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The News Gallery

June 2004

Author! Author! - Children's Book Author Alexis O'Neill Visits Dinuba's Lincoln Elementary

News Gallery - June 2004 Editor: Robert Herman
Public Information Officer
(559) 733-6606

Contributors to this issue:
Darlynn Billingsley, Christine Chapman, John Forenti, Rick Mitchell, Garyalynn Wilhelm, Elainea Scott, Randy Wallace, LInda Hess, Faye Johnson 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 chrisc@tcoe.org or (559) 733-6172 and provide your name and address.

Cover Photo:
~ Alexis O'Neill coaches fifth graders from Lincoln Elementary in Dinuba.

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Children's Book Author Visits Tulare County Schools

Alexis O'Neill Mean Jean and Loud Emily were just a few characters that visited Tulare County elementary schools in May along with their creator, nationally-recognized children's book author, Alexis O'Neill. Students at Lincoln Elementary in Dinuba were old fans of Ms. O'Neill's characters, particularly bossy Mean Jean, the reformed bully from her popular book, The Recess Queen, which ranked number two on the Los Angeles Times' best selling children's books of 2002.

A former elementary school teacher with a Ph.D. in teacher education from Syracuse University, Alexis O'Neill teaches writing for the UCLA Extension Writers' Program and is a Regional Advisor for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators in California. She has also served as an education consultant for several museums, including the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Alexis O'Neill's tour was part of annual author visits organized by Educational Resource Services (ERS). She made several presentations for students at Columbine Elementary in Delano, Lincoln Elementary in Dinuba and Tipton Elementary. "It's a treat to find someone of Ms. O'Neill's caliber who is so engaging," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "Presentations like hers can be a defining moment in a child's life — the moment when he or she says: 'That's what I want to be!'"

Alexis O'Neill The author tells her audience, "All of my stories begin with a "wonder question." For example, with The Recess Queen, I thought: 'I wonder how a kid could get someone to stop being a bully?,'" says Ms. O'Neill. Her other advice to would-be writers is to: "Choose things that mean something to you. That's important because you never know how the things that interest you will affect your work."

The things that mean something to Alexis O'Neill are woven throughout her stories. "She uses music, song, rhythm, rhyme, art, dance and her own family's history to craft a message that appeals to just about every student in the audience," says Elainea Scott, program manager at ERS. "And on top of her inspirations, she illustrates the whole creative and business process of writing children's books to show students the career side of work," concludes Scott.

"This is the job I love to wake up to," says O'Neill. As the author of Loud Emily, which was featured in Newsweek Magazine; The Recess Queen, which was the recipient of five state nominations for children's choice awards; and Estela's Swap, a multicultural book about generosity, it's evident that she does!

"For students in these presentations, there is no better role model than a successful adult enjoying his or her work and drawing on the life experiences that personally mean the most," concludes Superintendent Vidak.

Photos above:
~ Pick me! O'Neill scans the crowd for actors willing to play a part in a reenactment of The Recess Queen.
~ Alexis O'Neill.

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Community Advisory Committee and Special Services Division Honors Teachers, Parents and Students

Richgrove School's Jazz Band, under the direction of Alex Gonzalez, got the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) celebration started with a selection of colorful Motown and Latin arrangements — complete with singers! More than just a crowd pleaser, the Richgrove band was there to demonstrate and recognize Mr. Gonzalez's success in integrating students with special needs into music programs.

Mike Stephens and Carol Rosenfield Each year, the annual luncheon meeting of the Community Advisory Committee, the Directors of Special Education Committee and the Superintendents' Governance Committee is held to report on progress made in serving Tulare County students with special needs. The event also serves to recognize parents, teachers, administrators and students who have made extraordinary contributions at their school sites or at the district or county level.

