The News Gallery
September 2008QUITE BRIGHT - The Bright Future Program begins providing supplemental, home-based instruction for children with autism
Editor: Robert Herman
Public Information Officer
Contributors to this issue:
Christine Chapman, Marlene Moreno, Priscilla Gomez, Shelly DiCenzo, Lorena White, Kelly Brooks, Sheli Silva, Ron Pekarek, Eileen Wright, Elainea Scott, Donna Orozco, Steve Woods, Sara Sutton, René Moncade and Leslie Berry.
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 Marlene Moreno at firstname.lastname@example.org or (559) 733-6172 and provide your name and address.
~ Students in the Bright Future program, like Daniel, receive in-home therapy from a behavior intervention assistant.
New Program Brings Instruction Home
The Bright Future Program Provides Intervention Services to Children With Autism
Four-year-old Daniel has a mischievous sense of humor. He loves to tease his "teacher" Elizabeth Lucha as they put a puzzle together at home in Porterville — mismatching the pieces just to get a reaction from her. According to Daniel's mother, Esther Avilez, his sense of humor is a new and welcome development. Daniel is a child with autism, who receives in-home instructional therapy from a new program developed by the Special Services Division called The Bright Future Program.
"The program has made a huge difference," says Ms. Avilez. "There have been times in the past when we just cried together, because he was so frustrated. Now, he's beginning to communicate and the tantrums have really been reduced." Daniel has been with the program six months. "The addition of Bright Future gives families the expertise of dozens of highly-skilled people and a continuity of service provided in a cooperative fashion," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak.
The Bright Future Program offers early intensive behavioral intervention services for children with a diagnosis of autism and/or other developmental delays. The program was envisioned by Assistant Superintendent of Special Services Dr. Marilyn Rankin. The Bright Future Program works with the Central Valley Regional Center — the state agency that refers children to service providers like the Tulare County Office of Education. Program Specialist Dr. Eileen Wright explains that Bright Future extends the early intervention services created for infants and toddlers through the Special Services Division's pioneering Bright Start program. "Because we serve older children — ages three and up — we can work alongside district preschool and elementary teachers to smooth our students' transition into school."
Bright Future students receive up to 40 hours of weekly home instruction from behavior intervention assistants (BIA) like Elizabeth Lucha. This amount may be reduced if the child is concurrently enrolled in a preschool program. BIAs provide their instruction utilizing a program called ABLLS (Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills) — a detailed and systematic curriculum for teaching social, life and communication skills. ABLLS tasks range from feeding and personal hygiene to sorting and image recognition. Bright Future Program Specialist Ron Pekarek reports that children, like Daniel, who have been in the program for six months, have remarkably mastered — on average — 60 life-long skills.
~ Alana, a preschooler in Exeter, participates in carefully-planned activities at home designed to build her social, life and communication skills.
~ Elizabeth Lucha (l), behavior intervention assistant, reviews with Daniel's mother, Esther, his progress as recorded on the web-based ABLLS system.
~ The Bright Future staff, which currently serves about 35 children, is coordinated by Dr. Eileen Wright (r).
Summer Instruction Benefits Migrant Students
Math, Literacy and Science Classes Prepare Students for a Successful School Year
Speaking to a general science class held at Dinuba High School this summer, Felix Gomez encourages the students: "Just as you have learned new language skills, you can acquire a scientific vocabulary. In fact, you may find that because many of the words have Latin origins, your knowledge of Spanish will be an advantage." The mostly middle school students in Mr. Gomez's class were enrolled in one of three types of Migrant Education summer programs designed to bolster academic skills in language arts, mathematics or science before the start of the new school year.
For older students, like those in Mr. Gomez's class, encouragement goes hand-in-hand with instruction. "We're delighted to have worked with Dinuba Unified to make several field trips possible for these students," says Sheli Silva, Migrant Education Region VIII administrator. "They were able to see some of the region's best universities, and hopefully imagine themselves making these resources part of their lives."
