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The News Gallery

October 2009

BUILDING SKILLS, SERVING OTHERS - La Sierra Military Academy students find their new trade skills are valued by local organizations

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

Contributors to this issue:
Christine Antilla, Marlene Moreno, Priscilla Gomez, Shelly DiCenzo, Lorena White, Tina Shirley, Roger Brown, René Moncada, John Passarelli and John Kelly.

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.

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Building trades class contributes to museum
La Sierra Military Academy students gain valuable experience while serving others

LSMA Building Trades class Students in John Passarelli's building trades program at La Sierra Military Academy are learning how to apply joint compound to drywall. In his demonstration, Mr. Passarelli explains the technique for putting the plaster-like material on the wall to cover the seams and imperfections. Mr. Passarelli emphasizes the care students must take in their application, "When this is dry and painted, you don't want your client coming back to you saying that they can see waves or ripples."

LSMA Building Trades class The client he is referring to is the County of Tulare. His students have been working on the construction of some artifact pedestals  or vitrines  and moveable exhibition walls for the County's new Museum of Farm Labor and Agriculture in Mooney Grove Park. The work for the new museum is the first large-scale community service project for the building trades class, which Mr. Passarelli has taught at the campus in Visalia for five years. Under his watchful eye, students apply the compound to the vitrines as he follows closely behind with supportive instruction and a quick trowel to correct any flaws. "We are enthusiastic about supporting the new museum," says County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak, "particularly when our students can contribute and see that their work is very valuable."

LSMA Building Trades class In building trades, students learn mathematics while constructing or repairing projects on site, such as the building remodel completed when the school added middle school students. "I also strive to teach students to observe and appreciate the built environment around them," says John Passarelli. "It's a skill that can make them better consumers."

Building trades is just one of three career-oriented elective strands available at the school; graphic design and a new culinary arts program are also offered. "Each of these strands offers students hands-on education and the possibility of turning valuable skills into financial opportunities," says La Sierra Administrator René Moncada.

Photos above:
~ Building trades instructor John Passarelli reviews a video on drywall construction.
~ Students construct the artifact pedestal units that will be used in the new Tulare County Museum of Farm Labor and Agriculture, which will open this fall in Mooney Grove Park.

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Students dive into challenging academics
New University Preparatory High School opens on COS campus

University Preparatory High School In 60+ years, the science building on the College of the Sequoias campus has welcomed thousands of new students, but none quite like the ones that arrived August 24. They were high school students and they were making the old chemistry labs their permanent home. Seventy-five freshmen and sophomores arrived to begin a pioneering new program for Tulare County  University Preparatory High School (UPHS).

University Preparatory High School "We have a great deal to celebrate after our first month of school at UPHS," says Principal John Kelly. "We are fortunate to have an incredible faculty and the full support of administrators here at COS. The greatest reward though is seeing our students deeply engaged in their classes and learning the skills that will prepare them for college."

One of the school's key benefits is that students can also enroll in COS classes and receive college credit. Mr. Kelly reports that they can choose up to 11 college credits this semester, including three units of library science, four units of human development/counseling, and four units of computer.

University Preparatory High School The school's core academic classes and COS courses are only part of the picture. With an extended-day schedule, UPHS students are also enrolled in a variety of elective classes, including art, dance, music, community service and photography. Students in the photography class are enjoying the use of new digital cameras thanks to a generous gift from the Visalia Church of the Nazarene.

"The development of University Preparatory High School has been remarkable," says County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "The rich academic experience UPHS students now enjoy is due to John Kelly's strong vision for the school and years of development support from Dr. Pansy Ceballos, our assistant superintendent of instructional services, our instructional consultants and COS president Dr. Bill Scroggins."

Photos above:
~ Students in Warren Sargent's Computer 130 class can earn four college credits this semester.
~ Art instructor Michelle Bussey demonstrates watercolor technique in her class.
~ Many students in Dennis Mack's class are first-time musicians.

