Focus on Education - October 2023

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Focus on Education - Dr. César Morales, Ventura County Superintendent of Schools

October 2023

Focus on Education provides news about Ventura County public schools for families and educators. It is published by the Ventura County Office of Education (VCOE).

A Message from Dr. César Morales

Ventura County Superintendent of Schools

Dr. César Morales, Ventura County Superintendent of Schools, joins other county superintendents at a meeting with local Congressman Salud Carbajal in Washington, D.C.


I recently had the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C., just as lawmakers were scrambling to prevent a government shutdown. I was there with several of my counterparts from throughout California to advocate for federal support of educational programs.


In the midst of the chaos, about twenty members of Congress made time to meet with us. We urged them to increase federal funding for special education and economically disadvantaged students, to support expansion of internet access for students and to address cybersecurity threats that are increasingly impacting schools.


While a government shutdown has been averted for the moment, the budget process is far from over and it's not yet known how public schools will be affected. Whatever happens in Washington, we will never stop working to maximize educational opportunities for the students we are so proud to serve.

Students Trained as Wellness Peers


About 200 local students are being part of the solution to the teen mental health crisis by volunteering at their schools' Wellness Centers. They were recently at VCOE to learn to support their classmates' emotional well-being in their role as "Wellness Peers."


Wellness Centers provide resources and referrals for students who are feeling stressed or depressed so they can better focus on learning. The centers are run by adult coordinators and are now open at most Ventura County high schools and a growing number of middle schools.

Maximizing Safety in Schools

An unprecedented effort to maximize safety in our schools began last year in Ventura County and is continuing this school year.


All Ventura County school districts are joining with local law enforcement agencies and the US Secret Service to implement strategies that will help protect students and staff from the threat of an active assailant incident. School leaders are participating in an ongoing series of workshops designed to enhance security and improve coordination between agencies.


Several schools are also providing training where employees learn to respond to a simulated attack. A video version of the training is now available to ensure it reaches as many school staffers as possible.

VCOE Logo Contest graphic

Calling All Student Artists!


The annual VCOE Student Competitions Logo Contest is now underway, and all K-12 students in Ventura County are encouraged to enter. Students are invited to create logo artwork for the Academic Decathlon, Battle of the Books and Science Fair. The winning design will be used on event lapel pins, awards, and competition materials. The entry deadline is October 20 and the contest details are available here

Forum Highlights Fentanyl Dangers

Vanesha Flores, a Port Hueneme mom who lost her 22-year-old son to fentanyl, was among the attendees of a recent town hall forum on the deadly opioid.


The event, called Facing Down Fentanyl, was held at VCOE and presented by the County Opioid Suppression Task Force. Panelists including Sheriff Jim Fryhoff, District Attorney Erik Nasarenko, and Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin, discussed what's being done about this growing threat to our community.


The Ventura County Office of Education provides opioid abuse prevention training to Ventura County educators. We are also using a curriculum called Natural High to help students steer clear of fentanyl and other illicit drugs.


You can find additional resources and learn how to get fentanyl test kits and naloxone (Narcan) at

Call for Speech and Debate Coaches

Migrant Speech & Debate Tournament


Every year, VCOE hosts a Speech and Debate Tournament that gives children of migrant farm workers a chance to show their skills. But this wonderful event can’t happen without the help of volunteer coaches. 


Our Migrant Education Department is looking for people who enjoy working with middle and high school students and are open to learning about speech and debate. Being multilingual is a plus. You can get all the details in this flyer or request more information about volunteering by contacting Cynthia Salas at [email protected].

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Hispanic Heritage Month


Hispanic Heritage Month is being celebrated nationwide from September 15 to October 15. This annual event started in 1968 as a week-long observation and expanded to a full month in 1988. Today, it remains a wonderful opportunity to honor the history, culture and contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans.


Dr. César Morales, Ventura County Superintendent of Schools, has recorded a brief video about Hispanic Heritage Month, which you can see in English and Spanish. We also invite you to check out these educational resources from VCOE Library and Literacy Coordinator Ashlee Nishiya.

Safe gun storage graphic

Safe Firearm Storage Saves Lives


VCOE is joining with the District Attorney’s Office and local law enforcement agencies to encourage gun owners to safely store their firearms. Guns are now the leading cause of death for minors in the US and safe gun storage is one of the simplest things that can be done to prevent needless tragedies.

A new public service announcement video lets firearm owners know that they can get free gun locking devices from their local police department. You can see the video in English and Spanish and get more gun safety tips at this link.

Multilingual Education Project


VCOE is joining with two neighboring counties on a project to enhance multilingual education throughout California. The Ventura, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara County Offices of Education have been awarded a $2.5 million grant from the California Department of Education.


Over the next two years, the grant will be used to train educators statewide to implement effective language acquisition programs. About 22 percent of students in Ventura County public schools are working to become proficient in English.

Coats Needed for Homeless Kids


As we head into the colder months of the year, you can make a difference for Ventura County children who are experiencing homelessness. We invite you to share the warmth by donating a coat as part of our One Warm Coat drive.


Coordinated by the VCOE Homeless Education Program, this annual drive benefits many of the 7,800 local students who are in unstable housing. Coat donations are being accepted through November 22 at the VCOE Conference and Educational Services Center at 5100 Adolfo Road in Camarillo.

Upcoming Events and Workshops

People attending a workshop

The Ventura County Office of Education and its partners present a wide variety of workshops and events for educators, students, and community members. Some upcoming offerings are below, and you can browse our full calendar of events at

A.I. EmpowerED:

Transforming Education for Tomorrow

Virtual 5-part series on Artificial Intelligence for educators

October 9-30, 2023



From Rock Bottom to Rock Solid

Overcoming Burnout and Anxiety in the Education Field

November 1, 2023



Library & Literacy Day

Learning and networking for school library professionals

November 7, 2023



Navigating the Discipline Process

for Students with Disabilities

For parents and caregivers

November 28, 2023, in Oxnard

November 30, 2023, in Simi Valley

See the Full Calendar of Events
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