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The News Gallery

July/August 2010

RANCHO TESORO - An original new musical by Theatre Company Director Brian Roberts makes its debut for Central Valley audiences this summer.

News Gallery - July/August 2010 Editor: Robert Herman
Public Information Officer
(559) 733-6606

Contributors to this issue:
Christine Chapman, Marlene Moreno, Priscilla Gomez, Shelly DiCenzo, Lorena White, Brian Roberts, Mang Chang, Jeanne Croson, Rick Mitchell and Kathleen Green.

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:
~ Rancho Tesoro characters (l-r) Davis and Matt are played by Jeffrey Prosser and Steven Braswell.

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World premiere of Rancho Tesoro this month
New musical production is rich with characters dealing with life's challenges

Around a campfire on a 150-year-old California cattle ranch, a grizzled cowboy named Davis shares some wisdom with Matt, an angry teen court-ordered to work at the ranch for a DUI conviction. As a man who has battled with alcohol his entire adult life, Davis knows well the dangerous path Matt is traveling. “I’ve been sippin’ this stuff a long time,” Davis says to Matt. “You want to know what I’ve learned? It takes more than it gives.”

Rancho Tesoro Davis and Matt are two characters from an entirely new musical premiering for Tulare County audiences this summer. The musical, entitled Rancho Tesoro, is the work of Theatre Company Director Brian Roberts and several collaborators. “We designed the show around rich, real characters facing life’s challenges,” says Mr. Roberts. “They face them together in a way that celebrates community. For that, they are stronger together.”

Rancho Tesoro The process of writing scenes for Rancho Tesoro began over four years ago Brian Roberts reports. He and songwriter Bill Thornbury then began co-writing the songs over two years ago for characters including Rosa, the ranch owner; Katy, her unhappy daughter; and Javier, the foreman. “The songs have simple, beautiful melodies — the kind that you’ll hum after the show is over,” says Brian Roberts.

Rancho Tesoro “We have been hearing about the new musical for over a year,” says Theatre Company student Steven Braswell. “It’s amazing that we’re now learning it and that it’s so beautiful.”

Rancho Tesoro is a unique challenge for our students,” says Mr. Roberts. “They are having to learn completely unfamiliar material for a brand new production. But, they are doing an absolutely amazing job of it. The most rewarding part of my job is working with such talented young people.” For Rancho Tesoro show times, see the calendar in this issue, or call (559) 651-1482 for more information.

Photos above:
~ Mt. Whitney graduate Makenda Bickmore (foreground) stars as Katy, daughter of the ranch owner.
~ Collaborators Bill Thornbury (l) wrote the music and co-wrote the lyrics with Brian Roberts, while Dan Kehler (r) orchestrated the show.
~ Brian Roberts (r) reviews with Rick Parker the steel structure of a tree and swing that are key set elements.

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SEE Youth sends 400 young people to work
Program prepares low-income youth, including those with special needs

In agencies around the county, several hundred young people began work last month through the Services for Education and Employment (SEE) Summer Youth Program. In central Visalia, Miguel Lupercio and Andrew Woods work at ReStore, a building supplies store operated by Habitat for Humanity. Talking over one another, the young men boast of how they cleaned up an area with electrical supplies on their very first day. “It feels good to be working to help Habitat,” Andrew says.

SEE Youth Across town at El Diamante High School, David Lopez and Chris Vance help facilities manager Brian MacDonald put together benches, while another crew of students, including students with special needs, clean the school’s windows and prune shrubs and trees. “We have an excellent group of students this year and they’re doing great work,” Mr. MacDonald says.

While the program is not as large as the one funded by federal stimulus dollars last summer, SEE Youth Project Coordinator Martha Alexandros reports that over 400 low-income young people are being employed in positions offering 150 to 300 hours this summer. Approximately 200 young people were referred to SEE Youth through the Tulare County Health and Human Services CalWorks program, while the remainder are being funded through Tulare County Workforce Investment Department.

SEE Youth Ms. Alexandros explains that prior to employment, young people received ten hours of enrichment training on topics including workplace ethics, job safety and job readiness. “The thing we’re excited about this year is that participants who complete our training will gain a number of elements they can use in their high school portfolios,” she says. “They will build resumés, job applications, job searches and explore careers. Together with the School-to-Career Program, we are working to build a common “workforce readiness” certification that young people could take to any placement,” she adds.

