go to Tulare County Office of Education HomePage go to Tulare County Office of Education HomePage

The News Gallery

October 2004

AN INDEPENDENT SOURCE - Eleanor Roosevelt Charter Expands Its Services to Home Schoolers

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

Contributors to this issue:
Darlynn Billingsley, Christine Chapman, Lorene Valentino, Mike Franco, Garyalynn Wilhelm, Jeanne Nava, Faye Johnson, Elainea Scott, Klara East, and Candy Hilvers.

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:
~ The Eleanor Roosevelt Community Learning Center makes good use of the historic Venice School.



to Top of Page

Eleanor Roosevelt Community Learning Center Continues to Grow in Service to Home Schoolers

Klara East and RoseAnn Gutierrez Eleanor Roosevelt would probably have admired the efforts of those who started the charter school for Tulare County home schooling parents that now bears her name. The First Lady, who possessed great sensitivity for people of all creeds, races, and nations, would have appreciated the resources assembled on behalf of students who are being educated at home.

Eleanor Roosevelt Community Learning Center (ERCLC) was founded in 2001 by a group of women who had known each other through the La Leche League, and who had children they were educating at home. In the spring of that year, the group petitioned the Tulare County Board of Education to become a charter school. After several months of review by members of the Instructional Services, Human Resources and the Business Services Divisions, the application was approved. Director Klara East explains: "ERCLC was created by five home-school families who dreamed of a place where students could gather to learn while parents participated in their child's education." The founders of Eleanor Roosevelt were Denise Carmen, Lauralee Carbone, Klara East, RoseAnn Gutierrez and Sarah Sample.

Peggy Entz leads a Shakespeare class "There is no 'one-size-fits-all' program for educating children," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "What works for one child and the parents, may not work for another. The Eleanor Roosevelt School has become an excellent resource of supplemental classes, counseling, testing and resource materials for parents who want to home school their children." Opened in fall 2001, ERCLC had an enrollment of 21 students from kindergarten through eighth grade. At first, the program operated in a former Exeter jewelry store. Less than a year later, the school was able to purchase the 100-year-old Venice School, located on seven acreas east of Visalia. The structure had been owned by a private school, which was facing a decline in enrollment.

Computer Lab Enrollment has increased steadily since its opening, and so has the population of students served. Currently, the school enrolls nearly 140 students. Ninth and tenth grade students have also been added. Ms. East says that the school will begin accepting 11th graders in 2005 and 12th graders the following year. "Initially, our students were the children of parents who had been home schooling for a long time," she says. "Now we are enrolling students whose parents may be trying home schooling for the first time — students who may not be adjusting well to a new grade level."

Sign Language Class On a bright, warm September afternoon, parents and students arrived early at Eleanor Roosevelt to socialize before the beginning of classes. One mother brought a litter of dachshund puppies, who didn't seem to mind stumbling around on the lawn and being held by dozens of children. "Even experiences like this can be a 'teaching moment' for parents and students," says Ms. East. Inside the new modular building, classes were beginning on topics as diverse as Spanish, sign language and karate. The school also offers weekly instruction in art, drama, band, guitar, literacy and various classes in mathematics. In the old school house, students were utilizing the computer in the lab and parents were reading with their children. Parents can access the school's textbooks and instructional materials, videos, software and a book collection with over 20,000 titles.

Dachshund Puppies California does not require home-school families to affiliate with a charter school. "For those parents who choose to affliate with Eleanor Roosevelt, there is accountability," says Ms. East. "The materials we offer are aligned to California teaching standards, and we conduct annual state testing." Most parents value the resources offered at the school and the supporting role the Tulare County Office of Education offers. Parent Brenda Cervantes says: "I have been a member of the school's board in the past. And I appreciated the way the Office of Education provides us with checks and balances. It has been a wonderful partnership." Klara East concurs: "My colleagues in the charter school field are envious of the relationship we have with our chartering organization. And it's becuase of the people at the Tulare County Office of Education. Every person I’ve met — Mr. Vidak, Pansy Ceballos (Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services), her staff and the members of the Tulare County Board of Education — each one has been completely pro-child."

Karate Class The school is govered by a five-member board, which includes one representative from the Tulare County Board of Education. For the past two years, Tulare County Board of Education President Chris Reed has served on the ERCLC board. Ms. Reed says of her experience: "I am so glad that we recognized the value of this charter. The program has demonstrated its ability to fill a real need in our community. It has been a pleasure serving with them." Last month, Ms. East made a presentation to the Tulare County Board of Education, sharing the progress the school has made and some of its dreams for the future. She reported that Visalia architect Rick Mangini has volunteered to prepare a master plan for the site, complete with concepts for more classrooms, a garden, a playing field, a riparian habitat and an oak restoration area. Already quite a resource for home-school students and parents, Eleanor Roosevelt Community Learning Center has the makings of a fine home away from home.

