Focus on Education - April 2024

  • 4/19/2024 9:27:00 AM
Focus on Education - Dr. César Morales, Ventura County Superintendent of Schools

Dr. César Morales, Ventura County Superintendent of Schools

April 2024

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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).

Science fair displays. Benjamin Chung.

Budding Scientists Shine at Science Fair

Nearly 700 students participated in the 69th annual Ventura County Science Fair at the VCOE conference center last month — that's the highest level of participation in recent memory. The energy in the building was electric as the students presented their work to more than 130 volunteers who served as judges.


The 35 highest-scoring entrants will advance to the California Science and Engineering Fair, which will be held virtually on April 16. Benjamin Chung from Thousand Oaks High School was selected to represent Ventura County in the prestigious International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), which will take place in Los Angeles in May.


You can find a complete list of Ventura County Science Fair winners here and see photos of the event here.

Trinity Pacific Mock Trial Team

Local Team Wins State Mock Trial

A team from Ventura County took first place in the 2024 California Mock Trial Finals last month. After competing against the top performing high school teams from throughout the state, Trinity Pacific Christian School in Thousand Oaks came in first.


This is the second time in three years that Trinity Pacific has won the top prize at the state level. They will now advance to the National Mock Trial competition to be held from May 2-5 in Wilmington, Delaware.


In February at the Ventura County Mock Trial, Trinity Pacific took first and third place, with Royal High School in the Simi Valley Unified School District coming in second. You can see a list of all the county level Mock Trial award winners at this link.

Middle School Mock Trial competition

Middle School Mock Trial Picks Up Steam

Ventura County is one of the only counties in California to have opened its Mock Trial competition to middle school students. VCOE created the middle school division just last year and interest has increased dramatically, with triple the number of teams participating. This year, the middle school Mock Trial included 300 students representing 14 teams from 10 schools.


The students gave some truly impressive performances as they played the roles of participants in a criminal trial in front of real judges with local attorneys serving as scorers.


First place went to Trinity Pacific Christian School, followed by Valley View Middle School in Simi Valley in second place and Mesa Union School in third. You can see a list of all the middle school Mock Trial award winners at this link.

Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis and her students

Sandy Hook Survivor Shares Message of Hope in Ventura County

It’s been 11 years since a gunman terrorized Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in a shooting that claimed 26 lives. Recently, a former Sandy Hook teacher who survived the unthinkable ordeal shared her story with an audience of educators and law enforcement officers in Ventura County.


Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis saved the lives of her first-graders by hiding with them in a tiny bathroom until it was safe. She has since dedicated herself to helping others recover from trauma and spreading kindness among students through a nonprofit she founded called Classes4Classes


Her address was part of the ongoing series on school safety being presented by VCOE and the Ventura County Schools Self-Funding Authority. You can see a short video about Kaitlin's Ventura County presentation at this link.

Westlake High School Academic Decathlon Team

Westlake Wins Academic Decathlon

For the fourth year in a row, Westlake High School took first place in the Ventura County Academic Decathlon. Second place honors went to Channel Islands High School and Thousand Oaks High School came in third.


In this popular academic competition, students compete in academic events that cover subjects ranging from art to economics. Westlake went on to compete in the California Academic Decathlon, where they earned 15 awards.


You can see a complete list of individual and team results for the 2024 Ventura County Academic Decathlon at this link.

Scenes from the VCOE Equity Conference

Equity Conference Has Record Attendance

Nearly 400 people attended the Ventura County Office of Education Equity Conference last month in Camarillo — that's the largest turnout since the event was created during the pandemic four years ago.


The conference featured a keynote address from Chumash Elder Julie Tumamait-Stenslie and 16 different breakout sessions on a variety of topics related to removing barriers and expanding educational opportunity for students.


The continuing need for such a conference reflects the fact that many students need help overcoming challenges that prevent them from thriving in school. You can see a short video of conference highlights at this link.

Migrant Students Compete in Speech and Debate Tournament

2024 Migrant Education Program Speech and Debate Tournament participants

Middle and high school students in the Ventura County Office of Education’s Migrant Education Program had an opportunity to show their skills during the 21st annual Regional Speech and Debate Tournament that was held Saturday at Ventura College. This year’s tournament drew about 70 students, which was approximately double the number from last year. 


The students competed by presenting prepared and extemporaneous speeches and participating in small group debates. They had the choice of competing in English or Spanish. The event is a tremendous learning opportunity that helps students build confidence and sharpen their critical thinking, research, and public speaking skills.


The local winners will now advance to the state competition, which will be held May 3-5 in Monterey. Huge thanks to the volunteer coaches and judges who donated their time to make this an impactful event for our migrant students.  

Audience at the A Home for Education event

Affordable Housing for School Employees

The cost of housing in Ventura County is now so expensive that it's becoming a challenge for local schools to find employees who can afford to live here. That's why VCOE co-presented a first-of-its-kind event aimed at finding solutions to this crisis.


"A Home for Education" was a half day seminar held recently at CSU Channel Islands. The event explored the possibility of using school-owned property to build affordable housing developments for teachers and support staff. It drew about two hundred decision-makers in education, government, and housing development.


The audience heard from a representative from the Los Angeles Unified School District, where several employee housing projects are already complete. VCOE will continue to work closely with our local school districts to explore the feasibility of such projects in Ventura County.


The event was the result of a partnership between VCOE, Housing Trust Fund Ventura County, the County of Ventura, CSUCI, and the Ventura County P-20 Council.

People attending a seminar

Upcoming Events and Workshops

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


Current and Future Educator Conference

Free event in person and online

April 13-20, 2024



Educator Career & College Fair

For current educators and education students

April 16, 2024



Implementation of Common Core en Español

For third grade Spanish teachers

April 16, 2024



State Education Budget Perspectives

Workshop for school administrators

May 28, 2024


See the Full Calendar of Events
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