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CDE Currents: February 2020

The Monthly Newsletter for the California Department of Education.

Be Prepared (Emergency Info)

Preparedness carousel includes pictures of sandbags, electrical gridline, a person in a safety hard hat and a group working on creating a plan.

As the situation with the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) unfolds, the CDE would like to reinforce that LEA preparedness is essential for unforeseen circumstances and emergency situations. Many school districts have also recently experienced wildfires, Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) and violent campus incidents. Unfortunately, it’s not a question of “if” when considering such future incidents, but “when.”

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The CDE is monitoring the situation regarding the coronavirus and working closely with agency partners to determine best steps to be prepared.

Approximately two weeks ago CDE shared a guidance document from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) External link opens in new window or tab. with all County and District Superintendents, Charter School Administrators, and School Principals. The CDE strongly encourages all LEAs to follow the CDPH’s recommendations in this document.

The CDE also encourages LEAs to identify plans and protocols for communicating with families and to think about learning supports that could be provided during school closure, if necessary. More information can be found on the CDE’s Crisis Response page

Please note that there have been reports of students and others being stigmatized. We urge schools to ensure students’ and staffs’ privacy to help prevent discrimination.

The CDE will provide more information to LEAs as it becomes available.

School Safety Plans

All LEAs are required (EC 32280-32289) to have comprehensive school safety plans (CSSPs) revised, updated, and adopted by the school by March 1 and forwarded to the school district or county office of education for approval. If an LEA does not have an adopted CSSP, please do so as soon as possible.

It is critical that staff and students receive training related to the CSSP, and that each LEA maintains strong community partnerships with law enforcement, fire agencies, and first responders. School safety and preparedness resources, including a compliance tool, are available on the CDE Safe Schools Planning web page and the CDE Crisis Preparedness web page.
The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) provides valuable school safety and disaster preparedness resources and information that are available on the Cal OES for Schools and Educators web pageExternal link opens in new window or tab.. The CDE encourages everyone to become familiar with these resources.

Violence Prevention/Active Shooter Preparation

The CDE will be sponsoring two statewide trainings provided by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Safe and Supportive Schools, Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance (REMS TA) Center. A training session, School Behavioral Threat Assessments: An Introduction, will be hosted by the Sacramento County Office of Education on March 16, 2020; register online here: REMS Training External link opens in new window or tab.. The second training date and location in Southern California will be announced at a later date.
Additional information on violence prevention, including a template message for parents/guardians regarding the safe storage of firearms, can be found on the CDE Violence Prevention resource page

Power Shutoffs

It’s expected more Public Safety Power Shutoffs are on the way for California’s schools in order to help prevent wildfires. The CDE has provided a list of school closure considerations for LEAs in the event of an unexpected power shutdown, natural disaster or other unforeseen circumstances. Health and safety is the priority, followed by issues of equity and instructional time. Additional information can be found on the CDE’s Public Safety Power Shutoff FAQs.


There are multiple resources available to help LEAs prepare for a wildfire incident. The CDE has a resource page containing information on what to do before, during, and after a wildfire. Also, check the CDE FAQ page for more detailed information on wildfire response and recovery.

The Value of Art Education

Lupita Cortez Alcala

The California Department of Education (CDE) recognizes March as Arts Education Month in California/Youth Art Month. Lupita Cortez Alcalá, Chief Deputy Superintendent of the CDE, shares her inspirational story of how art saved her as a child.

“I came to the United States when I was three. I am the youngest of four, so my brothers and sisters all started school ahead of me. When I got to kindergarten, I didn’t know how to speak or read in English; I only knew Spanish. I was an English learner. I started school at Poway Unified School District at an elementary school called Midland.

I remember feeling so scared and alone and I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t go to preschool, and I didn’t know how to read in Spanish either. I didn’t understand what was happening because I didn’t understand the language at the time. There weren’t any immersion or English Language Development programs in place, but I had great teachers. It was a good school and my teachers were very caring, but I still felt like I didn’t know enough.

I often tell the story that I actually flunked kindergarten. You can’t always show what you know in a different language. One of the things I remember very vividly—and it greatly impacted my experience of who I was and what I could offer—was that we had stations in the classroom. One of the stations was in front of an easel with paint and a white piece of paper. I was able to paint like all of the other kids, and I felt so proud. I felt like I was one of them, like I had something to contribute. Even though I didn’t know it at the time, it was probably very therapeutic for me. It saved me, and I felt like I could contribute and like I was one of the others. I could do this because it was something I had to look forward to.