The program began with a presentation of the soon-to-be-completed SELPA (Special Education Local Plan Area) web site. Assistant Superintendent for Special Services and SELPA Chief Administrator, Marilyn Rankin, congratulated Karen Marler, the SELPA Legal Assistant and graphic designer Leslie Converse for their efforts in developing the site. Once it is operational later this summer, the SELPA web site will be an aid for teachers, parents and administrators with articles, information on seminars, meeting minutes and other resources. The site will be hosted by the Tulare County Office of Education. "I am confident that this site will become both a resource for parents and teachers of children with special needs, and an aid that draws the community together," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak.

Andrew Leal Later in the program, Andrew Leal, a seventh-grade student from Green Acres Middle School and son of Business Services' computer software manager Luis Leal, presented his Science Fair project on the dyslexic brain. The project took on extra significance as Andrew suffers from the learning disorder. His presentation included the results of a survey about learning habits, memory skills, analytical skills and social aspects of dyslexia. Andrew's survey group was made up of children, teens and adults.

Following the presentation of certificates of recognition to parents, teachers and students, Carol Rosenfield was awarded the Brent Rast Award for exemplary service in the field of Special Education. Ms. Rosenfield is the tenth teacher to receive the award since its inception. She is employed by the Tulare County Office of Education as a teacher of the severely handicapped at the Golden Oak Learning Center in Visalia.

2004 CAC Honorees

Brent Rast Award Winner
Carol Rosenfield

Other Award Recipients
Rhonda Ysusi & Marie Sanchez,
District Nurses, Dinuba

Janet Van Winkle
Resource Specialist, Woodlake

Clyde Brenner
Speech/Language Specialist, Farmersville

Art Yanez
Family Service Worker, Cutler-Orosi

Curt Lanning
Resource Specialist, Lindsay

Nicole Hurt
Student, Visalia

Pamela Migliore
General Ed. Teacher, Visalia

Terri Van Huss
Parent, Visalia

Donna McDonald & Rosie Garcia
General Ed. Teachers, Pixley

Barbara Warren
Resource Specialist, Tulare City

Sally Boucher
Instructional Aide, Tulare High

Matt Sharp
P.E. Teacher, Burton

Charles Britt
General Ed. Teacher, Rockford

Heather Stroud
Special Day Class Teacher, Porterville

Frank Casas
Resource Specialist, Richgrove

Photos above:
~ Brent Rast Award winner Carol Rosenfield with Dr. Mike Stephens.
~ Andrew Leal presents his Science Fair project on the dyslexic brain.

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Math Grant Equips Teachers to Teach Algebra to At-Risk Students

This past year, the California Department of Education mandated that all students pass coursework in Algebra to be eligible to receive a high school diploma. For teachers in California's court and community, continuation schools and alternative programs, the task of successfully instructing Algebra in a student population with a history of absenteeism, multiple disciplinary referrals and low class credits is daunting.

Math Grant for At-Risk Students For Tulare County, a solution to this challenge arrived a few weeks ago in the form of a sizable grant from the California Mathematics and Science Partnership. Co-authored by Instructional Consultants Faye Johnson and Julie Joseph, with help from Fresno Pacific University, the three-year grant entitled “Making the Algebra Connection for Highly At-Risk Students,” prepares teachers in alternative schools and partner districts in math and algebra instruction. Faye Johnson estimates the grant will increase instruction to over 13,000 at-risk students in TCOE's alternative programs and partner districts.

The key component in this grant is enrollment of up to 30 teachers from TCOE and partner districts in a Master of Arts in Education degree program in partnership with Fresno Pacific University. The grant will cover a significant portion of the degree, which carries a Mathematics Emphasis.

"This program will help teachers deepen their understanding of mathematics, in an intensive and collaborative setting," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "Ultimately, we will see this instruction translate into success for bright students, who may have had some problems with discipline. And that can be measured by passing Algebra scores and increased numbers of high school diplomas," concludes Vidak.

Additionally, Instructional Consultant Julie Joseph will provide math mentoring and seminars to teachers not enrolled in the Masters program. These will take place monthly during the next school year and will include content, teaching and learning strategies.