Photos above:
~ Director Klara East and one of the school's co-founders, RoseAnn Gutierrez, stand outside the historic school.
~ Peggy Entz leads a Shakespeare class for older students.
~ A poster of Mrs. Roosevelt greets visitors to the school, which includes reading rooms, a library and a computer center.
~ Arturo Lopez provides a sign language class for students and parents.
~ Children waiting for class to start enjoy each other and several dachshund puppies.
~ Karate instructor Diana Mattoon gives some pointers to business manager Sarah Sample, who takes classes with her son Tyler.



to Top of Page

Public Can Volunteer To Help College Night Run Smoothly

Volunteer Bob Scott Tulare County College Night was built by volunteers. Over 20 years ago, parents of students enrolled in Visalia Unified schools met in their homes to develop the event. Today, parents and other volunteers continue to play a large part in Tulare County College Night — whether they serve as chaperones for students groups, presenters, representatives for their college or university, or one of the many people who provide information on courses of study.

For five years, the Tulare County Office of Education has organized College Night. In that time, many of the parents who helped Visalia Unified with the event continue to volunteer. "We appreciate parents like Cyndy McDonald, Laura Pace, Jonna Schengl, Niki Moquist and others who have contributed many hours to the College Night event by coordinating the dinner, fundraising, supervising the volunteers, contacting colleges and universities, and providing guidance to our staff," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak.

Cyndy McDonald Between 3,500 and 4,000 students and parents attended 2004 College Night on Monday, September 13, 2004. Over 70 volunteers helped, beginning with a dinner for representatives from 75 colleges and universities. Many of the representatives for these colleges are alumni living in Tulare County, like Alex Peltzer, a local attorney who represents his alma mater, University of Notre Dame. "Due to budget constraints, some colleges that attended in the past were unable to send a representative," says Educational Resource Services Program Manager and College Night Chair Elainea Scott. "But, many of these same colleges might be delighted to let local alumni represent them at the event next year. We can accommodate more colleges and give our students an opportunity to obtain information on unique or out-of-state schools — if we have local alumni willing to volunteer."

Alex Peltzer represents University of Notre Dame Other volunteers worked behind the scenes to raise money for the event. "Mr. Vidak generously supports College Night along with many service organizations and local businesses," says Ms. Scott. "Our committee was successful in raising over $12,000 of support from the community, not including the generous donation Jostens Printing gives by producing the College Night program guide at no cost to us." The committee for College Night 2005 will begin meeting in the spring and volunteers are always welcome. If you would like to represent your college or university at the next College Night, contact Elainea Scott at 651-3031.

Photos above:
~ Volunteer Bob Scott helps students at the "Index of Majors" table.
~ Cyndy McDonald presents information on college entrance exams.
~ Alex Peltzer talks to a student about his alma mater, University of Notre Dame.



to Top of Page

La Sierra Converts Original Campus to Military Style Academy

Drill Sergeant Dennis Sirkin barks to La Sierra High School students volunteering to build the school's new challenge course: "Bring me one of those posts and set it here!" Several students hustle to get the post, while the remainder of the group continues to dig new holes. As they work, Sirkin enjoys teasing the students. They seem to enjoy the attention, but when things get a little too relaxed, he snaps them back to the task at hand. Drill Sergeant Sirkin isn't the only new addition at La Sierra's original campus on Houston Avenue. There are student uniforms, daily physical training and discipline — and a noticeable change in student and parent attitudes.

La Sierra Challenge Course In August, La Sierra converted its original campus on Houston Avenue in Visalia to a military-style school modeled after the Military Academy located on Akers Road. The change for the Houston Avenue campus resulted when administrators noticed markedly better academic performance at the Military Academy. Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak notes: "The students at the Military Academy have scored significantly higher on the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE). We also saw improvements in discipline and interpersonal relationships — with their peers, their teachers and their parents."

La Sierra High School was created in 1999 as a charter school of the Tulare County Office of Education. Since that time, the student body has increased from 30 students to almost 300 students this past school year with two campuses in Visalia and a third in Porterville. A new campus in Pixley was opened this fall. The Military Academy opened on Akers Road in 2002 with about 25 students. It now has over 85 male and female students. There are approximately 100 students registered at La Sierra's Houston campus this fall.

La Sierra Challenge Course "The staff and I have already seen positive changes in the students," says La Sierra Administrator Dr. Lorene Valentino. "Just as significant are the changes we've seen in our parents. We have parents who want to volunteer in the classroom and even help with fundraising. The most touching thing is, at the end of the day when we take the flag down, parents stand with their children to watch."

To help with the transition from traditional high school to the military-style academy, La Sierra hired former U.S. Army senior drill instructor Dennis Sirkin. The school is also establishing a system of officers, a drill team and an elite group of cadets called the Ranger Team. "A friendly rivalry seems to be developing between the students at the older academy on Akers and those at the Houston campus," says Dr. Valentino. "They get together after school at College of the Sequoias to play football or to walk. I'm delighted to see them feel comfortable on that campus, too." For information on a La Sierra campus visit, please call (559) 730-2737.

