The News Gallery
February 2004La Sierra Military Academy - Midway Through its First Year Enrollment is Up and Reports by Students and Staff are Favorable
Editor: Pamela Kunze
Public Information Officer
Contributors to this issue:
Darlynn Billingsley, Christine Chapman, Lorena White, Rick Mitchell, Pansy Ceballos, Lorene Valentino, Kathy Cavanagh, Cheri Barnes, Garyalynn Wilhelm, Terri Fox, Donna Orozco and Norma Burns.
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 email@example.com or (559) 733-6172 and provide your name and address.
~ Students stand in formation under the watchful eye of drill instructor, Fernando Gonzalez.
La Sierra's Military Academy Offers Unique Opportunity
It's 7:40 a.m. and already the morning's military-style physical training or "PT" session is in full swing for nearly 70 La Sierra Military Academy students, most of whom are uniformly clad in white t-shirts, black sweat pants and white athletic shoes. Early morning commuters, passing by those formations of PT-ing male and female students, often assume that the students have been "sentenced" to some sort of community service or time in a detention facility. Undoubtedly, most of those musing commuters would be surprised to learn that every student enrolled at La Sierra is there voluntarily - and allowed to stay only as long as they abide by the terms of their accountability contracts.
According to Dr. Pansy Ceballos, assistant superintendent for Instructional Services, the idea that only troubled students may enroll in La Sierra's Military Academy and other La Sierra campuses throughout Tulare County is a common misperception. Another inaccurate assumption is that La Sierra charter schools are continuation schools for students who are no longer able to attend conventional schools. Dr. Ceballos is hoping to change those ideas and get the word out that TCOE's charter schools, including the military academy, are simply another option for students whose needs might not otherwise be met by more traditional educational venues.
In addition to the military-style environment that may appeal to students and parents, La Sierra campuses offer smaller class sizes. Those smaller class sizes translate to more one-on-one attention for students who may benefit from a more individualized approach to learning. Additionally, students who are looking to "gain on credits" in order to make up for missed opportunities of the past, or simply to get ahead in hopes of graduating early, often find La Sierra's additional class period (the military academy has seven instead of the traditional six) and extended physical training session (counting as one-and-a-half periods) as ideal opportunities for credit gaining success.
"We have a little bit of everything here. We have students who want discipline, parents who want their students to have discipline and kids who want to graduate early," says Services for Education and Employment (SEE and Co.) Administrator Dr. Lorene Valentino. Students and families who recognize and desire the uniqueness of the program are willing to make the commute to Visalia from throughout Tulare, Kings and Fresno counties.
While the military academy approach has already produced remarkable success stories, Valentino is quick to acknowledge that the paramilitary style is not for everyone. She lists examples of students who have responded so completely to La Sierra's Military Academy that it's "like night and day." Others simply rebel against the approach and are eventually released back to their original school district.
The bottom line, Valentino says, is that the "kid has to want it and be willing to work for it." Parents' wishes for student success are not enough. The student must "buy in" to the overall concept of the military-style program. Part of that buy in comes when, upon enrollment, students sign accountability contracts stipulating acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. As part of a student's enrollment, his or her parent or guardian must also sign accountability contracts acknowledging incurred obligations and responsibilities, as well as consequences a student may face for not following those rules.
Valentino says, barring serious criminal offenses, La Sierra Military Academy will enroll just about anyone who volunteers. However, Valentino is quick to point out that the academy will not necessarily keep the students who enroll. Those who fail to exhibit appropriate attitudes or meet the mandatory attendance requirements will be dropped from the program and returned to their home school district. It's one of the legal characteristics of charter schools that allow Valentino and her staff to be selective about the students participating in the military academy. This level of discretion is absolutely critical if staff members are to enforce the behaviors that are stipulated in student contracts.
Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak is proud of the military academy and its students. "I think successful participation in this program can open many doors for its students," Vidak says. "As a result of their experiences here, students may decide to explore career and educational opportunities afforded by the military," continues Vidak.
Regardless of their ultimate career decisions, Vidak believes the students can reap lifetime benefits from what they learn while at the military academy. Vidak is counting on the combination of military style discipline, fitness and structure, with core curriculum and the TCOE signature character education program, CHARACTER COUNTS!, to serve the students well now and for the rest of their lives.
Still in its first year of enrollment, La Sierra Military Academy's numbers are steadily increasing. Initial enrollment was 35 students. Today, nearly 70 students are registered. The goal is to have 100 students enrolled before the school year ends. While it may be too early to point to statistical evidence that the paramilitary approach is working for students at La Sierra's Military Academy, anecdotal examples seem to indicate that it is.
Parents or students desiring additional information about La Sierra Military Academy may call 559.733.6629 or visit our website at www.tcoe.org/see.
~ Students stand at attention during the morning's announcements.
~ Push-ups are a prominent part of the morning Physical Training sessions.
