The News Gallery
Summer 2004PACKING THE HOUSE - Theatre Company Prepares an Updated West Side Story & a Program Just for Youth
Editor: Robert Herman
Public Information Officer
Contributors to this issue:
Darlynn Billingsley, Christine Chapman, Nani Nielsen, Amanda Watkins, Garyalynn Wilhelm, Elainea Scott, Nariman Ajluni, Jeanne Croson, Brian Roberts, Adam Valencia and Nicole Zweifel.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or (559) 733-6172 and provide your name and address.
Classic Musical Leads to Significant Youth Forum
West Side Story, the musical, is nearly 50 years old. Yet, the story of two warring teen-age gangs has a message for youth in today's culture. West Side Story, which is modeled after William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet, centers on the lives of Tony and Maria — two young people in love despite the opposition of family and friends belonging to rival gangs. Like Romeo and Juliet, tragedy follows Tony and Maria to the end of the musical.
"We couldn't perform West Side Story without addressing the consequences of violence," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "It would be too easy to make this production a celebration of our talented young people, and the wonderful songs and dance numbers. The problem of gang violence in Tulare County is a real one. And it's going to take awareness, vision and cooperation to solve it," concludes Mr. Vidak.
The Tulare County Office of Education's Theatre Company, under the direction of Visual and Performing Arts Consultant Brian Roberts, stages an annual summer production. Now in its seventh year, the Theatre Company has produced such favorites as The King & I, Music Man, Peter Pan, and Me and My Girl. "The heartbreaking plot of West Side Story is a bit of a departure for the program," says Brian Roberts. "But rather than deter us from producing the musical, Mr. Vidak encouraged us to explore ways we could use the material to bring to light some of the problems, opportunities and successes in combating organized violence in our communities," he adds.
Together with Adam Valencia, Project Coordinator for Reconnecting Youth, and John Kelly, Youth/Community Development Coordinator from the CHOICES Program, Brian Roberts assembled a blue ribbon team of Tulare County educators in the fields of youth development and law enforcement. The purpose of the team was to organize a youth forum following one special performance of West Side Story. The committee comprises experts in the field of alternative education including Angel Vazquez, Program Manager for TCOE's Court/Community Schools, Angel Avitia, with Community Services Employment & Training (CSET), and Steve Newsome from Court/Community Schools. Other members with expertise in law enforcement and gang prevention include Louie Thomas from Restorative Justice and Mel Borbolla, retired Chief Probation Officer with the County of Tulare. Mr. Borbolla is now a special consultant to the Tulare County Office of Education.
The forum will take place following a 6:00 p.m. performance of the musical on July 28. The public is welcome and students attending the event will be admitted free. The forum will be a moderated event with guest speakers from the community, including men and women working with at-risk youth and young people formerly involved in gang activities. The panel will also include experts in the field of gang prevention from outside Tulare County.
"If we do our job right," says Brian Roberts, "the audience will develop a connection with the characters in the play. They should understand and hopefully feel some of the pain suffered by Maria and her friends. With the final tragic images of the play in their minds, the audience should be ready for the forum discussion," adds Mr. Roberts.
Anticipating the youth forum, Brian Roberts and Theatre Company choreographer Nicole Zweifel have updated the look of the musical from the logo, to the sets and the costumes. "We didn't feel the look of the 1961 movie would have the same appeal to young people today," says Ms. Zweifel. "The costumes in our production definitely reflect what kids wear today and the dance numbers — particularly between the Sharks and Jets — have a Hip Hop feel," she concludes.
Adam Valencia, Program Coordinator for Reconnecting Youth says: "The focus for the forum will be a discussion of consequences of gang activity." Mr. Valencia adds: "We want to dispel the romanticizing of gang life that is popular in movies. At the end of the evening, our goal is to bring the audience to the realization that there is a way out of gang life, and that education is the key."
All of the speakers considered for the forum have direct experience in gang life. "We have so many great local success stories to share," says Mr. Valencia. "Students will certainly enjoy the performance, but it's up to us to create a message of hope that they take with them. And I believe by having men and women from our communities discuss with students how they were able to change their own lives, we can create that hope," he concludes.
