Long Beach Love/CCSA Conference

Good Morning Long Beach!

I’m so glad I decided to attend the California Charter Schools Association Conference in Long Beach this week. It’s really hard for me to be away from school, but I know our school will benefit from what I learned over the past few days. I often leave conferences energized and eager to implement all I learned. I want to take the time to reflect on the sessions I attended, and think about what are the 1-2 things I want to take away from each session so that I don’t make empty promises and feel completely overwhelmed by everything I learned. Warning, this is long, VERY focused on education, and has just a bit of running thrown in the middle.

Soledad O’Brien leading a panel Thursday Morning

Tuesday started with our opening plenary. My amazing boss Malka Borrego was honored with the Hart Vision Leader of the Year Award. I feel so lucky to work with such a smart, passionate, and hard working leader.  This is who I get to work with every day! It was the perfect way to start three days of learning.

We then jumped into three sessions. Alaina and I attended a meet and greet for new schools where we got to talk to the CCSA President Jed Wallace about the challenges of opening a new charter school.

I then attended The Elephant in the Room: Why Race Matters in Education Reform led by Angela Bass. She’s led PD at Equitas before, and it was a great opportunity for us to discuss issues of race in education. We watched a short film “Teached” on the path to prison and an awesome TED talk by Mellody Hobson called “Color Blind or Color Brave.” This kinda got the energy going. We then worked in groups to share our reflections and our personal narratives. Oddly enough that same day my sisters and I were emailing back and forth about our feelings with our ethnic identity. I talked about my struggle to confidently associate as half Mexican. In the US being Mexican is often associated with having dark features, being from a low socio-economic background, and being from the inner-city. Latinos can be guilty of labelling too and might not accept you if you fit that mold. If you talk white or grew up going to private school you’re not a “real Latino.” I personally think the Latino community should embrace their diversity of experiences rather than further divide themselves. Anyways, enough rambling. My #1 take away from this session is that during August PD we need all teachers to share their personal narratives, so that we can gain a better understanding of our experiences that led us into the work we do.

Next I went to a session called Sustainable Education: One Teacher at a Time. It was SO helpful to know that many of the seemingly dumb EQ3 practices really are building a culture of sustainability. I will continue to engage teachers in our hiring, keep traditions like the Gracias Madre Happy Hour before PD begins, Founders Day Mendocino Farms lunch after the first day of school, Sprinkles after streaks of incredible attendance, and paper plate awards at the end of the year. I commit to scheduling these out in June for the following year, and adding a few fun new ideas like the surprise  “I love you a latte” and pinterest teacher survival kits. Alaina, I took photos of the sheets form the session and have them below 🙂 I know you wanted copies! We also talked about different teachers styles (those who need autonomy, mastery, purpose, or belonging) and how to support them.  It was helpful to think about my staff and whether they seek to belong to a team, whether they really value autonomy, or if they need constant reminding of the purpose of a specific task or project.

And the last session I attended was with Alaina. It was called Special Education: Innovations, Initiatives and Insights From the Experts. It was fascinating! A team from CCSA visited schools across the state who were performing as outliers with their special education population, and found the following major themes. We have most of these structures in place at EQ3, we just need to maintain them as we grow. 1 thing I’d like to work on is creating a strong restorative justice practice. Our behavioral system is not quite streamlined yet, and we’ll need a clear system as we grow.

  1. Strong Culture+Community
    • Accepting and inclusive of all students (We have strong mission alignment)
    • Every student gets what they need
    • Recognizing that not all students need the same supports
    • Staff owns all students’ achievement, not just those “assigned” to them
    • Teaching core values (we use Paul Tough’s)
    • Using restorative justice practices
  2. Data Tracking + Accountability
    • Data Binders (YEAH ERICA!)
    • Google Docs (SUPER TRACKER!)
    • Accommodation Sheets
    • Student Goal Tracking (we are crazy trackers)
  3. Collaboration + Shared Experience
    • General+Sped working together (that’s why Alaina is the perfect sped teacher)
    • Co-planning and co-teaching (Ashley + Alaina lead UCSB together)
    • Specialist who gives intervention to students without IEPS (yup, that’s Alaina)
    • Working collaboratively with service providers (we do this, but need structures in place)
  4. All Needs of All Students with 1 System
    • Having a tiered support intervention model (reading groups, RTI,
    • Having a COST Team (SSTs + Academic Warriors)

OK let’s take a break from education and talk running. Gisele lives in Long Beach, which was amazing because we were able to run together three mornings in a row! Tuesday was an easy run at about an 8:30 pace, Wednesday was 4 x 0.75 at a 6:30 pace (I averaged more like 6:10/6:15) and Thursday was another easy day and 8:20. We had so much fun exploring the Queen Mary, the pier, the Grand Prix course, BEAUTIFUL Naples, Belmont Shores. Running before everyone is awake really is the best way to explore a city. Long Beach, I’m sorry for ever doubting you. You have a lot to offer!

