Gateway Community School in Camarillo For At-Risk Kids Lauded in New Book

Gateway Community School in Camarillo, which serves some of Ventura County’s most troubled kids, is receiving recognition for major reforms that have made it a model for schools across the country.

It’s About Time: Planning Interventions and Extensions in Secondary School, edited by Mike Mattos and Austin Buffum, dedicates a full chapter to the changes Gateway has undergone since it began implementing reforms in 2010. In the chapter titled “From a Last Resort to a Model School of Choice,” the book describes Gateway’s transformation from a troubled, underperforming school to an example of success. The chapter was authored by Dr. Jane Wagmeister, the Executive Director of the Curriculum and Instruction Department at the Ventura County Office of Education.

Students are sent to Gateway Community School from their home districts due to repeated suspensions, expellable offenses, severe substance abuse and gang involvement. Prior to the reforms, Gateway suffered from low attendance and frequent disciplinary problems, with only 30% of students passing the state high school exit exam.

To address these issues, the Ventura County Office of Education, which operates the school, began a complete restructuring that included the hiring of James Koenig as the new Principal. After a careful assessment of the reasons for the school’s troubles, an extensive series of reforms were put in place. These included improved training of teachers and staff, an updated curriculum, adjustments to the school schedule and separating the middle school from the high school. Perhaps the most important change was shifting the school culture to one that gives students positive feedback, emotional support and a clear understanding of expectations.

The results were dramatic: the daily attendance rate at Gateway increased from 75% to 88%, the number of eleventh and twelfth graders passing the high school exit exam rose from two to 15, and the number of suspensions due to physical altercations decreased from 451 to 14.

Another positive outcome is that Gateway students have a newfound respect for service to the community. They are working at giving back by organizing blood drives, serving as volunteers at the local animal shelter and collecting donations for the homeless in Ventura County.

About the Ventura County Office of Education

The Ventura County Office of Education provides a broad array of fiscal, training and technology support services to local school districts, helping to maintain and improve lifelong educational opportunities for children, educators and community members. VCOE also operates schools that serve students with severe disabilities and behavioral issues and coordinates countywide academic competitions including Mock Trial and the Ventura County Science Fair. Learn more at

Lot of Buzz About New Bookstore That Opened Today at The Oaks Mall

Conejo Valley Guide Facebook followers were abuzz today about the new The Open Book bookstore that opened at The Oaks Mall in Thousand Oaks this morning. It has been quite a number of years since there was a bookstore at The Oaks, and from the oohs and ahhs shown on Facebook, there are still quite a number of folks chomping at the bit to buy books!

According to is Facebook page, The Open Book was previously located at the Topanga Westfield Mall in the San Fernando Valley. According to owners, The Open Book sells new books and DVDs at significantly discounted prices. The store contains an inventory of an estimated 20,000 items, which also includes out of print and vintage books. In addition to a Sunday children's storytime, the store plans to initiate a book club at a future date.

The Open Book is located on the 2nd floor inside The Oaks in the store that previously was occupied by Coldwater Creek. In, fact, they indicated that dressing rooms were demolished to make room for an amazing kids' department. The store is located next to the doors leading to the outdoor shops, restaurants and Muvico.

The store opened at 10am today and already there are positive comments: "Enjoyed our visit and bought four books for under $30!" "We were there this morning. They have a wonderful children's section. I purchased three for under $10."

Call (805) 494-5056 for more information.

Humorous Fatherhood Book by Local Writer to Launch Over Father's Day Weekend

Muse Harbor Publishing launches tour for "Everything Ever After: Confessions of a Family Man" - a book based on Michael Picarella’s Southern California-based syndicated family columns.

On Saturday, June 14th, Muse Harbor will host a family fun event to launch their new illustrated humor book, "Everything Ever After: Confessions of a Family Man" by popular columnist Michael Picarella, at Conejo Valley Botanic Garden's Kids' Adventure Garden at 400 West Gainsborough Road, Thousand Oaks  from 3-6 p.m. This is a special Saturday public opening of the Kids' Adventure Garden, which is normally only open on Sundays.

Picarella offers witty and often laugh-aloud funny stories about marriage, fatherhood, family and suburban community life in his book.

Picarella will entertain attendees with hilarious and poignant fatherhood excerpts from his book at 4:00 p.m. and will sign copies. Food and refreshments will be provided.

The next stop on the author's book tour is on Tuesday, July 8th, where Picarella will be appearing at another fun book signing event at Mrs. Figs' Bookworm, 93 East Daily Drive in Camarillo from 5-7 p.m. Visit

Author Picarella (aka Suburb Man) is an award-winning writer and National Society of Newspaper Columnists member. Since 2006, he has written his column “Family Men Don’t Wear Name Brands,” for The Acorn Newspapers in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. His other column, "Picarella Family Report" for The Signal Newspaper for over two years.

Picarella’s refreshingly clean humor stands out from other humorists in an age where families are often depicted as wisecracking and argumentative. His fans call him “a welcome throwback, a voice out of time.” Writer/Director Gregory Poppin (ESPY Show Awards, My Crazy Life) says, “Michael’s sharp wit collides with the stark reality of trying to be a Cosby husband and father in a ‘Pulp Fiction’ world. I read about his misadventures with pity, until I realized, oh... that’s my life, too.”

"Everything Ever After" is also available online on and M

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Long-Time Newbury Park Resident John Mulhall's Debut Novel "Geddy's Moon"

Long-time Newbury Park resident John Mulhall’s debut novel is called Geddy's Moon.

