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The News Gallery

November 2006

SCHOLARS AND ADVOCATES - CyberQuest Teams Prepare for the November Competition - Researching and Developing Positions on Real World Issues With the Use of Technology

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

Contributors to this issue:
Darlynn Billingsley, Christine Chapman, Priscilla Gomez, Shelly DiCenzo, Lorena White, Kelley Petty, Anna León, Glenn Williams, Mike Stephens, Maxine Epperson, Steve Woods, and Elainea Scott.

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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CyberQuest Teams Prepare for Competition
Students Build Research and Presentation Skills Utilizing Technology

This month, 150 teams are preparing for the Ninth Annual CyberQuest competition, which will be held Saturday, November 18, at the Visalia Convention Center. For weeks, students have been busy refining their research and presentation skills prior to the release of this year's presentation scenarios, which were available October 30.

CyberQuest Once teachers/coaches receive the scenarios, they have three weeks to help students conduct research on the topic, guide them in building a presentation  which is usually created in Microsoft's PowerPoint  and rehearse for the big day. The scenarios are hypothetical problems built around a common theme and tailored to student teams in grades 3  12. This year's theme is titled: "Our Puzzling Earth," and the scenarios touch on environmental changes. "We create different scenarios for most grade levels so that students are learning grade-appropriate curriculum," says CyberQuest developer and Instructional Consultant Dr. Glenn Williams.

Washington Elementary fifth graders Silgi Serrano, Rebecca Duarte, Destiny Raygoza and Yesenia Alvarez admit that they were nervous at their first CyberQuest presentation last year. "Last year, I talked too fast and too loud," says Silgi. "And we talked too soft," say the other girls. The team is one of several organized by the HEART After-School Programs in Visalia. The girls note that they are practicing their presentation skills more this year now that they are comfortable with PowerPoint.

CyberQuest HEART Site Supervisor, Kathy Hays, says that they have involved parents early in the process this year. "We reviewed the team's videotape from last year and urged parents to work with their children as they practice at home," she says.

CyberQuest began nine years ago in Tulare County when computers and the Internet were fairly new to the classroom. The event was designed as a way to integrate technology in cross-curricular, standards-based lessons. "CyberQuest has grown into an awesome event for both students and their coaches," says County Superintendent Jim Vidak. "Students are developing language arts skills through reading, writing, research and presentation, while coaches are developing teaching practices that bring out the best in their students."

For more information about CyberQuest and a schedule of the event's activities on November 18, call Glenn Williams at (559) 651-3047.

Photos above:
~ Coaches like Zac Blythe, a program leader for HEART at Washington School, work with students to build their research skills and to familiarize them with presentation software like PowerPoint.
~ The veteran HEART Team from Washington Elementary in Visalia, quickly compiles research in their practice session. The students are as comfortable working with the technology as they are with each other.

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Kids Portal Resources Available at Home
Educational Resource Services Launches On-Line Student Research Site

Students returning to many Tulare County schools this fall have had access to a new on-line research tool called Kids Portal. The service is the latest addition to the ever growing, web-based library and instructional resource site developed by the Educational Resource Services (ERS) program. Students in grades 3 - 8, at schools that contract for library and media services through ERS, can now utilize the 21st Century homework helper.

Kids Portal Need a new idea for a term paper? Kids Portal is a new doorway to many multimedia resources available on the Internet designed especially for younger students. Once inside, parents and students can expect to find streaming audio and video resources, an on-line thesaurus unlike any other and research databases containing thousands of sources. Students will have access from home to Searchasaurus, BrainPOP, Visual Thesaurus and California Streaming. Along with these helpful favorites, students can find links to their local newspapers, events of interest in town and useful school tools.

Kids Portal "When designing Kids Portal, we were able to give students access from home to some of the same databases their teachers are using at school," says Educational Resource Services Program Manager, Elainea Scott. The site will continue to grow, Ms. Scott says, and will soon include educational "podcasts," or short audio and video "lessons" on a variety of topics created by teachers throughout California.

"The site resources are as fun as they are educational," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "It's a powerful tool that helps students build research skills as they learn."

To learn more about Kids Portal, visit
kids.erslibrary.org, or call Elainea Scott at (559) 651-3031.

Photos above:
~ Mika Woods of Visalia explores the new Kids Portal, which contains resources like BrainPOP  one of several on-line aides available. Like many of the resources, BrainPOP is organized by subject matter. For instance, inside the site's Math section, students can choose from a variety of topics ranging from percentages and polygons to estimating and exponents. Topics are explained in everyday language and are often accompanied by a video featuring cartoon characters who mix humor with instruction.

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FACESS Early Intervention Program
Pioneering Program Supports Parents of Young Children Who May Have Autism

Now in its second year, the FACESS (Facilitating Abilities in Core Emotional-regulation and Social Communication Skills) Program is serving Tulare County infants and toddlers who exhibit signs of autism or similar disabilities. The program, which is an extension of the Bright Start Parent Infant Program, works closely with parents to help them support their children's special needs.

FACESS "The idea for the program developed from the needs of parents to better understand Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and the types of interventions available for their young children," says Dr. Mike Stephens, administrator of Severely Handicapped Services within the Special Services Division. "In the spring of 2005, we took our idea of extending Bright Start's services to include children with ASD to the Central Valley Regional Center." The Central Valley Regional Center  the agency that refers children to Bright Start for services  was fully supportive of the idea and told Dr. Stephens that the FACESS Program would be unique in California.

Beginning last fall, a team consisting of an occupational therapist, a speech therapist, a psychologist and teaching staff was assembled. Dr. Stephens noted that the group has a heart for serving children with ASD and a strong desire to implement the latest research on early interventions. Bright Start's Program Manager, Maxine Epperson, reports that the team works intensely with families both at the Visalia center and in communities throughout Tulare County.

