The News Gallery
December 2005 / January 2006TEN YEARS AND COUNTING - CHARACTER COUNTS! Founder Michael Josephson Joins Ten-Year Anniversary Celebration With Encouragement for Parents, Teachers and Community Leaders
Editor: Robert Herman
Public Information Officer
Contributors to this issue:
Darlynn Billingsley, Christine Chapman, Garyalynn Wilhelm, Priscilla Gomez, Kelley Petty, Donna Orozco, and Jeanne Croson.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or (559) 733-6172 and provide your name and address.
CHARACTER COUNTS! Celebrates Ten Years
Program Founder Helps Honor Record Number of Tulare County Students
Describing CHARACTER COUNTS! in Tulare County as "one of the most vital programs in the country," nationally respected ethicist and CHARACTER COUNTS! founder, Michael Josephson, highlighted the program's local achievements at a ten-year anniversary celebration luncheon November 15. Hundreds attended to hear Mr. Josephson and to honor the 2005 Kids of Character, and parents, teachers and community members who have supported the program for the past decade. The event capped off the most successful CHARACTER COUNTS! Week in the program's history. Tulare County teachers, parents and community members nominated over 6,300 students. One in every 15 students in the county was recognized and will receive a CHARACTER COUNTS! certificate, enameled lapel pin and a t-shirt.
"We have much to celebrate," says County Superintendent of School Jim Vidak. "The effectiveness of CHARACTER COUNTS! has spread throughout the county. There are murals at our school sites, curriculum in our classrooms, daily features in our newspapers and thousands of students whose personal development has been improved by the program.
"Just over ten years ago, I had the rough idea of CHARACTER COUNTS! and it was a great idea, but great ideas need great people to make them viable," Mr. Josephson told the audience. "And you have great people in Jim Vidak, CHARACTER COUNTS! Coordinators John Forenti and now Kelley Petty and many of you who — from the beginning — said that you were willing to do more than just agree with me, but to put this program into practice."
Awards were also given to community volunteers and organizations for their support of the program. Award recipients included: Rick and Susan Mangini for their design of the Pillar Square monument; Pro-Youth Visalia's Laurie Isham for her role in introducing Michael Josephson to Mr. Vidak; the Tulare City School District for work in developing a CHARACTER COUNTS! course of study; and the Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register for their feature stories during CHARACTER COUNTS! Week and on a daily basis.
~ Champions for CHARACTER COUNTS! in Tulare County are (left to right) John Forenti, Kelley Petty, CHARACTER COUNTS! Founder Michael Josephson and County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak.
~ The luncheon honored 106 exceptional students like Emily Myers of Visalia Unified’s Crestwood Elementary seated with her parents and teacher Sue Heiden (far right).
~ The Times-Delta’s Tori Parker receives an appreciation from Michael Josephson.
Disability Assessment Supports Families
Child Care Education Program Begins 41st Year with New Service
"Left, right, left, right..." Four-year-old Elena Cruz and the rest of her preschool class at Sundale Child Development Center are walking on tracings of their own feet. They're also developing cognitive skills and learning the difference between left and right. Earlier, they had traced their feet, each in a different color, and meticulously cut them out. Next, teacher Lupe Huerta taped the cut outs on the sidewalk so the children could practice.
At the North Visalia #1 Child Development Center, Alexis Jacobo is having trouble learning to write his name. To ease his frustration, teacher Norma Prieto gives him a marker and suggests that he draw anything he likes. It's a first step in learning how to hold the marker and develop his fine motor skills.
Both Elena and Alexis were referred to educational therapist Jeri Burzin who works with the new Disabilities Assessment and Services Program at the Tulare County Office of Education's Child Care Educational Program. The Child Care Program, which operates Head Start throughout the county, received a grant from First 5 of Tulare County to fund the disabilities program. The purpose is to create early intervention plans for children with special needs.
"I tell parents I'm a detective," said Ms. Burzin. "I'm trying to find what their children's skills and needs are and to help them get ready for kindergarten." After getting approval from the parent, she completes an assessment and, if warranted, writes a Head Start Individualized Education Program (IEP), which is different from the school system's IEP, because it does not follow the child into kindergarten. Ms. Burzin includes goals and objectives and also provides activities for the teachers and parents to do with the child. She began assessing children last spring and is beginning to see results in the children. Their language and social skills are improving. Their behavior is better. They are learning their numbers and body parts.
"Child Care has a 40-year history of innovative service to young children as part of the federal Head Start program," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "Creative people with hearts for our county's young have developed the means to deliver child care services to every community in Tulare County whether through a Child Care Center or home-based instruction. The new Disability Assessment and Service Program extends further the program's service to ensure students and parents get the assistance they need early in their lives."
Learning isn't limited to the child with the Head Start IEP. All the children in the class participate. "I go out to the center once a month to do training with the teachers and assistants from the whole center — not just for the one child. The activities and information are generalized for all the children," says Jeri. She encourages the parent to come to the training and sends coordinating activities to do at home — using ideas from "Brigance Readiness: Strategies and Practices." "We're just adding to what the teachers are already doing and targeting specific areas," she says. For instance, one child had some social and language gaps. Ms. Burzin made some suggestions, and the child was moved into a different classroom. A few months later, there was a dramatic change in the child. "It could be that it was just normal development. Sometimes just helping a child to focus will help. It could be all these things," said Jeri. "But the child is making progress; that's the bottom line."
