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The News Gallery

April 2005

GROWN UP DECISIONS - Community Challenge Grant Helps Students See the Importance of Personal and Career Choices

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

Contributors to this issue:
Darlynn Billingsley, Christine Chapman, Garyalynn Wilhelm, Jeanne Croson, Guadalupe Solis, Pansy Ceballos, Priscilla Gomez, Randy Wallace, Candy Hilvers, Jonathan Janzen, Frank Escobar, Jr., Julie Joseph, Lana McGee, and Judy Pingel.

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.



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Grant Helps Students Plan for Future
Program Pairs School Health and School-to-Career Programs


School-to-Career Project Director Randy Wallace gives sixth- graders at Golden Valley in Orosi a real-life scenario: "With the money I've given you, let's work through your monthly budget." Students fill out a worksheet with their choice of a house and a car. Students also make allocations for groceries, income tax, utilities and clothing. Everyone is having a good time selecting the big three-bedroom house and the new car, until they come to the "end of the month."

Golden Valley students Reality sinks in and the students began to complain: “I don't have any money left!” Unwilling to trade their new cars for used ones, some even negotiate: “Can we share our house with a friend?” In a neighboring classroom, Joe Calvo conducts a similar budget exercise with a fixed set of expenses, but a variable income based on the amount of education a student ultimately receives.

These exercises are just one component of a grant given to the School Health Programs from the California Department of Health Services, Community Challenge Grant division. Given emphasis on education and career goals, it may be surprising to learn that the purpose of Community Challenge Grant is to reduce teen and unwed pregnancies and fatherlessness.

Randy Wallace at Golden Valley School "The primary goal of the grant is to provide a comprehensive early intervention program for students in some of our rural districts,” says Candy Hilvers, Program Manager for School Health Programs. Hilvers says research demonstrates that students are most receptive to prevention efforts in grades four through six, before they have made a decision to participate in at-risk activities. “Our secondary goal is to encourage students to set goals and plans for the future. Research has shown that students with goals for the future are more likely to remain in school and less likely to engage in risky behavior,” says Hilvers.

Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak notes: “Historically, Tulare County has had one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the state. The efforts of School Health Programs and School-to-Career Project encourage students to make the types of plans that will ultimately enrich their lives.” The Community Challenge Grant program includes classroom family life education presentations to sixth through twelfth grades, which contain information on self-esteem, refusal skills and decision-making. With help from the Tulare County District Attorney's Office Family Support Officers students also learn the social, legal and financial consequences of having children too early.

Following the classroom segment conducted by Randy Wallace, sixth-grade students make a structured site visit to a local business. Business volunteers from the Tulare County Office of Education School-to-Career Project help coordinate these visits. On a trip to the Holiday Inn in Visalia, which included a sit-down meal of Chicken Cordon Bleu, one student announced that he had decided on his career path: "I want to be a chef!"

Photos above:
~ Golden Valley students in Mr. Richert's sixth grade class learn budgeting.
~ School-to-Career Project Director Randy Wallace pays out dividends to a student who agrees to earn his college degree.



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Tulare County Accountability Support Team
Program Created to Help Districts Meet Academic Achievement


The federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) created a designation for federally funded schools and districts that have not meet their academic growth targets — a designation known as Program Improvement (PI). In California, there are over 150 school districts in the Program Improvement category. Five of them are in Tulare County.

Lupe Solis meets with Craig Wheaton and Mimi Bonds The California Department of Education has mandated that schools receiving the PI designation contract with an External Provider — a consulting organization that can guide schools or districts through the academic self-review process and implement the essential components of the self review (listed on the next page) to bring up test scores and get out of the PI category.

The Tulare County Office of Education is an External Provider for Program Improvement. "We have made a significant investment in the improvement of Tulare County schools with the formation of the Tulare County Accountability Support Team (TCAST)," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "An entirely new position was created within our Educational Resource Services (ERS) program to assist districts meet the demanding state and federal standards." Dr. Guadalupe Solis, former superintendent of the Reef-Sunset School District in Kings County, was selected to fill the newly created Student Academic Services Administrator position.

Books Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services, Dr. Pansy Ceballos, oversees the division which includes the TCAST program. "Dr. Solis brings a broad set of skills to the position, having served as a superintendent, principal, teacher, academic coach and instructional consultant," says Ceballos. "He has the latest experience with academic standards and a great ability to work effectively with people in difficult situations." TCAST draws on many of the resources that have been offered by ERS for years. TCOE's Instructional Consultants, who have previously assisted schools with staff development training, will now be part of several teams organized to help districts in PI. Since federal test standards measure performance in math and language arts, consultants with specialties in these and English Language Development will be key members of the TCAST team.

