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The News Gallery

July/August 2007

EXPERIENCED GUIDES - Migrant Education Students Enjoy a Week-Long Experience at SCICON Hosted by Mentors from the California Mini-Corps Program

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

Contributors to this issue:
Christine Chapman, Marlene Moreno, Priscilla Gomez, Shelly DiCenzo, Lorena White, Sharon Phillips, Candy Hilvers, Nani Rowland, Patty Blaswich, Brian Roberts, Jeanne Croson, Carmen Friesen, Rick Mitchell and Olga Cortez.

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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Migrant Students Grow From Mentoring
University Students Support Local Students Through Mini-Corps Program

Migrant students at SCICON Standing in a circle  arm-in-arm  20 young men and women take a minute to discuss their afternoon plans for the elementary-aged students visiting the SCICON outdoor education program last month. The students at SCICON are served by the Migrant Education program from districts throughout Tulare and Kings County as part of an annual summer school. Like them, the young men and women were once migrant students. They are now college students or young teachers from throughout California who have chosen to work during their summer break with the Mini-Corps Program. For 40 years, the Mini-Corps Program has recruited young people with rural migrant backgrounds to serve as teacher assistants in summer schools.

Migrant students at SCICON "We're here to hopefully raise the aspirations of migrant students," says camp leader Martha Arebalo, who is also the coordinator of the Mini-Corps program at California State University, San Jose. "In all our daily activities, we are encouraging students to open up and engage."

Migrant Education Program Manager Olga Cortez says that priority for the SCICON visit is given to fourth, fifth and sixth graders who are not enrolled in one of the program's Intensive Literacy or Intensive Math Group classes. Every summer, students at SCICON experience a full week of instruction and activities like skits, hikes and a ropes course designed to build camaraderie, self-esteem, confidence in public speaking and respect for nature and each other  all delivered by young people who share similar backgrounds. "We are grateful for the mentoring roles the young men and women of the Mini-Corps Program fill each summer," says County Superintendent Jim Vidak. "The students gain positive social and academic skills at a critical time in their lives."

Photos above:
~ Students visiting SCICON receive daily lessons in science, writing and art from Mini-Corps instructors like Maricela Avelar.
~ Students also benefit from a low student/instructor ratio on all activities including lessons, hikes and meal time.
~ Mini-Corps instructors share a common bond in supporting young migrant students as they discuss daily activities and offer support for each other.

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Students Help Design and Paint New Mural
Spectacular Mural Based on "Six Pillars of Character" Completed at Community School

During the month of May, when most schools are winding up major activities, Mid-County Community School students embarked on their largest project of the year. With help from Visalia artist Colleen Mitchell-Veyna, students participated in a Community Service Learning Project by painting a mural on the school patio walls based on the "Six Pillars of Character."

Mural at Mid-County Community School The design of the mural was funded by the Community Challenge Grant through Tulare County Office of Education School Health Programs. The grant is provided by the Department of Health Services as part of a comprehensive family life program for the purpose of reducing teen pregnancies in Tulare County. The program utilizes four major strategies: classroom family life presentations targeted to students in sixth through eighth grades, classroom family life education presentations targeted at continuation high school students, a series of four career-awareness classroom activities offered by the School-to-Career program, and presentations on HIV/STD by Tulare Tech Prep High School-trained peer educators. The bridge between the four components of the program is a message that students need to set long-term personal goals and stay focused on obtaining them.

Mural at Mid-County Community School Colleen and the students worked together to envision the mural that included both inspirational leaders and principles from the CHARACTER COUNTS! program. Once the concept was finalized, Colleen volunteered her time to draw the mural on the three patio walls. The students then helped her paint it over a two-week period. She designed the project so that each student could feel pride in their accomplishments and their school. "The Mid-County mural will be a powerful inspiration for future students about the need to persevere and remain true to the positive character values they learn at school," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "In working with Colleen, the Mid-County staff and students, and Sharon Phillips from our School Health Programs, demonstrated all six pillars of character  trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. The result is a magnificent work of art."
Mural at Mid-County Community School
View more photos of the mural.

Photos above:
~ Artist Colleen Mitchell-Veyna works with students completing the center section of the mural.
~ The finished mural includes portraits of Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez.

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Pioneering SEE & Co. Administrator Retires
Lorene Valentino Created Numerous Model Programs for Students and Adults

Lorene Valentino Dr. Lorene Valentino  the woman who developed dozens of pioneering programs for students and adults  retired after 33 years of service to the Tulare County Office of Education. Through her programs and through partnerships with the County of Tulare, Dr. Valentino focused on helping young people, teen mothers and the most economically disadvantaged adults along the path to success. "If there was a group that needed education, training, counseling or job placement, Lorene had the vision and determination to serve them," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak.

