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The News Gallery

December 2003 / January 2004

State Senator Visits TCOE - California State Senator Roy Ashburn Recently Visited Tulare County Schools.

News Gallery - December 2003/January 2004 Editor: Pamela Kunze
Public Information Officer
(559) 733-6606

Contributors to this issue:
Darlynn Billingsley, Christine Chapman, Lorena White, John Forenti, Sheryl Sawatsky, Marjori Denham, Jeanne Croson and Jeanne Nava.

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 chrisc@tcoe.org or (559) 733-6172 and provide your name and address.


Cover Photo:
~ A student at Heritage Elementary School proudly shows his spelling assignment to Senator Ashburn.



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California State Senator Roy Ashburn Visits Tulare County Students

Recently, County Superintendent Vidak received a call from State Senator Roy Ashburn's office asking him to accompany the senator to schools in the Tulare area and coordinate those visits, as well. Senator Ashburn already had confirmed the date of October 27 to speak to seniors at Tulare Western High School and was eager to spend more of his day with Tulare County's students and educators.

California State Senator Roy Ashburn Of course, Vidak was more than happy to accommodate the senator's request, because it would be a great opportunity to showcase Tulare County schools. Having spent more than forty years in the field of education, Vidak knew the sure formula for success was to get the Senator amongst the students and they would capably handle the visit, ensuring the Senator learned what he needed to know about Tulare County and its students. Vidak made arrangements with the Tulare City Elementary School District and its superintendent, John Beck, to tour Heritage Elementary and Los Tules Middle Schools.

Heritage Elementary opened its doors to students at a new location in August. In itself, that makes the school remarkable. However, what really sets Heritage apart from other school sites is its "agricultural appearance" with red metal roofs and a multi-purpose building that looks similar to a barn. Upon arrival, the senator remarked about the appearance of the buildings and a discussion of structural advantages of the buildings ensued.

California State Senator Roy Ashburn The next stop on the tour route was a visit to the school's cafeteria where the senator was treated to a discussion with cafeteria employees, who were busily preparing lunch and comparing the virtues of certain sinks over others. Ultimately, the cafeteria workers were very happy with their new facilities and state-of-the-art appliances, but mentioned that they would have chosen different sinks, had it been up to them. Senator Ashburn listened intently to their concerns and then it was on to the classrooms for more candid discussions.

The elementary school students were eager to meet their senator, and equally as eager to say hello to their principal, Mr. Johnson. Once the excitement of seeing both had worn off, the students happily shared with the senator the advantages of recess over more structured classes such as English.

Ultimately, the students agreed with Senator Ashburn that reading is an important skill to have. Several students introduced themselves and shook the senator's hand. Others shyly showed their classwork to Ashburn and said that they liked school. One particularly lucky group of students had the pleasure of showing Senator Ashburn their new computer lab and how some of its programs work.

The final stop on the tour of Heritage Elementary was a brief visit with teachers and administrators in their break room. Written in large letters on a white board was a congratulatory note to staff members about achieving test scoring goals. Senator Ashburn briefly discussed testing and some of the mandates of the No Child Left Behind initiative with teachers who voiced concerns about some of the requirements. Senator Ashburn listened intently and promised to keep the concerns in mind when he was back in the capitol in legislative session. Senator Ashburn thanked the teachers and administrators for their contributions to the students and families of Tulare County and congratulated them on doing their jobs so well.

Senator Ashburn concluded the visit with a quick stop for photos and briskly headed off for the next stop in his busy itinerary of Tulare County's schools, Los Tules Middle School.

Photos above:
~ Senator Ashburn gets hands-on instruction in the finer points of computer operation from Heritage Elementary School Students.
~ Students respond to Senator Ashburn's request for a show of hands from all who enjoy reading.



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Employees Recognized for Milestones of Service

The Tulare County Office of Education recently hosted its annual Longevity Awards Dinner in honor of 65 employees with ten or more years of service. The 65 honorees had a combined total of 1,161 years of service.

Annual Longevity Awards Dinner The ceremony was in full swing with members of the Tulare County Theatre Company singing a selection of Broadway hits while honorees and guests enjoyed dinner. Tulare County Board of Education members, Dr. Edward Peterson and Rudy Campos, were on hand to assist County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak and Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, Jeanne Nava, with presentation to honorees, all of whom received mementos to commemorate their service.

