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The News Gallery

December 2002

PLANETARY PROGRESS - Construction on the TCOE Impact Center and the Sam Peña Planetarium Continues

News Gallery - December 2002 Editor: Pamela Kunze
Public Information Officer
(559) 733-6606

Cherí 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.

Cover Photo:
~ Construction workers on a lift inspect steel beams.

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Construction on the TCOE Impact Center and the Sam Peña Planetarium is Ongoing

If you ask TCOE building "guru" Rich Graham how construction and remodeling is coming on the new TCOE Impact Center and Sam Peña Planetarium, you'll most likely get a smile -- followed by a short pause -- and then, a "Great."

That response seems somewhat analogous with the way the overall construction and remodeling process seems to go. Ultimately, you end with a "great," but there are a few pauses (and hopefully, smiles) along the way before you get there.

Sam Pena Planetarium Graham says, "The of effort between multiple contractors and agencies in order to keep the project moving forward in a positive manner and with minimal delays can be a bit of a challenge."

That said, Graham is quick to point out, "It is, however, nice to work with so many talented individuals."

Those "talented individuals" are tasked with remodeling the top floor of what used to be the Agriculture Building. When they're done, TCOE will have a new Impact Center with a planetarium that is almost twice as large as the existing one in the main Education Building.

In addition, there will be a multi-media theater, television studio, training area and office spaces. Scheduled for completion in mid- to late- January, the project will cost slightly more than a million dollars.

While that million dollar price tag may seem like a hefty one, Graham believes the benefits are well worth the cost.

"The students of Tulare County, as well as the community, will benefit from having a fantastic educational opportunity via the programs Sam (Peña) will present in the new building," says Graham.

Sam Peña (for whom the planetarium will be named) echoes Grahams sentiments. "For teachers, this is quite an improvement. Now we can accommodate two classes easily." says Peña. Technological improvements will also allow for more responsive programming.

Although program schedules are not yet set, Peña is planning to run two different daily shows in the planetarium for the benefit of students. Pena is also hoping to be open to the public on a weekly basis.

When asked how it feels to have such an awesome project bear his name, Peña blushes and says simply that he's honored.

"This is our future," says Peña. "The new planetarium allows us to look at where the future will be. This is a great way to do it."

A great way, indeed.

And hopefully, as TCOE heads toward the future with the new Impact Center, there will be smiles along the way.

Photos above:
~ A worker on scaffolding constructs steel framing. The circular support for the mezzanine level of the planetarium is visible through the support beams of what will be the TCOE Impact Center.
~ The same view a few short weeks later. Progress happens daily.

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The School Store Opens -- Right in Time for Holiday Shopping!

The School Store Last spring, Tulare County Superintendent of Schools, Jim Vidak, received a phone call from Nick Anthony. Anthony, a consultant for TCOE, asked Vidak if he'd be interested in using space at the mall during the holidays for a school-themed store. Mr. Vidak immediately refused the offer and counter offered with a proposal that would allow TCOE to operate a store year-round that would promote and sell products and services provided by Tulare County students and school programs. After a lot of hard work, dedication and assistance from several key partners, Vidak's vision has come to fruition as "The School Store."

The School Store Located at the Sequoia Mall in Visalia, The School Store offers everything from environmental-themed items to school supplies and memorabilia. There's no limit to what can be marketed as long as the product or service was designed, developed, and/or constructed by students. Prior to being sold, products will be reviewed and approved by the School Store's advisory and student management team. Once approved, items will be sold on consignment with a portion of the proceeds benefiting county schools and students.

Although it is managed by Randy Wallace, TCOE School-to-Career Administrator, the School Store is staffed entirely by college and high school students who will gain valuable retailing and management experience - as well as being paid a salary. Wallace has been impressed at the level of talent and enthusiasm he's seen from area students.

"The students have been great about sharing items and ideas with us," says Wallace. "Too often, the talents of, and products made by, Tulare County students go unnoticed. Thanks to Mr. Vidak's vision and support that resulted in the School Store, that no longer has to be the case."

Wallace urges anyone who is interested in seeing the innovative concept in action to "stop in and see us any time." Wallace adds, in true entrepreneurial fashion, "We'll talk."