Dr. Valentino's early career included serving as coordinator for the CETA program, which provided training and employment for disadvantaged adults. From there, she helped create the Greater Avenues for Independence  or GAIN Program  in partnership with Tulare County Health and Human Services, again providing welfare recipients with training and employment opportunities. Her Teenage Parenting Program  or TAPP  received national attention as it provided education for hundreds of young mothers throughout the county. Most of the Tulare County TAPP programs  now operated by local school districts  still exist today. The MOVE Program also received national attention as it has helped over 2,000 San Joaquin Valley families find employment and relocate to other areas of the country.

Most recently, Lorene helped create the La Sierra Charter School, which built on her experience with vocational programs and provided students with a disciplined, small school setting. "The legacy of Lorene's career is that there are literally thousands of young people, adults and their families across the nation who live better lives because of the education and training she helped them receive," says Mr. Vidak.

Photo above:
~ Lorene Valentino relaxes after the recent graduation ceremony at the La Sierra Military Academy in Visalia. Lorene helped form the La Sierra program in 2000.

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Excellence in Education Winners Selected

A selection committee made up of 18 Tulare County business, community and educational leaders met recently to choose the 2007 Excellence in Education Award winners. Now celebrating its 13th year, the recognition program honors "the best of the best" in three educational categories. The Administrator of the Year is Katherine Johnson, Principal of West Putnam Elementary in Porterville. Teacher of the Year, Rick Pence, teaches a First Grade Structured English Immersion class at Roosevelt Elementary in Tulare. School Employee of the Year, Maria Hinojosa, is an instructional aide and campus assistant at Woodlake Valley Middle School.

"We look forward to honoring our winners, finalists and nominees at the annual breakfast event on October 3," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "The honorees have extraordinary abilities to recognize the challenges their students face and to create solutions to address them." For more information on the winners and finalists, visit

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Recent Retirees Honored at Reception
Average Length of Service by Individuals Over 20 Years

On June 6, friends, families and employees of the Tulare County Office of Education gathered in the Education Center to wish 25 individuals a long and happy retirement. County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak and Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Jeanne Nava presented gifts as co-workers and managers spoke about each person. In total, these men and women dedicated 568 years to the students of Tulare County. Below is a list of those honored and the years they served their programs.

TCOE recent retirees honored
Photos above:
~ Retiree Gail Kaulfuss (second from right) is congratulated by her cohorts at the California Teacher Recruitment Program (from the left) Linda Horsting, Jennifer Fisher and Karen Phillips.
~ Caroline Harris retired after 14 years as a cook at SCICON. Ms. Harris is joined by SCICON Food Service Manager Bea Humann.

2007 TCOE Retirees
Jim Barnett (7 years)
Teacher, Community Schools

Darlynn Billingsley (15 years)
Administrative Assistant to the County Superintendent

Faye Bishop (41 years)
Business Services Technician, Business Services

Betty Branum (32 years)
Business Services Technician, Business Services

Mary Ann Brensel (2 years)
Neverstreaming Teacher, Special Services

Carolyn Callahan (7 years)
Vocational Instructor, SEE & Co.

Eleanor Castro (18 years)
Instructional Assistant, Special Services

Carmen Caswell (32 years)
Library Media Technician, Educational Resource Services

Mike Elick (19 years)
Maintenance & Operations Supervisor

Betty Ferriera (18 years)
Instructional Assistant, Special Services

Richard Graham (31 years)
Administrator II, General Services

Caroline Harris(14 years)

Robin Hooks (6 years)
Activities Specialist, SCICON

Gail Kaulfuss (5 years)
Recruitment Specialist, California Teacher Recruitment Program

Martha Miramontes (11 years)
Project Specialist, Child Care

Sam Peña (38 years)
Impact Center Supervisor, Instructional Services

Dolores Porras (41 years)
Secretary to the Assistant Superintendent, Special Services

Abelina Renteria (41 years)
Teacher Assistant, Child Care

Bonnie Rivera (27 years)
Early Childhood Teacher, Special Services

Jose Rodriguez (37 years)
Custodian, Child Care

Vera Rodriguez (20 years)
Office Supervisor, Child Care

Irene Serrano (28 years)
Teacher Assistant, Child Care

Wanda Slater (20 years)
Instructional Assistant, Severely Handicapped, Special Services

Shirley Smith (26 years)
Instructional Assistant, Severely Handicapped, Special Services

Lorene Valentino (32 years)
Administrator I, SEE & Co.

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On People in Service and Support

Abigail Sherrill Central Valley Christian High School senior Abigail Sherrill takes a break from painting sets for the Theatre Company's upcoming production of the musical Cats. Abigail will play the lead role of "Grizabella" in seven performances July 20, 21, 26, 27, and 28 at the L.J. Williams Theater in Visalia. The production of Cats marks the tenth anniversary of the Theatre Company's annual summer musicals. For show times, tickets and more information, call the Theatre Company at (559) 651-1482.

