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The News Gallery

September 2001

ROAD WORTHY - CHOICES Program Has a Message for Students of Tulare County

News Gallery - September 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: CHOICES team clockwise from upper left: Marsha Roberts, Patricia Onsurez, Lynne Goodwin, Tony Cavanagh, Project Director Dr. Pansy Ceballos, Gene Mendez and Vicky Contreras
(Not Pictured: Kelly Ryan, Robert Chavez, Mary Bautista and Jimmy Alonzo)

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CHOICES Steers Students Past Harmful Lifestyles to Personal Achievement

CHOICES is the growing program within the Instructional Services Division that has historically reached out to students in Tulare County with a positive message designed to prevent them from becoming involved in harmful practices—the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, and any association with street gangs. CHOICES delivers this message through numerous programs including the popular and highly visible Friday Night Live. A team of school liaisons works with individual districts to present and involve students in keeping their schools safe and remaining free from illegal substances.

Dr. Pansy Ceballos, CHOICES Program Director But now there's another message you'll hear from CHOICES. It's a subtler, perhaps more powerful message about student achievement and it's being delivered by newly appointed Program Director Dr. Pansy Ceballos. Dr. Ceballos joined CHOICES August 1, after having served at Educational Resource Services as an Instructional Consultant.

"CHOICES will continue to offer the services that provide the safe schools, gang prevention and drug and tobacco-free message," says Dr. Ceballos. "But, the program will also begin to address the issue of student achievement through youth development. Too often, we look at students and the pressures they face and consider them problems we have to fix," says Dr. Ceballos. "If we focus too closely on the problems, we're missing an opportunity to enlist the help of students in dealing with these issues. Youth development is our opportunity to listen to students and engage them in learning about respecting themselves and others."

"Through CHOICES, we gain key access to the students of Tulare County," says County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "As we work side-by-side with school administrators, sharing the same goals, we can also serve students in the role of an outside mentor—an independent adult who they can trust for guidance, support and encouragement. It's a youth development model we've seen work so well for the statewide California Friday Night Live Partnership (CFNLP), an agency housed here in the Tulare County Office of Education. I have great confidence that youth development in the hands of Pansy and the staff at CHOICES will make a tremendous difference in the lives of Tulare County students."

School Community Liaison Lynne Goodwin Currently, School Community Liaisons Lynne Goodwin and Gene Mendez work with the CFNLP on a mentor program with sixty trained student mentors from three different high schools. Working with Ms. Goodwin and Mr. Mendez, these students build one-on-one relationships with eighth grade students struggling with challenging personal circumstances.

An example of some of the youth development projects currently being discussed by the staff at CHOICES involves a disturbing trend. "I hear reports from the Court and Community School program that students as young as third grade are talking about gangs," says Dr. Ceballos. "Although these kids may not know exactly what is involved in being a gang member, I can't help but be concerned. Perhaps one way to get information to younger students about gangs is to develop a program utilizing some of the same students in our Court and Community School programs who can speak firsthand about the dangers of such activities. By creating these opportunities, we give students the power to create, work with and help others as they develop themselves. Ultimately, these types of self-development experiences may lead to positive career decisions. That's what we hope," Dr. Ceballos concludes. To handle the increase in anticipated service to Tulare County schools, CHOICES has added several staff members this month, including Gang Prevention Specialists.

Ceballos suggested that one way to increase the success of youth development is through after-school programs. "We're not interested in creating after-school study sessions, but rather enrichment programs where students can begin to develop the projects that interest them," she says. There are a variety of existing programs that stand to benefit from a youth- oriented approach involving alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs (ATOD) prevention. One such project involves alternative school students using their base of life experiences to make meaningful contributions to the welfare of younger children from their communities. Another program, entitled the ATOD Transition Program for Rural Middle School Students, was developed for rural K-8 schools where students from rural “feeder” schools meet each other during their eighth-grade year. Students from their future high school provide an introduction to school life from a student perspective. The program also coordinates services for transition counseling, testing and registration.

