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The News Gallery

April 2001

WITHIN REACH - Special Services' Bright Start Program Brings Support and Service to At-Risk Children and Their Parents

News Gallery - April 2001 Editor: Rob Herman
Public Information Officer
(559) 733-6606

Contributors:
M.J. Alms, Cheri Barnes, Gary Biggs, Darlynn Billingsley, Esmeralda Cano, Veronica Carmona, Christine Chapman, Vicky Contreras, Jeanne Croson, Randy Elzig, Frank Escobar, Linda Hamilton, Margaret Ibarra, LouAnn King, Donna Martin, Rick Mitchell, Donna Orozco and George Pilling.

The News Gallery is published monthly with the exception of double issues printed for July/August and December/January. If you would like to receive the News Gallery, please contact Christine Chapman at (559) 733-6172 and provide your name and address.


On the cover above: Bright Start therapists Kelly Gregerson and Shirlyn Malley provide physical as well as occupational therapy to children in the program's Visalia center.


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Bright Start Grows. Children and Parents Benefit.

LouAnn King When a child under the age of three is not meeting his or her developmental milestones, the Tulare County Office of Education's Bright Start Parent Infant Program offers the county's most comprehensive array of services in one program. While the Parent Infant Program, which is operated by the Office of Education's Special Services Division, has been providing infant stimulation classes for children from birth to 3 years of age for over 20 years, new early intervention regulations sparked the expansion of the program. Bright Start provides parents of children with an identified developmental delay or handicapping condition, an established risk, or a high risk for developmental disability, individualized special needs services ranging from hearing, speech and vision therapy to physical and occupational therapy. "Bright Start is really a model of convenience and care," says County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "Parents and their young children benefit from its integrated approach to assessment, instruction and therapy."

The concept for Bright Start grew out of the Tulare County Office of Education's recognition that family-centered activities during the first three years of a child's life can make a critical difference in a child's growth and development. To facilitate the development of young children, the Office of Education developed Bright Start utilizing its diverse special needs resources.

Bright Start offers parents the services of 12 teachers; 7 occupational, speech and physical therapists; and 10 Parent Infant Specialists all with special needs backgrounds. An in-home physical therapist critical to the needs of the homebound or medically fragile child is also available to families. Vision and hearing specialists are available for assessment and consultation on a monthly basis. All work together to provide the best possible early start programs for children. "Despite our continued growth, we maintain a close team," says Program Manager LouAnn King. "We have to communicate with one another consistently to make sure we provide families that "one-stop shop" experience where they receive most, if not all, of their special services."

The developmental milestones that may signal a need for Bright Start services include a known developmental disability syndrome, cerebral palsy or other identified special need, serious health concerns, premature birth, speech delay, vision, hearing or orthopedic impairment, parental developmental delays, or other at-risk conditions.

Bright Start Crawler The Bright Start program and the Central Valley Regional Center provide early intervention services cooperatively in conjunction with other agencies that comprise the Tulare County High Risk Infant Team. When a child is referred to the program, an assessment is completed by a credentialed teacher with the help of the parent to identify the child's present developmental levels in critical developmental domain areas, such as gross and fine motor skills, cognitive development, language and communication, social/emotional behavior, and self-help.

Once a child is enrolled in Bright Start, an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is developed by the Bright Start Team, the child's parents and other related agencies. Based on assessed needs, the plan may include a combination of services to increase the child's skills and development, such as home-based instruction, parent-support activities, physical therapy for the development of gross motor skills, occupational therapy for the development of fine motor or small muscle skills, speech and vision services, certified infant massage instruction, Mommy and Me play groups and more.

Families are encouraged to make their special needs child a high priority by becoming involved with others in the community. The main Bright Start Family Center in Visalia provides families a place to participate in three group instruction days and physical, occupational and speech therapies with emphasis on parent education and various special needs issues and concerns. A satellite family center is located in Porterville. The Bright Start program also provides home-based instruction for the child as well as the full range of family center services.

Parent Conference There is an outpouring of sibling and parental support at the centers. The Bright Start parent liaison, Stephanie Caldera, provides an array of informative topics and activities to guarantee parent networking. Also, the Parenting Network offers family support groups at least four times per month.

"This program has so many rewards," says Ms. King. "Our work in early intervention means that we make the most of those formative years. We have so many success stories and the reward that many of these children go on to attend regular preschools."

With the development of individualized educational programs for each child including home-based instruction, group instruction at the center, and any necessary therapy services, Bright Start ensures each child is given the best start.

