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The News Gallery

June 2001

FIRST CLASS - La Sierra Charter High School Graduates Its First Class This Month

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

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 and Donna Orozco.

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: La Sierra Senior Richard Yeager

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La Sierra Prepares First Graduates for the Future

Math Teacher Peggy Vargas and Senior Luke Valenzuela Less than ten months after receiving its charter status from the Tulare County Board of Education, La Sierra High School is preparing to graduate its first class of seniors 20 young men and women with diverse backgrounds and promising futures.

Seniors Tasha Dahlberg and Janet Oregel La Sierra consists of two campuses in Visalia. The first is the school located in the Services for Education and Employment's (SEE) facility on Houston Avenue. La Sierra classrooms are housed in recently acquired space adjoining the SEE Employment Training Center. Students and faculty make full use of the facilities and equipment, which have been used by adult programs since the center's opening in 1999. At the heart of the La Sierra program are vocational classes students take during part of their school day for credit toward Vocational Training Certificates in numerous areas. These certificates are available in graphic arts, printing, culinary arts, hospitality, business administration, building trades, retail sales, maintenance and landscaping. As a graduation requirement, along with the standard academic credits, all students must earn a certificate in an employable skill.

"Looking back over the past year, I realize how very fortunate we were to have a wonderful building, skilled staff and equipment from our other training programs for our students to use," says SEE Administrator Lorene Valentino. "These assets gave us the ability to offer one of the most innovative high school programs in the Central Valley a program we may not have been able to do otherwise."

"La Sierra has been an exciting program to watch," says County Superintendent Jim Vidak. "The same synergy that occurred in so many other SEE programs has happened at La Sierra. It's that rare combination of talent, resources and a heart for students that makes it work." La Sierra students agree. Graduating senior Luke Valenzuela says: "La Sierra was the right school for me. The classes were small and the teachers were able to give me more help. After graduation, I plan to attend the University of California at Berkeley." Luke completed the graphic arts training program. He feels that the computer skills he developed will help him in whatever field he chooses. Senior Susanna Joven says: "I've only been here for one month, but I have really enjoyed La Sierra. The kids are friendly, the teachers are helpful and the atmosphere is very warm. After graduation, I plan to apply for the San Francisco Job Corps Program and work in the city. The hospitality training I've received will help me get a job in San Francisco right away."

Senior Amanda Jordan La Sierra West is the second of the program's two Visalia campuses. Renamed after the opening of the charter school, La Sierra West was formerly known as the Teen Age Parent Program or TAPP. La Sierra West is available to all pregnant and young mothers, age 13 to 18, in the Visalia area. TAPP began over 15 years ago as a program to keep teenage mothers in school, help them graduate and continue on to college, and learn good parenting skills. At La Sierra West, SEE certificated teachers provide the academic studies required for a high school diploma. Carole Brown, the Lead Counselor of La Sierra West, supervises the faculty, which includes eight instructors and aides. The school day at La Sierra West includes practical instruction in parenting, with time spent in an on-site child care nursery for other students' children. Routinely, pediatricians and nurses are invited to talk to expectant and young mothers about child health care.

La Sierra West Lead Counselor Carole Brown "La Sierra West is a continuation of the success we've had with TAPP," says Ms. Valentino. "Because of our efforts to reach these young women, most earn a high school diploma and either get a job or go on to college." Lead Counselor Carole Brown reports that: "of the young women here at La Sierra West, nearly 60% will be attending COS this fall. And many of the other students have already secured permanent employment."

Shortly after the TAPP program was founded, it was awarded the Job Training Partnership Act "Presidential Award for Program Year 1986" for an Outstanding Program Serving Those with Multiple Barriers to Employment an award presented by former President Ronald Reagan.

SEE's Carol Callahan and Senior Susanna Joven "At both programs, we provide work-related activities to build self-esteem and motivate students to remain connected to school," says Lorene Valentino. "Whether our students go on to college or work, or do some combination of the two, we believe work-related experience is the key to shaping their own plans for the future." Currently over 150 students attend La Sierra and La Sierra West classes.

"It has been wonderful having the kids around this year," says Ms. Valentino. "We've seen them take real ownership of the program, contributing to the content of classes and activities with their own ideas. The most rewarding thing we've seen is the goals they've set and then the experience of watching them reach high beyond their comfort level in order to achieve them."

La Sierra will hold its graduation ceremonies in the Education Center of the Education Building in Visalia, June 7, 2001. From County Superintendent Jim Vidak, the administrators and staff of the Tulare County Office of Education, congratulations La Sierra seniors. May you always be lifelong learners.