Ask Pansy Ceballos about her vision of a school where young people are seen as resources and she will tell you: "It is a place where students are seen as decision makers, problem solvers and viable members of their school and community. It's a place of endless possibilities!" It sounds like a place where choices are more than decisions between good and bad, but opportunities for growth and personal satisfaction.

Photos above:
~ What's the Score? Program Director Dr. Pansy Ceballos looks on with students at the annual Friday Night Live Bowling event in Visalia.

~ School Community Liaison Lynne Goodwin (right) listens as Exeter High School students Christopher Goodwin (left) and Lindsay Morris (center) discuss policy guidelines they are writing for the Wellness Foundation as part of the Sexual Abstinence for Teens and Youth (SAFETY) chapter.

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Theatre Company Opens State Superintendent's Conference, Offers Fall Workshop

The Tulare County Office of Education's Theatre Company recently dazzled educational leaders from across California at the annual School's In conference in Sacramento. Fourteen Theatre Company students donned costumes and presented a lively fifteen minutes of musical entertainment to the opening session crowd of 2,500. After receiving a standing ovation, the Theatre Company students met briefly with keynote speaker/actor/director Rob Reiner and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin.

Theatre Company at State Superintendent's Conference "Our Theatre Company is most deserving of this recognition," said Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "Each year the School's In conference features a program with student talent primarily from the Sacramento area. I thought it time that we demonstrate to the rest of California the incredible artistic resources we have here in Tulare County."

Theatre Company Director Brian Roberts agrees. "I know Mr. Vidak worked for many months to get our students on the program at School's In. We appreciate his efforts. I'm sure both the audience and our students won't soon forget the experience."

The Theatre Company is currently seeking students interested in auditioning for a performing troupe. Up to 20 students will be chosen to represent the Theatre Company at various community and statewide events. As Mr. Roberts explains: "This is an excellent opportunity to gain extended experience in the performing arts."

The Music Man The Theatre Company is also forming a new after-school workshop designed to teach children in grades 1-12 the basic elements of theatre arts. Students will be instructed in singing, dancing and acting, as well as theatre history and elements of technical theatre. Students enrolled in the workshops will take part in a live performance in December.

Registration for the after-school workshops will be held Friday, September 7, at 5:30 p.m. at the Office of Education's complex at 7000 Doe Avenue in Visalia. For a schedule of workshops or for information on the Theatre Company Troupe, contact the office at 651-1482.

Photos above:
~ Theatre Company Director Brian Roberts and students pose with Rob Reiner and State Superintendent Delaine Eastin at the
School's In conference.

~ Jordan Ringhofer starred in The Music Man this summer.

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SEE & Co. and School-to-Career Test Summer Internship Program

Frank Ghiglia Four area high school students had the opportunity to work in a new summer internship program. The program is a collaboration between School-to-Career and the Services for Education and Employment's (SEE) Summer Youth Program. The purpose of the program is to give students an opportunity to learn practical job skills and make valuable connections within the community. Laura Velasquez, Frank Ghiglia and Jennifer Rocha worked with School-to-Career Project Director Randy Wallace. Brook Meling worked at the Visalia Chamber of Commerce, revising curriculum used by business partners in presentations to local schools.

"It was rewarding to fund these internships and place students on challenging projects. The interns that worked for our program took care of so many of the details for our annual Partnership Recognition Luncheon," says School-to-Career Project Director Randy Wallace. "We couldn't have pulled off that event without them here."

Intern Frank Ghiglia said of his work experience: "You couldn't ask for a better working environment. I learned a great deal, and appreciated the fact that everyone was so willing to help." For more information on School-to-Career internships, contact Randy Wallace at 733-6101, or by e-mail at partners@tcoe.org.

Photo above:
~ Multitasking. Frank Ghiglia worked to coordinate School-to-Career's annual Partnership Recognition Luncheon and build the program's database.

