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The News Gallery

September 2005

THE CONSIDERATE HOST - Sensitive To Its Surroundings, The New Circle J-Norris Ranch Student Reception Center Opens This Month

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

Contributors to this issue:
Darlynn Billingsley, Christine Chapman, Garyalynn Wilhelm, Jeanne Croson, Karen Davidson, Kaye van Gilluwe, Kelley Petty, Adam Valencia, Tom Byars, Leslie Converse, Priscilla Gomez, and Marilyn Willers.

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 new Circle J-Norris Ranch Student Reception Center.

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Circle J-Norris Ranch Reception Center Opens
New Building is a Model for Students of Environmental Concern and Efficiency

Circle J - Norris Ranch Reception Center From the road, the new Circle J-Norris Ranch student reception center is virtually invisible — a fresh mound of earth, a few small vents and a thin band of concrete are all that is noticeable. Over time, as the natural landscape is restored, even these elements will disappear from view. But, as one takes the route hundreds of buses will use, the project reveals itself. From Yokohl Valley Road, buses wind around the back of the center and down a hill to its entry. There, large concrete retaining walls rise to create a canopy-covered plaza. The retaining walls hold back the hill that hides the offices, restrooms and storage areas nestled beneath it.

Circle J - Norris Ranch Reception Center Circle J - Norris Ranch is the beautiful 620-acre field trip site operated by the SCICON program in the foothills north of Springville. Classes of all ages visit the site for hands-on learning experiences on topics such as: blue oak regeneration; weather, soils, hydrology and biota investigation; and astronomy. "For nearly ten years, we have operated the Circle J program out of temporary facilities," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "Architect Rick Mangini and his firm did a wonderful job of creating a building that respects its environment and at the same time helps focus students on nature."

Circle J - Norris Ranch Reception Center The project features a circular assembly area framed by a colorful arch. To the west of the assembly area, students get a glimpse of Circle J’s pond, majestic oaks and pastures. Across the road from the assembly area is the student reception center. Beginning this month, students will gather under the soaring canopy as Circle J education coordinator Nancy Bruce and her staff provide orientations. Five museum-style cases and cabinets below can be arranged with examples of native plant and animal species. For convenience, Circle J staff can change the displays from a storage corridor behind the cases.

Circle J - Norris Ranch Reception Center Boys and girls restrooms, two offices, a storage room and a shower are also housed in the reception center. These spaces are kept naturally cool by the insulative properties of the hillside above them — a feature staff will no doubt discuss with visitors. At a site known for its adaptive curriculum, even a building can be a teaching tool.

Photos above:
~ A view of the roof of the new Circle J-Norris Ranch student reception center reveals how architects used a natural hillside to conceal the building.
~ A student restroom incorporates durable tile and stone surfaces.
~ Five museum-style cases will hold wildlife and plant materials.
~ An unobtrusive view of the rear of the center from Yokohl Valley Road.

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Special Services Addresses Autism With New Programs and Trainings
Collaborations Benefit Younger Students

At the annual Summer Institute for Tulare County Administrators in June, Assistant Superintendent of Special Services Dr. Marilyn Rankin and her staff presented to a packed room on the growing rate of autism in children. Dr. Rankin also reported on many of the new programs and services the division is implementing for students with autism disorders, their parents and their teachers.

Special Services Addresses Autism One of the unique programs recently developed for preschool children with autism is a collaboration between the Tulare County Office of Education, College of the Sequoias and Fresno Pacific University. Held at the COS Child Care Center, the Collaborative Preschool Program is designed to meet the needs of young children (ages 3-5) with the disorder. The goal of the collaboration is to develop, implement, evaluate, and encourage replication of programs for young children with autism that are effective and meet the needs of children, families, and school district personnel. "The collaboration provides benefits for all partners involved," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "Our staff specialists, COS Child Care and the graduate students and instructors from Fresno Pacific all gain from the experience of working with these special students. Ultimately, though, it’s the children who benefit most from this concentration of talent and resources."

Special Services Addresses Autism "While the word 'autism' is commonly used, it actually describes a spectrum of disorders," says Kaye van Gilluwe, Administrator for Student Support Services in the Special Services Division. "Given the variation and severity of the disorder, the challenges of caring for these children are often unique." An emphasis of the Collaborative Preschool Program is to blend strengths of different disciplines — early childhood educators, speech and other designated service providers and graduate students studying psychology or special education — to create a comprehensive preschool program that addresses the unique needs of each student.

Recent research suggests that effective early intervention programs for children with autism may be even more critical than previously believed. At the COS Child Development Center, children with autism learn alongside typically developing peers, and receive a high-quality, early childhood special education program utilizing "Educating Children with Autism" — a publication of the National Academy of Sciences. The program follows findings recommending best practice interventions, effective instructional strategies and a critical family component. Training is provided to guide and assist families in supporting their children's program in the home.

Special Services Addresses Autism Ms. van Gilluwe says that Special Services currently works with Tulare County school districts in the development of their own preschool programs for children with autism. "The preschool setting is a wonderful way to observe various best-practice and research-based interventions being implemented with children who have differing needs," she says. Ms. van Gilluwe also notes that an early intervention program for children ages 0 - 3 has been developed and that collaborations with Pacific Oaks College, Porterville College and Fresno State are now being explored.

For parents, teachers, other professional staff and paraprofessionals working with special needs students, Special Services offers an ongoing series of trainings on autism. Ms. van Gilluwe notes that most of the presenters are recognized in the field of autism for their research and teaching. "The quality of men and women we are able to bring to our staff development trainings is extremely high. We are fortunate to be learning from the leaders in the field," she says.

