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The News Gallery

June 2006

A JOB WELL DONE - Heather Houston, Valedictorian of the La Sierra Military Academy, is Just One of Several Scholarship Winners

News Gallery - June 2006 Editor: Robert Herman
Public Information Officer
(559) 733-6606

Contributors to this issue:
Darlynn Billingsley, Christine Chapman, Priscilla Gomez, Shelly DiCenzo, Lorena White, Tom Byars, Janet Hettinger, Hope DeLeon, Anita Solis, Minnie Chase, Kathy Ingoldsby, Lorene Valentino, Mike Franco, Linda Hess, Mike Stephens, and Connie Smith.

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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Award-Winning Students Look Forward
Students Value Educational Experience at TCOE Charter High School

As the school year draws to a close and La Sierra Charter High School prepares for graduation  both at the Military Academy campus in Visalia and at the traditional campus in Porterville  teachers and administrators look back at student growth and achievement. For Dr. Lorene Valentino, administrator for the La Sierra Military Academy, two of the many students who stood out were Valedictorian Heather Houston and senior Charles Jones. "Heather is a remarkable young woman," says Dr. Valentino. "She came to us this year as a junior, with plans to graduate early. She did it, while taking classes at College of the Sequoias, working part-time and taking on extra-curricular duties like the layout of our school annual." In addition to being honored as the class valedictorian, Heather will receive the Don Atkinson scholarship  given in memory of the late Tulare County Board of Education trustee by his wife, Beverly Atkinson. After graduation, Heather will continue her coursework at COS while zeroing in on a major and career plans.

Award-Winning Students Another student that has already joined Heather at COS is Ivanhoe senior Charles Jones. Charles has excelled in La Sierra's computer-based graphics course, taught by Mike Franco. At COS, Charles is completing courses required for "A-Plus" computer repair certification. He plans to continue at COS until he can transfer to a university in San Diego and complete coursework necessary to then apply for a career in the Navy's Nuclear Propulsion Program. Both students reflected on their experience at La Sierra, crediting the "one-on-one" attention from teachers as a major reason for their success.

Award-Winning Students "One of the greatest sources of pride for La Sierra in Porterville is the award won by sophomore Jamie Belcher," says principal Jan Mekeel. Jamie entered the first annual Tulare County Foundations for Life essay competition organized by the Tulare County Office of Education last fall. Foundations for Life is a new national competition from the developers of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Program. Students write essays based on maxims, like the one Jamie chose: "The day you quit school, you condemn yourself to a future of poverty." This maxim is attributed to retired Los Angeles educator, Jaime Escalante. For her essay, which received a perfect score in the tenth-grade category nationally, Jamie will receive a $1,000 scholarship from Foundations for Life.

"It's satisfying to see how students are finding their niche on our La Sierra campuses," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "One need only visit these schools to see young people who value their education and are looking toward the future."

Photos above:
~ Senior Charles Jones plans to take his La Sierra experience and additional coursework he's completing at COS and explore a technology career, possibly with the Navy.
~ La Sierra Porterville sophomore Jamie Belcher receives congratulations from County Superintendent Jim Vidak for her first place win in the national Foundations for Life essay competition. Read Jamie's winning essay.

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Migrant Adults Find Array of Health Services
Health Fairs Run in Partnership With Tulare Community Health Clinic

Migrant Health Services This year, in 13 Kings and Tulare County communities, Migrant Education nurses Anita Solis, Minnie Chase and Kathy Ingoldsby have worked in partnership with health professionals from the Tulare Community Health Clinic to conduct free information fairs for the parents of migrant students. Time and time again, the team has been able to detect life-threatening conditions in the adults attending the fairs. "Diabetes, hypertension and anemia are the most commonly seen conditions," says Minnie Chase. "We've seen some severe cases, which left untreated could have been fatal."

Migrant Health Services "The partnership with the Tulare Community Health Clinic is really helping protect these migrant families  promoting better health for parents and their care for our students," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. The health fairs provide valuable screenings for migrant laborers at no cost. The screenings typically include blood pressure checks, vision exams, blood testing for diabetes and anemia, and height and weight monitoring.