~ Morning runs, whether in formation or as a warm-up between sets of push-ups and sit-ups, appear to be real "crowd-pleasers" for students.
~ As part of the morning routine, prior to starting the day's academic schedule, Eddie Brown, a student at La Sierra Military Academy, and drill instructor, Fernando Gonzalez, conduct the morning flag raising or "colors" ceremony.
~ Students and staff in formation "present arms" once the flag is raised.
Kyle Goodwin Remembered by TCOE and CFNLP Friends and Family
Less than a year ago the TCOE family mourned the loss of Casey Goodwin, who was killed in a tragic automobile accident. At the time of her death, Casey was a former member of the California Friday Night Live Partnership (CFNLP) California Youth Council (CYC) and a CYC alumni and Teenwork board member. She was a friend to many in her extended Tulare County Office of Education and CFNLP families, as well as being the daughter of TCOE's Friday Night Live prevention specialist, Lynne Goodwin, and her husband, Reed.
Sadly, on January 2, 2004, Casey's 16-year-old brother, Kyle Joseph Viola Goodwin, was also killed in an automobile accident. According to Lynne Goodwin, Kyle was proud of his role on the California Youth Council as well as his work with the California Friday Night Live Partnership and Tulare County Office of Education. In return, Kyle was loved and nurtured by his Friday Night Live family.
Few in attendance at the CFNLP's "Town Hall Meeting" with California Attorney General Bill Lockyer last April will forget Kyle's emceeing style and fun loving approach to an otherwise serious event. At the conclusion of more than an hour-and-a-half session of weighty discussions between Tulare County's youth and Attorney General Lockyer about positive alternatives to drugs and alcohol, Kyle announced to Lockyer that CFNLP had a "li'l sumpin', sumpin'" for him. With little ado, Kyle handed the state's attorney general a pullover-style jacket with the CFNLP monogram. Shortly thereafter, Tulare County Superintendent of Schools, Jim Vidak, persuaded Lockyer to put the jacket on, and Vidak, Lockyer and Kyle Goodwin posed for photos.
On January 6, 2004, at a Celebration of Life funeral service in honor of Kyle Goodwin, members of Kyle's Friday Night Live family celebrated Kyle's life and accomplishments. Pete Bellin said simply, yet eloquently, that in Kyle's short life, he'd accomplished something that many will never achieve. Kyle's accomplishment, according to Bellin, was that he had been "nice." Bellin read directly from the definition of "nice," using words such as "pleasing," "agreeable," "pleasant" and "kind" to further describe Kyle.
Later in the service, Lynne Goodwin explained that since losing Casey, Kyle had ached relentlessly because his heart was irreparably broken. Lynne said that one of the few reasons she could survive losing Kyle was because she knew that he was now with his sister, Casey.
~ California State Attorney General Bill Lockyer and Kyle Goodwin at a California Friday Night Live Partnership "Listening to Youth" event held last April at TCOE.
Board of Education Reappoints Reed and Hillman as Officers
The Tulare County Board of Education met Wednesday, December 3, 2003, for its annual organizational meeting. Pursuant to Education Code 1009, organizational meetings for County Boards of Education must be held in the 15-day period beginning on or after the last Friday in November. At the organizational meeting, a regular schedule of meetings for the coming year is adopted and new officers are elected for the following calendar year.
According to Tulare County Board of Education President Chris Reed, in past years, the positions of board president and vice president have generally rotated from member to member every two years. This year, following a motion by Leonard Hansen, it was unanimously decided by the board to reappoint Reed as the board president. Reed, who serves as the Trustee for Area 6, has more than 13 years of service on the Tulare County Board of Education and is well-prepared to continue as president.
Shortly after Reed was reappointed, Edward "Jock" Peterson moved that Pat Hillman, Trustee for Area 7, be re-elected as the board's vice president. That motion was likewise unanimously approved by the board. Like Reed, Hillman brings a wealth of experience to the board. Born and educated in Tulare, Hillman earned dual teaching credentials at Fresno State University and taught in both Fresno and Tulare. She has volunteered in many community activities including 25 years as a member of the Tulare City School Board.
"It is a different year this year for the board," says Reed. "Usually we'll rotate every couple of years. This year, we didn't," Reed continues. Reed is happy to continue as the board's president and predicts the year ahead will be a challenging and rewarding time for those in education.
"It is an honor to serve the county office of education, its staff and the students of Tulare County," says Reed. "I particularly enjoy the board's strong partnership with Tulare County Superintendent of Schools, Jim Vidak," Reed says. "I look forward to continuing our service together."
SCICON and Circle J - Norris Ranch Survey Birds
Each year as part of a nationwide Audubon Christmas Bird Count, a nationwide survey of birds across North America, SCICON does a survey of the bird populations on its campus. This year, the SCICON bird count was held on December 13, with teams surveying SCICON in the morning and Circle J in the afternoon.