Following an intensive assessment of each child referred to the FACESS team, needed services are recommended and specified on an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). This plan is developed by the family and service providers together. "For parents of young children with special needs, the team approach is an excellent way to map an educational course," says County Superintendent Jim Vidak. "Together, they can work through the plan, while staying current with the most promising interventions."

Photo above:
~ David A. Learned III has Autism Spectrum Disorder, which affects social, communication and play skills and the ability to regulate emotional state. At FACESS, David is beginning to use verbal speech and explore his environment independently. Activities such as crawling through the tunnel are both fun and educational.

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Excellence in Education Honors 41 Careers
Event Co-Hosted by Educational Employees Credit Union Celebrates Twelfth Year

On October 4, the Visalia Convention Center Ballroom was filled to capacity with over 435 people  a record-setting number  celebrating the achievements of 41 outstanding men and women at the 12th Annual Tulare County Excellence in Education Awards recognition breakfast. During this inspirational morning, nominees, finalists and award winners in three categories  Administrator/Manager of the Year, Teacher of the Year and School Employee of the Year  were recognized. Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak, Educational Employees Credit Union President/CEO Bruce Barnett, and Tulare County Board of Education President, Patricia Hillman, joined Awards Host, Lucy Ruiz  community service director for KGPE TV, Channel 47  on stage for the awards presentation.

Excellence in Education The high point of the event was a 12-minute video, which showcased the accomplishments of the three award winners and featured tributes by colleagues, students and parents  plus interviews with each winner. County Superintendent Jim Vidak says, "The film is a touching tribute to the men and women who have dedicated their lives to working with the students of Tulare County."

The 2006 Teacher of the Year, Susan Mathews, who teaches Drama and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) classes at Green Acres Middle School in Visalia and also produces/directs the school's Little Theatre, was described as a "superstar" and a person known for her creativity and "unbridled energy."

Excellence in Education COS Counseling Technician, Silvia Thomas, was recognized as Tulare County's School Employee of the Year. Awards Host Lucy Ruiz told the audience that Silvia knows the true meaning of "volunteerism" because of her involvement at KARM Radio and occasional trips to Tijuana and Ecuador to assist those in need.

Manuel R. Lucero, vice principal of Dinuba High School, was awarded Administrator/Manager of the Year honors for providing increased opportunities for students by expanding the summer school program at his high school and his efforts through community outreach.

Each award winner gave an emotional speech at the conclusion of the event, followed by County Superintendent Vidak saying: "Those honored this morning look to the future and inspire, encourage and believe that every student can succeed. They remind us that leadership is not just for people at the top. Everyone  through their acts of kindness, caring nature and community outreach  can empower our schools and open the doors of opportunity to future generations."

Photos above:
~ County Superintendent Jim Vidak (left) congratulates Administrator/Manager of the Year Manuel Lucero.
~ School Employee of the Year Silvia Thomas (left) and Teacher of the Year Susan Mathews share a moment on stage before a crowd of 435.

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On People in Service and Support

Jane Mitchell Jane Mitchell joins the Educational Resource Services program as an Instructional Consultant for English/Language Arts. She will focus on working with Program Improvement Schools. Additionally, Ms. Mitchell will facilitate literacy instruction with teacher interns. She will also coordinate the Young Author's Faire and Storytelling events. Prior to joining TCOE, she served as Principal at Lincoln Elementary in Exeter.

BizTalk Business Conference Over 60 high school students from throughout Tulare County were invited to attend the first annual BizTalk Business Conference in Visalia last month as guests of Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. Pictured (middle left) are students from Porterville High School's Business Academy led by Debbie Prescott. Students heard a variety of speakers, including a session held especially for them by renown aerospace pioneer and Dinuba native, Burt Rutan. Mr. Rutan (lower left) was the designer of SpaceShipOne, the world's first privately-built, manned aircraft to reach space. During his presentation, he said that the pioneers of early space travel had been his inspiration. He encouraged business leaders to support the pioneers of today who will in turn inspire a new generation of students.

El Joven Noble Approximately 30 teachers, counselors, nurses, administrators and staff participated in the "El Joven Noble" (the noble young man) training provided by the Migrant Education program. The inservice was led by Jerry Tello, who presently serves as director for the National Latino Fatherhood and Family Institutes in Los Angeles. Mr. Tello is a nationally-known speaker, author and teacher on family strengthening.

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Gallery Notes

October was a big month for the Tulare County Office of Education's CHARACTER COUNTS! Program. Beginning in early September, the program invited schools, parents and community organizations to nominate "Kids of Character" for recognition during CHARACTER COUNTS! Week in mid-October. When the nomination period closed on October 6, approximately 7,700 student nominations were received  an increase of over 1,300 names from 2005. The program also received a grant of $1,993,000 from the U.S. Department of Education's Partnership in Character Education Program (PCEP). The grant will be used to conduct a four-year study of the effectiveness of character education on students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The study will take place in select Tulare County schools chosen as carefully matched comparison participants. The PCEP grant, given to the Tulare County Office of Education, was one of the largest in the nation. Partners in the grant project are the Bonner Center for Character Education at California State University, Fresno and the Josephson Institute of Ethics National Faculty Team.

The Tulare County Office of Education's Sam B. Peña Planetarium is offering an expanded schedule of family-oriented shows for the holidays. Four Friday evening public shows will be offered in November and December. In December, the public can enjoy presentations of two popular holiday features  A Christmas Story and Santa Snork Saves the Seasons. For show dates, refer to the calendar in this issue, or call (559) 737-6334.

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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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