Certifications of competency in autism are also offered to both professionals and paraprofessionals. Tulare County teachers/professionals must complete 140 hours of staff development training in order to receive their autism competency certification. Some of the courses for professionals include instructional methodology, curriculum development, program design and social skills. The certification process for paraprofessionals includes 40 hours of training in many of the same subjects.

"As the incidence of autism grows, our efforts to continually develop early intervention opportunities for students and provide ongoing training of teachers and instructional assistants ensures the highest chance of success with these children and their families," concludes Jim Vidak. For more information on autism programs and the competency certification process, call Kaye van Gilluwe at 733-6714.

Photos above:
~ Strategies for teaching children with autism are employed throughout the county. John Bukshtine enjoys the slide with his independence facilitator at the Collaborative Preschool Program.
~ Raymond Ramirez takes part in a learning exercise in Carrie Deathriage’s class at Linwood Elementary in Visalia.
~ Teachers of older students, like John Cemo in the Green Acres Middle School Special Day Class, receive autism certification by participating in a 140-hour program.

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Reconnecting Youth Program to Grow
Grant Provides Expansion of Alcohol Reduction Program and Middle School Pilot

In July, U.S. Congressman Devin Nunes notified the Tulare County Office of Education’s CHOICES Prevention Programs that it had been awarded an alcohol reduction grant through the U.S. Department of Education. The grant will be used to expand the successful Reconnecting Youth (RY) project to additional Tulare County High Schools. The award, which totals nearly $1.3 million over three years, will be used to create more RY high school classes and potentially to pilot a class at one Tulare County middle school.

Reconnecting Youth Program RY is a national program that includes a research validated curriculum, staff development, and technical assistance for students and teachers. RY targets young people in grades 9–12 who show signs of poor school achievement and potential for high school dropout. Students may also show signs of multiple-problem behaviors such as substance abuse, suicide ideation, aggression or depression. RY teaches skills to build resiliency to risk factors and to moderate the early signs of substance abuse. The program also provides students the opportunity to be involved in youth-development activities and develop interpersonal communication and decision-making skills while building self-esteem and personal control.

Last month, Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak, CHOICES Program Manager Tom Byars and RY Program Coordinator Adam Valencia met with Congressman Nunes in his Visalia office to express their appreciation for his support and to share some of the positive results schools are achieving through the program. La Sierra High School Senior, Freddy Arellano, also attended to speak about his own success in RY. Arellano told Mr. Nunes of the rapid improvements he made in his relationship with his parents, his peers, his ability to resist drugs and alcohol, his work ethic and his academics.

Mr. Vidak reported on the demand to offer RY on other Tulare County campuses including a middle school site. "I’m delighted by the success we’ve had with RY and that this grant will enable us to expand its availability. I’m also proud of the fine relationship Adam and Tom have with the developers of RY that enables us to develop and pilot one of the first middle school classes in the nation," said Mr. Vidak. Tom Byars added that the RY program in Tulare County has become a national model. "We were cited by the RY developers recently at a conference in Washington D.C. as having one of the highest rates of implementation and additional student activities developed above and beyond the core curriculum. It’s gratifying to have organizations from other states call us for advice on how to implement the program," said Byars.

Photo above:
~ La Sierra High School Senior Freddy Arellano, pictured with CHOICES Program Manager Tom Byars and Reconnecting Youth Program Coordinator Adam Valencia, shared his academic and personal success on a recent visit with U.S. Congressman Devin Nunes.

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On People in Service and Support

The Theatre Company’s summer production of Beauty and the Beast was seen by over 5,500 people. For the first time in the its history, the production included a premiere party and two Children’s Tea Parties. Belle, played by Mt. Whitney graduate Katy McElhinny, makes a surprise visit to the delight of many girls.
Beauty and the Beast

Danni Franklin and Jeff Taylor Jeff Taylor, son of ERS Library Media Technician Danni Franklin, received the Gold Star Leaders Award from CBS Channel 47 — an award that recognizes young people for outstanding community service. Winners designate a favorite service agency, which receives a donation from Carl’s Jr. Restaurants. Taylor, a recent graduate of Redwood High School, now attends COS.

Ethics in the Workplace training SEE & Company’s Marilyn Willers recently began conducting free Ethics in the Workplace trainings for area businesses as part of a grant received from the Tulare County Workforce Investment Department. For more information on the program, contact Ms. Willers at 733-6370.

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Gallery Notes

The Tulare County College Night Committee is pleased to announce the availability of an ongoing college scholarship program for Tulare County students. County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak says: "The scholarship will award one student $1,000 per year for up to four years based on academic and personal accomplishments." For applications and more information, contact Deana Craighead at 651-3031.

The tenth annual CHARACTER COUNTS! Week will be held October 16 - 22, 2005. "Kids of Character" nominations, which have been sent to all Tulare County schools, are due back to CHARACTER COUNTS! Coordinator Kelley Petty by October 7, 2005. For more information, call 740-4303.

Community Technology Foundation of California (CTFC) recently awarded SEE & Company’s Ticket to Work Program a $100,000 grant. The grant will be used to provide program participants in outlying areas access to job information via technology. Ticket to Work gives disability beneficiaries the opportunity to achieve steady, long-term employment if they choose to do so. The program also removes barriers that previously influenced people's choices between healthcare coverage and work. SEE & Company, the largest Ticket to Work Employment Network in the Central San Joaquin Valley, operates offices in Visalia and Fresno. More information is available at (800) 540-0307.

A memorial service for Sabin Gray will be held in the TCOE Education Center, located at 2637 W. Burrel in Visalia, on Sunday, September 11, from 2:00 - 5:00 p.m. Mr. Gray was a 30-year TCOE employee and former Program Manager for Educational Resources Center (now ERS). Guests who have memories of Mr. Gray are urged to write them on an index card and bring them to the service. For more information, call (559) 798-1393.

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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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