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The News Gallery

July/August 2001

TEAMWORK - Information Systems Launches New Financial Systems Software

News Gallery - July/August 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 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: Information Systems team clockwise from lower left: Mike Keller, Bryan Patterson, Information Systems Director Rick Moynahan, Cindy Correia, Lorena White, Roger Smith, Paul Harrington, Richard Caetano, Luis Leal, Allen Austin and Gilbert Hernandez.
(Not pictured: Kevin Matteson)



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Financial System Made to Order

It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention. In the case of the Tulare County Office of Education's Business Services Division, necessity is nearly 1,600 employees, 47 school districts with thousands of their own employees, vendors, suppliers and contractors all requiring information — salary information, budget information and personnel information, to name a few. In the world of Business Services, there are bills to pay, money to collect and lots of information to maintain.

Cindy Correia trains district personnel This month, the technology engineers in the Information Systems department will launch a brand new financial system designed to serve the Office of Education well into the future. Millions of precise lines of new computer code, written by the Information Systems team, lay behind the screens that the business and personnel offices will be using for payroll, personnel, credentials, budgeting, financial reporting, vendor system, accounts payable, purchase orders, journal entries, cash receipts and other systems. The new system also incorporates the State of California's new and required Standardized Account Code Structure (SACS).

"Each year, new legislation, rules or regulations are introduced that have a direct impact on the way we implement business or personnel services," says Information Systems Director Rick Moynahan. "I am confident that the new system will enable us to adapt to these business demands quicker and more efficiently than ever before."

Gilbert Hernandez creates a new screen The new system replaces a Hewlett Packard-based system, which was modified and updated to serve the Office of Education since the beginning of the Information Systems department in the 1970s. Rick Moynahan explains: "Our previous financial systems software, which was developed in-house, went on to become the backbone of district and county office systems throughout the state. It was a powerful tool, but it had its limitations." One of the limitations, Mr. Moynahan explained, was its hardware. "The old system was based on Hewlett Packard hardware. As a proprietary system, any necessary upgrades to the hardware were very expensive. The new system is PC-based. It is comprised of a series of networked, readily available components which are expandable at a fraction of the price."

"This is truly the best of both worlds," says County Superintendent Jim Vidak. "Utilizing the considerable expertise within our Information Systems department, we have created a system that is responsive and economical. We are extremely fortunate to have such a talented and dedicated staff in Tulare County."

For one year, the new system was pilot tested with the Palo Verde, Kings River, and Liberty School Districts. All of the computer code for the new system was written in a new computer language, on new hardware, using new data retrieval techniques. During the year-long pilot period, Information Systems staff was busy getting familiar with the California Standardized Account Code Structure, and dealing with technology changes, learning and implementing the software and maintaining the old system. This month, 43 more Tulare County school districts and the Office of Education will be joining the three pilot districts.

Lorena White works on web pages To the user, the financial system software will have familiar interaction tools like those on Microsoft Windows products — drop down boxes and information that reduces the number of codes needed. "I believe the new system takes away some of the mystery that was inherently hidden in the old system," says Rick Moynahan. In the past, the system was accessed through Minisoft. The new system utilizes Microsoft’s familiar Internet Explorer instead.

During the development and implementation process, Information Systems Coordinator Cindy Correia was the department's liaison with districts. She spent many hours conducting one-on-one training sessions with district personnel. Working with members of Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Jeanne Nava's division, Mike Keller and Gilbert Hernandez created the new payroll and personnel systems. Bryan Patterson, Richard Caetano and Paul Harrington worked closely with External Business Services Director John Wilborn and Internal Business Services Director Patty Blaswich in developing many of the financial systems such as the budget development and general ledger reporting system, vendor maintenance, purchase orders and accounts payable.

