The News Gallery
February 2006MAKING THE CONNNECTION - Reconnecting Youth Program Pilots Middle School Class Helping Younger Students With Personal Development
Editor: Robert Herman
Public Information Officer
Contributors to this issue:
Darlynn Billingsley, Christine Chapman, Priscilla Gomez, Lorena White, Elainea Scott, Nariman Ajluni, Steven Woods, Nancy Bellin, Adam Valencia and Kari Wilson.
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.
Reconnecting Youth Finds Success in New Middle School Setting
Pilot Class May Serve as Countywide Model
Eleven eighth-grade students – barely more than one percent of the population at Valley Oak Middle School – have begun making changes to the entire campus. They're not student activists, but they are leaders. Most are not on the honor roll. Once not part of the student government "scene" or members of the sports teams, the group has begun to join these organizations as well.
The students are members of one of the nation's first middle school programs of Reconnecting Youth (RY), which has only been in existence since October. Participants for the small class were selected from a pool of students who had discipline problems, poor academic progress and excessive absences – students most in need of the RY curriculum. "I've known these kids on a first name basis," says Valley Oak Principal Cindy Alonzo, "because each one had been involved in a significant disciplinary situation as a seventh grader. Today, I can't believe they are the same kids. I see them now because they want to discuss things with me, not the other way around."
Reconnecting Youth has been used in Tulare County high schools and community schools with great success for three years. RY is a national program traditionally for young people in grades 9–12 who show signs of poor school achievement and potential for dropping out of school. 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 gain interpersonal communication and decision-making skills while building self-esteem and personal control.
"Based on the success we've had in our high schools," says County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak, "we began to have schools ask us to make RY available in middle schools. I’m proud of the work the CHOICES office has done with the program, working with the developers at the University of Washington to integrate it into a middle school setting."
"The change we've seen in our students is like a stone dropped into a pond," says RY teacher Kari Wilson. "You can see the ripple effect throughout the school." In Wilson's class one morning, students participate in an exercise called "Snap and Zap." Wilson has them identify incidents, which trigger negative thoughts and/or actions. "People who talk behind your back," says one boy. "Getting blamed for something that you didn't do," says another. All students are called upon to share. After collecting their answers, she asks them to suggest positive thoughts they can use to replace the negative. She then passes out rubber bands, which she asks students to use when they have negative thoughts. "Snap the rubber band on your wrist when you are faced with negative thoughts to remind you to 'zap' in a positive thought," says Wilson.
"These exercises help build self control," says RY Program Coordinator Adam Valencia. "Over the course of the semester, students will gain the self-control and self-esteem tools to make a better transition to high school. It's a model we hope to replicate on middle school campuses across the county." After class, many students talked about goals in high school and beyond – goals some like J.J. Perez says she didn't have before RY.
Back in her office, Principal Alonzo flips through stacks of grade reports ecstatic about the gains RY students have made last semester. She says: "Everyone who was failing has increased a full grade point average. One boy went from a 0.8 grade-point average to a 2.5 for his academic courses. Had we factored in our students' electives, their averages would have been even higher."
The most exciting thing Ms. Alonzo reports is the interactions RY students have with others on the campus. "They are choosing to make good decisions, and they are influencing the decisions of their peers. We hear them saying to other students: 'If that's what you want to do, that's your choice, but it's not what I'm going to do.' Also, many of the groups that we have had problems with are now smaller and separated," she says. "The RY students aren't being referred to me for discipline and our expulsions are way down from last year. It's statistics like these that I shared at a recent staff meeting. Many of our teachers cried. It's a huge change."
~ As RY teacher Kari Wilson leads students through their lesson, lively discussions often ensue.
~ Students like Samantha Martinez and Vivian Herrera are comfortable sharing their feelings and respectfully listening.
~ Nathan Teague and the other students in Valley Oak's RY pilot class work through the same curriculum as students in RY's high school programs.
New Library System Enhances Service
ERS Forms Unique Partnership With System Developer
Educational Resource Services (ERS) is once again an on-line media pioneer, introducing the state to a new and improved library automation system. Called Library 4 Universal (L4U), the system was developed by Kelowna Software Ltd. of British Columbia, Canada.
ERS is the first county office of education in California to install the L4U system. The system was originally developed for use by public and university libraries. Now, through the cooperative efforts of ERS and Kelowna Software Inc., L4U has been modified and improved to also serve the varied needs of school libraries and county office of education libraries.
The switch to L4U has resulted in thousands of dollars in savings annually for ERS. However, the savings are overshadowed by the improved service to ERS client schools and teachers, and improved efficiency in processing resources and making them available to the schools. With L4U, ERS staff can retrieve cataloging data directly from sources such as the Library of Congress, making new additions to the media collection available for checkout sooner, saving many staff hours yearly.