How does a school or district receive the Program Improvement designation? In California, academic achievement is measured by a tool known as the Academic Performance Index (API). API is a numeric scale that ranges from a low of 200 to a high of 1000. The statewide API performance target for all schools is 800. A school's growth is measured by how well it is moving toward or past that goal. The California Department of Education, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education, establishes school growth targets for all schools using a combination of API and a federal designation called Annual Yearly Progress (AYP). The target is based on the percentage of students reaching a level of proficiency. Students who take the California Standards Test receive one of three level ratings: Below Basic, Basic, and Proficient. California's goal is for 100 percent of all students to reach "Proficient" by the year 2014.

Academic Program Survey Components Guadalupe Solis explains: "In the simplest terms, federally-funded (Title I) schools and districts that don't meet their growth target for two consecutive years fall into PI status. The growth indicators being evaluated are English-language arts and mathematics scores, API, the test participation rate and the graduation rate. Their target needs to be met not only by the total student population, but also by all subgroups." The federal program has designated 11 subgroups, including many minority groups, white students (not of Hispanic origin), socio-economically disadvantaged students, English learners and students with disabilities. Conversely, a school can exit PI status by meeting its target scores two years in a row.

The consequences for remaining in PI grows with each passing year. For example, by year three of the process, a district can replace the school's staff, implement new curriculum, decrease management authority at the school level, appoint outside experts, extend the school year or day and/or restructure the internal organization of school. Simultaneously, the PI school must notify parents of its PI status and give them the choice of attending another public school in the district that does not have the PI designation. In this instance, the district will be responsible for the cost of transporting the student to the other school. For entire districts that have been labeled PI, the External Provider (the consulting organization like TCAST) can exercise the same options over the district. Ultimately, for schools or districts that remain in PI for more than four years, the Local Educational Agency (LEA) has the authority to reopen the school as a charter, replace all or most of the staff including principal or superintendent, contract with an outside entity to manage the school, or have the State take over the operation of the school or district.

Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Education provides financial assistance to PI districts to be used to contract with an external provider like TCAST to conduct both a District Academic Survey (DAS) and an Academic Program Survey (APS). Additional implementation funds are available once the surveys and a plan of action have been completed. "We are eager to assist schools and districts whether they have a PI designation or they simply want our support and staff development services," says Jim Vidak. "The NCLB goal of 100 percent proficiency is the standard we are committed to achieve for Tulare County students and schools."

For more information on the TCAST Team, contact Dr. Guadalupe Solis at (559) 651-3031.

Photos above:
~ Guadalupe Solis meets with Craig Wheaton and Mimi Bonds of Visalia Unified to discuss the district's upcoming academic review process.



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New CHARACTER COUNTS! Coordinator Named
Kelley Petty to Replace Retired John Forenti in April


Kelley Petty, vice principal and learning director for the Pixley Union School District, was recently selected as the new CHARACTER COUNTS! Coordinator for the Tulare County Office of Education. Her first official day is April 4. "We are pleased to have Kelley join our TCOE Team. With her vast knowledge of this program, the valuable work of integrating CHARACTER COUNTS! into our schools and communities will continue," says Tulare County Superintendent Jim Vidak.

Kelley Petty After attending a CHARACTER COUNTS! Development seminar sponsored by Jim Vidak and the Tulare County Office of Education nine years ago, Kelley was convinced this ethics program was exactly what was needed to make the Pixley Union School District a better place for children to learn. Using the Six Pillars of Character model, she implemented CHARACTER COUNTS! curriculum throughout her school and extended that enthusiasm to the community's youth soccer and baseball programs and area churches. Because of her efforts, in 2000, Pixley Union received the California State University, Fresno Bonner Center Virtues and Character Recognition Award.

Employed by the Pixley Union School District since 1987, her first assignment was as a sixth-grade classroom teacher. She also taught seventh grade and served as a Resource Specialist. A graduate of Tulare Union High School, she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California, Davis; and has Learning Handicapped, Pupil Personnel Services-Counseling and Clear Multiple Subjects credentials.