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Tulare County College Night Set For September 10

Tulare County College Night For the first time ever, the Tulare County Office of Education will lead the popular Tulare County College Night, an event developed 19 years ago by a dedicated group of parent volunteers working in partnership with the Visalia Unified School District. Many of the same volunteers have helped Educational Resource Services Program Manager Elainea Scott and staff plan this huge event, which annually attracts over 3,000 students and parents to the Visalia Convention Center. "College Night is truly a community event," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "We are honored to carry on its legacy of service to Tulare County students."

College Night is designed for students and parents who want to learn more about preparing for and applying to colleges. On September 10, 2001, beginning at 6:30 pm, the Exhibit Hall of the Convention Center will be filled with over 80 university and college representatives to answer questions about entrance requirements, tuition and housing. Financial aid and scholarship information will also be available.

Throughout the evening, visitors may attend presentations to learn about financial aid opportunities, community college admissions and transfers and foreign exchange opportunities. Students and parents may also access www.tcoe.org/collegenight with links to university web sites, financial aid sites and test preparation sites.

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SCICON Expands Dining Hall, Adds Amenities

This summer, the Clemmie Gill School of Science and Conservation (SCICON) undertook the expansion and remodel of its landmark dining facility. Students and visitors to the outdoor education program will now enjoy more room for dining and special programs, plus the first-time comfort of air conditioning.

In three short months, the construction crews completed an additional 1854 square feet of dining space, and added central air conditioning and heating, new windows, interior lighting and a river rock fireplace. Wintertime indoor activities such as campfire programs and folk dances can now be held in the new extension of the dining lodge.

The project is expected to be 95 percent complete on September 4, when the new SCICON school year begins. There will still be several areas of work that will continue through the month of September with the final completion date set for September 30, 2001. "This remodel is really the best of everything," states County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "In some ways, the dining facility is really the heart of the SCICON experience. We have been able to add this much-needed square footage and increase the building's energy efficiency, while maintaining and enhancing its rustic charm."

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Gallery Notes

Dan Barajas has been named the new principal of La Sierra High School. Mr. Barajas was the principal of the John Muir Middle School in Corcoran last year and served as the assistant principal for Corcoran High School for two years. "Dan returns to the Tulare County Office of Education and the SEE program after working for Corcoran Unified for 12 years," says Administrator Dr. Lorene Valentino. "While attending college, Dan worked for SEE as a youth counselor and job developer. As a result, he is very familiar with our vocational training emphasis—helping students learn an employable skill while earning their high school diploma," concludes Dr. Valentino.

Candy Hilvers, Program Manager, School Health Programs Candy Hilvers was recently selected to be the program manager of School Health Programs. Ms. Hilvers has served the program as a nurse working with various school districts, and as the administrator for a teen pregnancy prevention grant.

On July 26, 2001, the Migrant Education Program Region VIII and Administrator Sheli Silva-Cunningham received special recognition from Blue Cross of California at a dinner at the Visalia Convention Center. The event was hosted to recognize community organizations from Tulare and Kings Counties for their service to the health and well-being of children.

Character Counts Week! is scheduled for October 21-27, 2001. Student nomination forms are available through October 5 from CHARACTER COUNTS! Coordinator John Forenti at 740-4303.

Photo above:
~ School Health Program Manager Candy Hilvers

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Inside Gallery

Tulare County Welcomes New Leaders

Welcome and congratulations to newly appointed school district superintendents in Tulare County! We wish great success to these fine superintendents as they begin the new traditional school year.

Dinuba Unified
Scott Meier, Ed.D., Superintendent
Ducor Union Elementary
Alan Wilkinson, Principal/Superintendent (former administrator-Hot Springs)
Hot Springs Elementary
I.J. Blevens, Administrator
Palo Verde Union
John Manning, Interim Superintendent
Rockford Elementary
Andrew Schultz, Superintendent (former principal/superintendent-Ducor)
Saucelito Elementary
Harold Haggard, Superintendent
Sequoia Union
Gale Gregory, Interim Superintendent
Stone Corral
Gale Gregory, Interim Superintendent
Visalia Unified
Stan Carrizosa, Superintendent
(former superintendent-Dinuba Unified)

Visit our web site at www.tcoe.org for up-to-date information about Tulare County school districts and the 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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