Art was an area in which I could be creative and bring my own initiative and imagination. I could share what I could do just like any other student and I didn’t need to know the language. I remember feeling so excited when I put the brush into the really vivid reds, yellows, greens, and blues. I don’t remember if I created a bird or what, but I was really proud of that painting. I could show it off like all of the other students. No words needed to be exchanged. No one needed to say anything. I just knew that I had contributed and I was able to present something like all the other students.

I think that year art did save me. It helped me feel like I was contributing, that I was capable, that I was creative, and I could imagine things. I will forever be grateful to art and having the opportunity to share what I knew through that method. All students learn differently, and sometimes students are misunderstood because of their different abilities or lack of understanding of a particular dominant language. No one is smarter than anyone else, and we all have ways of expressing our knowledge. It may be at different times and in different settings.”

Editor’s note: The latest California Arts Framework for K–12 Public Schools is currently under development. Public comment for the Draft Arts Framework is being accepted by email at through March 30 at 2 p.m.

Catching Up with Stephanie Farland

Stephanie Farland

There are people who say they know about charter schools, and then there’s Stephanie Farland, who was named Director of the Charter Schools Division for the California Department of Education (CDE) in November.

Regarded as a leader in the industry, Stephanie has an extensive background in the charter schools space. She has worked statewide with small and large school districts and county offices of education and has advocated charter law and regulations on behalf of charter authorizers. She was also appointed to the CDE Charter Schools Taskforce Research/Technical Assistance Committee.

Now, as the Director of the Charter Schools Division, Stephanie will inform state policy for the CDE.

Cynthia Butler(CB) with CDE Currents caught up with Stephanie(SF) and asked about her plans and direction for the Charter Schools Division.

CB: You’ve had a long history in the charter schools industry—13 years at the California School Boards Association as the point person on charter schools; close to a decade assisting districts and county offices in their work as charter authorizers. Why did you want to work at CDE?

SF: I have been working a long time in local districts around California, and I wanted the opportunity to use the knowledge and experience I have gained to add to the tremendous work being done within the CDE Charter Division.

CB: It’s been a few months since you’re joined the Department. What’s been the most exciting so far?

SF: All of the new changes that are in store for charters and authorizers with the passage of charter-related legislation this past legislative session. It is such a great opportunity for CDE to be a leader in determining how the changes will be implemented, and I am excited to bring a new voice to the work.

CB: What issues or action items are you currently focused on?

SF: Providing guidance to the charter community, both schools and authorizers, on the new legislation, specifically the new language around appeals to the State Board and what the new process will look like.

CB: You taught history and government at a traditional high school for five years. What led to you working in the charter school industry?

SF: I saw a need for charter school authorizers to be educated in their chartering responsibilities, an opportunity to lead authorizers to implement best practices around oversight, and a need for the work to be done fairly to ensure all students succeed.

CB: Okay, so life can’t be all about charter schools. What do you enjoy doing away from work?

SF: I love traveling, music, and discovering new restaurants. In January my husband and I became empty nesters, so I will need to find more activities to keep me busy!

Editor’s Note: The Charter Schools Division oversees State Board of Education-approved charter schools throughout California and administers the Federal Public Charter Schools Grant Program. More information on the division and California public charter schools can be found on the CDE website.

CDE Press Online Store

CDE Press Educational Resource Online Orderning logo.

The California Department of Education’s publisher, CDE Press, has a new online tool for customers nationwide and throughout the world.

The new CDE Press Educational Resources Online OrderingExternal link opens in new window or tab. system makes it easy for customers to purchase CDE Press publications and DVDs. Plus, many of the DVDs are also now available to be streamed through the new CDE Streaming Video Subscription Service External link opens in new window or tab., with more coming soon.

CDE Press continues to extend the leadership and influence of the California Department of Education beyond the state’s borders through its educational materials. Customers in Mexico, Canada, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries learn from the California Common Core State Standards, frameworks, early learning and development guides, and more, which are available at the new online store. Now, customers anywhere in the world can place orders 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The new online store was created with Keystone Systems, Inc., which developed the Instructional Materials Ordering and Distribution System (IMODS) used by the California Department of Education Clearinghouse for Specialized Media and Technology. This allows teachers to order braille, digital talking books, large print, audio books, American Sign Language video books, and American Printing House for the Blind products online.