"The staff at Educational Resource Services continually looks for ways to bring better resources to Tulare and Kings County teachers, often developing new products, which are later adopted by districts and county offices of education in other parts of the state," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak.
Since the switch to L4U in December, teachers have reported that they are pleased with the new interface. L4U is more attractive, user-friendly, and intuitive, making it easier to navigate. Additionally, it offers many more choices for searching the catalog. Teachers can easily access their past usage records and select items for future bookings.
Other counties around the state, after seeing how ERS's experience with L4U has worked, are also making the switch. Educational Resource Services has partnered with L4U to "beta test" state-of-the-art upgrades to their on-line media booking system before it is available to others. As a partner in this development process, ERS is paving the way for other county offices of education, by helping to refine L4U's system.
~ The L4U system is just one of many tools ERS provides to contracting schools throughout Tulare County. In addition to L4U, ERS offers standards-based media reference, technology training and digital content management.
Operation Diploma Honors 13 at Ceremony
Former War Veterans and Japanese American Internees Receive High School Diplomas
Fifty to sixty years had passed since the men and women present at the first Tulare County Operation Diploma Ceremony attended high school. But the years hadn't diminished the emotions felt by the graduates and their families as they received their diplomas December 7, 2005. The program, based on a provision in the California Education Code, was created by County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak to award veterans of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, as well as citizens interned in relocations camps during World War II, a high school diploma if their service interrupted their graduation.
The Tulare County Board of Education awarded 13 diplomas – eight to Japanese Americans who were interned during World War II, and five to veterans. The veterans include men who served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. "It's a privilege to honor them for the service and sacrifice they made for our country and for the lifetime of work they gave to their communities and their professions," says Mr. Vidak.
The audience was moved to tears as emcee and Special Events Coordinator Nancy Bellin – herself an internee – read stories on each honoree. Dr. Sam Katano, a former internee and a leader in the local Japanese American community, spoke in appreciation for the program saying: "For these men and women and their families, this has finished something left undone for many years."
~ County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak watches as board member Leonard Hansen honors Rose and Herb Abe, who collected diplomas for several relatives.
~ Leonard Hansen congratulates Korean War veteran Robert Segeda.
~ Japanese community leader Dr. Sam Katano praises the board and Mr. Vidak for creating the program for veterans and internees.
~ Dr. Edward Peterson congratulates former internee Mollie Osato.
On People in Service and Support
Last month, California First Lady Maria Shriver and her brother, Mark Shriver, visited the after school program at Earlimart's Alila Elementary. The program is funded by Save The Children, the international charity Mr. Shriver directs. Save The Children funds a total of six after school programs in the Central Valley.
Selected works from the annual Student Art Exhibition include: "Patches," by Christopher Rock, a kindergartner from Royal Oaks in Visalia; "Pondering," by Meagan Dawes, a sixth-grader at Waukena Elementary in Tulare; "Face Drawing I," by Rabia Kahn, a seventh-grader at La Joya Middle School in Visalia; and "Sari Girls," by Taunia Fox, a senior at Mt. Whitney High School in Visalia. The second half of the exhibition can be viewed at the Burrel Avenue building through February 24, 2006. A "Best of Show" Exhibition follows in March.
The Tulare County Office of Education, in partnership with the Economic Development Corporation of Tulare County, has created a new scholarship for two young entrepreneurs. The scholarship, known as the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) Entrepreneur Award is open to Tulare County juniors and seniors who excel in math and science and who demonstrate a viable business idea. Applications — which require an essay describing a new or innovation on an existing business idea — are available on-line at www.tcoe.org/STEMScholarship. TUCOEMAS Federal Credit Union is sponsoring the two scholarship awards of $1,000 each. The application deadline is February 17, 2006. For more information, contact Jonathan Janzen at (559) 651-0680.
The Tulare/Kings P-16 Network for Student Success recently received a planning grant through the Alliance for Regional Collaboration to Heighten Educational Success (ARCHES). The Network for Student Success is a partnership of local businesses, economic development and community organizations, parents and education partners representing and facilitating P-16 collaboration for the two-county area. The grant was awarded to 11 organizations in California, including five other county offices of education. The primary goal of the Network for Student Success is to develop projects and activities that enhance the learning experience for students from pre-school through college graduation. The Network for Student Success is continually seeking to add to its membership. Schools and businesses are encouraged to join and may obtain more information at www.tcoe.org/p16. For more information about the Network for Student Success, contact Randy Wallace, School-to-Career Project Director at (559) 733-6101.
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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