CTA Announces 18 Winners of John Swett Awards Honoring Media Coverage of Education in California

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Contact: Mike Myslinski at 650-552-5324

BURLINGAME – Media stories last year ranging from a profile of a dedicated Bay Area music teacher’s inspiring legacy to a public radio station’s hard look at impacts and possible solutions to teacher shortages in San Diego County school districts to a Sacramento television station’s uplifting “Teacher of the Month” series are among the works honored by CTA’s 59th annual John Swett Awards for Media Excellence.

Eighteen winning entries in the prestigious CTA awards contest were chosen recently by an independent panel of working journalists, media professionals and a retired college journalism professor. The awards honor individuals, publications, websites, television and radio stations for their outstanding achievements in reporting and interpreting public education issues during 2017.

These skilled reporters all helped tell the story of education in California with clarity and creativity,” said Eric C. Heins, president of the 325,000-member California Teachers Association. “They’re keeping the public in public education by detailing the challenges and triumphs that educators and our students encounter. Their outstanding work clearly deserves to be honored with this special recognition.”

There were 61 entries this year. The winners will receive their awards during a reception in their honor this Friday, June 1, at the CTA State Council of Education meeting at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles.

The award is named in honor of the founder of CTA, who was California’s fourth superintendent of public instruction and a crusader for public education. Here are the 18 John Swett Award winning entries, with links to many of these outstanding works:


  • Jill Tucker, San Francisco Chronicle, won for a series of heartwarming stories about the importance of providing music in Bay Area public schools and the role music plays in nurturing and inspiring students. She profiled outstanding music teacher Tim Wilson, a former principal trumpet player in the San Francisco Opera orchestra, who had an amazing four-year run building a music program – and spending his own money to the tune of $300,000 on it – at Lovonya DeJean Middle School in Richmond. For health reasons, he left to teach math in Larkspur. Read samples of her winning stories here and here
  • Nanette Asimov and Melody Gutierrez, San Francisco Chronicle, won for their continuous coverage of financial red flags in the University of California’s Office of President Janet Napolitano that included reports of interference in a state audit and the office’s amassing of $175 million in a hidden reserve. The reporting led to a new law against tampering with a state audit. Samples of the stories are here and here.
  • Gary Warth, San Diego Union-Tribune, for a news story in February 2017 about a controversial estimated $124 million budget deficit in San Diego Unified School District causing the school board to consider laying off 850 educators and support staff. Read here.
  • Richard Bammer, The Reporter in Vacaville, for continuous coverage of school issues, such as career technical education, homelessness among Solano County students, and a profile about a 12-year-old girl who came to the U.S. from Mexico with her single mother 15 years ago – and is now a credentialed teacher in Vacaville Unified School District.  Read examples of his winning entries here and here.
  • Ali Tadayon, East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, for a November 2017 news story about Oakland students, parents and teachers opposing millions in proposed Oakland Unified School District program and staff cuts that were coming before the school board for final action. Read here.
  • Claudia Meléndez Salinas, Monterey Herald, for a series of stories last year about controversies in several Monterey County school districts over whether police officers should be stationed on campuses. Read here and here.
  • Salinas Californian, as a publication, for several articles about state agricultural pesticide regulations and the dangers these toxic chemicals pose to workers in the fields, and to students who attend Salinas Valley public schools. Read here and here.
  • Khalida Sarwari and Kristi Myllenbeck, of the San Jose-based Silicon Valley Community Newspapers, for a news story about how several Santa Clara County school districts were adjusting to complying with a new state law that took effect in January 2016 about sexual health education. It required more comprehensive curriculum for middle schools and high schools. Read here
  • Matthew Wilson, Cupertino Courier, for a feature story about a local high school student and her successful cartoon strip called “The Breadsters” that takes a somewhat humorous look at teenager issues around family and school topics. Read here.
  • Ken Epstein, Oakland Post, for a news story examining how some political leaders and conflicting legal opinions helped engineer state control of Oakland Unified School District back in 2003 when it faced a financial budget crisis. Read here.
  • Dawn Megli-Thuna, Thousand Oaks Acorn, for continuous coverage of education news that included stories about a middle school physical education teacher launching a successful program where eighth-graders mentor incoming sixth-graders. Another story concerned the Conejo Valley Unified School District school board’s approval of a new policy requiring teachers to alert parents before students are assigned to read well-known books such as “Catcher in the Rye” that are deemed by the California Department of Education as having mature content. Read here and here


Journals, Magazines, Websites

  • Joe Eskenazi, with the Mission Local online news site in San Francisco, for a news story about the hardball organizing tactics of the Innovate Public Schools pro-charter advocacy operation based in San Jose at meetings for parents held at local sites in San Francisco, including a public middle school. Read here.



  • Megan Burks, KPBS Public Radio in San Diego, for a thorough news story about the impacts of the teacher shortage in San Diego County school districts, and a look at possible solutions, such as paying educators more, increasing education funding, and providing more professional development. Listen here.



  • KXTV ABC 10 in Sacramento, which won as a station for six profiles of local inspiring teachers from the station’s popular, award-winning and ongoing “Teacher of the Month” series. Watch the six winning profiles of Sacramento County-area educators honored during 2017: Gavin Bering, Kellie Welty, Jessica Cisneros-Elliott, Anna Cacciotti, Anita Kamath, and Christine Lewis
  • Dinorah Perez, Telemundo 52 in Los Angeles, won for coverage of the September 2017 rally by the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) union to support the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). UTLA donated $60,000 to community groups helping people pay for and process the $495 renewal applications to extend their protections from deportation. Watch here.
  • Jade Hernandez, KABC-TV in Los Angeles, for a segment in September 2017 on the rally by United Teachers Los Angeles to support recipients of protections under DACA; a concerned middle school teacher who is a DACA recipient is interviewed. Watch here.
  • Laura Anthony, KGO-TV (ABC) in San Francisco, won for live coverage of a protest by Oakland Unified educators and parents in November 2017 about the district’s proposed cuts in education programs that ended up reaching into the millions. Watch here.
  • PBS station KVIE-TV in Sacramento for its high-quality “Inside California Education” television series that examines the challenges and successes in our public schools in 30-minute episodes. A joint venture of NationalEdOnline and KVIE, the segments air on PBS stations across California. Watch two of the six winning shows nominated here and here.       .
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