Several outside organizations also typically participate in the health fairs, including local fire and police departments and the University of California Cooperative Extension, providing information on resources available in the community. Parents can pick up information regarding dental health, nutrition, car seat safety, fire safety, the Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC), available HIV educational programs, health insurance, domestic violence and vehicle safety. "We've also had Detective Aguilar, from the Tulare County Sheriff's Department, come and talk to our parents about gang issues," says Anita Solis. Detective Aguilar also speaks to Tulare County students about gang issues through a program run cooperatively with the Tulare County Office of Education.

The health fairs are made possible by a three-year grant received by the Tulare Community Health Clinic. For more information on future events, contact Olga Cortez at (559) 651-3035.

Photos above:
~ Tulare Community Health Clinic's Dynalyn DeLosReyes takes a blood sample from parent Leticia Barrera during a Migrant Health Fair held at Waukena Elementary.
~ Migrant Nurse, Kathy Ingoldsby, checks Guadalupe Vera's blood pressure as a screening measure for hypertension. The Waukena Health Fair was one of 13 held this school year in communities throughout Kings and Tulare Counties.

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CAC Honors Dedication, Reports Progress
Annual Luncheon Recognizes Exemplary Service to Students With Special Needs

The Community Advisory Committee (CAC) is an organization that includes several parents of students with special needs. As appointed by Tulare County school districts and the Tulare County Board of Education, one of the committee's many duties is to honor people, agencies and businesses that support special education. They do this wholeheartedly at the annual CAC Luncheon held in Visalia each May. The event is also an opportunity for the CAC, the Directors of Special Education Committee and the Superintendents' Governance Committee to report on progress made in serving Tulare County students with special needs.

CAC Luncheon After a well-choreographed set of dance and lip synch performances by the Creative Center Players, Karen Andersen, chairperson for the CAC and a resource specialist for Dinuba Unified, presented certificates of appreciation to 13 teachers, aides, administrators and Amethyst Valdivia  a Tulare student who exhibits incredible spirit at home and school despite her disabilities. "The many people  each with different roles  brought together because of their dedication to students with special needs, makes this event one of the most rewarding recognitions held each year," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak.

Dr. Marilyn Rankin, assistant superintendent of Special Services and Carol Barnett, program manager for Designated Instructional Services, recognized Paul Harrington, programmer analyst with TCOE's Information Systems Department and parent of a child with autism. Mr. Harrington was honored for the countless hours he dedicated to the development of an on-line resource for parents and teachers of children with autism.

CAC Luncheon Following these presentations, Dr. Mike Stephens, administrator for Severely Handicapped Services, presented the Brent Rast Award. The annual award, given in memory of Mr. Rast who was also a teacher of the severely handicapped, this year went to Occupational Training Program (OTP) teacher Greg Owens. Mr. Owens has worked with the severely handicapped through Tulare County Office of Education programs since 1988.

Photos above:
~ Students from the Creative Center delighted attendees with several dance numbers. The Creative Center is an arts-based non-profit organization assisting developmentally disabled adults.
~ Greg Owens accepts the 2006 Brent Rast Award from Dr. Mike Stephens.

2006 CAC Honorees

Cora Neill
TCOE Resource Specialist, Rockford Elementary School

Jill Greathouse
Kindergarten Teacher, Earlimart Elementary School

Robert Denithorne
Math Teacher, Steve Garvey Jr. High School, Lindsay

Ron Hellstern
Owner, ServiceMaste by Hellstern

Susan Bitner
Special Education Secretary, Porterville Unified School District

Pat Contreras
Principal, Los Robles Elementary School, Porterville

Sue Sanders
First Grade Teacher, Lincoln Elementary School, Exeter

Greg Simpson
RSP Teacher, Exeter Union High School, Exeter

Michelle Kennedy
Social Studies Teacher, Farmersville High School, Farmersville

Amethyst Valdivia
Student, Los Tules Middle School, Tulare

Fred Nave
Director of Student Services, Visalia Unified School District

Ron McCabe
Principal, River Bend School, Visalia

Vito Bianchini
Behavior Technician, River Bend School, Visalia

Special Award
Paul Harrington
Programmer Analyst, Tulare County Office of Education

Brent Rast Award
Greg Owens
Teacher, Occupational Training Program, Visalia

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Excellence in Education Winners Announced
Judges Impressed by Winners' Extraordinary Community Service

A selection committee of 17 Tulare County business, community and educational leaders met last month to choose the Tulare County Administrator/Manager of the Year, Teacher of the Year and School Employee of the Year for 2006. The Excellence in Education Awards recognition program, now celebrating its 12th year, honors "the best of the best" in the three categories. "The common thread that runs through the lives of this year's winners is their willingness to serve their students above and beyond their daily responsibilities. Each person is deeply committed to the betterment of their respective communities and demonstrates it in very creative ways," says County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak.

