The News Gallery
December 2004WORDS OF WISDOM - Officer Rob Zieg Takes a Gang Prevention Message to Tulare County Elementary Schools
Editor: Robert Herman
Public Information Officer
Contributors to this issue:
Darlynn Billingsley, Christine Chapman, Priscilla Gomez, Jeanne Croson, Rhonda Marlow, Donna Orozco, Garyalynn Wilhelm, Frank Escobar, Sr., and Roger Brown.
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.
TCOE Teams With Visalia Police Department In Innovative Program
Visalia Police Officer Rob Zieg is looking to make some appointments — not with suspected criminals, but with elementary and middle school students, their parents and their teachers. Officer Zieg is a man with a message for students: "Join a gang and you will get hurt," and he is looking for audiences.
This fall, Rob Zieg began making presentations as part of a unique gang prevention program conceived by Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak and Visalia Police Chief Jerry Barker. He has been focusing on Tulare County's many small, rural school districts, where it often takes several weeks to speak to all classes — usually one at a time from second grade up to sixth, seventh or eighth grades, depending on the school. Zieg has two presentations for students, each lasting one hour. Second- and third-graders utilize a storybook and companion coloring book, while fourth- through eighth-graders are shown a video Zieg has used many times in speaking to students entitled, Dress for Death.
"When the school or district calls me," says Zieg, "I usually begin with an in-service meeting with teachers and administrators. We review the two presentations and then I obtain feedback from the teachers about the students at the school. At some schools there are established gang cultures in the upper grades, while at others the problems are isolated to bullies and 'wannabes.' I also encourage the school to help set up an evening conference with parents," says Officer Zieg.
Squirmy second graders in Mrs. Mendes' and Mrs. Benson's classes at Sundale Elementary are eager to hear whatever Officer Zieg has to say. Zieg works through the publication, Let's Learn About Gangs Featuring Timmy the Dinosaur. During his presentation, Zieg interjects personal experiences with gang members and shares newspaper clippings. He talks about gang attire and colors, guns, crime and drug activities. At each point in the presentation, Zieg asks the kids: "Is anyone ready to join a gang yet?" "No!" shout the second graders. Toward the end of his visit, he shows the class a picture of a young father holding his newborn son, who has been dressed with a bandana to match the one on his father's head. Zieg asks the class whether they think this baby will grow up in a safe home. "No!" shout the second graders.
Students in the upper elementary and middle school classes are shown the Dress for Death video and review a publication on the myths of gang life. "Along with the video, we talk more openly about gang violence. We have to be honest about the dangers of this lifestyle, because it is often made to look appealing in the media," says Zieg. "The response I receive on campuses I visit is always positive. Days later, I'll have kids tell me that they are going to 'say no to gangs.'"
"Chief Barker and I feel that the gang problem in Tulare County isn't going to go away without a concerted effort to change this generation," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "Unfortunately, we have students who are being raised in homes where fathers, mothers, aunts and uncles are members of gangs. This is a cycle that will repeat itself if we don't take action to correct it." Officer Zieg's program is an extension of gang intervention work that Mr. Vidak has done with law enforcement, particularly the Tulare County Sheriffs Department. For several years, now retired probation officer Mel Borbolla and Mr. Vidak have worked to educate school staff and the public on the realities of gang activity in Tulare County. Thousands of copies of Mr. Borbolla's booklet, Street Gangs in Tulare County, have been distributed to schools, youth groups and civic organizations.
Chief Barker notes that in planning the development of a gang prevention with Mr. Vidak: "We wanted to try a new approach — to develop strategies for intervention at an earlier age, and create teaching modules that can be shared with other police programs. We can usually find funding for suppression — more officers and bigger guns, but to my knowledge, no one is talking to the very young kids about avoiding gangs." Chief Barker reported that, when attending a conference of the California League of Cities, there was a session on gangs. The session included a panel made up of the Los Angeles City Attorney, a Federal Weed and Seed officer, State Attorney General Bill Lockyear and others. They reported estimates that showed ten percent of the Los Angeles residents had some involvement in a gang. That statistic alarmed Chief Barker. "For so many years we ignored the problem and it has gotten more and more entrenched. We realized that we need to start working with this generation before they reach adulthood," he adds.
