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The News Gallery

May 2009

LIP SYNCH TURNS 20 - As a new generation of Friday Night Live participants take to the stage, alumni serve in Tulare County classrooms and youth development programs.

News Gallery - May 2009 Editor: Robert Herman
Public Information Officer
(559) 733-6606

Contributors to this issue:
Christine Chapman, Marlene Moreno, Priscilla Gomez, Shelly DiCenzo, Lorena White, Sara Sutton, Nariman Ajluni, Veronica Carmona, Tony Cavanagh, Gene Mendes, Angelina Huwe, Veronica Guerrero, Rick Mitchell, Ron Koop, René Moncada 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 Marlene Moreno at marlenem@tcoe.org or (559) 733-6172 and provide your name and address.

Cover Photo:
~ Woodlake Valley Middle School entered teams in each of the three competition categories, including the Dance category shown here.

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Friday Night Live celebrates event's 20th year
Program now includes many supporters who were once Lip Synch participants

Teen icons Debbie Gibson and New Kids on the Block were on the charts when a handful of Tulare County student groups first danced and lip synched to their favorite songs at a new event called the Friday Night Live Junior High Lip Synch Competition. The year was 1989 and the place was the Visalia Elks Lodge.

Lip Synch Competition
Six hundred groups later, a new generation of middle school students has taken to the stage  this time at the Visalia Convention Center. Although 20 years have come and gone, there were plenty of cues to the past to make Choices school community liaisons Angelina Huwe, Gene Mendes and Tony Cavanagh nostalgic. Perhaps it was the 80s-style, day-glo fashions popular with so many of the performers, or the song selections including 80s rock classics like Back in Black and Don't Stop Believing. More likely it was the people. Throughout the evening, emcee Tony Cavanagh named a dozen men and women now working in education who were  10 to 15 years ago  dancing on the same stage.

Veronica Guerrero Jennifer Morgan is one such person. An academic coach for the Choices After School Program at Tulare Union High School, Ms. Morgan was a Lip Synch competitor from Waukena Elementary in 1995 and 1996. Today Ms. Morgan assists with the After School Program by tutoring, coordinating activities and teaching a yoga class. She has finished her bachelors degree and is planning to pursue a masters so that she can work in school psychology. "Friday Night Live definitely influenced my career path," says Ms. Morgan. "I saw the fun FNL advisors were having with kids and knew that I wanted to work with students to help them build the skills to make positive choices."

FNL mentors In 1988, Friday Night Live was a relatively new, but growing, statewide program designed to reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by teen motorists driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. In Tulare County, Pete Bellin was coordinating FNL activities within the School Health Programs. Mr. Bellin, who now serves as a consultant for the statewide California Friday Night Live Partnership based at the Tulare County Office of Education, pioneered an FNL program for junior high students. He helped develop the lesson plans and activities for the new program, which would eventually become FNL's Club Live. "The first Lip Synch was a reward to the middle schools that had worked so hard participating in the first year of the program," Tony Cavanagh told the audience at last month's anniversary event. Lip Synch was modeled after an "air guitar" competition Cavanagh competed in and won at Fresno State's Vintage Days in the mid-80s.

"It's wonderful to look back and track how Friday Night Live has made an impact in the lives of so many people," said County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "You don't have to look far to find a Lip Synch alumni who is now working as a teacher and a Friday Night Live advisor coaching the teams we see here."

Jennifer Morgan Back at the Choices office, Veronica Guerrero works into the evening as a secretary to the After School Programs. Eighteen years ago, she and her classmates from Woodville Union Elementary were on stage at the Sons of Italy Hall in Visalia dancing to the Motown classic, I Heard it Through the Grapevine. "For me, Friday Night Live was a way to keep connected with school," Ms. Guerrero said. "When I was growing up, there were a lot of things around me that weren't positive. I appreciate Friday Night Live for lessons they gave us. In high school, I was fortunate to have learned to avoid the negative things some of my friends went through," she adds.

A five-year veteran of the Child Care Educational Program, Ms. Guerrero says that she was drawn to the Choices program because of the good things they do for middle and high school students. "I did my homework. I knew that I wanted to be involved in a program where young people learn to make the right choices," she said.

Photos above:
~ Woodlake Valley Middle School entered teams in each of the three competition categories, including Dance (cover), Lip Synch, and Novelty.
~ Lip Synch alumni and Choices After School Program assistant Veronica Guerrero.
~ FNL high school mentors attended the annual Lip Synch to support their middle school peers.
~ Choices After School Program advisor Jennifer Morgan.