Can’t take credit for this photo, but isn’t it beautiful!? Loved running in Naples. naples-island-0310-500x250.jpg

My favorite building in Long Beach.ar129918374812426.jpg

OK back to the conference. Wednesday I went to this AMAZING session on Developing a Growth Mindset in Students and Teachers. I have 2 great takeaways from this session. 1, an awesome team builder to help build a culture of growth. You start with a partner and count back and forth to three. When someone makes a mistake you clap and encourage them. Next round, you clap, say two, then three. Again, you clap when your partner makes a mistake and cheer, rather than making them feel like an idiot. Final round has a clap, snap, then you say 3. You then go back to the regular 1-2-3 and celebrate the growth you made and how much you’re improving. I probably did not explain that well AT ALL, but Alaina is leading it at our PD Day after spring break so Equitas staff will see it in action.

We also completed this great activity that I think could be used for morning meeting. Teams were given a bag of items and a challenge. We had to create something to carry groceries up several flights of stairs. It required teamwork, thinking outside the box, and grit. Having students and staff that embrace a growth mindset will make for a space were it’s OK to make mistakes, and where we can ask for help and perfection isn’t expected.

During our time in Long Beach, Alaina and I were on a quest for the best almond milk latte. Unfortunately Village Grind didn’t quite do it for us. 

But Lord Windsor and Recreational Coffee were incredible. Lord Windsor was a little more Intelligensia in Long Beach. It was a no frills, strong latte with bold coffee flavor. The foam was the best part of this latte. Recreational Coffee was our favorite. It was smooth, slightly sweeter. The staff was also much less intimidating. We went back a few times 🙂 We also celebrated St. Patty’s Day with Green Rainbow Juices and some Michgan Oberon beers at The Blind Donkey. Here is our lovely beverage collage.


 Wednesday afternoon Kelli, Mallory, and I went to How World-Class Schools Establish a Clear Vision for Instructional Rigor. This was led by Building Excellent Schools leaders, the network Equitas is a part of, so it wasn’t very new but a great refresher and reminder. I was reminded to do rigor walkthroughs to get a pulse check on the level of rigor at our school. I also feel the need to discuss as a team what rigor means to us so that we have a common definition.

Woah, OK I’m getting tired of typing this all out, but just a little more to go. Thursday Soledad O’Brien led a panel with charter school leaders and the general theme was how can we ensure bureaucracy and red tape doesn’t stop charter schools from making their impact. There was also a lot of discussion regarding authorization of charter schools, and maintaining quality. I forget how much districts feel threatened by the charter world. My thought, fix your schools so that we’re competitive.

Alaina and I both attended Amplifying School Impact Through Strategic Leadership. The facilitators really engaged us and had us working in groups of four then in triads. Similar to the Sped session from Wednesday, we learned key components to a strong school, watched a video of a school exemplifying this components and in groups discussed evidence of those components. Then, in triads, we  completed a protocol with a need our school has to help us brainstorm solutions. It was a nice reminder of the need for structured collaboration within PD. IMG_3848.JPG

Thursday I also attending Living Your School Mission. It was meh. Honestly, the biggest take away from this session was how to lead a session. You have to move across the room and engage the participants. You can’t just talk to us for an hour straight about what your school does, and you have to smile and have energy. This ended up finishing early, so I joined Alaina for the last part of Student Led IEPs. We have a plan to slowly grow our involvement of students in IEPs. As much as we want to go straight to student led meetings, we know it takes time to develop a strong structure.

Whew. That was a lot! I doubt anyone made it to the end, but like I always say…this is MY journal 🙂 It was so fun being a student for a few days. I learned so much to hopefully help EQ3 become even stronger!

And it wouldn’t be a complete post without a collage of some of the food we ate. Left to right: Berlin Bistro (awesome breakfast), salmon Caesar wrap at Urban Table on 2nd Street, scallops from Bo Beau on Pine, the crushed cookie we crushed late at night, and Sweet Dixie Kitchen known for their egg, bacon, cheese biscuit sandwiches. I didn’t get any photos from Padre, but those tacos and margaritas were AMAZING. And those Brussels sprouts. Yummy! Their tagline is “Latin-inspired gastropub.” That just screams Cristina. In summary, Long Beach, I get you now. You’ve got a good thing going. Thanks for a good week 🙂 IMG_3849.JPG

Alaina, here are the resources I promised you 🙂 IMG_3843.JPGIMG_3844.JPGIMG_3845.JPGIMG_3846.JPGIMG_3847.JPG

JUST 18?

Funny how 18 miles seems so much easier than 20. It’s all mental. 20 sounds scary. 18 is in the teens, so it seems like it should be easier. Gisele, Ellen and I had a lovely 18 this morning. It was pretty hilly, but with no pick-ups or a fast finish, it made for a nice and easy run. And yup, you’re right Gisele. Our route made a heart! That’s gotta be good luck, right? We started and ended at Ellen’s. I sound like a California snob, but I was ready not to run on the beach.

