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The News Gallery

February 2005

ANNUAL PROCEEDINGS - Mock Trial Kicks Off Season of Student Events and Competitions

News Gallery - February 2005 Editor: Robert Herman
Public Information Officer
(559) 733-6606

Contributors to this issue:
Darlynn Billingsley, Christine Chapman, Priscilla Gomez, Jeanne Croson, Angel Vazquez, Marsha Ingrao, Lori Harding, Garyalynn Wilhelm.

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:
~ Attorney Jean Bourn plays the presiding judge in the 2005 Mock Trial competition between Exeter and Orosi High Schools. Exeter's Amanda Brooks plays Officer Quinn Avila.

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Mock Trial Competition Is One of Many Student Events Involving Students, Teachers, Parents & Community

2005 Mock Trial Competition The competition seems to transform them. Typical teenagers become well, adult-like. At the annual Mock Trial competition, high school students are dressed and talking like they're auditioning for an episode of Law and Order. But, this type of behavior isn't isolated to Mock Trial. Each spring, Tulare County students are transformed beyond their years into sage poets, imaginative engineers, mathematicians and scientists.

"Our student events are rewarding on so many levels," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "They're mental and character building exercises for students, and they're just plain fun for the rest of us to watch. I'm always encouraged by the quality of student work we see at the events whether it's Mock Trial or Math Superbowl, the Science Fair or Friday Night Live Lip Synch."

2005 Mock Trial Competition The Mock Trial competition began in January with 11 teams from Tulare County high schools. Schools participating this year included: Dinuba High School, El Diamante High School, Exeter High School, Farmersville High School, Golden West High School, Lindsay High School, Monache High School, Redwood High School, Tulare Western High School, Tulare Union High School, and Orosi High School. All teams competed in the first four rounds of the competition. Semi-finals will take place between the top two teams on February 1, at the Courthouse at 5:15 p.m. El Diamante will host the final trial round this year on February 8, at 5:15 p.m.

2005 Mock Trial Competition Aside from realizing that the courts are overburdened, few people understand the workings of the criminal justice system. Mock Trial provides students with the opportunity to develop an understanding of the link between our Constitution, courts and legal system. In addition, students have the opportunity for interaction with positive, adult role models from the legal community. In trying the hypothetical Mock Trial case, students grapple with particularly thorny legal and social issues. Instructional consultant and event coordinator, Marsha Ingrao, notes: "While only a small percentage of Mock Trial participants will attend law school, all will go on to become better citizens."

2005 Mock Trial Competition This year's hypothetical case, People v. Kendall, features a pretrial argument on the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech and freedom of association. To prepare, students must be familiar with 15 similar cases some state and some federal. In addition, they will quote two Constitutional Amendments and two statutory regulations in their arguments.

The 10-to 20-member Mock Trial teams are composed of students who take on the roles of lawyers, witnesses, court clerks and bailiffs. All teams must make their presentations based on identical, hypothetical case materials. Like all student events, Mock Trial is supported by teachers, parents and members of the community. Each team, coached by local attorneys and school personnel, presents the case for both the prosecution and defense. Three attorneys score the teams on the basis of their analysis and debate of the constitutional issues, the law and the facts in the case.

2005 Mock Trial Competition "This event depends on the time and expertise of many in our legal profession," says Ms. Ingrao. "And we are grateful for the support of the Constitutional Rights Foundation, the California Department of Education, the State Bar of California, the Young Lawyers' Association and the Daily Journal Corporation. Lisa Strongin, from the Public Defenders' Office, and Cynthia Logan, Deputy Court Executive Officer also help coordinate the event."

"Our student events are all extremely rigorous competitions. But there's always room for more participants," says Jim Vidak. "As an incentive, many of the local winners have opportunities to go on to compete at state and even national events. I appreciate all that have the courage and opportunity to participate."

For more information on upcoming student events, see the calendar in this issue, or visit www.tcoe.org/calendarofevents.

Photos above:
~ Exeter's Garkay Wong makes opening statements for the prosecution while competition judge Andre Gaston reviews the details of the case.
~ Orosi's Christina Galana served as the trial's sketch artist.
~ Samantha Sario is sworn in as rebellious Mo Lancaster, the deceased's best friend. Smokey Fermin is the Bailiff.
~ Members of the community are important parts of all TCOE special events. Attorney Matt Bixler offers his critique of the teams' performance following the Mock Trial.
~ Orosi High School team coach, Neil Fernbough, greets attorney Jean Bourn, who served as the presiding judge in the case.

