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The News Gallery

November 2007

FAMILY TIME - Migrant Early Childhood Education Program Serves Families in Tulare and Kings Counties Combining Adult Education and School Readiness for Children

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

Contributors to this issue:
Christine Chapman, Marlene Moreno, Priscilla Gomez, Shelly DiCenzo, Lorena White, Sheli Silva, Olga Cortez, Lupe Aguilera, Nicole Zweifel, Jeanne Croson, Paula Terrill, Carmen Friesen and Brian Roberts.

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 Program Empowers Parents
Parents and Preschool Children Get Ready for Kindergarten and Beyond

"Buenos dias," Lupe Aguilera says as she opens the screen door to a small house that faces Highway 99 in Tulare. Marta Contreras emerges from the kitchen smiling, her coat still on from a recent trip to the store. Behind her are two preschoolers, Pedro and Jesus  each one darting in front of their mother to see "Teacher Lupe."

Migrant Education ProgramMs. Aguilera, an instructional assistant with the Migrant Early Childhood Education (MECE) program, is at the Contreras house to begin her 45-minute lesson. Each week in Tulare and Kings counties, 15 full- and 3 part-time instructional assistants and teachers head out in their cars to visit hundreds of migrant families.

The MECE program is a family education model designed to promote school readiness through early childhood education, family literacy and parenting skills. Priority is given to three- to five-year-olds who lack the preschool experience and have limited access to other state or federal preschool services because of child care or transportation barriers.

"These services are absolutely important to children who might otherwise begin kindergarten one or two years behind their peers," says Migrant Region VIII Administrator Sheli Silva, who oversees the programs in Kings and Tulare counties. "Children who have little or no pre-kindergarten experience start school at a disadvantage and most never catch up."

Migrant Education Program "Our instructional assistants each serve 24 families per week," says Program Manager Olga Cortez. Additional students are served in center-based programs at Armona Elementary in Kings County and Doyle Elementary in Porterville. "The overall goal of the home visits is to prepare children for school and to empower parents to be involved in their child's education and serve as his or her first teacher."

Home visits have several components. Instructional assistants begin each session by reviewing homework with the family. "The focus of these activities is on a variety of developmental skills and building the child's ability to recognize letters, sounds and their own name," says Ms. Cortez.

Migrant Education Program The family then works with the instructional assistant on a language development exercise, which usually centers on reading, along with an integrated art, math and science lesson. Finally, there is an activity. Lupe Aguilera helped her students make monkey-shaped book covers as they read Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. Inside the book were lined pages for the children to use during the week to practice writing the alphabet, numbers and their name.

While language development is a key component of the program, instructional assistants also include parent education in household safety, community resources, child growth and development and nutrition. The lesson on nutrition involves a list of groceries, which parents and children shop for and purchase in a "make-believe" store at home. "This is one example of combining literacy with mathematics in a lesson that reinforces the parent's positive role in education," says Olga Cortez.

Migrant Education Program Coordination and collaboration with adult education resources is also an important component of the MECE program. Parents are encouraged to participate in community/school district English language development and adult education programs. The group is also involved in supplemental activities, such as the college day trip taken to Fresno State in September  an event designed to create an interest in higher education for both parent and child.

"The MECE Program's family approach to early childhood education is not only helping prepare children for school, but helping to strengthen parents' abilities to serve in educating their sons and daughters," says County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "Through it all, we hope parents also seize some educational opportunities for themselves."

Photos above:
~ Lupe Aguilera visits the home of Pedro and Jesus Contreras weekly for 45-minutes of instruction and activities. Ms. Aguilera's position with the MECE home-based program is one of nine funded by First 5 Tulare County.
~ Angel and his father enjoy a MECE-sponsored trip to the Pumpkin Patch in Visalia.
~ At the end of each visit, children like Elizabeth select a book to enjoy for a week.
~ Earlier this fall, MECE families toured the Fresno State campus. These activities reinforce the program's goal to create a college-going culture for both parents and children.

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Tulare County's "Best of the Best" Celebrated
Excellence in Education Event Honors 36 Nominees and Winners

The ballroom of the Visalia Convention Center filled up quickly on the morning of October 3, as 400 coworkers, community and family members staked out seats to watch 36 Tulare County educators receive honors. Nominees and finalists in the 2007 Excellence in Education Awards program were individually recognized, followed by a video highlighting the careers of the teacher, administrator/manager and school employee of the year. After the video, the winners were introduced  each one thanking the coworkers and family who support their careers.

"The winners this year share a visionary spirit," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "Each one has an extraordinary ability to recognize the challenges their students face and to create pioneering programs to meet them. They also possess remarkable abilities to raise achievement through meaningful connections with each student."

Excellence in Education Award winners Katherine Johnson, Principal of West Putnam Elementary in Porterville, was selected as the 2007 Administrator/ Manager of the Year. Mrs. Johnson was recognized for creating a culture of academic excellence, which is evidenced by the significant test score increases at her school. She was also instrumental in organizing the on-campus West Putnam Pantry that is open, free of charge, to students and their families to receive donated clothing, food and toiletries.

Rick Pence, who is a first grade Structured English Immersion (SEI) teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School in Tulare, was honored as the 2007 Tulare County Teacher of the Year. Rick took on the challenge of assisting his district in creating the model for other SEI classrooms. Serving as mentor to other SEI teachers, the program is making a significant difference for English language learners in most Tulare schools.

Maria Hinojosa, an instructional aide and campus assistant at Woodlake Valley Middle School, received the 2007 School Employee of the Year recognition. Maria feels it is a privilege to play a part in the lives of sixth graders during their transitional pre-teen period. She has a knack of making some of the neediest students feel valued, important, and included. Her work at Woodlake Valley Middle School was described as more of a ministry than a job.