According to the Audubon Society's official website for the Christmas Bird Count, "More than 50,000 observers participate each year in this all-day census of early-winter bird populations. The results of their efforts are compiled into the longest running database in ornithology, representing over a century of unbroken data on trends of early-winter bird populations across the Americas. Simply put, the Christmas Bird Count, or "CBC", is citizen science in action."
"We've been doing it for 18 years, usually the week before Christmas vacation," says SCICON administrator, Rick Mitchell.
"We spotted 42 species on the SCICON Campus and 47 species at the Circle J - Norris Ranch," says Mitchell. Mitchell believes the higher numbers at Circle J are due to its pond which attracts a lot of migrating waterfowl.
Some of the more unusual sightings this year were a pair of Golden Eagles at SCICON, an Osprey (fish-hunting raptor) at the Circle J and Red-headed Ducks and Hooded Mergansers on the pond at the Circle J-Norris Ranch.
Bird counts from 1986 to present day are available on the SCICON portion of the TCOE website at www.tcoe.org/SCICON/SCICONBirdcount.pdf.
TCOE Employees and Departments Celebrate Holidays By Giving Back
Wearing their medals, winning team members hold their "turkey" perpetual trophy and show that they're number 1. Pictured (from left) is Ralph Alvarez, Isabel Valenzuela, Rosario Palacios and Josie Valdez. Six chili making teams brought out their own unique recipes to participate in Doe Avenue's third annual Chili Cook-off to benefit United Way. Between the chili cook-off, craft silent auction and the Halloween bake sale, Doe Avenue raised a total of $1,346 for United Way.
Dorcus Mayben, Linda Hess and other staff members sample holiday treats prepared by Human Resources department staff members, who recently hosted their fourth annual Holiday Tea. Since its inception in 2000, the tea has grown over the years. The food delicacies have expanded from basic tea fare with other sweet confections to several sweets along with many savory items. Everything was prepared and provided by the Human Resource staff who, according to Cheri Barnes, spent most of the prior evening doing the preparations "mixed in with a lot of fun and camaraderie." "Our goal is to make everyone feel special for the few moments they are there. We take extra care in the preparation and presentation so all who attend feel like they have stepped out of the office and into a comfortable environment with a "lit" fireplace, too!" says Cheri.
The Exeter Community Based Instruction Program class members decided to participate in the town's Christmas parade. It was the first parade for many of the students, who were all quite excited about the big event. The float was decorated with a hand-made sleigh, a reindeer, a snowman, Canadian geese and a snow-covered Christmas tree. Lights decorated the tree and flatbed tow truck. The students all dressed for snow and were joined by two elves. Of 30 entries in the parade, the float won second place. The Community Based Instruction Program is designed to help students ages 18 - 22 develop the skills they'll need to take their place in the community.
Increasing the public's awareness of services provided by the Tulare-Waukena Home-based Head Start office was the initial rationale for participating in Tulare's Christmas parade. According to staff members Norma Burns and Terri Fox, "excitement, fun, parent-child involvement and holiday cheer" were benefits of the resulting collaboration between staff, family and community members. The Tulare-Waukena office staff invited enrolled parents and children to ride the "We are the World" float, the message of which was the value of multi-cultural children as our future leaders. As the float passed by crowds, parade announcers informed parade goers of services offered by Home-based Head Start staff members, such as introduction to preschool readiness/expectations, infant/toddler developmental stages, inter-agency referrals, and family advocacy.
The Tulare County Office of Education and Pacific Oaks College recently celebrated their tenth anniversary of working together to provide TCOE Child Development Program employees with opportunities to obtain their bachelor's and master's degrees in human services and child development.
TCOE Child Development employees interested in furthering their educations were able to benefit from the manner in which the college offered classes in outlying locations to meet the needs of students whose time and travel options were limited. The college mission statement iterates a focus on "the needs of children and their families with a commitment to social justice, diversity and the uniqueness of each person" was also in step with the Head Start philosophy.
To mark the occasion of the tenth anniversary, college administrators and staff invited TCOE Child Development graduates, managers and administrators to an appreciation luncheon.
Pacific Oaks College president, Carolyn Denim, presented a plaque to Dr. Pansy Ceballos as a token of the college's appreciation.
Denim recognized County Superintendent Jim Vidak for his remarkable cooperation from the inception of the program. Denim also thanked Vidak for his willingness to make county office of education building spaces available for course instruction. Without Vidak's support, Denim said that it would not have been possible to offer the opportunity to TCOE employees.
Denim remarked, "This is not just about real estate. It is a much deeper connection of doing this together. Our collaboration was helpful to Pacific Oaks College and the local area." Denim then paraphrased Margaret Meade, saying it was amazing what a small group of well-intentioned people can do to change the world.
Adelia Martinez, a program education coordinator and the first TCOE Human Development graduate, was also in attendance. Martinez lauded the program, saying it had changed her life and helped make her a much better manager.
~ Dr. Pansy Ceballos accepts a plaque from Carolyn Denim.
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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