1st Place Tipton Elementary School
Jump In, Jump In
Daisy Gomez, Jimena Jones
2nd Place Waukena Jt. Union Elementary School
Leader of the Pack
Elizabeth Brizuela, Consuelo Castillo, Maria Chavez, Cindy Herrera, Ariana Quintero
3rd Place Woodlake Valley Middle School
Misery Business
Ricky Herrera, Katerena Lopez, Gabby Santana
1st Place Woodlake Valley Middle School
Our Song
Noah Johnson, Jacob Tarbell, Jesse Ordonez
2nd Place Woodlake Valley Middle School
Don't Stop Believing
Brittany DeLaRosa, Matt Medina, Levina Mesa, Ivan Ortega, Anastacio Valdez
3rd Place Oak Valley Union Elementary School
Jennifer Fagundes, Brittany Mendonca
1st Place Tipton Elementary School
Hard Knock Life
Isabella Benedetti, Jocie Carbajal, Valerie Flores, Jessica Guerrero, Fabiola Langarica, Ruby Lopez
2nd Place Valley Oak Middle School
Billy Nokham, Joseph Salazar, Michael Yucka, Lupe Calderon, Estafany Alcazar, Claritza Magnalles
3rd Place Tipton Elementary School
Rock Star
Atalia Palomera, Valeria Sepulveda

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49th annual event displays green technology
Annual SCICON Barbecue, a learning experience for the whole family.

SCICON Barbecue and Wildflower Festival The annual SCICON Barbecue and Wildflower Festival is a time to share with families and community members many of the instructional programs over 14,000 fifth- and sixth-grade students enjoy every year. On April 19, the tree arbor, natural history museum and planetarium were open to explore, and the wildflower-lined trails welcomed all hikers.

New this year was a display on energy use provided by Southern California Edison's AgTAC facility in Tulare. Marrs Gist, project manager at AgTAC, was on hand to show students how to produce electricity using small hand-cranked generators and then see how their efforts illuminated bulbs or operated small fans. Students usually agreed with Mr. Gist when he would say, "Producing electricity is hard work." Visitors to the AgTAC station could then see how solar photovoltaic cells accomplish the same task. "While SCICON does have some active solar energy applications on campus, we're hoping to expand these in the future," added SCICON Director Rick Mitchell.

SCICON Barbecue and Wildflower Festival For parents, there were displays comparing various home lighting, showing how different fixtures required varying amounts of electricity to produce the same results. "As you can imagine, adults were very interested in learning how to save electricity, as well as what they could do to better the environment," said Mr. Gist.

"Conservation is at the heart of SCICON," said Jim Vidak, Tulare County Superintendent of Schools. "We appreciate activities like the CSET (Community Services Employment Training) recycling display and the AgTAC presentation to show us some simple things we can do around the home to conserve electricity, and help us think about ways to incorporate efficient technologies at work and school."

Photos above:
~ Marrs Gist, of Edison's AgTAC in Tulare, helps SCICON visitors experience the effort it takes to make electricity using a hand-crank. Visitors could also see how solar collectors could do the same work.
~ SCICON Intern, Sole Ricciardi from Brazil, leads visitors on a wildflower tour.

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Military Academy views new NASA program
La Sierra joins other U.S. schools on-line for Earth Day broadcast

Bella Gaia We have lift off! La Sierra Military Academy successfully tested its new distance learning camera on Earth Day, April 22, as part of a NASA Digital Learning Network program presentation. NASA selected 13 schools out of 100 applicants worldwide to view a special web-based broadcast about Earth, called Bella Gaia, or "beautiful Earth." During the webcast, La Sierra middle school students watched along with students from Texas, Washington, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi, Washington and Mexico.

"La Sierra Military Academy is proud to have been selected to take part in Earth Day 2009 through this Digital Learning Network event," said René Moncada, administrator for La Sierra schools. "We are excited about our plans to expand the educational horizon with the aid of state-of-the-art distance learning technology. This will open the door to global learning for all students and take teaching to a whole new level as witnessed through this collaboration with NASA," Mr. Moncada added.

The multimedia journey featured the work of director and violinist Kenji Williams and NASA's satellite imagery and stunning high-definition projections of Earth from space. The program also included images of people and landscapes from regions shown in the satellite images. Mr. Williams' beautiful music supported the visual celebration of our planet, appropriate for Earth Day. Toward the end of the webcast, La Sierra students had an opportunity to ask questions of Mr. Williams and NASA visualization artist Helen Kostis of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, who developed the project from the agency's satellite images.