Susan Mathews, who teaches Drama and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) classes at Green Acres Middle School in Visalia, was selected as the 2006 Tulare County Teacher of the Year. For the past 12 years, she has directed/produced the Green Acres Little Theatre all-school musicals. In 2004, she established the Green Acres Little Theatre Foundation to support the continuation of theatrical excellence. A classroom teacher for 18 years, Ms. Mathews has dedicated her life to bringing out the very best in all students, regardless of ability. She is also an active participant in many local theater productions.

Silvia Thomas, counseling technician at the College of the Sequoias, is the 2006 School Employee of the Year. A valued employee for 34 years, Silvia provides orientation to new students as part of her many tasks. Because of her fluency in Spanish and Sign Language and a genuine interest when communicating, many seek her out for assistance. The enjoyment Ms. Thomas receives by helping others is not limited to COS. She often travels to Tijuana and Ecuador during spring and summer breaks to assist those in need, and volunteers five nights a week as an announcer on KARM, a local Christian radio station.

Manuel Lucero, the assistant principal of Dinuba High School, was selected Administrator/Manager of the Year. Mr. Lucero has increased opportunities for Dinuba students by expanding the school's summer program. Under his leadership, the program has grown from 200 to over 500 students. He also coordinates Dinuba High School's Folklorico and Mariachi program and has built a strong network in the Dinuba community. Working with the local Police Department, Manuel has helped organize parent information nights on gangs and the dangers of drugs.

Tulare County Office of Education's Adam Valencia, program coordinator for Reconnecting Youth, was named a finalist in the Administrator/Manager of the Year category. Teacher of the Severely Handicapped Greg Owens was the Tulare County Office of Education's Teacher of the Year nominee. View the complete list of winners, finalists and nominees below. Award recipients will be honored at a recognition breakfast beginning at 7:30 a.m. on October 4, 2006, at the Visalia Convention Center.

2006 Excellence in Education Awards

Administrator / Manager of the Year

Manuel Lucero
Dinuba High School, Dinuba Unified School District

Janis Lehmann
Tulare Tech Prep and Valley High School, Tulare Jt. Union High School District
Adam Valencia
Reconnecting Youth Program, Tulare County Office of Education

Frank Betry
Terra Bella Union School District
Les Hanson
Lindsay Unified School District
David Huchingson
Burton Middle School, Burton Elementary School District
Frank Murphy
Cutler-Orosi Unified School District
Anne Rudig
Conyer Elementary School, Visalia Unified School District
Robert Urtecho
College of the Sequoias
Lisa Whitworth
Bartlett Middle School, Porterville Unified School District

Teacher of the Year

Susan Mathews
Green Acres Middle School, Visalia Unified School District

Bertha Avitia
Maple Elementary School, Tulare City Elementary School District
Douglas Snider
Rocky Hill Elementary School, Exeter Union Elementary School District

Frank Ainley
Woodlake Union High School, Woodlake Union High School District
Jim Crawford
Woodlake Valley Middle School, Woodlake Union Elementary School District
Nancy Frank
Lincoln Elementary School, Lindsay Unified School District
Debra Hansen
College of the Sequoias
Sandra Hellwig
Sequoia Union Elementary School, Sequoia Union Elementary School District
Kelly Jantzen
Freedom Elementary School, Farmersville Unified School District
Sue Marcotte
Jim Maples Academy, Burton Elementary School District
Lisa Meneses
Springville Union Elementary School, Springville Union Elementary School District
James Nyberg
Exeter Union High School, Exeter Union High School District
Greg Owens
Occupational Training Program, Tulare County Office of Education
Robert Rutherford
Washington Intermediate School, Dinuba Unified School District
Cathy Uphoff
Bartlett Middle School, Porterville Unified School District
Erik Walker
Alila School, Earlimart Elementary School District
Kathy Zakarian
Tulare Western High School, Tulare Jt. Union High School District