Finally, School-to-Career Project Director Randy Wallace is assembling a group of engineers, scientists and researchers to bring real-world application of math concepts into the classroom. "We envision these professionals working with the instructors to bring the curriculum to life for students," says Wallace.

Grant involves teachers in graduate-level mathematics studies through Fresno Pacific University to prepare at-risk students for Algebra. Partner districts include:

Allensworth Elementary
Alpaugh Unified
Alta Vista Elementary
Cutler-Orosi Unified
Dinuba Unified
Ducor Elementary
Earlimart Elementary
Farmersville Unified
Liberty Elementary
Lindsay Unified
Oak Valley Union Elementary
Palo Verde Union Elementary
Pixley Union
Pleasant View Elementary
Stone Corral Elementary
Strathmore Elementary
Sunnyside Elementary
Terra Bella Elementary
Tipton Elementary
Traver Elementary
Waukena Elementary
Woodlake Elementary
Woodville Elementary

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Excellence in Education Award Winners Named

Last month, a selection committee of 15 Tulare County business, community and educational leaders met to choose the Administrator/Manager of the Year, Teacher of the Year and School Employee of the Year in the 2004 Excellence in Education Awards competition. "I look forward to this program, particularly this year as we celebrate its tenth anniversary," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "It's rewarding to look back over the past ten years and see that we've been successful in bringing some recognition to the talented men and women who devote their lives to educating children and young adults in Tulare County."

Excellence In Education Awards The Tulare County Administrator/Manager Award for 2004 went to Robert "Bob" Perez, director of the Porterville Adult School. A graduate of the Porterville school system and a 30-year veteran with the Porterville Unified School District, Bob Perez was honored for his work in gang awareness, counseling, vocational education and community relations. Colleagues note that Mr. Perez works from the conviction that the public school system is inseparable from the community. He was praised for working closely with parents and other community organizations, even making daily home visits regarding students headed toward gang membership.

Eighth-grade language arts teacher Nancy Machado from Mulcahy Middle School in Tulare has been chosen 2004 Tulare County Teacher of the Year. Ms. Machado is also Mulcahy's Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Program Coordinator. As AVID Instructor, she encourages students to pursue their dreams through a college preparatory program built upon three components: rigorous academic instruction, tutorial support and motivational activities. Nominators acknowledged that through her efforts Mulcahy Middle School received recognition from the national AVID program in February 2004, as a school "Certified with Distinction." Her participation and success in the AVID program made her a natural selection to the leadership team formed when Mulcahy received the California State GEAR UP Grant (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) — a grant designed to create a college going culture in the school community.

For 24 years, School Employee of the Year Belen Gomez has served the students, teachers and administrators of Woodlake Valley Middle School as an Attendance/Health Clerk. Nominators admired her extraordinary dedication to the school district, where she has worked for 36 years, and to the Woodlake community. Nominators praised Gomez for her compassion, citing many examples of her initiative to drop off homework at absent students' houses, or to make a home visit explaining services that students may need when parents don't have telephones. She also helped coordinate a dental clinic, contacting underinsured parents to explain the importance of the service and to help with paperwork. Mrs. Gomez is also an active member of the Woodlake community. She served on the Woodlake City Council and as Vice Mayor from 1990 to 1992. She is currently a member of the Delta Vector Control Board, dealing with the West Nile Virus threat.

Award recipients and finalists will be honored at a recognition breakfast beginning at 7:30 am on October 13, 2004, at the Visalia Convention Center.


Administrator/Manager of the Year
Robert Perez, Porterville Unified

Teacher of the Year
Nancy Machado, Tulare City Schools

School Employee of the Year
Belen Gomez, Woodlake Union


Administrator/Manager of the Year
Rosa Carlson, COS
Richard Villanueva, Woodlake Union

Teacher of the Year
Ken McNatt, Tulare Joint Union
Jim Sellers, COS

School Employee of the Year
Debbie Douglass, COS
Dot Shields, Dinuba Unified

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Ray Chavez Named New Child Care Administrator

Recently, Ray Chavez was selected to replace Senaida Garcia as administrator of the Child Care program. "Ray Chavez is an ideal choice to carry on the legacy of the Child Care Program," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "Perhaps more than his many talents and experiences, he has the heart of an advocate for children," concludes Mr. Vidak.