Not to be outdone by their fellow mall stores, the School Store's inventory has been broadened to include holiday items and services. Custom and ready-made gift baskets are available, along with more school-themed stocking stuffers than the average reindeer can carry. If your elves go on strike - no problem! The School Store staff will be more than happy to wrap your purchases.

While Tulare County Superintendent of Schools, Jim Vidak, insists the store's opening was not timed to coincide with the holiday shopping season, he's not opposed to taking advantage of the friendly retailing market.

"This is a win-win scenario where students, families and community members all stand to benefit throughout the year - not just during the holidays," says Vidak. "If we can help customers with their holiday shopping needs now, that's great! Hopefully, they'll remember us for future gift-buying occasions later on."

Photos above:
~ A wide selection of items are available at the School Store.
~ No time for gift wrapping? No problem! Let the School Store staff do it for you.

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Employees Recognized for Milestones of Service

San Juana Garza - 35-year Employee Tulare County Office of Education employees were honored recently at a dinner presentation for their combined 1,040 years of service. County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak commended the honorees, saying: "Your dedication, creativity, hard work, and loyalty are what makes the Tulare County Office of Education such a high-quality organization. Thank you all for your tremendous service."

Although she was unable to attend, Vera Creek was lauded for being the first-ever 50 Year Awardee.

50-Year Award 35-Year Awards
Vera Creek Rod Ahlmeyer
San Juana Garza
30-year and 25-year Awardees
30-Year Awards 25-Year Awards
Tom Cemo
Carole Forbes
Phyllis Lopez
Marie Rose
Pat Wescott
Scott Aldrich
Enid Brinkman
Pansy Ceballos
Olga Cortez
Willie Dreith
Susanna Garza
Cathy Jordan
LaDonna Lamb
Diana Moore
Rebecca Springer
Sandra Sweeney
15-year Awardees
15-Year Awards 10-Year Awards
Virginia Baiza
Sally Bakke
Fred Escalante
Nanci Felix
Jodi Fortney
Joan Gilbert
Vickie Jewell
Joni Jump
Randy Mitchell
Rick Moynahan
Lisa Noel
Sharie Ortega
Rosemarie Reyna-Tunin
Kim Sandoval
Maria Manuela Silveira
Wanda Slater
Carlynn Turner
Pamela Wallace
Barbara Warren
Elisa Boatman
Deborah Braswell
Lorrie Conley
Victoria Contreras
Jeanne Croson
Thomas Fischer
Caroline Harris
Betty Hildebrand
Joseph Jimenez
Suzanne Juarez
David Kennedy
Bea Humann
Luis Leal
Anna Leon
Carole Little
Sharon Moran
Edward Ray
Juani Rubio
Judy Scruggs
James Smith
Anita Torres
Peggy van Zandt

Photos above:
~ 35-year employee San Juana Garza.
~ Group photo of some of the 30-Year Awardees
~ Group photo of some of the 25-Year Awardees
~ Group photo of some of the 15-Year Awardees

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TCOE Employees "Give Back" to the Community

The Tulare County Office of Education logo proclaims our commitment to students, support and service. Anyone who takes a closer look at the activities of many of our employees may think it is time to add "giving back" to that list of attributes.

Celebrating Red Ribbon Week In recent and upcoming months, national and local charities alike will benefit from the generosity of our staff members. Christine Chapman, the administrative secretary to County Superintendent Vidak, organized fund raising activities for both Red Ribbon Week (anti-drug campaign) and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

"It is a rewarding experience to organize the events successfully," says Chapman. However, she is quick to credit that success to her colleagues. "The TCOE staff is always very supportive and generous in donating to worthy causes."

Using a logo designed by a La Sierra High School student, Red Ribbon Week items compelled students and adults not to "horse around with drugs." The hugely successful campaign raised more than $600 that was donated to recently injured Exeter Police Officer Scott Grimsley.

Walking for the Gold for Special Olympics For the second year, the Tulare County Office of Education CHARACTER COUNTS! program participated in the Walk For The Gold, Special Olympics Fund raiser. The CHARACTER COUNTS! team raised over $1500, distinguishing themselves as the third-highest fund raising team. Additionally, two team members were recognized as individual fund raising leaders.