Luis Leal was responsible for several new projects including position control, testing new tools and helping migrate data between the old and new systems. Roger Smith helped with system hardware, system software and interfaces with external organizations like the Office of Education's financial institution. Allen Austin has helped in setting up computer systems for clients and keeping users' systems tuned, and Kevin Matteson has worked on network issues. Simultaneously, Lorena White helped create the Office of Education's new web pages — more than 350 of them found at www.tcoe.org. Ms. White also worked on the process of printing payroll and accounts payable checks along with system documentation.

The enormous efforts of this team supports another necessity — ensuring that the ever-changing business of teaching Tulare County students is done efficiently.

Photos above:
~ Cindy Correia (left) trains Dinuba Unified's Anne MacDonald, Marlene Anderson and Virginia Padilla on the new purchase order system. Ms. Correia has been involved in training personnel about the new financial systems software for over four years.

~ Gilbert Hernandez works through a new Windows-based system.

~ The Tulare County Office of Education's new web site came on line in June. The site was programmed almost entirely by Lorena White, with design and content assistance from County Superintendent Jim Vidak, Administrative Assistant Darlynn Billingsley and Information Officer Robert Herman.



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Sharnal Daniels Correction

Our apologies to La Sierra High School graduate Sharnal Daniels for the error in the June issue of The News Gallery. Ms. Daniels was incorrectly identified in the photo that appeared at left.




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Music Man Dances, Sings and Marches Into Visalia July 26

Theatre Company workers This summer, Theatre Company Director Brian Roberts may wish he could be in two places at once. While some of his cast members rehearse The Music Man at the Office of Education's Doe Avenue Complex, others are busy constructing the stage sets at Mt. Whitney High School. "As a young theatre company, this is our biggest undertaking, so far," says Mr. Roberts. "We have a larger cast this year - some 80 students from throughout Tulare County - and the responsibility of building, decorating and transporting the sets from Mt. Whitney to L.J. Williams."

Last summer, the Theatre Company performed the spectacular Peter Pan but used the sets from the musical's Broadway production. "I was delighted with Peter Pan. It was absolutely first rate," says Brian Roberts. "But the production of The Music Man is closer to the vision County Superintendent Jim Vidak had for this program that he and Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Sally Bakke formed in 1998. It's a vision that involves Tulare County students in all aspects of a production, not just performance."

Theatre Company workers The Music Man is Meredith Wilson's classic American musical about traveling salesman Harold Hill and his visit to a small Iowa town in 1912 where he meets and falls in love with the willful, spinster librarian, Marian Paroo. Marian will be played by Exeter High School senior and Theatre Company veteran Camilla Blackham. With his fast-talking style, "Professor" Harold Hill, played by Redwood High School senior Jordan Ringhofer, convinces the town that unless they adopt his revolutionary music program, "The Think System," the morale of the youngsters of River City will be forever doomed. He cons parents into buying instruments and expensive uniforms in order to form the River City Boys Band. Songs from the musical include "Til There was You," "Gary, Indiana," "Trouble," and of course, "Seventy-six Trombones."

"I'm glad to see students involved in the process of design and fabrication, and even event marketing," says County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "The skills they learn have so many other applications. Who knows which students may go on to be contractors or business owners as a result of their experience?" says Mr. Vidak.

Four performances of The Music Man will be held July 26 - 28, at the L.J. Williams Theatre in Visalia. General admission tickets are $5 per person. For reservations and more information, contact the Theatre Company at 651-1482.

Photos above:
~ Students work side-by-side with theatre artisans to create River City, Iowa streetscapes and interiors for The Music Man. The set pieces were designed to be reused in future Theatre Company productions.



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Sierra Corps Students Win Congressional Youth Citizenship Award

Carrizo Plain As one of the Six Pillars of Character, "citizenship" is sometimes overlooked. However, the reality is that when attributes of citizenship are upheld with steadfast commitment to a worthy cause, the positive results are often felt not only by those in our community, but by the entire planet as well.