Photos above:
~ Senior Luke Valenzuela solves a problem for math teacher Peggy Vargas

~ Seniors Tasha Dahlberg (left) and Janet Oregel (right) wait for instruction in their economics class.

~ Senior Amanda Jordan and her son benefit from regular parenting classes.

~ La Sierra West Lead Counselor Carole Brown reviews graduation procedures.

~ SEE's Carol Callahan observes Senior Susanna Joven in the restaurant.

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Seventh Annual Excellence in Education Winners Announced

School Employee of the Year nominee Susanna Garza Judging for the 2001 Excellence in Education Awards was held May 17. A committee of 17 Tulare County business and education leaders reviewed 30 nominations submitted in the categories of teacher, administrator and school employee. The purpose of the Excellence in Education Awards is to recognize school employees in Tulare County who exemplify exceptional qualities and commitment to Tulare County students. County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak explains: "Earlier in the year, districts were invited to make their nominations. I'm delighted to see representatives of large and small districts from throughout Tulare County." All nominees will be honored at a recognition breakfast November 1, 2001, hosted by the Educational Employees Credit Union.

The award for Administrator of the Year will go to Carlyn Lambert, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Education Services with Visalia Unified. Administrator of the Year finalists are Frances Holdbrooks, Assistant Superintendent from Lindsay Unified, and Dale Norton, Dean of Academic Services at the College of the Sequoias.

Terri Fishbough, a third-grade teacher and curriculum coordinator with the Oak Valley School in Tulare, will receive the award for Teacher of the Year. Teacher of the Year finalists included Pam Babcock, a first-grade teacher from Burton Elementary in Porterville, and Becky Richert, a first-grade teacher with Linwood Elementary in Visalia.

The award for the School Employee of the Year will go to Janie Elson. Ms. Elson is the Healthy Start Director with Lindsay Unified. School Employee of the Year finalists include Steve LaMar, a theater technician with the College of the Sequoias, and Manuel Rico, Director of Custodial and Grounds for Visalia Unified.

The Office of Education's own Susanna Garza, Transportation Assistant within the Special Services Division, was nominated for School Employee of the Year. Ms. Garza's nominator, Rich Graham, praised her ability: "Susanna is always on the lookout for ways to ensure our programs flow smoothly. She is able to anticipate problem areas before they become problems. Susanna has a unique way of spotting gaps in planning that is both supportive and pleasant." Ms. Garza has worked in Special Services since 1992.

Excellence in Education Organizers
County Superintendent Jim Vidak
Darlynn Billingsley
Christine Chapman
Garyalynn Wilhelm

Excellence in Education Judges
Nick Anthony, Don Atkinson, Jerry Barker, John Beck, Lee E. Coelho, Sheli Silva-Cunningham, Teresa Garcia, Gary Groth, Robert Herman, David Itzenhauser, Cheryl Lehn, Dr. Terry McKittrick, Phil Plascencia, Marla Reyes, Martin Ruby, Ruth Stouffer, Angel Vazquez

Photo above:
~ TCOE's Susanna Garza was nominated for School Employee of the Year for her work in Special Services' Transportation Systems.

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Pat Camarda Wins Special Services' Brent Rast Award

The Brent Rast Award was created to recognize one exemplary teacher of the severely handicapped in memory of teacher Brent Rast. This year, Pat Camarda, a teacher of the severely handicapped with the Tulare County Office of Education, received the honor. Ms. Camarda, who works in a satellite class at Linwood Elementary in Visalia, was recognized for her work teaching students with autism. Administrators cited her tenacious research in the field of autism and her ability to build caring relationships with the students and their parents.

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Migrant Education Prepares for Summer Literacy Program with Help from CSU Sacramento

The exciting work of promoting primary literacy among migrant students in Tulare and Kings Counties took a giant stride forward April 18 - 20, 2001. As part of its ongoing commitment to literacy, the Tulare County Office of Education's Migrant Education program, in conjunction with the Migrant Optimal Learning Environment (MOLE) project at California State University, Sacramento, hosted a three-day institute in Visalia.

Migrant Optimal Learning Environment project The institute was open to teachers who were interested in teaching this summer in the third annual Intensive Reading Group (IRG) project, Migrant Education's model program of reading intervention for students based on a four-students to one-teacher ratio. The institute was held in seminar format, with participants rotating among three teacher/presenters. One of the notable aspects of the training offered by the MOLE project is that all presenters are required to be teachers who are utilizing the teaching techniques in their classrooms. As a result, the activities and lessons presented have a true "rubber meets the road" appeal for teachers who deal with language- and reading-challenged students.