Elsewhere this summer, Migrant Education students received rigorous literacy and mathematics training over a four-week period. These Intensive Literacy Group (ILG) and Intensive Math Group (IMG) programs pair a small number of students — identified as being behind in language arts or math — with one teacher for four hours each day. In the ILG, students learn how to organize their thoughts, arrange the order of supporting details and examples, and effectively use transitional phrases to create a coherent paragraph.
"The work our Migrant Education program does together with Tulare County school districts each summer is impressive – concentrated instruction produces amazing academic gains for some of our most academically at-risk students," says County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak.
~ Felix Gomez's class of middle school students took several summer field trips, including visits to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, U.C. Berkeley, Stanford University and the National Weather Service Center.
~ Students in the Intensive Mathematics Group learned about fractions and proportions in this lesson involving artwork shrunken in a toaster oven.
~ Intensive Literacy Group students at Jefferson Elementary check the web pages they created featuring original essays and short movies.
Aguilar Available to Speak About Gangs
Retired Sheriff's Detective Draws from Career in Law Enforcement
Retirement was brief for Joe Aguilar. The former Tulare County Sheriff's Detective retired from the department August 2. Three weeks later, he had a growing list of requests for presentations from schools and community organizations wanting more information on gangs.
Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak hired Mr. Aguilar to continue the gang education program he had conducted in Tulare County schools for over two years. In the past, Mr. Aguilar's presentations were made possible at no cost to schools through the support of Mr. Vidak and Tulare County Sheriff Bill Wittman. "It is critical that we continue this service to our schools and the community," says Mr. Vidak. "Students need to know the dangers before they're deceived into joining a gang, and parents need to know the signs that their child may be entertaining the idea."
This year, Mr. Aguilar wants to meet with more parents and community members to discuss emerging trends in Tulare County gangs. "For instance, there is a growing incidence of girls involved in gang violence," he says. "And we are seeing conflicts among gangs that share the same 'color' or affiliation." Joe Aguilar can advise parents on all the signs that indicate their son or daughter is becoming involved with a gang. "Parents need to look beyond their kid's clothes to their behavior. Changes in their priorities with friends and their aggression or distance with parents and other family members are indicators just as important as what they want to wear."
When Joe Aguilar speaks to students about the dangers of gangs and the value of staying in school, he uses his own background to illustrate how they need not be trapped in poverty or in situations where drugs and alcohol are abused. "My presentation varies with each group and where I am in the county," he says. "I know the issues particular to each community, so I am able to tailor my message. For the youngest students, I talk about how to be safe around strangers and about the dangers of weapons — not to touch guns or knives, but to call an adult if they find one. I also talk to them about fighting and the importance of keeping their hands to themselves. With older students, I begin to introduce the realities of gang affiliation — violence, drugs, incarceration and possible death. Regardless of the age group, I stress that the key to success lies in what you do for yourself through education, not in what others — particularly gang members — say they can do for you."
To schedule an appointment with Joe Aguilar for your school, community group or service organization, call Mr. Vidak's office at (559) 733-6301.
~ Joe Aguilar is available — at no cost — to speak to schools, parents and community groups about a variety of issues concerning gangs. He also provides training to school staff on managing gang-involved students in the classroom.
Program Builds Kindergarten Readiness
Veteran Child Care Teachers Help Build Literacy Instruction Skills for Protégés
Preschoolers in the Child Care Educational Program are recognizing more letters, writing simple words and speaking more English. Even toddlers are using a lot of language. Teachers credit the Mentor Coach Program for giving them new ideas and inspiring creativity in the classroom.
Led by instructional consultants Marsha Ingrao and Jonathan Janzen, the Mentor Coach Program named LIFT (Literacy-Involved Facilitator Training) trains mentors (teachers and supervisors) in both coaching and literacy skills. The mentors then work one-on-one with protégés (teachers) to improve children's literacy.
Mentoring skills are not easy to learn because coaches aren't giving their protégés the answers; their goal is to empower the protégés to think for themselves and to develop their own ideas and solutions. The program has been effective. At a ceremony for LIFT participants held in July, many protégés shared stories and instructional tools they had used with success in their programs.