"Tyler is an amnesiac, drifting aimlessly across the country, struggling to regain his lost memories. When he arrives in Geddy’s Moon, a sleepy town in the middle of the Kansas wheat fields, fragments of his past begin to resurface. But as he establishes new relationships in town, and spends time with the local librarian and her son, he finds himself tormented by nightmares that grow more unsettling each night. What horrific events took place before Tyler arrived in Geddy’s Moon? And could he have brought a terrifying – and possibly supernatural – danger along with him? As the pieces of his fractured memory begin to fall into place, he fears that it may already be too late to keep himself, and those he’s begun to care about, safe from a vicious evil."

In addition to being an award-winning video and event producer, John is also the author of several short stories, plays and a collection of poetry. He began developing Geddy’s Moon more than twenty years ago at age nineteen. In fact, Mulhall indicated that "Geddy's Moon" is actually set in a fictional version of Newbury Park circa 1983.

There will be a Geddy's Moon reading and book signing at the E.P. Foster Library in Ventura at 7pm on October 11th. Your chance to meet the author and learn a little more about his debut horror novel! Visit to learn more.

Conejo Valley Based Writer Robert Weibezahl Pens Second in Crime Novel Series

Westlake/T.O. Writer Pens Second in Crime Novel Series

Robert Weibezahl has published his second crime novel, The Dead Don’t Forget. The Westlake resident draws on his experiences working in the film industry in writing his mystery series.

Introduced in Weibezahl’s debut crime novel, The Wicket and the Dead, Billy Winnetka is a screenwriter and amateur detective who Front Street Reviews calls “a character you hope to meet again. ” Now, Winnetka is back for a second case in The Dead Don’t Forget (Dark Oak Mysteries; April 2013; $14.95, paperback), once more reluctantly investigating a peculiarly Hollywood crime.

Who would want to scare a silent screen legend who hasn’t made a movie in years? As Winnetka discovers, there is a considerable list of suspects—from Gwendolyn Barlow’s money-grubbing high society relatives to her less-than-honest business manager. But simply scaring an old woman is one thing—killing her is another.

Meanwhile, the beleaguered screenwriter encounters a string of problems on the set of his new movie, where production has run amuck. The only antidote for his troubles may be love—but is the new woman in his life somehow connected to Gwendolyn’s murder?

With cheerful cynicism, Billy Winnetka casts a satirical eye on the excesses and often less-than-glamorous reality of Hollywood. While he may lack the bona fide credentials of a private eye, he has the right intentions, the right connections and the right instincts to uncover the murderous truth lurking on the back lots and behind the gated walls.

Blending soft-boiled Los Angeles noir with a touch of satire, The Dea

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Local Author Publishes New Adventure Novel Geared Towards Teens and Launches Book Caches in Local Mountains

Local author David Smith has written a new young adult action adventure novel about a boy named Kief whose life is thrown into a grand adventure when his dead grandfather leaves him a mysterious map on his birthday.  Beyond his action adventure novel for teens, David is offering his readers something more than a great story – the opportunity to go on their own personal adventure.

In the mountains surrounding the Conejo Valley from the Simi Hills to the Santa Monica Mountains, David has hidden copies of his book in old-style treasure boxes.  He calls it “Book Cache Adventures” and you can learn more about it at his website

After hiding the treasure boxes, he posts the GPS coordinates of their locations on his website and his Facebook page The Dark Eagles.  Young adventurers, along with their parents, can print maps using a link he’s provided on his website that will help guide them to the location.

The book and treasure box are the prize to the first person who finds them.  David hopes his story, and subsequent stories in the series to come, will inspire young people to get out and explore the world around them, and to never stop dreaming about their own possibilities.

His “Book Cache Adventures” are a small way he’s trying to encourage adventure in young people. “When we are kids, we dream and believe in all kinds of things.  Somehow as adults, we lose that spirit.  I hope to encourage and instill that adventuresome nature in kids so that they don’t lose it when they grow up,” David says.

Learn more about David’s action adventure novel The Dark Eagles – First Flight at his website .

Ojai Author Kate Sexton's New Novel "Awakening the Essence" Released May 3rd

First book of a trilogy that contains over ten years of research

Ojai author Kate Sexton's new novel, Awakening the Essence: Book One of The Siren Chronicles, was released Tuesday, May 3rd. This is the first book of The Siren Chronicles, a trilogy focused on the ancient history of Europe as unveiled through the eyes of a modern woman's journey of discovery. Demonstrating a gift for the creation of legend, Sexton delivers a hypnotic novel of mysteries and profound knowledge and makes real a great dynasty - a family given to history and mythology, to murder and forbidden wisdom, to song and philosophy; a family that is itself haunted by a dangerous and secretive enemy.

About the Story
On a mountainside in the south of France, Rory Forsythe, a beautiful and successful entertainment executive, awakens from a car accident to discover she has acquired sensory abilities that both mystify and frighten her. While trying to comprehend these new abilities, she is catapulted into a worldwide power struggle that began eons ago.  With handsome Irishman Kelsey O'Keefe at her side, Rory takes up the hunt for the hidden location of an ancient family fortune. As these two set out to solve the mystery of her past, the novel moves backward and forward in time, from the present to an ancient temple in Babylon, and to a tribal circle of judgment held 8,000 years ago. Rory's inspired yet dangerous moves in this ruthless game bind her to the legacy she was born to protect - The Siren Chronicles.

Millennia ago women were honored as matriarchs and the leaders of nations. Respected and powerful. Today women fight for an equal role in society, their power suppressed, their intelligence hidden, and their voice muffled. Why? Was it simply the
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