100, and Taylor Hall, took home a $50 prize after coming in third.

* Kennedy Thomas, a BC student, earned a $1,000 scholarship in April for an article he wrote in 2013.

Thomas' piece brought to light a BC investigation into drug and alcohol use that allegedly involved 16 of 19 members of last year's Student Government Association (SGA).

To read Thomas' article, visit tinyurl.com/lskqsrs.


The California Living Museum (CALM) is offering K-12 students free entry for good grades in June.

Students must bring most recent report cards that show they earned "B" averages or better to be eligible.

For more information about June promotions, call 872-2256.


Here's the latest buzz from The Californian's Facebook page:

"The mother of Seth Walsh, the gay 13-year-old Tehachapi student who hung himself in 2010 after being bullied at school, accepted a settlement with the Tehachapi Unified School District for $750,000. Investigators earlier found the district 'did not adequately investigate' the bullying."

Billy Simkins: "This sets a bad example that suicide has a payoff for the people you love."

Cindy Furman Aguirre: "No money will stand for one's life!!! It's the responsibility of the school to protect..."