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Adult program makes cuddly toys for others
Visalia Community Based Instruction class and Clay Cafe distribute stuffed animals

Visalia Community Based Instruction Flat and forgotten  70 unstuffed teddy bears, bunnies and tigers sat in the attic of the Clay Cafe for years. "I discovered them as I began to pack for our relocation to our new gallery downtown," says the owner of the local ceramics workshop, Debbie Karr. "Although I had forgotten that I had them, I knew just who could help me get them into the hands of children who would enjoy them."

Visalia Community Based Instruction Ms. Karr approached Roger Brown about having his students stuff the little creatures and donate them to organizations serving children. Mr. Brown leads the Visalia Community Based Instruction (CBI) class  one of eight CBI classes operated by the Special Services Division for adults ages 18-22 with special needs. "We were delighted to have the work," said Mr. Brown, who teaches his students life skills like reading, math, personal hygiene, money management, etiquette, phone and computer usage, and how to access public transportation. "I am always telling them that they are adults now and they need to look for ways that they can give back to our community. This is a perfect project to illustrate how they can do that."

Visalia Community Based Instruction Ms. Karr and her staff worked with the Visalia CBI students on ceramics projects in the past, so they welcomed the opportunity to see her again. "I was impressed at how well and how quickly they worked," she says. The students stuffed 50 animals in one hour. When she returned later to finish the animals, she asked, "Did anyone have sore fingers from stuffing these bears?" The class erupted in agreement.

The class began its distribution of stuffed animals last month at Special Services' Bright Start Parent/Infant Program. "Bright Start is the program that helped many of these students when they were toddlers," says Mr. Brown. "So, it's a natural place to begin showing our students how they can serve others."

Photos above:
~ Anthony Kilgore shows off a completed bear.
~ Clay Cafe owner Debbie Karr looks on as Claro Machacon stuffs a teddy bear.
~ CBI student Jerry Talamantez delights a child at the Bright Start program with a new toy. Visalia-area businesses interested in learning more about the CBI program can call Roger Brown at (559) 730-2644.

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Awards program now in its fifteenth year
Excellence in Education winners to be honored this month

The Tulare County Office of Education and its partner, the Educational Employees Credit Union, are celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Excellence in Education Awards program  a program the credit union co-sponsors in several other central valley counties. On October 7, local educational leaders will gather at the Visalia Convention Center to honor Tulare County's best administrators, teachers and school employees. This year, a total of 33 nominations were received from Tulare County school districts and the office of education. In April, a 15-member selection committee scored each nomination to determine the winners.

"This year's winners are truly remarkable in the way they seek both academic and social development for every student," says County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "Their dedication isn't limited to their campus; it extends to each student's family and their community."

Excellence in Education Administrator of the Year Dave Tonini, principal at Green Acres Middle School in Visalia, has led his school to achieve the highest Academic Performance Index of any middle school in the county during the 2007-2008 school year. He has also created a safe, effective learning environment where students feel they belong due in part to a program called WEB (Where Everyone Belongs) Leaders, which pairs seventh-grade students with eighth-grade mentors. He says, "The work we do is all about student success, character development and academic achievement."

Excellence in Education Michael Young is the Teacher of the Year and an engaging science teacher at Tulare Western High School. He also serves as the school's cross-country and track coach. Mr. Young has found that his position as an athletic coach is invaluable to his classroom teaching. He believes that some of the most important lessons are not just the wonders of biology or how to run a fast mile, but that working hard to achieve a goal can be the most rewarding thing one can ever do. An alumnus of Tulare Western who benefited from Mr. Young's superior teaching and coaching skills described him as having the ability to connect with virtually anyone, making them feel, "like they are part of a family."