In November, Zieg spoke to approximately 50 parents from Cutler Elementary School. "I talk to parents about the things they need to be watching for in their kids," says Zieg. "They need to look at the way they dress, particularly the colors. They need to watch for evidence of drug use and watch for changes in their behavior. We need parents who won't retreat in intimidation or live in denial. Our goal is to build an awareness of gangs in teachers and parents and empower a generation of young people who can resist the temptations of that lifestyle," he concludes.
For information on Officer Zieg's program, call him at 730-2709.
~ Impressive Stuff! Sundale's Nicolas Andrade is one of many Tulare County students to hear Rob Zieg.
~ Students follow along in the storybook on gangs.
~ Among the many things Officer Zieg covers with younger students is the subject of gang colors and attire.
~ Sundale Elementary second-graders Aaron Calistro and Ashlee Litzan volunteer to assist Officer Zieg with his presentation.
Local Organizations Can Take the Challenge on La Sierra Course
What goes up does not necessarily come down in the La Sierra Challenge Course. Many students who successfully climb the awesome 24-foot Climbing Wall do not trust the belay (safety harness rope) to get them down safely, so they cling to the top of the wall until they are convinced to let go of their footholds. "The Climbing Wall is just one of the features of the La Sierra Challenge Course," says administrator Dr. Lorene Valentino, "which also includes the Low-Ropes Course, the Beached Whale, the Tropical Islands, the computer game, the golf games and other engaging initiatives."
The Challenge Course, located at the La Sierra West High School campus located on the corner of Akers and Hurley, was originally built to help train La Sierra Military Academy students but has now been made available to other high schools, community organizations and private companies. "The Course develops teamwork, trust, communication skills and strategic planning," says Frank Escobar Sr., Challenge Course Coordinator. "Each activity requires planning, execution, analysis and correction. The group keeps trying to get it right until they are successful."
Approximately 200 students, from various high schools enrolled in the TCOE Reconnecting Youth Program, have also enjoyed the benefits and results of the Challenge Course. Reconnecting Youth teachers have stated their students now work better together, interact in a more positive manner and help each other through problem solving exercises.
"We stress safety and encouragement," says Mr. Escobar, "and use the 'Challenge by Choice' philosophy where nobody is forced to do anything they are not comfortable doing." Over 500 students have gone through the course without a serious accident.
"The course is a great staff activity," says Dr. Valentino. "Our La Sierra faculty and Youth Services staff have gone through the course with great results. It is fun, exciting and effective." Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak adds: "The Challenge Course can add a new level of team-building to any staff development experience. I encourage civic and professional groups to take advantage of this facility."
La Sierra Challenge Course is available to any school, community organization or private company wanting to build cooperation, teamwork and team spirit. Call Frank Escobar Sr. at 733-6730 for cost and schedule information.
~ Frank Escobar Sr. coaches Reconnecting Youth students on the ropes course ...
~ ... while others attempt to board the balancing platform without tipping it to one side or the other.
Employees Celebrate Anniversaries at Annual Dinner
Sixty-three Tulare County Office of Education employees were recognized at a dinner presentation on November 10, for their combined 1,150 years of service. County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak commends the honorees, saying: "Your dedication, creativity and hard work are the reason the Tulare County Office of Education is such a quality organization. While we all benefit from your experience, the real winners are the students, teachers and administrators we serve in Tulare County."
~ Thirty year veterans Dr. Lorene Valentino, Carmen Caswell, Kristine Graham (2003 honoree), Dr. Marilyn Rankin and Charlotte Willenborg.