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Palo Verde Receives Title I Distinguished School Award

Palo Verde Elementary in Tulare will be recognized at the National Title I Conference on February 1, 2005, in Atlanta, Georgia. The district is one of only two in California to receive a nomination from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell for outstanding student performance. Title I is part of the federal No Child Left Behind law. The program is designed to give socio-economically disadvantaged children equity and access to a high-quality education and reach proficiency on state academic assessments. Superintendent O'Connell chose Palo Verde for its efforts to significantly close the achievement gap among students who are poor, minorities, disabled or have limited English proficiency. "The results are amazing," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "District Superintendent John Manning and his staff have done a wonderful job of training teachers and instructing students ultimately surpassing their academic growth requirements for the past two years. Congratulations, Palo Verde!"

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Disabled Adults Discover Ticket-To-Work Program Offers Job Connections and Benefits Security

Fifteen years ago, Johnny Fajardo was involved in a tragic car accident that left him in a coma. He was not expected to survive, much less recover. But over time he did, going on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work from Fresno State. Out of his own struggles, he developed a passion to help others. Still, Johnny Fajardo is disabled. The accident, which caused brain injury and numerous broken bones, left him unable to do many types of work.

Karen Davidson and Johnny Fajardo Since the accident, Mr. Fajardo has received disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. But as he made progress in his rehabilitation, he wanted to find employment, preferably doing something to help others with disabilities. Recently, Johnny Fajardo began work as an independent contractor at the Central Valley Regional Center (CVRC) the private, nonprofit corporation funded by the state of California to provide services to persons with developmental disabilities. Mr. Fajardo serves as part-time community activity support, working to mentor four to five clients per week.

After he found his job with CVRC, he discovered the Ticket-To-Work Program. He learned that by enrolling in the federal program, he could keep disability benefits for up to five years. While his Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits will decrease as his work salary increases, in the event that he is unable to work in that time period, Mr. Fajardo will be able to receive SSI cash benefits again without reapplying.

The goal of the Ticket-To-Work Program is to give disability beneficiaries the opportunity to achieve steady, long-term employment if they choose to do so. The legislation that created the program also removes barriers that previously influenced people's choices between healthcare coverage and work. Program participants are able to keep their medical coverage for eight years or more regardless of earnings.

In the San Joaquin Valley, the Ticket-To-Work program is administered by Services for Education & Employment (SEE). Karen Davidson, the regional coordinator, first learned about Ticket-To-Work at the California Workforce Association conference in 2003. "The program was a natural fit for us because we could apply our job placement experience from years of MOVE (More Opportunities for Viable Employment) and Welfare to Work," says Ms. Davidson. Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak adds: "By providing interview training and job search assistance, the Ticket-To-Work program is also a natural extension of our educational services to the disabled."

Today, SEE is the program's only active employment network in Central California. To date, of more than 100 Social Security Disability recipients who have inquired about the program, Davidson reports that about half have found employment. To learn more about Ticket-To-Work, call 800/540-0307.

Photo above:
~ Johnny Fajardo sits with Ticket-To-Work Regional Coordinator Karen Davidson at her office on Akers Road in Visalia.

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Tulare County Board of Education Welcomes Two New Members

Following local elections in November, Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak administered the Oath of Office to four Tulare County Board of Education members two incumbents and two newly elected. Mr. Vidak praised the members saying: "The staff and I appreciate your willingness to serve on this governing board for the benefit of our many programs and over 90,000 Tulare County students."

Swearing in of new board members The board members who received the Oath of Office, on December 8, 2004, included: Leonard Hansen, Trustee Area 2; Dr. Edward Peterson, Trustee Area 3; Katy Rominger, Trustee Area 5; and John S. Baker, Trustee Area 6. Mr. Vidak made special mention that Dr. Peterson was first sworn into office on May 19, 1956. Except for a three-year retirement period from 1996 to 1999, Dr. Peterson has served continuously on the Board of Education. Leonard Hansen was first sworn into office on December 6, 1972. Following the Oath of Office, the board voted unanimously to elect Mr. Hansen as its new president. Pat Hillman will continue to serve as vice president.

The new board members were honored with a reception attended by the staff following the meeting. John Baker, who represents Trustee Area 6 in the southeast portion of the county, had served approximately four years on the Hot Springs Elementary School District Board of Education, and was elected board president of that district in November 2002. While volunteering his time as an emergency medical technician for the Hot Springs Ambulance Company and as a teacher's aide and web master for the school district, he also completed the California School Boards Association's Masters in Governance training program in 2003. In addition, Mr. Baker is a retired C.P.A. and a small business owner for the past 20 years.