Ray Chavez and Adelia Martinez Chavez's involvement with Child Care goes back to 1969 when he was working for the Welfare Department and overseeing the State Preschool program, which was then supervised by his department. Because of his job, he worked closely with Child Care and Director Senaida Garcia. At that time, Senaida asked him if he would be a community representative on the Program Policy Council (PPC). In 1993, he retired from the Welfare Department and went to work for the Employment Development Department. The year before, he served as chair of the Migrant PPC.

Ray Chavez was hired as Child Care’s parent involvement coordinator in December 1996 and became the Home Based Program coordinator in 1998. Once Ray came on board, Senaida involved him in negotiations, executive meetings, and on the PPC. Chavez appreciates the training Senaida Garcia gave him before she retired. "I'm thankful for all the opportunities. I owe it to her," he adds. Chavez looks forward to addressing the coming changes to Head Start — federal reauthorization, higher education requirements for teachers, and more academic requirements for children — with the children's best interest in mind.

Photo above:
~ Ray Chavez receives "Commander in Chief" Pin from Operations Manager Adelia Martinez.

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School-to-Career Seeks Recognition Event Nominations

The Tulare County School-to-Career Project in conjunction with the Tulare County Workforce Investment Board Youth Council and the Tulare County Youth Coalition will recognize the outstanding contributions of area business, education, and community leaders or organizations at its annual Partner Recognition event on July 21. "We are encouraging teachers, students and the public to nominate individuals, companies and agencies whose efforts have advanced career development, educational achievement and leadership in youth," says School-to-Career Project Director Randy Wallace. Nominations can be made on line at the School-to-Career web site: www.tcoe.org/careerweb, or by calling Wallace at 733-6101.

Michael Pritchard "Attendees to this year's luncheon are in for a rare treat," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "The featured speaker is humorist and youth activist, Michael Pritchard, who speaks to educational groups across the country." Pritchard has also hosted five critically acclaimed Public Television series for kids of all ages, including Peace Talks, The Power of Choice, You Can Choose!, Big Changes - Big Choices, and the current Saving Our Schools. These series have been highly acclaimed in the educational press and received many major awards including the Cine Golden Eagles, Gold, Silver, and Bronze Apple Awards, Parents' Choice Gold Awards and Teachers' Choice Awards.

The Partner Recognition Luncheon will begin at 11:30 am on July 21 at the Visalia Convention Center. Tickets are $20 each and available through the School-to-Career office.

Photo above:
~ School-to-Career Partner Recognition speaker Dr. Michael Pritchard.

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Gallery Notes

Joyce Willis and Pat Monno Business Services Secretary Pat Monno and External Business Services Technician Joyce Willis were recently honored at the Fifteenth Annual Older Worker Celebration co-hosted by Community Services & Employment Training, Inc. (CSET) and the Tulare County Workforce Investment Board. Monno and Willis were among 36 employees over the age of 60 from Tulare County private- and public-sector businesses honored for workplace contributions.

On May 12th, a video production unit made a two-day visit to SCICON to film students in action. The video is being sponsored by the Sierra Club as a key part of an effort underway to encourage more California students to attend outdoor science schools as part of their school curriculum. As one of the model outdoor education programs, SCICON along with two other California outdoor science schools will be featured in the video. SCICON has also been chosen to be part of a California Department of Education research project that will study the effectiveness of outdoor education.

Robert Herman has returned to the position of public information officer while Pamela Kunze is on active duty service in Pensacola, Florida, with the U.S. Navy. Herman served as PIO from November 1999 to May 2002.

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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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