Photo above:
~ Award-winning director and violinist Kenji Williams played along with the score for the production, which featured stunning images of Earth taken by NASA satellites.

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Theatre Company offers Summer Arts Camp
Fun-filled activities will teach students techniques in dance and drama

The Theatre Company is creating a five-week Summer Arts Camp for elementary-aged students beginning June 8. This daily, morning program will focus on teaching basic music, drama and dance techniques through fun activities designed to interest students in the performing arts. "We hope students will enjoy their dance and drama experience and develop an interest in doing more of it in the future," says Theatre Company director Brian Roberts. Registration is limited and will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis. The cost of the five-week camp is $250 per child. For information, call Brian Roberts or Veronica Carmona at (559) 651-1482.

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On People in Service and Support

John Kelly John Kelly, principal for the new University Preparatory High School (UPHS) in Visalia, is pictured speaking to the Migrant Education parent group. Mr. Kelly has been speaking to community organizations in an effort to recruit 125 ninth- and tenth-grade students for the school's opening on the College of the Sequoias campus in fall 2009. UPHS was created by Tulare County Office of Education  in partnership with COS  as a high-performance, public high school where students prepare for college and earn college credits. For information on UPHS, visit

Rod Burkett Last month, Rod Burkett, from the Strathmore area, was appointed to serve on the Tulare County Board of Education as trustee for Area 2. Mr. Burkett fills the position left by Leonard Hansen, who retired from the board after 36 years of service. Mr. Burkett served for nine years on the Strathmore Elementary Board of Education and is a member of the California Olive Growers Council and the California Citrus Mutual Board.

Wyatt Vespermann Wyatt Vespermann, a senior at Golden West High School in Visalia, was the recipient of the annual STEM Student Entrepreneur Award  a program supported by the Economic Development Corporation of Tulare County. Wyatt is pictured with Linda Reese, CEO of TUCOEMAS Federal Credit Union, which provided the $1,000 scholarship. He was selected for his work in developing a school-based event promotion business called Trailblazer Concepts. Wyatt plans to attend California State University, Chico this fall.

Get Your Buckle On The Choices office, with support from the California Friday Night Live Partnership and the California Office of Traffic Safety, created a seat belt safety campaign entitled, "Get Your Buckle On." The month of May is being promoted as Tulare County seat belt safety month. If you would like to show your support by displaying one of these free, magnetic stickers on your car, contact Gene Mendes at (559) 651-0155.

Child Care Conference The Child Care Educational Program recently held its annual conference at the McDermont Field House in Lindsay. Organized by Child Care's Resource & Referral Program, the conference featured early childhood expert Bev Bos, who shared her wisdom and performed songs along with her son-in-law Michael Leeman for 760 child care providers from throughout the central San Joaquin Valley.

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Gallery Notes

The Peña Planetarium will hold two special events in May to commemorate the 2009 International Year of Astronomy  a worldwide celebration of the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first recorded astronomical observations with a telescope and Kepler's publication, Astronomia Nova, in which he described the fundamental laws of planetary motions. On Friday, May 15, in conjunction with the showing of a new full-dome feature entitled The Amazing Telescope, the Tulare Astronomical Association (TAA) will offer free instruction for telescope owners who pre-register with the TAA and bring in their telescope. To register, contact Greg Eckes at (559) 739-7270. Those who register will receive a free ticket to that evening's planetarium program. On May 29, three free public presentations of the full-dome program Dawn of the Space Age will be offered at 6:00, 7:00 and 8:00 p.m. One ticket will be distributed to the first 70 people standing in line 30 minutes before each show time. For more information, call (559) 737-6334.

Educational Resource Services was one of 4,000 libraries across the country selected to receive a We the People Bookshelf grant, which includes 17 classic books on the theme of Picturing America and Spanish translations of three of the titles. The grant was awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities in cooperation with the American Library Association. The collection, with titles suitable for all grade levels, includes books about Walt Whitman, Cesar Chavez, Paul Revere and others. For a complete list of books and their availability, call Elainea Scott at (559) 651-3031.

Two Tulare County High Schools were honored by the California Department of Education as part of the 2009 California School Recognition Program (CSRP). Mt. Whitney High School in Visalia and Exeter High School were named California Distinguished Schools for demonstrating educational excellence for all students and progress made in narrowing the achievement gap.

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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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