"Everyone involved in LIFT is benefiting — coaches and protégés are becoming better teachers and our children are better prepared for kindergarten," says Child Care Administrator Ray Chavez.
Resource Display Center Gets New Home
Educational Resource Services Opens New Display Center for Adopted Textbooks
The Tulare County Office of Education houses one of 23 Learning Resource Display Centers (LRDCs) in California. Located at Educational Resource Services (ERS), 7000 Doe Avenue, Suite A, in Visalia, the LRDC receives and displays K-8 state-adopted textbooks and supplementary instructional materials. This summer, the center got a more spacious building of its own to display materials received in coordination with the State textbook adoption cycle.
"The LRDC is a convenient resource for teachers, parents and community members in the region who are interested in previewing materials being considered for adoption," says ERS Program Manager Elainea Scott.
~ LRDC materials are available for preview during regular ERS hours, Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. To schedule an appointment, contact Steven Woods at (559) 651-3077.
On People in Service and Support
Students in kindergarten, first and second grades visiting the Impact Center — home to the Peña Planetarium and the Multi-Media Educational Theater — will be treated to a new program. At Your Service is a new five-screen video program developed by the Impact Center to help young students gain an appreciation for the variety of vocations in Tulare County. Teachers interested in scheduling a showing of At Your Service may call (559) 733-6433, or visit www.tcoe.org/ImpactCenter.
Ron Koop, former Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) Induction coordinator, was named BTSA Induction Program director, replacing Pat Hansen, who retired this summer. Barbara Leal, former director of curriculum and instruction for Sundale Union Elementary, will serve as BTSA program coordinator.
Each year, the Child Care Educational Program, with a staff of 650, gathers for a training and recognition program. This year, many service awards were presented along with the annual Mary Jensen Award and the Professional Development Award. The Mary Jensen Award is given to an outstanding employee who is active in community service and shows self improvement through education. The Professional Development Award is presented to someone who has pursued their educational dreams or contributed to professional development in an outstanding way. This year's winners are Molly Anzaldua (left), Professional Development Award recipient, and Isabel Valenzuela, Mary Jensen Award recipient.
La Sierra Military Academy sophomore and First Sergeant Manuel Rodriguez distributes certificates of completion following basic training last month. Enrollment at the Military Academy is near 300 for students in grades 7-12.
Students in the Ducor Camp Summer Migrant Program welcome visitors from the Chaffee Zoo in Fresno. Each year, the students move with their families to Tulare County from the Coachella Valley. Migrant staff transport the children from the Ducor labor camps to attend a four-week summer program at Ducor Elementary School. While their parents work, the students enjoy reading, writing, math and physical activities.
Adam Valencia, coordinator for the Reconnecting Youth program, was recently selected as the recipient of the first annual "Peacekeeper Award" sponsored by the Tulare County Latino Peace Officers Association, the Visalia Times-Delta and the Tulare Advance-Register. The award was designed to recognize a civilian for his or her efforts in keeping young people safe from gang involvement. Mr. Valencia will be honored at the Latino Peace Officers annual dinner gala Saturday, September 13 at the Visalia Convention Center.
This fall, the Choices office will open three after school programs at Tulare's comprehensive high schools — Tulare Union, Tulare Western and Mission Oak. The programs are funded by a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant to provide academic support, educational enrichment and assistance in passing the California High School Exit Exam. In addition to the after school funding, the Choices program also received Family Literacy Grants for the three schools. Family Literacy Funding is used to support adult family members with academic assistance, enrichment and family literacy services. The Choices program will also assist the district in delivering Class Action and Reconnecting Youth classes, Friday Night Live, Friday Night Live Mentoring, and CAST (Caring and Support Training) at the three high schools through a federal grant to reduce alcohol abuse.
The La Sierra Military Academy Parent Organization (PESTO) is holding the first Screaming Eagles Car Show to benefit the school. The family event will take place on Saturday, August 30 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on the campus at 1735 E. Houston in Visalia. In addition to a display of classic cars, the show will feature live entertainment and a variety of food booths.
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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