~ Thirty-five year honoree Janice Hahn.
~ Still smiling after 40 years — TCOE receptionist Dorcus Mayben.
Special Services Program Matches Students with Community Service Organizations
FoodLink for Tulare County and our own Visalia Community-Based Instruction Class (VCBI) have developed a very unique and special partnership under the direction of Roger Brown, TCOE teacher for the Severely Handicapped program.
FoodLink for Tulare County is a non-profit food bank, which provides food to the needy. The VCBI class is comprised of students with intellectual disabilities. Together, they provide a wonderful atmosphere where the students volunteer their services and gain valuable work experience. "The VCBI program is doubly rewarding for students," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "While they learn work skills, I'm sure they are making huge gains in self-esteem simply by being in a position to help others."
The Visalia FoodLink connection blossomed into warehouse work experience for the students in the VCBI program who showed an interest and talent in attempting the tasks necessary to prepare food for distribution to local food banks from their central warehouse. One of the young men, John Offutt, was featured in this year's Special Services calendar for the month of November. The students have donated many hours and received the satisfaction of contributing to others.
November is "Stuff the Trolley" month for FoodLink. Students from the class have assisted in this fun and exciting food drive by volunteering their time at the different locations where the Trolley is scheduled as a collection site for money and food items.
The VCBI class has been participating in many other volunteer work experiences and also received some training funds through the Workability program. These sites included: Fashion Bug, Visalia Senior Center, Sequoia Springs Bottled Water, City Corporation Yard, Visalia Human Resource Office, YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, American Ambulance, Habitat for Humanity and Kaweah Delta Hospital. The class also partnered with Randy Wallace and the School-to-Career program last year at the TCOE School Store in the Sequoia Mall.
Each student works on improving their "personal best" skill level in areas of independent adult living including work, home life, nutrition, recreation and exercise. These skills are acquired through community integration trips, hands-on activities, paper work and computer software programs. The daily routine includes: raising and lowering the flag; turning the "Open" and "Closed" signs; and checking in and out with a time clock.
The goal of the program is to facilitate the integration of each student into the community by practicing adult behaviors in all environments. New opportunities are always welcome.
~ VCBI students at FoodLink collection points Vanessa Pacheco and Sonya Cortez ...
~ ... and Sam "the Man" Cruz, Daniel Garcia and Jonathan Offutt.
The Peña Planetarium will present two special public shows for the holiday season which can be seen December 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 and 17. At 7:00 p.m., A Christmas Story will be shown. In it, a loving father explains the origins and importance of some of our holiday traditions to his young daughter. It also features a brief introduction to the winter sky and possible explanations for the Star of Wonder. The 8:00 p.m. show, Santa Snork Saves the Seasons, features planetary investigator Sam Snork presenting an alien interpretation of Visit from Saint Nicholas. Tickets are $4 for adults and $3 for children, 12 and under. A two-show package is also available. The planetarium is located at 2500 West Burrel at the corner of Woodland and Main, Visalia. For additional information, please call 737-6334.
The 4th Annual Chili Cook-Off and Silent Auction will be held on December 7, from 11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. in the Elderwood Room of the Doe Avenue Complex. All proceeds from the event benefit United Way. Make plans to attend and enjoy a fun-filled lunch. At least six teams are expected to have some of the tastiest, hottest and spiciest chili you have ever tasted. For a $5.00 donation, you can eat the chili of your choice and enjoy some hilarious entertainment! Last year's winner, the "Red Hot Chili Peppers," will surrender the "turkey" trophy to the team netting the most proceeds.
Dr. Guadalupe (Lupe) Solis rejoined the TCOE family as Student Academic Services Administrator at ERS. He had been serving as superintendent of Reef-Sunset Unified School District in Kings County. With over 31 years of experience in education, Dr. Solis will lead the ERS staff in providing the finest materials and instructional resources and assisting Tulare County school districts achieve mandated academic standards.
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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