Vidak commended the honorees, and said, "The Tulare County Office of Education is able to offer the high-quality programs and unmatched service we're known for because of our outstanding employees. I'm always pleased to honor our dedicated people for their loyal service at the annual Longevity Dinner."

All told, 24 people were recognized for ten years of service, 18 employees for 15 years, four people were honored for 20 years, eight employees for 25 years, six people for 30 years and four employees were lauded for reaching the milestone of 35 years of service to the Tulare County Office of Education.

Once all awardees in attendance had been recognized, Nava concluded the ceremony by saying, "It has been said, 'Children have more need of models than of critics.' I want to thank each and every one of our employees for being those crucial role models for the children of Tulare County. You do make a difference in the lives of those you touch."

Photo above:
~ Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, Jeanne Nava, and her Executive Secretary, Jeanne Croson, welcome honorees and guests to TCOE's annual Longevity Awards Dinner.



35-year and 30-year award winners
(left) Joann Sheklian and Sam Pena were given engraved crystal apples in recognition of 35 years of service. (right) John Forenti and Gary Biggs were honored with engraved crystal plaques for 30 years of service.

20-year and 25-year award winners
(left) Rhonda Marlow was the sole 20-year honoree in attendance. (right) Carolyn Stoebig, Marie Holguin and Robin Hoffman were honored for 25 years with TCOE.

10-year award winners
(left to right) Jeanne Nava, Jill Santivanez, Richard Gonzales, Dianna Ballard, Kathleen Haskill, Elena Hawley, Jana Mathias and Inez Powell were recognized for ten years with the Tulare County Office of Education.

35-Year Employees
Wanda Barnett
Sam Pena
Louie Perez
Joann Sheklian

30-Year Employees
Gary Biggs
John Forenti
Kristine Graham
Judith Gregory
Sherral McBee
Angelina Navarro

25-Year Employees
Carolyn Hartman
Maria Hernandez
Robin Hoffman
Marie Holguin
Jennifer McKinsey
Elizabeth Mendoza
Neva Ramirez
Carolyn Stoebig

20-Year Employees
James Beauchamp
Dorothy Guarisco
Rhonda Marlow
Verna Pearson
15-Year Employees
Theresa Buckles
Wanda Burrow
Mary Lou Castillo
Sara Castillo
Michael Elick
Martha Falcon
Betty Ferreira
Abel Garcia
Melanie Hammond
Linda Hess
Rebecca Levers
Mary Anna Luna
Laurie Melton
Gregory Owens
Sonia Pavao
Sandra Salazar
Timothy Tuite
Judy Vogel
10-year Employees
Dianna Ballard
Mary Blaswich
Timothy Burket
Grace Calderon
Bynovu Cha
Marjorie Denham
Brenda Drumright
Robin Fry
Richard Gonzales
Kathleen Haskill
Elena Hawley
Carol Hodson
Jana Mathias
Jeannie Nava
Ronnie Ochoa
Inez Powell
Emily Rivera
Jill Santivanez
Linda Shiba
Linda Singleton
Beverly Surber
Victor Sylvester
Terry Villegas
Monique Pang Yang



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CHARACTER COUNTS! Week Recognizes Nearly 2,500 Students ... Now the Fun Begins!

John Forenti, CHARACTER COUNTS! Coordinator You've seen the banners. You may know the numbers. Chances are, you don't know the process that occurs in order to make those banners and numbers matter.

This year, CHARACTER COUNTS! Week was an enormous success that resulted in 2,486 students being recognized for demonstrating behaviors representative of one of the pillars of character. Students were nominated by their schools in each of the following categories (or pillars): Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, or Citizenship. Those nominations were reviewed and six students' names and write-ups were forwarded on to the Visalia Times-Delta for consideration for feature articles throughout CHARACTER COUNTS! Week. An additional hundred students were singled out for special recognition in a large (two full pages) color ad that ran in both the Visalia Times-Delta and the Tulare Advance Register and featured the students' photos and a short narrative explaining why they were worthy of recognition for their respective pillars. The remaining 2,300 plus students' names were grouped by pillar and listed in both papers throughout the week.