Photo above:
~ Kelley Petty, TCOE's new CHARACTER COUNTS! Coordinator



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Science Olympiad Puts Principles to the Test
Grade School Students to Compete at El Diamante April 2


Planes flew, rockets soared, chemicals bubbled and bridges were tested at the first session of the annual Science Olympiad, held at College of the Sequoias for middle and high school students. Elementary students will compete April 2, at El Diamante High School in Visalia.

La Joya Middle School students and plane judges The event features a combination of written and hands-on science competitions including biology, earth science, chemistry, physics and technology. There is also a balance between science facts, process, skills and applications. Locally, over 550 students from 25 schools compete in the annual regional competitions held in the spring.

Individual and team awards are presented with the top three teams in the middle and high school divisions advancing to the NorCal State Science competition at Sacramento State University April 9. For a complete list of the team and individual winners, visit www.tcoe.org/scienceolympiad.

Photo above:
~ La Joya Middle School students nervously await the judge's ruling on their plane before taking off in a flight competition called "The Wright Stuff."



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Special Services Donates Braille Books
Over 40 Boxes of Older Books Bound for School in Chennai, India


Nearly one-half ton of older Braille books are now leaving a TCOE storage facility on the Conyer Elementary campus bound for the St. Louis School for the Blind in India. Dozens of general science, math and reading books dating from the early 1980s were being stored, but not used. "We had long since purchased new books for our students," says Judy Pingel, Teacher for the Visually Handicapped.

Karen Loomis, Judy Pingel and Lisa Moody Ms. Pingel began the process by asking colleagues on a state-wide electronic ListServ for teachers of the visually impaired if anyone could use the older books. She was referred to the Braille Institute in Los Angeles, who told her of the Indian school. "I contacted the school and told them about the types of books we had. They were extremely grateful to get just about anything we had," Pingel says.

Tulare County Superintendent Jim Vidak appreciates Pingel's initiative in finding a good home for the books and in taking advantage of U.S. Postal Service policy to ship materials for the visually impaired at no cost. "With very little expense, we were able to send the books where they were needed," he says.

Photo above:
~ (left to right) Karen Loomis, Judy Pingel and Lisa Moody prepared the Braille books for shipment to India.



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Tulare Fifth-Grader Youngest to Win Bee
Evan Lawler to Compete at National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C May 29


Evan Lawler and Nancy Bellin after the county spelling bee competition If there's a spelling gene, Evan Lawler must have it. The fifth grader from Garden Elementary in Tulare is the youngest student to win the annual Tulare County Spelling Championship and the son of a high school Latin teacher — both father and son are self-proclaimed wordsmiths. Evan won the championship from a field of 141 participant spellers representing 63 public schools, six private schools and one home school within Tulare County. The recent event set a new record for participation. Rini Singh from La Joya Middle School received second place honors, while Makenda Bickmore of Liberty Elementary earned third.

The annual event, which is sponsored by Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak and the Visalia Times-Delta/Tulare Advance-Register, culminates in a trip to the National Spelling Bee for the winner. "Win or lose, this trip gives a Tulare County student the experience of a lifetime," says Vidak.

Photo above:
~ Media Star: Evan Lawler and Spelling Bee Coordinator Nancy Bellin prepare to talk with the press moments after his victory.



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Gallery Notes

Math Super Bowl 2005 was held March 15 at the Visalia Convention Center. Blue ribbon winners in the seventh-grade Team Bowl were Washington Intermediate Team A (Dinuba) and Valley Oak Team A (Visalia). Central Valley Christian (Visalia) Team B and Burton Middle School Team A (Porterville) received Blue Ribbon honors in the eighth-grade Team Bowl. For a complete list of award recipients, including the individual Power Bowl winners, visit www.tcoe.org/mathsuperbowl.

Champions 4 Youth, a local non-profit foundation formed in part by TCOE's Adam Valencia (CHOICES), Frank Escobar, Jr. (SEE&Co.), and Al Rodriguez (CHOICES), recently announced a partnership with Roller Towne in Visalia to produce safe monthly events for high school students. CHOICES' Reconnecting Youth program participated in organizing the event, entitled The Remix. The next event will be held April 9.

Serena Ramirez and Cristol Almanza Tulare County Farm Bureau Calendar, showcasing Tulare County student art, is now available through the main TCOE office in Visalia. Serena Ramirez of Pioneer Middle School in Porterville, granddaughter of Instructional Services secretary Priscilla Gomez, was one of 17 winners chosen from over 1,200 artwork entries.


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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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