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The News Gallery

March 2007

FINISHING TOUCHES - Staff, Students and Volunteers Prepare SCICON's New Village to Open This Month

News Gallery - March 2007 Editor: Robert Herman
Public Information Officer
(559) 733-6606

Contributors to this issue:
Darlynn Billingsley, Christine Chapman, Priscilla Gomez, Shelly DiCenzo, Lorena White, Randy Wallace, Mike Keller, Rick Mitchell, Veronica Carmona and Mike Stephens.

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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SCICON Opens New Student Village
Completed Project Adds Accommodations to Meet Demands of Growing Population

SCICON New Village The view from the new student village at SCICON is breathtaking. Students who arrive to stay in the six new cabins on the northwest side of the campus will enjoy views of the surrounding mountains dotted with granite cliffs, sequoia trees and snow. Hawks turning lazy circles high above, complete the scene.

"It's a whole new perspective on the SCICON experience," says Director Rick Mitchell. "We've created a new community that will share in all the wonderful SCICON traditions, and give us the chance to introduce new learning experiences."

SCICON New Village In the short course of eight months, the project's six student cabins, student rest rooms and showers, a meeting arbor, staff/teacher housing and an outdoor amphitheater have been completed. The new village will accommodate approximately two classes of 66 students at a time. These students will have their own teacher, Nancy Bruce, who has been responsible for the Circle J-Norris Ranch field study program. Students will attend their own evening programs, but join the other students in the John Muir Lodge for meals.

SCICON New Village "This project came together very quickly thanks to early planning and the support of community members who recognize the extraordinary learning experiences offered at SCICON," says Jim Vidak, County Superintendent of Schools. "We would like to thank the Tulare County school districts, service clubs like the Springville Mountain Lions and the private donors  large and small  who have made this project a reality in just over two years."

To see the new village, visit SCICON during its annual Barbecue and Wildflower Festival, April 15, 2007, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Photos above:
~ The three girls' cabins have impressive views of the Sierras.
~ Members of the Springville Mountain Lions Club and other service groups have assisted in building the 36 bunk bed units installed in the six new cabins.
~ SCICON Director Rick Mitchell gratefully accepts a check in the amount of $20,000 from Superintendent John Beck (right) on behalf of the Tulare City Elementary School District. The funds will be used to purchase equipment and furnishings.

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Best of Show Art Exhibition Showcases Talent
Arts Education Month Reinforces the Role Visual and Performing Arts Play in Learning

Behind the impressive sketches, paintings and sculpture displayed at the annual Student Art Exhibitions are young people enriched by the creative process. If they're students in Jill Faison's art classes at Sequoia Continuation High School in Visalia, that enrichment translates into personal growth. "More than any other subject, art is personal," says Mrs. Faison. "Out of that personal expression, I've seen many students blossom socially and academically. They grow in their self-confidence, their peer-to-peer relationships and their respect for learning."

Best of Show Art Exhibition Students in her classes were recently working on a project called the "Circles of Intention" Mobile. Once completed, the mobiles featured a large circle with a stylized version of the student's name. Hanging around the center circle were smaller circles with words or phrases the student chose to reflect his or her "intentions"  words like "focus," "determination" and "love."

"This project works to move students out of their comfort zone, while having elements of language arts instruction," says Mrs. Faison. "It's not long before they're working with one another collaboratively. And that's a life skill they can use as adults."

Best of Show Art Exhibition Works by Mrs. Faison's students are regularly exhibited in one of the Tulare County Office of Education's two art exhibitions each year. This year, over 600 pieces were submitted by elementary, middle and high schools from Hot Springs to Cutler-Orosi and from Three Rivers to Waukena. Both exhibitions are judged by members of the local art community. Judges select "Best of Show" pieces for a final exhibition in March.

"Our Best of Show Exhibition is the highlight of the visual arts calendar," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "It's a time when we can express our appreciation to teachers who are enriching their students' development, while we celebrate the talents of our young people." A "Best of Show" reception will be held for those students selected for the exhibition and their families. The reception begins at 5:00 p.m. on March 21, 2007. The public is invited to attend. For more information on the Student Art Exhibitions, contact Brian Roberts at (559) 651-1482.

