Locker decorations. Teddy bears. Cupid Cards. For teens, Valentine’s Day can be a fun holiday, but it can also sometimes be an isolating and a shallow portrayal of love (source). We know love is about so much more than crushes and candy, so Google’s Made with Code initiative is teaming up with teen girls across the U.S. to reframe Valentine’s Day around the types of love that can bring the world closer together.

Today, Made with Code is launching its newest coding project, #CodedWithLove, inviting students to make their mark on Valentine’s Day by coding a unique digital heart with millions of possible combinations, and sharing a message expressing what love means to them. The project is available at for all students and educators—no prior experience required.

Also launching today are five new Made with Code role models who are using computer programming to put more love out into their communities. These inspiring young women and brilliant minds are perfect examples of how community change and problem solving can make a positive impact.

The coding rockstars being celebrated today are inventors behind Instakarma, Parihug, PraisePop, Spectrum, and We Read Too. Learn more about their causes to bring the world closer together with code:

Looking for volunteering opportunities for students can be practically impossible because a lot of sites don’t cater to that age group, even though giving back has been shown to lower stress lives, improve moods and boost self-esteems (source). So Meera, Shreya and Leslie created InstaKarma, an app where volunteers can search for opportunities to help in their local communities with everything from small tasks to official community service events. Their advice to their peers is simple, “Just go for it. If you see a problem in the world around you, build an app to fix it.”
What if technology could add a dose of humanity back into connections? That’s what two young women, Harshita and Xyla (pictured), wanted to accomplish when they created Parihug, a Wi-Fi enabled teddy bear that lets users send a virtual long-distance hug. When one bear is hugged, a signal is sent to its mate— activating soft, fabric-based, sensors, and sending a hug across thousands of miles. They have this advice to other teen girls getting into this field: “Combine technology with other things that you love! If you love drawing, bring your art to life with animation. If you love gaming, try building a videogame from scratch. If you love explosions, safely give yourself a capacitor fireworks show and learn about circuits in the process. The best way to learn is through projects that you are passionate about,” says Xyla.
After surveying their high school, friends Sloane, Jenny, Moe and Qiqi learned that only 11 percent of peer responders thought that their school was a “very kind community.” So, they set out to change that by building a mobile app to create a way for people to recognize each other, brighten each other's days, and see positivity all around them. The best part of being app creators so far? “It’s not about the number of likes. It’s about the joy you bring to someone else’s life,” says Jenny.
Inspired by the lack of safe spaces for the LGBTQIA+ community to communicate on the Internet, five programmers from San Diego created Spectrum, an app that provides a social media network for the LGBTQIA+ community looking for a safe support system. When these friends came together to start building, they didn’t want to make just another app. They wanted to create something that would be able to reach out to youth who are struggling and make a true difference in their lives.

We Read Too
Kaya’s been in love with reading since a very young age, but she found herself consistently disappointed with the lack of books on display featuring diverse characters and writers that were relatable to her. She realized that if she wanted to see positive change, she’d need to take the first step. That’s why Kaya put her technology skills to work by creating We Read Too, an app that makes it much easier for people of color to find books about and written by people of color. “Knowledge is power and coding is an outlet to create technology that makes positive impacts on communities,” affirms Kaya.
These young women are just a few examples of leaders in the Made with Code community and our partner organizations, like Technovation,, and the National Center for Women & Information Technology, who are changing the world for the better.

Google’s Made with Code initiative is focused on inspiring teen girls to try coding and to see it as a means to pursue their dream careers. Today, we hope you will join us in celebrating people who are using code to make an impact in the world by spreading love and positivity, and encourage the students in your life to take their first step with code.

Love is what we make it. If we work together, we can transform Valentine’s Day into something greater than ourselves. Join us in celebrating at #CodedWithLove.