Another positive aspect of this training is that the teaching strategies have been successful in areas where the student population demographics are almost identical to those in Tulare and Kings Counties. Students who have been significantly aided in their learning through these strategies are all second language learners from economically impoverished families with a rich cultural heritage. Drawing on that heritage and valuing the life experiences of the students, while implementing strategies that promote academic success, are a few of the principles that guide those working with students from migrant families.

The institute was launched by an introduction of the theoretical foundation of the MOLE project by Dr. Nadine Ruiz, co-director of the MOLE project and professor of bilingual education at CSU Sacramento. The 31 participants were then put in the capable hands of the teacher/presenters for breakout sessions. The key strategies that were covered in this institute were the practical use of interactive journals, ABC wall charts, pocket chart readings, patterned writing, writer's workshop, and literature study.

At the conclusion of three days of intensive in-service, teachers were energized and positive. In their evaluations, participants rated the presenters on the usefulness of their ideas, the clarity of the presentation and the ability to apply the lessons, using scores ranging from 4.7 to 4.9 (on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being an "excellent" rating). Migrant Region Director Sheli Silva-Cunningham says, "the goal of the institute was to disseminate effective instructional practices for culturally and linguistically diverse students. In the process, teachers found a new system of support as they serve these students. We're very proud that the participant evaluations clearly show this goal was accomplished on the highest level."

Photo above:
~ Participants in the Migrant Optimal Learning Environment (MOLE) project gave the institute high marks for preparing them for ongoing work teaching reading to linguistically diverse students.

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Noted Humorist Jim Pelley to Speak at Annual School-to-Career Luncheon

Humorist Jim Pelley The Tulare County Office of Education and the Tulare County Workforce Coalition will again recognize the outstanding contributions of area businesses, community leaders and educators at its annual Partnership Recognition Program. The event, held Wednesday, July 18, 2001, from 11:30 am until 1:30 pm at the Visalia Convention Center, will feature noted humorist Jim Pelley. Mr. Pelley is a former stand-up comedian and writer for the original Saturday Night Live Show. He has presented his message of using humor effectively in business to organizations throughout the country. At the Partnership Recognition Program, Mr. Pelley will speak on developing powerful problem-solving skills using humor and divergent thinking, and nurturing laughter to increase flexibility and manage stress.

A committee of School-to-Career partners is currently seeking nominations for outstanding career development supporters in one of three categories: educator, agency/organization/individual and employer. "We are looking for individuals, companies, agencies and schools that have made substantial contributions to furthering the careers of Tulare County students or adults," says Randy Wallace, Tulare County Office of Education's School-to-Career Project Director.

Nominations for partnership recognition and reservations for the July 18 luncheon may be obtained by calling Randy Wallace at 733-6101, or by e-mail to partners@tcoe.org. Nominations must be received by June 20, 2001. Luncheon tickets are $25 per person, or $200 for tables of eight.

Photo above:
~ Mark your calendars! School-to-Career Partnership Recognition speaker Jim Pelley promises to deliver an amusing, yet insightful discussion on humor.

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Gallery Notes

Marilyn Rankin and Bob Nilmeier Linda McKean has been appointed the new Administrator for Learning Disabilities/Designated Instructional Services within the Special Services Division of the Office of Education. Ms. McKean will assume her duties on July 1, 2001, replacing Bob Nilmeier who is retiring after 29 years with the office. Ms. McKean is currently Director of Special Education for Visalia Unified School District. Assistant Superintendent of Special Services Marilyn Rankin notes: "Linda has served in the general education classroom, worked as a Resource Specialist for Special Education and as a program specialist. I believe her background and training will be a great asset to the program as we provide assistance to school districts and the county office staff serving students with mild handicapping conditions."

County Superintendent Jim Vidak and Jacob Rankin At the annual joint luncheon of the Community Advisory Committee, the Directors of Special Education and the Superintendents Advisory Committee, Bob Nilmeier was presented a special award by Assistant Superintendent Marilyn Rankin for his 29 years of service to the Special Services division. County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak honored Jacob Rankin, Ed.D., retired Superintendent of Porterville Unified, for his lifelong support of Special Education. Dr. Rankin, who served 27 years as Porterville's superintendent, was a founder of the Superintendent's Governance Committee, and helpful in securing facilities for the severely handicapped on campuses throughout the Porterville district.

Photos above:
~ Bob Nilmeier accepts a special recognition from Marilyn Rankin.

~ Jacob Rankin receives tribute from County Superintendent Vidak.

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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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