Photos above:
~ Program Manager LouAnn King sits in on a Circle Group, which is designed to promote language development and social interaction.

~ Bright Start's vision specialist Keith Lindersmith does his best to keep up with a very active one-year-old.

~ Parents are encouraged to attend informational meetings and the Parent Network.



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Eight Young Women To Represent Tulare County at State Science Fair in May

Anna Birch At the end of the March 8 awards ceremony, eight young women stood before a crowd of parents, teachers and students at the Visalia Mall to receive the honor of advancing their entries in the annual Tulare County Science & Engineering Fair to the state level. Christina Hacket of Springville; Anna Birch from Exeter High School; Laura Dearborn and Sarah Forest from St. Paul's School in Visalia; Chelsea Groeber from Three Rivers; Katie Nichols from Springville; and Sarah Carr and Allison Hutmacher from Green Acres Middle School in Visalia will compete at the California State Science Fair held at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, May 21 and 22. The six winning projects were part of over 225 science projects representing 37 schools in Tulare County, which were displayed at the Visalia Mall.

"There were so many outstanding projects this year," commented Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "It's remarkable to see the amount of effort put into the development, research and presentation of each. I'd like to congratulate those teachers and parents who are encouraging students to develop skills in scientific research."

Victoria Gonzales "Judges in this year's competition commented that this was the best selection of science projects they had seen," says Science Instructional Consultant Joseph Jimenez. "I know for them, it was a difficult process to select the six projects that would go on to the State Finals. We can all be proud of the work that was done and know that Tulare County will be well represented."

In addition to the projects advancing to the California State Science Fair, fifteen overall sweepstakes winners were awarded plaques. The top five projects in the health care and agricultural fields also received plaques. Anna Birch of Exeter High School received the scholarship awarded to the top high school project for her work entitled, "Microbial Content in the South Fork, North Fork and Middle Fork Rivers."

The Tulare County Science Fair is affiliated with the California State Science Fair for the first time this year. Also new this year was a Students' Choice Award. Students will select their favorite project in the categories of most innovative, best presentation and most educational.

Photos above:
~ Scholarship winner Anna Birch of Exeter High School is one of eight young women advancing to the California State Science Fair in Los Angeles.

~ Victoria Gonzalez presents her project, "The Mind," to judges Steve Bock of the Fresno County Office of Education and Dan Gudgel from the National Weather Service. Ms. Gonzalez received a plaque in the health category.



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Teacher Recruitment Fair Attracts Over 600

The Visalia Convention Center was once again buzzing with prospective teacher candidates. Six hundred attended the Tulare and Kings Counties 16th Annual Teacher Recruitment Fair March 3, 2001. Administrators from 38 school districts were present to screen and interview candidates for teaching assignments for the upcoming school year.

Jim Vidak at the Teacher Recruitment Fair Four universities, Chapman, CSU Fresno, Fresno Pacific and National, had representatives available to counsel those needing course work for a teaching credential. Representatives from the Pre-intern, Intern and BTSA programs were also available to discuss options for aspiring teachers and support opportunities for new teachers. Credentialing professionals offered their expertise to teacher candidates and district administrators to ensure potential assignments would be acceptable. For the first time, the Central California Regional Teacher Recruitment Center was on hand to provide information to prospective teachers on incentive programs and teaching opportunities, and collect information to be placed in searchable databases for school districts.

It was a great opportunity for school district administrators and hopeful teacher candidates who attended, from far and wide, to come together for this one very productive day.

Photo above:
~ County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak checks in on the Central California Regional Teacher Recruitment Center booth with Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Jeanne Nava.



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Migrant Students Visit Nation's Capital During Recent Inauguration

Migrant Students in Washington, DC While the nation debated the results of the Florida presidential election recount, ten Migrant Education high school students from Region VIII, along with Rich McMullen, Secondary Program Specialist for the Migrant Education Program, and Migrant Program Coordinator Rudy Fernandez visited Washington, D.C., with the Close-Up Program. Students chosen for the trip to the nation's capital during the historic inauguration were Juana Martinez (Alpaugh), Elizabeth Serrano (Farmersville), Eddie Gastelum (Monache), Sonia Valencia (Monache), Erika Madrigal (Porterville), Paola Yanez (Porterville), Maria Gonzalez (Tulare Western), Alejandra De Rueda (Tulare Western), Reyes Robles, Jr. (Tulare Union), and Griselda Gonzalez (Tulare Union).