Pastor Kurt Simon

Pastor Kurt Simon & Family
Simon Family
Rhonda and I have been married 26 years. We met in New Mexico at college and returned together to her home state of Missouri to serve God and make our home. We have 5 sons; Ethan (25), Eric (22) Elijah (19) Ezekiel (14) and Eaen (8). They love music, the arts (visual and performance), books, movies, sports, anything outdoors and pets. Baseball, kayaking, camping, and water-sports top the list. But if you asked each one it would be for Rhonda (teaching and music) Ethan (guitar and music), Eric (soccer), Eli (long boarding and coffee), Zeke (football football and a little rugby thrown in), Eaen (anything with bugs and books and ipads).
My family and I were called by the remaining members of FBC Waimea to restart the church in October of 2013. We moved in August of 2014 to begin the process of replanting this church. As part of the process, we knew we had to change the name as part of replanting. We settled on the name Voyage Ministries.
I was obedient to God’s calling to serve Him as his minister as a vocational path in my life. I felt this most completely when I had the opportunity to serve as a summer missionary in Israel. God has been faithful to place godly men in my life to mentor and disciple me throughout numerous blessing-filled ministry opportunities. Each time that He has moved me I have felt that He has shown me that He has a better way to use me as I mature. The calling has never changed; to be His servant in whatever He asks. Only the role and place has changed. I have served on mission in Houston, TX; Saskatchewan, Canada; Antigua, Guatemala; and Senegal, Africa. Ministries during these missions ranged from building church buildings, ministering to orphans, establishing “first points of contact” with unreached people groups, and inner city outreach events.
It's no secret that I have not been a fan of the Quality Education for All initiative that sent extra resources into what are now called the Duval transformation Office schools. 36 schools in the Jackson Ribault and Raines feeder patterns.

Now I believe these schools could use extra resources but most of the money went into Teach for America and a merit pay scheme not based in evidence. Furthermore it eroded democracy as most of the plans were made in secret and gave school privatizers a foot hold in some of our most delicate schools. I don't think it is just a coincidence that Gary Chartrand one of the big donors to the QEA was just the keynote speaker at a symposium attended by many of our students on the North and West sides of town whose theme was charter schools.

I will say this however despite my grave concerns that we were wasting money that could have been better used I hoped I was wrong. I really hoped the district could have went, geeze Chris you really blew that one. Unfortunately at just a little way past the half way mark of the QEA grants Superintendent Vitti seems to be signaling it was a failure.

Superintendet Vitti just recommended that Jackson be changed from a neighborhood school to a magnet school in the same vein as Paxon and Stanton, something I imagine he wouldn't be doing if the QEA was working.

Jackson joins R.L.Brown, S.P, Livingston, John Love elementary, Long Branch elementary, as DTO schools that the superintendent has targeted for radical changes. Why would he do that if the QEA was working? The answer is he wouldn't.

That's the thing too, just a year and a half into a three year plan, the super has said, lets switch gears and try something else. what's going to happen if his latest plan doesn't match up either?

To see a list of the DTO schools, click the link,
Despite overwhelming disapproval of the elementary school ELA curriculum Engage NY/Duval reads, the superintendent was poised to expand it to middle school. Then something happened.


In Cowart’s classroom at Frank H. Peterson, she said she can’t deny Paths is the most aligned with state standards, but it’s too repetitive and not engaging. She doesn’t like it.
“You spend so much time going over and over and over the same two or three pieces of literature for literally weeks, and the fact that it is so scripted,” she says. “I said in the committee meeting, 'If we are trying to make kids hate school, we couldn’t do a much better job of it than we’re doing right now.'”
The School Board shared some of Cowart’s hesitation at a January meeting. So Vitti enlisted 29 middle-school teachers to review Paths and its runner-up. This time they also looked at user-friendliness, and 70 percent of the teachers picked the runner-up, Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt Collections, or HMH.
School Board member Becki Couch says she’s more comfortable with that one because it provides more supplemental materials like online help, Weekly Reader-style booklets and textbooks.
“I think that's been a big complaint that we’ve heard with the K-through-5, and I just wanted to make sure that we don’t really go down that road with middle-school curriculum,” she says.
That elementary curriculum came from the same developer as Paths.
This week, Vitti changed his recommendation to HMH, though he says most principals prefer Paths. HMH is also a little cheaper, at around $2.2 million over three years.

What gave the board hesitation? Well it had to be all the teachers and parents speaking up letting them know what a disaster the current curriculum has been. It goes to show that the super cannot just bulldoze his way through the district. That he has bosses and the school board have bosses too, and those are the people of Jacksonville.

Now we just have to hope this is just step one and by the start of next year elementary schools will once again have a decent curriculum and Engage NY is in the dust heap where it should be with all the other latest and greatest curriculums.

So parents and teachers embrace this victory as they have been far and few between but not only that let it embolden you to not only believe things can be better but to work to make them so.   
From Florida Politics

Shine tells, “Chris Guerrieri routinely makes false and misleading comments in his blog that he knows or should know are false. Citizens often see things differently and I welcome that discourse. All I ask is that Chris do this in a truthful manner and stop lying to the public.”