CHARACTER COUNTS! week Once the publicity piece of recognizing students was taken care of, the real "heavy lifting" portion began. Literally. John Forenti collected t-shirt sizes for each of the nearly 2,500 "Kids of Character" and ordered the appropriate number of shirts in each size. Additionally, for each and every one of those Kids of Character, Forenti made sure he'd have a lapel pin and certificate with the student's name, school and pillar. Once the t-shirts arrived and the certificates were printed, Forenti sorted them and began distribution. Some schools had only one student recognized while others had hundreds. It's all the same to Forenti who believes in personally distributing the items to schools. While the task of delivering thousands of shirts, certificates and pins to students throughout the county may seem daunting, it's one of the things Forenti says he most enjoys.

CHARACTER COUNTS! week "It's important to recognize these 'Kids of Character' and to let them know that we appreciate their efforts at living a character-guided life," said Forenti, as he loaded certificates into his already packed automobile.

And with that, he was off on his next delivery.

Photos above:
~ John Forenti, TCOE's CHARACTER COUNTS! coordinator, takes a short break from loading t-shirts, certificates and lapel pins in his automobile for delivery to students throughout Tulare County. This year, national CHARACTER COUNTS! Week was October 19 - 25. Forenti says if he can have all items delivered to students before the Thanksgiving holiday, "That's a good year. That way we can recognize students at awards assemblies before they go on vacation."
~ Several years ago, County Superintendent Jim Vidak saw this water tower and visualized an opportunity to advertise CHARACTER COUNTS! Week. Now, the water tower banner is a staple for the week.
~ Displayed prominently over Visalia's Main Street, this banner proclaims October 19 - 25 as CHARACTER COUNTS! Week. Similar (but smaller) banners were also placed in several Educational Employees Credit Union locations throughout the area.



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TCOE Employees Support Many Worthy Causes

American Cancer Society's Walk for Life Julie Joseph, Instructional Consultant, and her husband, Mark, represented TCOE in the American Cancer Society's Walk for Life by taking a few laps around the El Diamante track in 100 degree plus temperatures. TCOE Team organizer Marji Denham and her team raised more than $3000 that will go to cancer prevention and awareness.

Special Olympics Walk for the Gold For the third year, TCOE's CHARACTER COUNTS! Team participated in the Special Olympics Walk for the Gold fund raiser. The team collected approximately $2000 and won the perpetual championship trophy and a permanent plaque which is now on display. Leslie Converse won a plaque for collecting the third highest amount as an individual.

Team captain, John Forenti, says, "Credit to our successful effort goes not only to our dedicated team members, but to County Superintendent of Schools, Jim Vidak who has always encouraged employees of the TCOE to participate in community service projects."

Red Ribbon Week Red Ribbon Week is designed to encourage drug-free living and this year's theme was "United We Stand for a Drug Free Land." Numerous fund raising activities such as selling candy grams and t-shirts to collecting donations to guess the number of redhots in a decorative jar allowed TCOE to raise nearly $1000, says organizer Christine Chapman. Proceeds will be donated to Mothers Against Drunk Driving in memory of Casey Goodwin, who was killed by a driver who tested positive for methamphetamines and alcohol.

Photos above:
~ American Cancer Society's Walk for Life
~ Special Olympics Walk for the Gold
~ Red Ribbon Week



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Gallery Notes

TCOE's annual Fall Institute for School Board Members and Administrators was lauded by several in attendance as one of "the best ever." California School Board Association Executive Director, Scott P. Plotkin, delivered the keynote address, "After the Recall: The Status of our Public Schools." Breakout sessions included timely topics ranging from "Charter Schools" to "Legal Pitfalls for Board Members to Avoid" to "Everything you Wanted to Know About Testing and Were Not Afraid to Ask."

County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak thanked Darlynn Billingsley and Garyalynn Wilhelm for organizing "another great event."

Dean Vogel and Sheryl Sawatsky Sheryl Sawatsky, a teacher at La Sierra High School in Visalia, was presented with a state WHO (We Honor Ours) award. The award was presented by Dean Vogel, Secretary/Treasurer of the California Teachers Association, at the Tulare-Kings Counties California Teachers Association (CTA) kick-off conference in September.

The WHO award, given at the state level, is awarded for outstanding service to CTA at the local and state levels. This year, there were 24 state WHO awards given to CTA leaders throughout California. Sheryl is chairperson of Tulare-Kings Service Center Council/CTA/NEA and past-president of TCOE Teachers Association.

Photo above:
~ La Sierra teacher, Sheryl Sawatsky, and Secretary/ Treasurer of CTA, Dean Vogel, at a recent CTA conference.



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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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