School Employee of the Year

Silvia Thomas
College of the Sequoias

Victor Flores
Freedom Elementary School, Farmersville Unified School District
Victoria Johnson
Castle Rock Elementary School, Woodlake Union Elementary School District

Pete Arellano
West Putnam Elementary School, Porterville Unified School District
Michael Burkey
Burton Elementary School District
Christy Garcia
Springville Union Elementary School, Springville Union Elementary School District
Bernadine Landeros
Exeter Union High School District
Macario "Max" Lopez
Sierra Vista High School, Dinuba Unified School District
Rudy Machado
El Diamante High School, Visalia Unified School District
Marian Pickering
Alila School, Earlimart Elementary School District
Carmen Pruneda
Palm Elementary School, Cutler-Orosi Unified School District
Martha Sandoval
Lincoln Elementary School, Exeter Union Elementary School District
Brenda Sierdsma
Tulare Joint Union High School District
Frances Smolenski-Pyles
Alta Vista Elementary School, Alta Vista Elementary School District

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Local Author Shares Stories

Storytelling Nearly 600 first, second and third graders attended the week-long Storytelling event in the Education Center last month. Lemoore Author and Storyteller, Rick Rossiter, shared stories from his books: "Mommy, I Need Your Help" and "The Greedy Man in the Moon," a retelling of a traditional Chinese folk tale. Mr. Rossiter also shared his experience in getting his books published. "It's a joy to hear students laughing in the building," says County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "And to know they are growing in their love for good stories and their knowledge of how those stories get published."

Photo above:
~ Lemoore author and storyteller Rick Rossiter shares a tale.

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On People in Service and Support

CHOICES CHOICES staff members provided anti-bullying training for approximately 175 Pixley seventh- and eighth-grade students last month. Each group of students participated in over 90 minutes of training. Students started by taking a short quiz to see if they had ever been a bully. During the training, students learned what bullying is, why it's harmful and dangerous, and how it can be avoided. During the sessions, students participated in role-play activities to demonstrate  to their classmates  five techniques to avoid bullying. They also viewed a short video titled, "Gum in My Hair," and discussed issues it presented. CHOICES' Friday Night Live staff members will be working with the students to continue anti-bullying activities on the Pixley campus.

School Health Programs School Health Program Manager, Candy Hilvers, was recently named Administrator of the Year by the Central Valley Section of the California School Nurses Organization. Ms. Hilvers oversees the Tulare County Office of Education's school nurses, the Nutrition Network, the Child Abuse & Neglect Prevention Program (CAN) and the Community Challenge Grant.

"Our students won't let us forget to plan this event," says Special Services' Administrator for Severely Handicapped Services Mike Stephens. Hundreds of students from Tulare County high schools and Community-Based Instruction classes, operated by the Tulare County Office of Education, look forward to the annual end-of-the-year picnic at Mooney Grove Park. For some, it was a day to enjoy the pond and the warm spring weather. For others, it was an opportunity to dance with friends to tunes provided by Friday Night Live's Gene Mendes and Tony Cavanagh.

Special Services picnic

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Gallery Notes

La Sierra Military Academy will hold an open house June 2 and 3, for parents interested in visiting its Visalia campus. For the first time in the school's six-year history, middle school students and their parents are invited to attend. In response to many requests from parents of middle school students, the school is considering adding a Junior Academy to their facility at 1735 East Houston for the 2006  2007 school year. During the open house, visitors can enjoy the Ranger Competition, which features teams of cadets involved in physical challenge activities. Tours of the school will also be held. The open house is scheduled for Friday, June 2, from 4:30 p.m. 8:00 p.m. and Saturday morning, June 3, from 9:00 a.m. until noon. For more information, call Lorene Valentino at (559) 733-6963.

The Services for Education and Employment (SEE) Youth Program is currently enrolling youth, ages 16 to 21, for its Summer Youth Employment Program. The program gives Tulare County high school students and others a chance to enhance their school credits by attending Summer School and/or earn valuable work experience. The SEE Youth Program has been assisting Tulare County low-income youth with summer employment for over 20 years. This year's program will also include employment opportunities for higher-income youth. This comes by way of a collaboration between the Tulare County Board of Supervisors, Tulare County Workforce Investment Department, Inc., and the Tulare County Office of Education, SEE Youth Program. For more information, call (559) 733-6730.

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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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