Resource Guide for Parents Building & Promoting Asset Development for Youth, A Resource Guide for Parents is a 43-page booklet filled with ideas and resources to help parents and adult community members support young people in making healthy and safe choices in their lives. The guide covers many issues young people face today including tobacco, alcohol and drugs, resolving conflict, harassment, teen depression and gangs. Developed in coordination with TCOE's Choices program, the guide is available online at

On Saturday, June 2, the Friends of SCICON, a non-profit organization, held its annual SCICON Awards Dinner. Receiving the Laurel Leaf Awards as the top high school cabin leaders were Susanna Rodriguez and Mario Ramirez of Cesar Chavez High School (Delano), Chase Linley of Monache High School (Porterville), and Alyssa Stone of Exeter High School (pictured). The students were selected out of 1000 high school students as exemplary role models for the sixth-grade students at SCICON. In addition to their awards, they also received a scholarship from the Friends of SCICON and the Association of California School Administrators Region XI. The Friends of SCICON then presented Awards of Merit to numerous individuals and organizations including Neil Janz and Najia Kenehan, SCICON Naturalists (pictured), for their dedication to teaching children and their volunteerism at the SCICON Tree Nursery Program. Finally, a rare Friends of SCICON Lifetime Award was given to Jim Vidak, Tulare County Superintendent of Schools, for his many years of exemplary support for the SCICON program. This is only the 15th Lifetime Award ever given by the Friends of SCICON. Other honorees are listed in the table below.

SCICON Honorees

Friends of SCICON Lifetime Award

Jim Vidak, County Superintendent of Schools
- recognized for his many years of exemplary support for the SCICON program.

2007 Friends of SCICON Awards of Merit
Bill Pine
Stan & Wendy Simpson
- recognized for their assistance with fundraising for the New Village Project at SCICON.

Rich Graham, General Services Administrator, Tulare County Office of Education
- recognized for exemplary service in overseeing construction projects at SCICON.

Migrant Education - Region XIII (TCOE)
- recognized for the exemplary leadership training they provide to their students at the SCICON campus.

Fire crew of Engine 25 (Sequoia National Forest)
- recognized for the fire and emergency protection provided to the SCICON program.

Melinda Kemp, Career Technician for Cesar Chavez High School (Delano)
- recognized for her years of service of recruiting and training high school students to serve as cabin leaders at SCICON.

Angel Jimenez, maintenance worker for Richland School District (Shafter)
Jaime Martinez, maintenance worker for Richland School District (Shafter)
Mike Fernandez, maintenance director for Earlimart School District
- recognized for their years of dedication to maintenance projects at SCICON.

Neil Janz, SCICON Naturalist
Najia Kenehan, SCICON Naturalist
- recognized for their dedication to teaching children at SCICON in addition to their volunteerism at the SCICON Tree Nursery Program.

Stacy Vehrs, Biology teacher at Granite Hills High School (Porterville)
- recognized for her work in developing student activities at the Circle J - Norris Ranch.

2006-07 Laurel Leaf Awards

awarded to the top high school cabin leaders of the year

Susanna Rodriguez, Cesar Chavez High School, Delano
Mario Ramirez, Cesar Chavez High School, Delano
Chase Linley, Monache High School, Porterville
Alyssa Stone, Exeter High School, Exeter

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Gallery Notes

The organization formerly known as the Tulare County Office of Education's Nutrition Network for Healthy, Active Families is now called Network for a Healthy California. The statewide organization is being promoted with billboards and television advertisements utilizing the slogan "Champions for Change." The commercials, which feature California mothers speaking out on obesity, are designed to educate and empower low-income families to live healthier, more active lives. For more information on the Network for a Healthy California, contact Nani Rowland at (559) 651-0130.

The Spanish language version of the recently revised Street Gangs in Tulare County is now available through the Tulare County Office of Education. Parent groups, community organizations and schools are welcome to request copies of the free booklet and arrange for a presentation on street gangs by one of TCOE's gang prevention specialists. To obtain a copy and to request a presentation, call (559) 733-6172.

At a recent presentation before the Tulare County Board of Supervisors, Internal Business Director Patty Blaswich received a donation in the amount of $24,482 from Office Depot. The award was part of a larger rebate provided annually by the office supply company to members of the County of Tulare Purchasing Cooperative.

Tulare County Office of Education employees are encouraged to participate in the semi-annual Blood Drive scheduled for the afternoon of Tuesday, August 7. The Central California Blood Center is providing coupons for a free pint of Baskin-Robbins ice cream to everyone who donates. To participate, please contact Jeanne Croson at (559) 733-6322, or by e-mail at

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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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