For information on the special student performance of West Side Story, and the youth forum to follow, contact Adam Valencia at 651-0155. A schedule of other public performances can be found in this issue. General admission is $5, and tickets may be purchased from the Theatre Company by calling Veronica Carmona at 651-1482.
~ Still So Pretty. Maria and friends perform the much loved "I Feel Pretty" in updated version of West Side Story. Maria (center) is played by Katy McElhinney from Mt. Whitney High School. Maria's friends are: (left to right) Beth Prosser from Golden West High School, Gloryann Boni, a graduate of Redwood High School, and Lanell Stanton from Redwood High School.
~ Theatre Company choreographer Nicole Zweifel has infused classic West Side Story dance numbers with a Hip Hop flavor. Costuming will also reflect contemporary urban styles.
ERS Software Finds Statewide Market
Counties throughout the state are discovering, and wanting, the Standards Resource Guide developed by Educational Resource Services (ERS). The Guide serves as an online reference tool for teachers to find California Academic Content Standards-aligned resources for use in the classroom. It was first introduced to Tulare County teachers during the 2001-2002 school year as a response to their needs for sufficient aids in teaching the California Standards.
The Guide reproduces the California Standards for grades K-12 verbatim, organized by the four major curriculum areas, which are then broken down by grade. A teacher can search the Guide for resources for her grade by clicking on the standard of choice. A list of resources from the ERS collection aligned with that standard will appear. In addition, any streaming videos in the collection or from subscription services will also appear, as will any other standards-aligned sites from the World Wide Web. A teacher may then order the resources she wants from the ERS collection or stream the video directly into her classroom.
During the November 2002 and 2003 conferences of the California School Library Association, ERS Program Manager Elainea Scot and Library Development Assistant Judi Hopper presented the Guide to other school librarians. "There was immediate excitement about the potential uses," says Elainea Scott. "Districts throughout California wanted to know more, especially how they could utilize the Guide format with their own collections," concludes Ms. Scott.
The challenge in marketing the Standards Resource Guide to other districts was ensuring that the program worked well with the various online catalogs on the market. While ERS uses MediaNet, other counties utilize catalogs such as Alexandria, Follet and Open Biblio. As counties began to want the Guide for their own collections, the program's developer, Technology Department Assistant Steve Woods, successfully overlaid it with all the other media catalogs. "The Standards Resource Guide is a fine example of our commitment to service," says Tulare County Superintendent Jim Vidak. "It's a practical solution to a real need, implemented by talented people. It's always a pleasure to share our ingenuity with teachers in the rest of the state," he concludes.
To date, Fresno, San Diego, Humboldt, Monterey, Sonoma and Ventura county offices of education have contracted with ERS to license the Standards Resource Guide. Eight other county offices have started negotiations to license the guide, and many others have expressed an interest.
~ Teachers and librarians in Fresno, San Diego, Humboldt, Monterey, Sonoma and Ventura counties have licensed the Standards Resource Guide to interface with their library collections.
Nutrition Program Celebrates First Anniversary
The statistics are numbing. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 26 percent of Tulare County children ages two through four are overweight. This problem increases to 44 percent for children ages five to nineteen. Diabetes is developing at a high rate in Tulare County. Nearly 1.5 million Californians, or about 5.9 percent of all adults, had diabetes in 2001. Age adjusted rates by county vary from a low of 3.1 percent in Marin and El Dorado to a high of 10.5 percent in Tulare County.
To combat these significant health risks, the Tulare County Office of Education California Nutrition Network for Healthy Active Families began in February 2003. The Nutrition Network, as it is known, is funded by the USDA and part of the Instructional Services' School Health Programs.
"Nutrition and physical activity are key to student performance in the classroom," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "Students need proper sleep, stamina and the right kinds of food for learning. I am pleased that the Nutrition Network is educating students and parents on the importance of good food and exercise, and shortening the dangerous trend toward obesity," he concludes.
Nutrition Network Program Coordinator Nani Nielsen says the program has three main objectives. "Our focus is to encourage students and their families to eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily, engage in 30 minutes of physical activity per day for adults, and 60 minutes for adolescents, and to promote participation in USDA nutrition assistance programs," says Nielsen.