Photos above:
~ David Ledger of Sequoia Continuation High School in Visalia created one of hundreds of pieces on display in the annual Student Art Exhibitions.
~ For Jill Faison, art teacher at Sequoia Continuation High School, art instruction can be the tool to unlock students' interest in learning.

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Board Members Honored for Dedication
Hansen and Peterson Have 96 Years Combined Service on School Boards

TCOE Board Members Honored Valentine's Day was a bittersweet day for Tulare County Office of Education staff and members of the Tulare County Board of Education. The day was one with special honors and heartfelt good-byes. On February 14, board members bid farewell to long-time colleague and Dinuba-area trustee Ruth Stouffer, who resigned to live near her family in Castro Valley. "For nearly 15 years, Ruth has been a true champion for students, particularly those with special needs," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "Her kindness and diligence will be greatly missed."

TCOE Board Members Honored In the same meeting, Dr. Edward Peterson and Leonard Hansen received special commendations for their board service from California School Boards Association (CSBA) Executive Director, Scott P. Plotkin. Dr. Peterson was honored for over 47 years of service on the Tulare County Board of Education. Leonard Hansen was honored for 49 years of service on various local school boards, including over 34 years of service to the Tulare County Board of Education. Mr. Plotkin explained that the CSBA created a special honor for board members with more than 40 years of service on California school boards. "We created the honor in conjunction with our 75th Anniversary Celebration last fall," says Mr. Plotkin. "Out of the 5,500 board members serving in the state, we found only six; and two of them are here in Tulare County."

TCOE Board Members Honored Edward Peterson, D.D.S. represents the Visalia area on the board. Mr. Plotkin estimates that Dr. Peterson is the only original trustee still serving on a California county board of education since the creation of this government system in 1956. Dr. Peterson retired from the board after 40.5 years service on November 29, 1996. Nearly three years later, the Tulare County Board of Education appointed him to a vacancy. Through subsequent reelection, he has served continuously since.

Leonard Hansen represents the Woodlake area on the Tulare County Board of Education. Mr. Hansen served one term (1949-52) on the Elderwood School District Board, which is in the Woodlake area. He joined the Woodlake Union Elementary School District Board in July 1957 and served until June 1969 (12 years). He has served on the Tulare County Board of Education since December 6, 1972.

"The Tulare County Board of Education has benefited tremendously from these two exceptional men," says Jim Vidak. "Both have been passionate advocates for public education in Tulare County."

Photos above:
~ (top and center photos) CSBA Executive Director Scott Plotkin and Region 12 Representative Linda Pavletich present commendations to Dr. Edward Peterson and Leonard Hansen.
~ Board President Pat Hillman honors trustee Ruth Stouffer, who represented the Dinuba area for nearly 15 years.

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Billingsley Showed Leadership in Support
31-Year Career Characterized by Integrity, Consistency and Compassion

After 31 years in education, County Superintendent of Schools Administrative Assistant, Darlynn Billingsley, is retiring. The multi-talented woman has served as Jim Vidak's assistant for nearly 16 years, organizing most of the high-profile recognition and staff support programs he sponsors. She also is responsible for maintaining the official records of the Tulare County Board of Education and working closely with its members.

Darlynn Billingsley Darlynn was hired by County Superintendent Jim Vidak in 1991  six months after he was first sworn into office. Shortly after joining him, she organized the first Tulare County Support Staff Conference, out of recognition that classified/confidential management staff needed ongoing learning opportunities. Since the first conference in 1992, it has grown from attracting 75 people the first year to more than 500 from throughout the Central Valley. Jim Vidak says: "Darlynn is outstanding. She truly cares about support staff and cherishes the opportunity to contribute to their career development within the field of education."

Darlynn has also been responsible for coordinating the annual Tulare County Excellence in Education Awards recognition program  a responsibility she has held since 1996. Darlynn works directly with the Tulare County School Boards Association and assists with its scholarship program and is the editor of the association's newsletter, The Board Communiqué.