Prior to the Washington, D.C., trip, each student was required to perform a minimum of 20 hours of community service. Some examples of community service performed included tutoring elementary school students in reading after school, participating with a 24-hour relay for life which helped raise over $100,000 for cancer research. and volunteering at the local fire department. In addition, students attended a meeting at Visalia City Hall with Vice-Mayor Jesus Gamboa. At Visalia City Hall, students toured the facility and learned about the structure and workings of city government.

From the time of arrival in Washington, D.C., until the time of departure, students were busy learning American history and the processes of our government system. Some highlights of the trip included visits to the Supreme Court, Jefferson Memorial and other key sites, seminars on immigration policy and current issues, workshops on various political issues and participation in a mock election. "I believe seeing the workings of our government first-hand is an invaluable experience for any student," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "I'm particularly pleased that a group of our migrant students were afforded this opportunity."

Photo above:
~ TCOE's Rich McMullen (back row, third from the left) and Region VIII migrant high school students visit with U.S. Representative Cal Dooley while in Washington.



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Theatre Co. to Hold Auditions for Summer Production

Tulare County students, from incoming 7th graders through graduating seniors, are encouraged to audition for the Tulare County Office of Education's Theatre Company summer production of The Music Man. Students should be prepared to sing a song from memory and bring their own sheet music, as an accompanist will be provided. Auditions will be held at 4:00 pm Monday, April 30 at the Encore Theatre in Tulare and at 4:00 pm Wednesday, May 2 in the Elderwood Room of the Tulare County Office of Education's Doe Avenue Complex. For more information, call the Theatre Company at 651-1482.


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SEE's Welfare-to-Work Program Celebrates Second Anniversary

Services for Education & Employment's (SEE) Welfare-to-Work Program recently received an additional $1.25 million to continue its successful program until June 30, 2002. The Welfare-to-Work Program is funded by the Tulare County Workforce Investment Board (WIB) and focuses on helping long-term welfare recipients with serious barriers to find employment. This program is different than the SEE contract with the Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency for TulareWORKS welfare recipients, called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) participants. The TulareWORKS program provides vocational training and job placement.

Since its inception in April 1999, the WtW Program has helped 358 participants and placed 218 in unsubsidized employment. Over 160 participants have been on the job for over six months and the balance are working toward that goal. SEE's WtW Education Specialists serve as "case managers" for these participants and work with them on a daily basis. Staff provides Work Readiness Workshops, orientation of social services available in the community, life skills workshops, vocational and family counseling, and job development and placement services. According to Martha Falcon, employment supervisor, "Our staff does a lot of holding hands with our participants. But that is what it takes, because many of these individuals do not have a work history, many have not finished school, don't speak English and have serious personal problems." The WtW Program is operated out of the Visalia and Porterville SEE offices.




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Gallery Notes

Michael Stephens was recently promoted to Administrator II of the Severely Handicapped Program within the Special Services Division. Dr. Stevens, who is currently the program manager at the Occupational Therapy Program in Visalia, will assume the responsibility for administering all programs for the Severely Handicapped, succeeding Bob Nilmeier, who is retiring June 30.

Three Tulare County Office of Education employees were recently selected for "Administrator of the Year" 2001 honors through the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), Tulare County Charter. ACSA members who demonstrate overall performance and a commitment to educational quality and student achievement are selected. Rick Moynahan, Jeanne Croson and Sheli Silva-Cunningham will be recognized at the June 13 Summer Institute for Tulare County School Administrators. Their names were submitted for the regional competition.

Classified Manager of the Year Rick Moynahan has been director of Information Systems at the Tulare County Office of Education since 1987. Providing computer information services to Tulare County School districts and his work with new technologies, such as the SACS financial system, were considered in the final selection.

Confidential Employee of the Year Jeanne Croson provided assistance to obtain the Central California Regional Teacher Recruitment Center in Tulare County and each year works to help make the Tulare/Kings Counties Teacher Recruitment Fair run smoothly. She is the administrative/executive secretary for TCOE's Human Resources Division, a position she has held since 1995.

Central Office Administrator of the Year Sheli Silva-Cunningham has implemented numerous innovative programs to enrich the lives of migrant children and their families. The successful Intensive Reading Groups Program is one example of her endeavors. She is the administrator of the Region VIII Migrant Education Program under the umbrella of the Tulare County Office of Education.


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Jim Vidak, County Superintendent of Schools
Tulare County Office of Education
All mail to: P.O. Box 5091, Visalia, CA 93278-5091
Physical address: 6200 S. Mooney Blvd., Visalia, CA 93277
phone: (559) 733-6300 • fax: (559) 627-5219

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