Not to be outdone by the Burrel Avenue staff, Doe Avenue employees are also avid fund raisers. Their past efforts for the United Way have included bake sales, chili cook-offs and costume contests. So far, this year's events have raised over $400. Still to come, on December 5, is the Second Annual Chili Cook-Off and silent auction.

FoodLink, a local organization that provides food to needy families, has long had a special place in the heart of Senaida Garcia, Child Care Project Manager. For many years, the Garcia and Child Care department spearheaded what is now a TCOE-wide charity event that kicks off during the holiday season. Last year, more than 6,000 pounds of food were donated. This year, organizers hope to gather even greater amounts for FoodLink.

According to County Superintendent of School Jim Vidak, "You won't find a more caring staff anywhere. Whether they're walking, running, collecting, donating, or volunteering, there's no task too great or small for our people when it comes to helping others," says Vidak.

While there are no immediate plans to change the logo verbiage to "Committed to Students, Support, Service and Giving Back," that willingness to help or "give back" is just one of the many things that makes TCOE a great place to work.

Photos above:
~ Celebrating Red Ribbon Week. TCOE employees (left to right) Christine Chapman, Pat Monno, Nancy Bellin, John Wilborn, and Priscilla Gomez demonstrate the art of buying Red Ribbon pencils while observing "Crazy Hat Day."
~ Walking for the Gold for Special Olympics. The CHARACTER COUNTS! team (left to right) of Margaret Moholt, Cathy Delaney, Gail Kaulfuss, and Dorcus Mayben raised more than $1500 and placed 3rd overall. Additionally, Mayben and Moholt were recognized as the 2nd and 3rd place individual fund raisers, respectively.

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Ken Wooden Presents Highly Regarded "Child Lures Prevention Program" Throughout Tulare and Fresno Counties

Child Lures Prevention Program At the invitation of Tulare County Office of Education Superintendent Jim Vidak, nationally recognized author and presenter, Ken Wooden, conducted several informational seminars throughout Tulare and Fresno Counties. The seminars were designed to teach parents and children how to recognize and thwart frequently used child abduction "lures."

"Tulare County Office of Education has a long standing relationship with Ken Wooden," explains Vidak. "Children and their safety are top priorities for us. We're fortunate to have Ken Wooden and the Child Lures Prevention Program to teach our children and parents how to recognize and avoid frequently used abduction lures."

Wooden, a child safety expert and investigative reporter, is creator and author of the Child Lures Prevention Program. Recently, at President Bush's invitation, Wooden served as the sole prevention specialist on The White House Conference on Missing, Exploited and Runaway Children's "Preventing the Victimization of Children" panel.

The Child Lures Prevention Program teaches life skills to protect children and youth from sexual exploitation, abduction, Internet crime, drugs and school violence. It provides an understanding of the specific Lures used in these crimes and teaches proven prevention strategies so children can readily take steps to remove themselves from potentially dangerous situations.

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Gallery Notes

Jim Kooler was recently selected as the Administrator of the California Friday Night Live Partnership (CFNLP).

"We're excited to welcome Jim as part of the Tulare County Office of Education and California Friday Night Live Partnership team," says County Superintendent Vidak. "I believe Dr. Kooler's vast experience with Friday Night Live and his impressive educational background will make him an ideal fit for this important position."

Kooler has a long history of involvement with the Friday Night Live (FNL) Program. Most recently, Kooler served as Deputy Director of Governor Gray Davis' Mentoring Partnership. In 2001, Kooler finished ten years of service as the Deputy Director of Prevention for the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs where he was intimately involved with FNL. Prior to that, Kooler directed FNL programming as the Executive Director of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council of Contra Costa, Inc. Additionally, Kooler holds a doctorate in Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley.

Kooler replaces Myel Jenkins who served as the program administrator for the past three years and resigned from the position in order to spend more time with her family.

Senaida Garcia has recovered well from surgery and is currently at home recuperating. Her doctors have recommended rest, rest, and more rest -- and absolutely no work-related phone calls or business discussions of any kind.

We expect Senaida to return full-time to the Child Care Program after the New Year. Until then, her leadership, friendship, and warmth is enormously missed by her friends at Child Care and throughout TCOE.

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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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