I get the vibe I hit a nerve there.

First I would ask Scott Shine to point out one instance where the blog or I was deceptive, just one. Now I imagine he could find plenty of instances where he may disagree with what I write but there is a difference between disagreeing with someone and them lying.

You know who Mr. Shine reminds me of? He reminds me of someone who bopped his way through life never having to work to hard while receiving lots of pats on the backs and at-a-boys along the way, very rarely if ever hearing the word no, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Except because of it now he can't take criticism. He lashes out whenever anybody disagrees or dares to question him. He doesn't want discourse he wants people to fall into his way of thinking and if you don't you had better watch out. He is like the kid in the check out line who is perfect until his mom says he can't have a snickers bar and then has a tantrum. Shine's nothing more than a bully lashing out because he doesn't agree with me, a baby having a tantrum because an adult had the audacity to say no to him. He calls me a liar yet at know point can he point to a lie and also friends don't you think if he could have caught me in a lie I would have some sort of legal papers in my hand right now? 

But worse than him trying to bully me is that he has been a terrible school board member for district 2. District 2 has some of the greatest schools not just in Jax but in the state and he voted for a charter school that the super himself said he wouldn't have approved if it was going into a less affluent neighborhood. His reason basically boiled down to, just because.

Shine has routinely represented the interests of charter schools and their supporters that he took money from, though as he put it, he didn't need to but just took it anyways.

District 2 you deserve more than a bully who is only on the board to fill some bucket list line on a resume. You deserve somebody who cares about and is going to fight for your schools. Somebody who knows what they are doing and you definitely don't have that in Shine and if you don't believe me look at what Ashley Smith Jurez and Becki Couch, two other school board members have pointed out.

District two, you deserve better,

By Greg Sampson

Florida has released new school grades for the previous school year. What do they mean?

School grades mimic the traditional report card that parents receive for the children. Four times a year, teachers assign grades to the learning of children. Even those grades can be hard to interpret. If a child failed, that is, received an F, why is that? Do they fail on tests and that is the overwhelming factor in the report card grade? Or does the teacher weight homework heavily and the child who refuses to do it will fail regardless of work done in school and test results? Or is it a gifted student who is bored and refuses to do work, but can ace a test if she feels like it? Or does the teacher believe that no child should fail and never assigns a grade lower than a C? Even individual grades must have context to have meaning.

Those school grades: What do they mean?

They are not comparable to previous years. Every year, the State has changed the grading rules until the grades have become meaningless, a result pointed out by the State’s Association of School Superintendents.

For 2015, because of new standards and new tests, learning gains are not part of the formula. This year, learning gains overall and for the bottom 25% will be part of the grade. So if a school rises or drops in their grade, does that mean they performed better or worse? How can anyone tell?

What do these grades mean? Can anyone tell me?

What does it mean when a school’s entire worthiness, it’s justification to exist, relies upon test results of only one reading test, one math test, and a few other selected tests that are not given every year?

Science, for example: Students only take it in their 5th year, 8thyear, and 11th year. But it covers the previous years since the last test. Is it a true measure of student learning that they don’t remember in 8thgrade what a zygote is because that was in the 6th grade curriculum? If you think so, you don’t understand children and you don’t understand pedagogy (how children learn). Do you remember what a zygote is? And if you don’t, should we go back and close the schools you attended because you had to go to Wikipedia to look it up?

That is how Florida school grades are determined. A few tests. Period. And on that basis, if a school doesn’t measure up, it and all the people working there are threatened with closure and termination of career.

Why do parents love their F schools and resist their closure? Can it be that the teachers care about their children? Those so-called non-performing teachers, who clean their children’s wounds, provide bandages, let them cry upon their clothing although that will mean dry-cleaning bills—those that attend to the whole child because that two-word phrase is not a slogan, not a talking point for the media, but something that defines them?

School grades are meaningless. If you really want to know where the good schools are, there is a simple way to find out. Ask any real estate agent. Schools are important to families moving into a town and real estate agents know where to take their clients so that they can move into the boundaries of the best.

As for me, I repeat my call for accreditation agencies to review schools and issue reports. Florida officials should look at that process and revise it. Only when committees of experienced educators and other stakeholders visit a school, stay for a week, and see what is really going on will we receive an accurate snapshot of how well a particular school is doing.

Once we go that route, we can dump the stupid testing that distorts the learning process.

Until that time, Florida school grades … cow pie bingo, anyone?