The 27 young people of La Sierra High School's Sierra Corps were involved with a community service project that yielded such a result. Under the supervision of Site Advisor Bud Darwin and staff assistants Skylar Carney, Mark Dominguez, Manuel Garcia and Ed Parker, the Corps embarked on a project to help restore the Pronghorn Antelope to the Carrizo Plain, a national monument located in the southwest San Joaquin Valley in eastern San Luis Obispo County. The Carrizo is the largest, last- remaining remnant of undeveloped, contiguous grassland that reflects the plant and animal species indigenous to the San Joaquin Valley.

Sierra Corps Kids at Work In a remarkable display of perseverance and an unyielding desire to confront and complete even the most difficult of tasks, the youth of the Sierra Corps accomplished what can only be described as "awesome!"

In just three short weeks, the Sierra Corps astounded officials of the Bureau of Land Management by repairing and removing twelve miles of barbed wire and woven fencing, thereby greatly increasing the chances for the restoration of the Pronghorn Antelope to the Carrizo Plain.

Their efforts did not go unnoticed. On July 2, 2001, U.S. Congressman George Radanovich of California's 19th Congressional District will award the United States Congressional Youth Citizenship Award to the students of Sierra Corps. As part of the awards ceremony in Fresno, the students will make a PowerPoint presentation to Congressman Radanovich. The Tulare County Office of Education will then honor the students with a reception in the Education Center following the July 18 meeting of the Tulare County Board of Education. All employees and members of the media are invited to attend the reception beginning at 4:30 pm. County Superintendent Jim Vidak and the Tulare County Office of Education wish to extend sincere congratulations to the youth of the Sierra Corps for their award.

Photos above:
The Carrizo Plain National Monument covers 250,000 acres of the southwest San Joaquin Valley. Sierra Corps students repaired and reconfigured over 12 miles of barbed wire fence.



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Migrant Education's Even Start Home Base Program Prepares Children for Preschool

The Migrant Education Even Start (MEES) Home Base Program is funded by a Prop 10 grant, written by Program Manager Olga Cortez. The grant supports 10 full-time preschool instructional aides. Each aide visits 25 or more students and their families each week. These students have never been enrolled in any other home- or site-based preschool. If not for these 10 MEES instructional aides, 250 Tulare County children would probably enter kindergarten with no preschool experience. Parents are asked to participate in each lesson and to come to meetings once a month. They receive hands-on examples of how to be their child's "first teacher," a job most parents take very seriously. Special speakers are also invited to discuss various topics concerning parents of preschool students.

Under the direction of Olga Cortez, the home base tutors are supported by Margaret Escamilla and parent mentors, who help them host their first meetings. Program coordinator Marsha Ingrao has developed a home base thematic curriculum aligned with the Desired Results Standards and provides monthly staff development sessions for hands on training with the materials. MEES teachers contribute many tried and true activities during their staff development meetings. Rhonda Jeronimo and Ms. Ingrao have adapted the activities to fit the special needs of a full-time home base program for children transitioning from home to school.




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Gallery Notes

Retirees Ten individuals retiring from the Tulare County Office of Education were honored at an afternoon reception in the Education Center June 14, 2001. Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Jeanne Nava opened the reception with these remarks: "The Tulare County Office of Education and the children of the Tulare County have benefited greatly from the dedication of the individuals we honor today. In total, 244 years of service and leadership have been given to our programs. We can never replace this type of commitment. We will miss you all." Retiring this year were: California Friday Night Live Partnership Administrator Peggee Davis; Special Services' Diane Arnold, Dixie Clark, Bob Nilmeier and Dwain Zachary; and Instructional Services' Lorraine Bettencourt, Mary Espinoza, Enedina Esquivel, Donna Ethridge and Melinda Garrison.

Myel Jenkins was selected as the new California Friday Night Live Partnership Administrator. Ms. Jenkins, who replaces retired administrator Peggee Davis, was the former Project Coordinator for the California Youth Council.

Photo above:
~ Bob Nilmeier, Melinda Garrison, Dwain Zachary, Lorraine Bettencourt, Peggee Davis, Enedina Esquival and Donna Ethridge were honored at a Retirees Tea June 14.



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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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