Tulare County Office of Education employees nominated for the honor were Migrant Education Program Manager Olga Cortez and Teacher of the Severely Handicapped Maria Irene Barba. For a complete list of nominees, visit

Photo above:
~ 2007 Excellence in Education Winners (l to r) Maria Hinojosa, Rick Pence and Katherine Johnson enjoy a moment in the spotlight under the weight of numerous certificates, proclamations, awards and flowers. The annual event is cosponsored by the Educational Employees Credit Union.

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Event Showcases Western Music and Verse
Song, Poetry and a Little Outdoor Cooking Warm Up Students to Cowboy Culture

Cowboy Poetry Students arriving at the Elderwood Room of the Doe Avenue Complex on Friday, October 12, saw a few unusual sights: a stage encircled by hay strewn on the floor, western artifacts, antique quilts, and a campsite complete with a chuck wagon and Dutch ovens. The occasion was the annual Tulare County Office of Education-sponsored Cowboy Poetry, Western Music and Chuck Wagon Cooks student event.

An audience of nearly 100 students from grades 5-8 enjoyed a performance that included poetry, tall tales, old western songs and yodeling. The talented performers included Jim Cardwell, Rick Clark, Nancy Lee, Jim and Karen Ross and the delightful Sourdough Slim. Randy Hamill served as the emcee for the show. "The event is a fun way for students to learn about western U.S. culture through song, verse and demonstration," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak.

Cowboy Poetry Students experienced poetry recounting a near-miss bear attack, cattle prod wars and enthusiastically joined in on old western songs and yodeling. Sourdough Slim undertook a four-part, death-defying stunt of jumping into a lasso while dancing a jig, playing a harmonica and fanning an accordion.

The spirited morning culminated with steaming peach cobbler topped with whipped cream served to each student by chuck wagon cooks: Tom and Becki Buchmann, Ken and Lois Sheffield and Gloria Winans.

Instructional Consultant Carmen Friesen plans the student event in conjunction with the Visalia Cowboy Cultural Committee's Annual Fall Roundup. "I appreciate the support of the Cultural Committee and that of Mr. Vidak," she says.

Photos above:
~ Roping, yodeling, dancing and accordian-playing Sourdough Slim delighted students along with five other western music and poetry performers.
~ Child Care Resource & Referral's Lois Sheffield and a crew of chuck wagon cooks treated students to Dutch oven peach cobbler.

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On People in Service and Support

Theatre Company Trevor Ludlow and Sarah Stricklin will star in the Theatre Company fall recital, Disney's High School Musical, November 15 - 17 at L.J. Williams Theater in Visalia. The recital marks the final performance of a semester-long theater arts workshop. The popular production, based on the Disney movie of the same name, is comprised of 90 students in grades 2-12 from communities throughout Tulare County. Casting for Disney's High School Musical was completed in May and students have been rehearsing since the beginning of the semester. For the first time in the Theatre Company's history, the recital will be held at L.J. Williams Theater with four public performances. All of the hits from the Disney movie are performed in the production including "The Start of Something New" and "We're All in This Together." Tickets are only $5 per person and are available by calling the Theatre Company at (559) 651-1482.

Expanding Your Horizons For the second time this year, the Tulare County Office of Education and College of the Sequoias hosted Expanding Your Horizons (EYH), a student event designed to encourage young women in grades four through eight to explore careers in the fields of mathematics, technology, science and engineering. The conference was first held in May and then a second time last month to accommodate the overwhelming response from elementary and middle school teachers and to reestablish EYH as an annual fall event. Hands-on workshops and sessions were presented by professional women from throughout the state, including "Design a Shoe to Learn About Engineering," "Greenhouse Science" and "CSI: COS". Sarah Reyes, a former California Assemblymember and current Chief Executive Officer of the Community Food Bank in Fresno, was the keynote speaker for the conference attended by 700 young women. Following Ms. Reyes' address, a drawing was held for a laptop computer, donated by the Tulare County Office of Education Foundation. The winner was Stephanie Valencia of Ivanhoe Elementary.

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Gallery Notes

The Child Abuse & Neglect (C.A.N.) Prevention Program has established a two-day training session for new volunteers on November 6 and 8. C.A.N., which is operated by TCOE's School Health Programs, is designed to help reduce the incidence of neglect, as well as physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Once trained, volunteers will make non-threatening, age-appropriate presentations to kindergarten through fifth-grade students. Volunteers may serve four to six hours per month. For information, call Project Coordinator Elena Hawley at (559) 651-0130.

The CyberQuest Media Festival will be held at the Visalia Convention Center Saturday, November 17, from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. The public is encouraged to attend the event, which is a technology-based competition for teams of students in grades 3 - 12. Students present, to a panel of judges, solutions to complex scenarios. The scenarios challenge students to use their history, science, language arts, drama, and math skills in coming up with creative solutions. Nearly 400 students are expected to participate. This year's theme is "Power of X" in recognition of the event's tenth anniversary. Teams, whose presentations are judged as the best in their respective categories, are awarded trophies and medals for superior work. For more information, contact Dr. Glenn Williams at (559) 651-3047.

Tulare County Office of Education recently conducted a dependent eligibility audit of all employees. Employees who completed their audit before August 31 were entered in a drawing for gift certificates. Winners of the gift certificates were Todd Canterbury of the Migrant Education Program, Pamela Malloy of Special Services' Mild-to-Moderate Programs, and Evangeline Riggs of Special Services' Bright Start Program. The audits were conducted by American Fidelity Assurance Company.

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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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