For her work supporting County Superintendent Vidak and the Tulare County Office of Education, the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) named Darlynn as the 2005 State ACSA Confidential Employee of the Year. She has been an active member of the ACSA organization  not only at the county and regional levels but has served on the State ACSA Classified Education Leaders (CEL) committee.

Darlynn received her A.A. Degree from COS and completed coursework through Fresno State and later the B.A. Program in Organizational Management through Fresno Pacific University. Darlynn and her husband, Gary, have been married for 39 years. They have two sons and five grandchildren. While her children were young, she was employed by the Visalia Unified School District as an instructional aide at Mineral King Elementary School. Darlynn was hired as Golden West High School's Counseling Secretary when the campus opened its doors in 1979. In 1987, she became an administrative secretary for Visalia Unified Superintendent Bob Line and also worked closely with then Deputy Superintendent, Jim Vidak. "I have been blessed in my career to have worked with many talented, kind and supportive people," says Darlynn. "I will truly miss everyone, but especially my boss, Mr. Vidak, who gave me the opportunity to reach my full potential  career-wise. Now, it's time to enjoy my wonderful family and explore a whole new world. As they say, 'life is not a dress rehearsal.'"

Christine Chapman, Mr. Vidak's administrative secretary of 12 years, has been chosen to fill Darlynn"s position.

Photo above:
~ Darlynn Billingsley retires after serving nearly 16 years as administrative assistant to Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak.

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On People in Service and Support

Ollie Cantos at Bright Start Special Services' Bright Start program in Visalia received a special visit from Ollie Cantos, the Associate Director on Disabilities for the White House Domestic Policy Council. Mr. Cantos serves as the President's point person on disability-related policy coordination. He is pictured with Dr. Mike Stephens, administrator for Severely Handicapped Services, and Bright Start Program Manager, Maxine Epperson.

Granit Hills High School Academic Decathlon team Members of Granite Hills High School's two Academic Decathlon teams and coach Mark Harriger relax after sweeping the annual competition held at Porterville College last month. Together the teams earned 58 individual medals, 11 first-place plaques in individual competitions, the large school trophy and the chance to compete in the state finals next month.

California science curriculum display Last month, representatives from the nation's largest textbook publishers were invited to display samples of their California science curriculum at TCOE's Doe Avenue Complex. Organized by Science Instructional Consultant, Jonathan Janzen, the event was attended by over 100 science instructors from throughout the county.

Betty Branum and Faye Bishop The Business Services Division bid farewell to three long-time employees last month. External Business Services Technicians Faye Bishop and Betty Branum have served over 41 years and 32 years, respectively. Maintenance and Operations Supervisor Mike Elick (not pictured), has helped maintain TCOE facilities for 19 years.

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Gallery Notes

Dr. Guadalupe Solis, administrator for Student, Support and Academic Services within the Educational Resource Services program, was recently appointed to the California Department of Education's English Learner Advisory Committee. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell created the committee to provide advice to the California Department of Education (CDE) and State Board of Education (SBE) on the specifications of the English learner training within the Mathematics and Reading Professional Development program (SB 472).

The 15th Annual Tulare County Support Staff Conference sails into the Visalia Convention Center April 20 with Caribbean flare! Guest speaker and Walt Disney Company veteran Louie Gravance will highlight how companies like Disney maintain "service excellence" on a daily basis. The conference features other pertinent breakout sessions, lunch and entertainment. For more information, visit

Applications for the second annual Tulare County Student STEM Entrepreneur Awards are available on-line at www.tcoe.org/STEMscholarship. The award recognizes high school students who demonstrate entrepreneurial vision. Applications are due March 23, 2007.

Mike Keller, applications manager in the Information Systems department, is planning to participate in the Wildflower Triathlon May 6, 2007. Mr. Keller has entered the competition to raise support for the Jeff Barnes Brain Injury Foundation  a non-profit organization created by Personnel Technician Cherí Barnes and her family to provide education and assistance to brain-injured persons and their families. To support Mr. Keller in his efforts, contact him at (559) 733-6026.

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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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