Photos above:
~ La Sierra students work with Drill Sergeant Dennis Sirkin to build a challenge course at the school's original Houston Avenue campus, which became a military-style academy in August.



to Top of Page

Teachers of the Year Named for Annual Event with Chinese Cultural Center

Scholars consider the Chinese philosopher Confucius' emphasis on education and study one of the hallmarks of his teachings. He disparaged those who trusted in intuition and argued that the only real understanding of a subject comes from long and careful study. Study, for Confucius, meant finding a good teacher and imitating his/her words and deeds. A good teacher is someone older who is familiar with the ways of the past. It's in this spirit that the Tulare County Office of Education and the Central California Chinese Cultural Center annually honor three of the best teachers in Tulare County.

The dinner event, held at the Chinese Cultural Center on September 23, to coincide with Confucius' birthday, honored an elementary, middle and high school teacher. The highlight of the evening was a short video on each teacher. "The film really brings out the talents and personalities of each winner," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. The video about teachers Dawn Dutto, Joy Soares and Suzanne Zuiderweg McElmoyl can be seen at www.tcoe.org/specialevents.

Dawn Dutto, Elementary Teacher of the Year Dawn Dutto is a third-grade teacher at Sundale Elementary. Dawn received a Bachelor of Science degree from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. A teacher since 1966, she has taught for San Luis Obispo Unified, Selma Unified, Palo Verde Elementary and — in 1979 — joined the staff of Sundale Elementary. She is actively involved at Sundale and is a former publisher of the student newspaper. Dawn says: "Children want to succeed, and we are obligated to do everything in our power to show them the way." With five grown children of her own, Dawn and her husband were involved in many swim meets, the Tulare Union High School Band Boosters, and various PTA and parent clubs. Dawn has also been a member of the St. Aloysius Church and Tulare Roma Lodge for 30 years.

Joy Soares, Middle School Teacher of the Year Joy Soares is an eighth-grade Language Arts/History teacher at Kings River Elementary School. Joy received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from CSU Sacramento and multiple subjects credential from Chapman University. She began her professional career as a marketing manager for Ruiz Food Products in Dinuba and was promoted to Vice President of Logistics and Marketing, but felt drawn to teaching. Joy joined the Kings River faculty in 1999. Her philosophy of education stems from her vast senior management experience. She believes: "Successful students, like successful businesses, must find a competitive edge." One of her greatest interests is Civil War history. Her classes actively participate in the Civil War Revisted event co-sponsored by the Tulare County Office of Education.

Suzanne Zuiderweg McElmoyl, High School Teacher of the Year Suzanne Zuiderweg McElmoyl is a Social Studies/Enrichment teacher at Lindsay High School. Suzanne graduated from College of the Sequoias, earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Fresno State University and a single subject credential from Chapman University. She has six years of teaching experience and currently instructs students in U.S. History and Academic Enrichment. Prior to entering the field of education, Suzanne was a social services director for the Tulare Nursing and Rehabilitation Hospital. She is experienced in child/adolescent development, family counseling and special needs of the developmentally disabled. Suzanne is co-chair of the Lindsay High School Accreditation Committee and coordinator of Focus on Achievement. She says: "Education should encourage each student to explore their interests and talents and provide a support system for their achievements."

Photos above:
~ Central California Chinese Cultural Center Teacher of the Year Award Winners are (top to bottom) Dawn Dutto, Joy Soares and Suzanne Zuiderweg-McElmoyl.



to Top of Page

Gallery Notes

The Child Abuse & Neglect (C.A.N.) Prevention Program is seeking volunteers to make presentations to kindergarten and fifth-grade students at Tulare County schools, both public and private. C.A.N. is a preventative program designed to help reduce the incidence of neglect, as well as physical, emotional and sexual abuse. An informational meeting will be held Wednesday, October 20, 2004, followed by training on November 8 and 9, 2004. For more information please contact Kathy Johnston at (559) 651-0130.

The Tulare County Office of Education recently received a $1.9 million grant to fund a program designed to help transition individuals into credentialed teaching positions with districts having a large percentage of highly at-risk students. The program will develop four cohorts of 35 teachers each for participation in either of two alternative credentialing programs — university-based internship programs or TCOE's Project IMPACT. In addition, 45 teachers per year who are state credentialed, but not highly qualified under No Child Left Behind laws (NCLB), will be trained and supported to demonstrate proficiency on California's rigorous teacher exam, the CSET (California Subject Examination for Teachers). The program is also intended to streamline hiring systems to match highly qualified teachers to the students who need them. For more information, contact Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Jeanne Nava at (559) 733-6306.

CHARACTER COUNTS! Week is scheduled for October 17-23. Again this year, the Tulare County Office of Education, in conjunction with the Visalia Times-Delta and the Tulare Advance-Register, will recognize over 2,000 students for their exemplary character. Students from throughout Tulare County have been nominated by teachers, parents and members of their communities. For information, contact John Forenti at (559) 740-4303.


to Top of Page




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

| Home Page | Site Index |

Please direct web site problems or comments to tcoeweb@tcoe.org.

Copyright © 2017, Tulare County Office of Education