Excellence in Education Letty Magallan is the office manager for Freedom Elementary School in Farmersville and the School Employee of the Year. Her effective communication skills and caring nature ensure the atmosphere in the office is calm. Mrs. Magallan continually looks for ways to improve operations or to make staff, parents and students feel more comfortable. She developed a parent appreciation event, soliciting donations from local companies to be used in gift baskets. She is also a California Based English Tutoring instructor, who has worked to teach English to Spanish-speaking parents. She not only teaches parents English, but helps them understand how schools work and the importance of education for them and for their children.

Photos above:
~ 2009 Excellence in Education winners Dave Tonini, administrator of the year;
~ Michael Young, teacher of the year; and
~ Letty Magallan, school employee of the year will be honored at the annual breakfast event October 7.

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On People in Service and Support

Spotlight on People in Service and Support Physics Day at the Tulare County Fair attracted more than 625 middle school students this year. While students had fun on rides, electronic probes fastened inside vests did the work of collecting data on velocity, force and altitude. Following the event, Instructional Science Consultant Jon Janzen provided the students' data and software to teachers for classroom analysis.

In September, Monson-Sultana Elementary participated in The National Anthem Project, which promotes the memorization and performance of the song. Music teacher Mary Paul also composed a CHARACTER COUNTS! song, which the student body sang. Following the assembly, a number of students posed by the school's new CHARACTER COUNTS! mural, designed by Three Rivers artist Nadi Spencer.
Spotlight on People in Service and Support
The Tulare County Child Care Planning Council hosted both a breakfast and a summit conference last month to highlight how children with special needs benefit when they are included in traditional child care programs. The breakfast event, attended by over 200 community and business leaders, included the presentation of the second annual Business & Children Award. The award was designed to recognize local businesses for their child-friendly employment practices. Don Presser, site controller for UPS Visalia, accepted this year's award. Following the breakfast, nearly 375 child care providers, teachers and administrators attended the summit conference. The conference keynote speaker was Dr. Temple Grandin, who was diagnosed with autism at age two. Dr. Grandin, an author and a noted professor of animal science, captivated the audience with her insights on living with autism.
Spotlight on People in Service and Support
Spotlight on People in Service and Support At the Tulare County Fair, the Eleanor Roosevelt Community Learning Center won a $300 prize for their booth which featured a bowling alley made out of pumpkins and other items grown by the students. Superintendent Klara East reports that the prize will be used to build an outdoor kitchen for the school.

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Gallery Notes

TCOE will celebrate Red Ribbon Week October 26-30. The week-long event is an opportunity for employees to make a visible stand against drugs, showing their commitment to a drug-free lifestyle through the symbol of the red ribbon. For 2009, committee members Marlene Moreno (chair), Jana Rice, Mary Baltazar, Paula Terrill, Priscilla Gomez, Juanita Schlag, Lorena White, Katie Moore, Marie Holguin, Tony Cavanagh, Elizabeth Rivas, Kathleen Green, Caitlin Layton, and Karen Phillips have chosen the theme My Life, My Choice...Drug Free. Proceeds from the sale of t-shirts and other items will be donated to CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates of Tulare County), a non-profit organization that advocates for abused, neglected and abandoned children in Tulare County. Copies of the t-shirt order form and a schedule of activities will be available online at

On October 3, Court/Community School Program Manager Angel Vazquez will be honored at the 10th Annual Hispanic Heritage Awards Banquet & Ball, sponsored by the Tulare County Hispanic Roundtable. Mr. Vazquez, who was selected for one of the education awards, has been program manager for the Court/Community schools for 16 years. He was nominated by County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak for the implementation of the schools' ethics training program utilizing the CHARACTER COUNTS! Program. The program, which has been replicated by similar schools around the state, is credited with turning around the lives of many of Tulare County's most at-risk youth.

Last month, Soroptimist International of Visalia honored Child Care Training Coordinator Donna Orozco with one of three Making a Difference for Women Awards. Ms. Orozco was nominated for the award by Visalia City Manager Steve Salomon for her work with the Friends of the Fox organization which restored and reopened the Fox Theater. Ms. Orozco serves on several other community boards and teaches journalism at the College of the Sequoias.

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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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