At school we had our first ever Family Festival. Not gonna lie, was not too confident in my ability to pull off this event, but WOAH did the family and teachers come together to plan a great event. We had so much fun, and our photo booth props were quite the hit. Going to work on a Saturday is a bit easier when you work with these lovely ladies…


Nathalie turned the photo booth station into a mobile booth. Here she is rolling around. We also had a Zumba instructor come get us dancing, had plenty of food, an spoon + egg game, a ring toss, bean bag toss, and prizes. I’m excited to see how we elevate this event next year. But with our awesome family, and super energetic staff I don’t know why I doubted it wouldn’t be a hit.

This week was a lighter mileage week, but more intense at work. Saturday because of our school event I only had time for 7 but met up with some new running friends Peter introduced me to. Nothing like hitting up the Marina with 4 fast women before rushing off to work. One of them won the Santa Clarita Marathon a few years back. Maybe I should add that to the bucket list. Santa Clarita was my WORST marathon EVER. I had some doubles on the plan earlier in the week because I was at work till 8:30/9 on both Tuesday and Thursday. Monday I learned that you ALWAYS have more to give. I was ready for my rest day, and in need of some entertainment so I texted this incredibly attractive picture to Ellen and Alaina knowing they’d respond with some words of encouragement.

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Then my playlist had this divine intervention with a few songs that brought back race day memories. It gave me that boost of energy I needed. Do you have songs that remind you of specific racing moments? This is running dork to the extreme, but here’s what these songs remind me of…

  • Jealous (I Ain’t With It) by Chromeo reminds me of the OC Half Marathon, when I was feeling awesome at 11 and busted out two fast final miles.
  • Good Feeling by Flo Rida reminds me of the Redondo Beach 10K I did years ago before I started oversharing running stories on this blog.
  • Happy by Pharrell Williams and The Man by Aloe Blacc bring me back to my redemption race at the LA Marathon when I re-qualified for Boston in the heat.
  • Shut Up and Dance by Walk the Moon reminds me of getting that second wind as I ran down San Vicente at this year’s LA Marathon.
  • I’m Shipping Up to Boston by Dropkick Murphys OBVIOUSLY reminds me of Boston, but specifically the fact that it was playing as I crossed into Boston City Limits. Pretty awesome.
  • The Other Side by Jason Derulo reminds me of the San Diego Marathon where I first qualified for Boston. I remember being at mile 23ish thinking “Just take me to that other side!!!!”
  • I finished the NY Marathon to Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac. I hear it and it brings me back to that emotional moment crossing the line. It was my 8th time, and I still teared up.

And back to school. This blog post is much like my life. Work. Run. Work. Run. Aren’t these circle collages fun? Left to right: 1) Ashley’s new easels! 2) This is what 100 tacos looks like… 3) Our scholars earned a Taco Party from Lexia for High Usage in the West! 4) We celebrate with Sprinkles when we have strong attendance! 5) I think we’re good on chips for the Family Festival. 6) Gross but necessary purchase for the Family Festival.

Time to go hang out with Brent’s fam visiting LA for the week. Next week’s update will be from New York!

Train Hard. Race Happy.

The mileage is catching up with me. This is getting kinda hard. 22 miles with 6 middle miles at a 7:10 pace wasn’t easy, especially after all the miles during the week. The taper is near so this is the time to work. I’m dreaming of that incredible racing feeling when it looks effortless. I love that feeling showing up to a starting line with rested legs and going out and just killing it. You’ve gotta train hard so you can race happy. People always say I race with a smile, but trust me, there is a lot of hard work happening behind the scenes.

I love coordinating with my running buddies. Peter and his speedy friend Jill joined Ellen and I for the first 5 yesterday and Bri met us on Ocean and Ocean Park and ran with us until about mile 18. This morning Ellen and I started the day with Rise Nation (check out their awesome patio below), then met Kathy and Gisele for a few miles. I wasn’t as peppy on my runs this week, but 70 mile week, check!

Have I mentioned I’m running the NYC half? It’s just two weeks away! I’m not gonna go crazy on the course. It’s during peak week, so I’m going into the race super tired, but any tips? UANYCH16 RacePageHead Rd7_0.jpeg

Can’t wait to sample this beer post-race.

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 11.37.27 AM.pngHere is what’s going on in my non-running world…

At school we celebrated our scholars who are performing on a second grade level in reading. We all crowded in my office and had a pizza party. I love these kiddos and our team of teachers.

Cat in the Hat came to visit Equitas #3 this week! Our parents are the best 🙂

We celebrated Jared’s birthday yesterday at the Staples Center. The Clippers played the Hawks. The Clippers lost, but meh, it was a good time regardless.

Stealing from her instagram. Love being silly with Alaina. Turns out when you run 22 miles you only need one beer to make you a little goofy.

Co-workers and friends for 4 years.

Brent, Mary Ann, Ross and I are about to go to Manhattan Beach Post. Cheddar Bacon Biscuits…yes! Then it’s back to the work week. Runner Cristina becomes Principal Cristina until next weekend 🙂