Katy Rominger, who represents Trustee Area 5, is a native Visalian and a retired educator. She served in five school districts, including Visalia Unified for 25 years. During her 34-year career, she taught at all grades levels (preschool to adult) and as a principal in Santa Clara, California and Monte Vista, Colorado. She also owned Daily Bread Gifts in Colorado. Ms. Rominger is the founder and former owner of Bunny Bear Christian Day Care on Chinowth in Visalia now Hyde Park Preschool. She and her husband have two grown daughters and a 12-year-old son.

Photo above:
~ Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak administers the Oath of Office to board members (standing left to right) Dr. Edward Peterson, Katy Rominger, John Baker and Leonard Hansen. Each will serve through 2008.

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Community School Students Learn the Value of Serving Others Through Grant Program

Community School Service One doesn't expect to see a group of teenage boys sitting around a table gift wrapping books for local elementary school students and seeming to enjoy it! Since 2003, students in Tulare County Office of Education's Community Schools have participated in a variety of service activities as part of a federally funded grant. "We now require all Community School students to give a minimum of 20 hours of community service before becoming eligible to reenter traditional high school," says Community School Program Manager Angel Vazquez. Community School students have served in classrooms for the severely handicapped, at SCICON and out of the classroom for organizations like the Tulare County Fair, the Salvation Army, Tulare County FoodLink and the Miracle League.

Community School Service Funding for the grant was made available in 2003 after the passage of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Money from the grant helps pay teachers a small stipend to work side-by-side with students completing their community service after school and on weekends.

The purpose of the grant is to promote character building activities and lower student recidivism. "By involving these students in activities that help others, whether it's working in the warehouse at FoodLink or aiding the staff at one of our severely handicapped classrooms, our goal is to change the behavior that got them into trouble before," says Angel Vazquez. "The CHARACTER COUNTS! curriculum has been a part of the Community School program since 1996," says Tulare County Superintendent Jim Vidak. "This grant helps put into practice many of the attributes of a person of character particularly those found in the pillars of "caring" and "citizenship."

Community School Service All students must complete the 20-hour requirement, but most give much more. "We've learned that students who give 100 hours of community service under this grant are eligible for an award from President Bush. At the end of this semester, we will submit our list of those entitled for this special recognition," says Mr. Vazquez. The grant also requires students to complete an interview about their experience. Several students reported that the service made them feel sometimes for the first time that they and their work were valued.

In December, Mid-County Community School students helped wrap books donated by a local foundation called Books for Kids. The foundation, which distributed the books to students at Goshen Elementary with the help of girls from Riata Ranch International, was founded by retired Mid-County teacher Nancy Volosin and her husband, Nick Anthony. Mr. Vazquez also reports that students from Success Community School in Porterville are beginning to work with SCICON refinishing bunk beds at their school on weekends. It's a winning combination: valuable service and the building of compassion for others.

Photos above:
~ Retired community school teacher Nancy Volosin shows students at Mid-County Community School in Visalia some fancy ribbon techniques as they wrapped books for children as part of their community service project.

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Gallery Notes

Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak encourages teachers, administrators, community members and parents to nominate Tulare County students for the Gold Star Leaders Award. Organized by CBS Channel 47, the program recognizes young people in grades six through twelve for outstanding community service. Each Gold Star winner will receive a $500 scholarship provided by Carl's Jr. Restaurants to be awarded to the student's favorite local charity. Channel 47 organized the Gold Star program in 2001 and has since recognized a total of seven outstanding Tulare County students. Nominations, due February 11, 2005, can be obtained on-line at www.cbs47.tv.

The Child Find project seeks to identify children who may be in need of special education services and connect them with appropriate educational programs. Special education services are available in Tulare County for children from birth through 21 years of age with disabilities in speech, sight, or hearing, and those with orthopedic or other health impairments, learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, behavior disorders, and those who are developmentally disabled. Additional information may be obtained by calling the Child Find Project at 733-6317.

The Association of California School Administrators Region XI (ACSA) recently recognized two T.C.O.E. employees in its annual Administrator of the Year Awards. Darlynn Billingsley, administrative assistant to Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak, won in the Confidential Employee category, while Donna Martin, program manager for the Special Services Division won in the Special Education Administrator category. ACSA Region XI encompasses Tulare, Inyo, Kings and Kern Counties. Ms. Billingsley and Ms. Martin will compete for statewide honors this month.

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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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