The Nutrition Network contracts services with Alta Vista, Citrus South Tule, Cutler-Orosi, Exeter, Lindsay, Pixley, Pleasant View, Porterville, Rockford and Strathmore School Districts. Services include staff training, classroom instruction, parent and community education, consultation with School Nutrition Services, and nutrition education and physical activity promotion. The program was successful in organizing supermarket and dairy tours for students, and participating in the first annual National Walk to School Day, the Pixley Health Fair, Exeter Career Day, Cool Night and classroom lessons. "We look forward to the upcoming year, when we will more than double the number of teachers and students we will reach with our health promotions message," says Ms. Nielsen.
~ Students participate in hands-on nutrition activities.
~ (left to right) Nutrition Network Project Coordinator Nani Nielsen, School Health Program Manager Candy Hilvers, and Nutrition Network Resource Specialist Amanda Watkins.
~ Student on recent trip to the Borba Dairy.
Twenty-Four Retirees Serve Over 525 Years
On June 9, friends, families and employees of the Tulare County Office of Education gathered in the Education Center to wish 24 individuals a long and happy retirement. County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak and Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Jeanne Nava presented gifts as co-workers and managers spoke about each person. In total, these men and women dedicated over 525 years to the students of Tulare County. Below is a list of those honored, the years they served and their programs.
~ (left to right) Nick Anthony stands with his wife Nancy Volosin, who retired from the Court/Community School program. Also pictured is Court/ Community School Program Manager Angel Vazquez.
~ (left to right) Claudina Gomez, Harriese Allen, Ed Ponce, Judi Hopper, Florentina Mateo, Rachel Katz, Carolyn Sue Hartman and Nancy Volosin.
Exeter Classes Excel in Telling Civil War Story
Each fall, the Tulare County Office of Education sends ten classes — five from fifth grade and five from eighth grade — to the Fresno Historical Society's Civil War Reenactment. Following their visit to the event, which is called Civil War Time Travelers, students are required to submit a newspaper project. At the event, students visit four stations and listen to an actor describe his or her role in the war. Students also see artifacts of the Civil War, and view a battlefield with tents, treatment centers, artillery and cavalry. From this experience, they become reporters on the battlefield of the Civil War. Student newspapers are then scored by The Fresno Bee in several areas, including news articles, feature articles and photographs.
Fifth-grade students in Exeter's Rocky Hill Elementary "wowed" the judges by earning a total of four "excellence" awards and one "outstanding" award. The young reporters, artists and editors belong to two classes taught by Douglas Snider, and Martha Karjala and Loretta Bryant. Mrs. Karjala was the 2003 Tulare County Teacher of the Year.
~ (left to right) Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Pansy Ceballos, Instructional Consultant Marsha Ingrao, Fresno Historical Society's Sharon Hiigel, and County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak with students from Rocky Hill Elementary in Exeter.
CalPERS has extended the application deadline for PERS and STRS members who wish to receive long-term care benefits for themselves or family members. For this year, applications mailed on or before August 31, 2004, will be considered. For more information, visit www.tcoe.org/hr/employeeinfo, and then click on the CalPERS Long-Term Care link.
The Tulare County Office of Education's Child Care Educational Program is currently accepting applications for preschool enrollment at its Head Start centers. Jim Vidak, Tulare County Superintendent of Schools, says the centers are now accepting preschoolers who are between 2.9 and 4.8 years as of September 1, 2004. Families must meet income guidelines and other eligibility requirements. In addition to education opportunities, the Child Care Program also offers Head Start services including health, nutrition, special needs and social services. For more information, call the Child Care office in Visalia at 651-3022.
Friends of SCICON held its annual Awards Dinner to recognize individuals and organizations for their exceptional contributions and support of the SCICON program. Receiving the Laurel Leaf Awards as the top high school cabin leaders of the year were Monserrat Alejo, of Dinuba High School, and Gerardo Linares, of Citrus High School. They were selected out of 850 high school students as being exemplary role models for the sixth grade students at SCICON. In addition to their awards, they also received a college scholarship from the Friends of SCICON. Nancy Bruce, Education Coordinator with the Tulare County Office of Education, was honored for her work in developing new student outdoor education programs at the Circle J - Norris Ranch.
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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