Ms. Burzin also feels the extra activities can benefit children who receive a high score on the Brigance assessment, which is done on all children. "A child might score 81 on the Brigance, which may be filed away because teachers typically don’t refer anyone with a score of 60 or more. But if you take a look, some of the areas of assessment may be low although the overall score is high," she says. "There is a lot a teacher can do just being aware of what the needs might be."
Ms. Burzin is delighted to be working with preschoolers. "I usually work with older students who have not done well in school. They often feel 'stupid' and have spiraled downward. Working with the Child Care students is rewarding because I have a chance to make a difference before that happens."
For more information on the Child Care Education Program and the services it provides for more than 6,000 Tulare County children, call 651-3022.
~ Children at the Sundale Child Development Center use walking exercise to build cognitive skills.
~ Teacher Norma Prieto (center) encourages Alexis Jacobo to develop his writing skills as Alexis' mother, Mercedes Castro, watches.
~ Educational Therapist Jeri Burzin uses blocks to help assess a child.
Personnel Honors Employees for Service
Longevity Award Anniversaries Total 1,500 Years
Eighty-one employees were honored at a November 9 dinner for milestones in service to the Tulare County Office of Education. The event marked the employment anniversaries of those who had served 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40 years. The total number of years served by the honorees exceeded 1,500. Approximately half of these years were accumulated by employees within the Special Services Division in positions ranging from aides and teachers of the learning handicapped or severely handicapped to instructional assistants and program managers in the Court/Community Schools. The Migrant Education program honored seven employees with 25 years of service. County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak commends the honorees, saying: "Your longevity with this organization is the reason we can continue to deliver exceptional, innovative services to the students and districts we serve."
~ Migrant Education staff, with Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Dr. Pansy Ceballos and Administrator Sheli Silva (center), honored migrant colleagues for over 200 years of combined service.
~ Speech/Language Specialist Charis Smith (left) is a 35-year veteran; Early Childhood Special Education teacher Joan Ishida (right) is a 20-year veteran.
On People in Service and Support
Teacher of the Severely Handicapped Greg Owens was recently selected as one of three finalists in the annual Carolyn Dobbs Special Education Teacher of the Year Award presented by the Kremen School of Education and Human Development at California State University, Fresno. Mr. Owens works at the Occupational Training Program in Visalia.
Danny Longoria, Visalia Police Officer Rob Zieg and Sheriff's Detective Joe Aguilar (standing) were among seven presentation groups at the annual Fall Institute, held November 14. Nearly 200 Tulare County school board members, County Committee on School District Organization members and district administrators gathered for an evening of informative sessions and a keynote presentation by California School Boards Association's Assistant Executive Director, Jeff Vaca, with an update on state education issues. The Fall Institute is hosted annually by Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak and the Tulare County School Boards Association.
The Business Services Division says farewell to General Services secretary Pat Monno and Administrative/Legal Assistant Garyalynn Wilhelm this month. Ms. Monno (left) retires after 28 years of service to the Tulare County Office of Education. Most recently she served as a secretary to General Services Administrator Rich Graham and External Business Services Director John Wilborn. She also worked as secretary to School Health Programs for many years. Ms. Wilhelm has been employed in her current role since 1994. Prior to coming to the Office of Education, she spent 17 years as school secretary at Kohn Elementary, Maple Elementary and Cherry Avenue Middle School in the Tulare City Elementary School District.
The Peña Planetarium will be showing its two popular holiday features – A Christmas Story and Santa Snork Saves the Seasons – to the public December 1, 2, 8, 9, 15 and 16. Shows begin at 7:00 and 8:00 p.m., respectively. Tickets can be purchased at the Impact Center Office 30 minutes before show time or in advance on weekdays between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m. Tickets are $4 for adults and $3 for children under 12. Special two-show discount packages and group rates are available. For information, call 737-6334.
Programs at the Tulare County Office of Education's Doe Avenue complex will host the Fifth Annual Chili Cook-off on Tuesday, December 6, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., in the Elderwood Room. Teams of chili cooks sell bowls in a competition to raise money for United Way of Tulare County. The team that sells the most chili wins the perpetual "turkey" trophy. The event also includes a silent auction. The donation to United Way will include proceeds from October breakfast sales and a Halloween bake sale totaling $726. The chili cook-off and silent auction are expected to bring in another $1,300 to $1,500.
The Collaborative Leadership Institute – a project of the Tulare County Office of Education – recently announced the selection of its third cohort of emerging children's services leaders. Founded in 2000, the Institute's mission is to ensure the continuing vitality of the community of children's service providers in Tulare County by identifying and developing emerging leaders, and motivating them to work together. Members of the third cohort from the Tulare County Office of Education include Margaret Hall and Magdalena Marquez-Milward of the Child Care Educational Program.
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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