For more information about CDE Press Educational Resources Online Ordering, please call 1-800-995-4099 or email at

Recognizing Exceptional Schools

Awardees with Tony Thurmond

California School Recognition Program Honors Educators

About 2,000 educators, administrators, and school staff participated in the California School Recognition Program Awards Ceremony at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim on Monday, February 10. The honorees included California Distinguished Schools, California Exemplary Arts Education Schools, National Blue Ribbon Schools, National Terrel H. Bell Awardees, and National Elementary and Secondary Education Act Distinguished Schools.

During a daytime reception, the awardees took photos with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, shared success with other schools, and enjoyed camaraderie with other awardees over hors d'oeuvres. Some also posed for photos with Mickey Mouse, who popped into a photo booth throughout the day. The 2020 California Teachers of the Year introduced the schools as awardees walked across the stage to take their photos with Superintendent Thurmond.

At an awards ceremony dinner, State Superintendent Thurmond congratulated the award-winning schools and encouraged them to keep up the hard work. The awardees enjoyed entertainment by talented student performers from Joaquin Miller Elementary School (Torrance Unified School District), McKinley Elementary School (Compton Unified School District), and the Huntington Beach Academy of Performing Arts (Huntington Beach Union High School District).

Crowd shot from SSPI event.

Innovating for Equity Summit

Tony Thurmond, State Superintendent and Stephanie Gregson, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction at CDE.

CDE Focuses on Innovating for Equity

The CDE’s first-ever Innovating for Equity Summit was a success thanks to the educators, speakers, facilitators, participants, and CDE staff who came together and helped run the event at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim on February 11 and 12. As part of a combined effort with the Federal Programs, Special Education, and System of Support offices, the event provided technical assistance and professional development on federal programs under the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015, including Title I, Title II, Title III, and Title IV. The summit replaced the former Title I Conference and the Accountability Leadership Institute for English Learner, Immigrant, and Migratory Student programs.

Over the course of two days, 1,000 participants engaged in helpful conversations about state initiatives, closing opportunity gaps, and approaches to equity. They also heard from keynote speakers Dr. Victor Rios, Dr. Jaguanana Lathan, Michael Matsuda, and Carla Tantillo Philibert. In the dozens of breakout sessions, the participants shared resources, engaged in group exercises, and interacted with presenters, staff from other local educational agencies, and CDE staff.

During lunchtime on the closing day, participants picked tables labeled with topics such as “improving literacy,” “teacher recruitment and retention,” and “starting and sustaining dual-learning programs.” Within these subgroups, all participants were given time to network regarding their specific topic, share resources, and talk about collective problems and solutions.

Closing Achievement Gap Efforts Continue with Panel Discussion and Targeted Assistance

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond hosted a panel discussion with education leaders on February 25 regarding efforts to support African American students, recruit and retain African American teachers, and discuss the historical perspective on the impact of desegregation on African American educators and students.

The event coincided with Black History Month. Panelists included Mary Vixie Sandy, Executive Director of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing; Terri Jackson, Education Policy Consultant for the Educator Excellence and Equity Division at CDE; Taica Hsu, Director of Mentoring, San Francisco, for Trellis Education and a math and computer science teacher at Mission High School in San Francisco; and Elisha Smith Arrillaga, Executive Director for The Education Trust West and Co-Chair of the Closing the Achievement Gap Workgroup.

The Closing the Achievement Gap panels comes as the CDE begins a special project to provide targeted support to the 25 districts in California that have the highest levels of poverty, the highest numbers of non-credentialed teachers, and are in differentiated assistance. The CDE intends to provide a customized plan to guide these specific districts toward improvement and believes the innovative strategies will truly make a difference and improve student outcomes. More information on this project will be available in the coming weeks.

Tony Thurmond with Staff


CDE Currents is the monthly newsletter from the California Department of Education. It is written and produced by CDE employees.

Editor: Scott Roark
Co-Editors: Jonathan Mendick, Katina Oliphant, Dina Fong
Writers: Cynthia Butler, Jonathan Mendick, Dina Fong, Scott Roark

Design and Layout: Scott Roark
Illustration: Jesse Nix
Web Production: CDE Web Services Office

Would you like to contribute? Do you have story ideas to pass along? Send your ideas and inquiries to We welcome your participation.

Questions:    Communication |
Last Reviewed: Friday, February 28, 2020