Photos above:
~ SEE participants Miguel Lupercio and Andrew Woods unload materials destined for sale at ReStore, a building materials store operated by Tulare County Habitat for Humanity.
~ David Lopez (l) and Chris Vance (r) help Brian MacDonald assemble a bench for the El Diamante High School campus. Later this month, program participants will assemble outdoor exercise equipment obtained by the school through a grant.

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MyForest Summit set for September 24-25
Annual event encourages middle school students to care for public lands

MyForest Summit Enrollment for the 2010 MyForest Summit is now open for groups of seventh- through ninth-grade students from throughout the Central Valley. The third annual event, which will be held on the SCICON campus, was conceived by the Three Forests Interpretive Association — an organization which promotes an appreciation of the Sequoia, Sierra and Stanislaus National Forests. The MyForest Summit was designed to strengthen the bond young people have with the outdoors. “We are proud to host the MyForest Summit again this year and be a partner in keeping students involved in outdoor learning,” says SCICON director Rick Mitchell.

From the time students arrive on Friday afternoon until they leave Saturday evening, they will perform conservation projects and participate in fun outdoor activities. The conservation projects will include: tree propagation at the SCICON Tree Nursery; trail improvement at SCICON; wildlife habitat enhancement, including the construction of bird boxes near Bear Creek; the enhancement of a portion of the Tule River for the benefit of aquatic species; and the clean-up of the Vista Point look-out on Highway 190.

“In a very short amount of time, MyForest Summit gives students insight into the world of environmental science and the many career opportunities it holds,” says County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. “We are delighted to support the National Forests in offering this opportunity to our students.” For more information, contact Rick Mitchell at (559) 539-2642.

Photo above:
~ Last year, over 100 middle school students from Tulare, Kern and Fresno counties attended the MyForest Summit to learn environmental science and to take part in conservation projects.

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Gang prevention resource available
Retired Sheriff's Detective Joe Aguilar advises parents and community groups

Retired Sheriff’s Detective Joe Aguilar crisscrosses the county each school year on behalf of the Tulare County Office of Education, speaking to thousands of elementary and middle school students about the dangers of gang involvement and reinforcing the importance of completing their education. Increasingly, parents are asking Mr. Aguilar to talk to them about the signs of gang involvement.

“I am happy to speak to parents and community organizations,” says Mr. Aguilar. “It gives me the opportunity to correct any misinformation they have heard and to assure them that it is not too late for their children to disassociate themselves from these organizations.” Mr. Aguilar, who worked for over ten years with the Sheriff’s Gang Unit, has an extensive knowledge of Tulare County communities and the gang issues in each. To contact him for a presentation, call (559) 471-9544.

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June reception honored 26 retirees
Retirees provided over 560 years of service to the children of Tulare County

The 26 men and women who retired from the Tulare County Office of Education during the 2009-2010 school year gave 565 years of service to programs that serve disabled and non-disabled students ranging from preschool through high school. Last month, the Human Resources Division, under the direction of Assistant Superintendent Jeanne Nava, hosted a reception in their honor.

TCOE 2010 Retirees Fifteen of the retirees had 20 or more years of service, including 25-year teacher of the severely handicapped Diane Caserza. Pictured (center) with County Superintendent Jim Vidak and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Marilyn Rankin, Mrs. Caserza was praised as “an admiral in our fleet” for her role as mentor and master teacher.

TCOE 2010 Retirees The Instructional Services Division also said “goodbye” to several veterans and program managers, including Migrant Education’s Olga Cortez and Joe Calvo, Choices’ Tom Byars, and School Health Program’s Candy Hilvers, who is pictured with Assistant Superintendent Dr. Pansy Ceballos (at mic).

2009/2010 Retirees
Trinidad Agustin (10 years)
- Teacher Assistant, Child Care Educational Program
Nancy Andrews (29 years)
- Neverstreaming Teacher, Special Services
Katherine Barnes (31 years)
- Instructional Assistant, Severely Handicapped Program
Ralph Bourne (29 years)
- Teacher, Severely Handicapped Program
Tom Byars (6 years)
- Program Director, Choices Prevention Programs
Jose Calvo (30 years)
- Program Manager, Migrant Education
Roxanna Campbell (20 years)
- Instructional Assistant, Special Services
Diane Caserza (25 years)
- Teacher, Severely Handicapped Program
Alex Castro (34 years)
- Instructional Assistant, Severely Handicapped Program
Olga Cortez (32 years)
- Program Manager II, Migrant Education
Norma de la Garza (14 years)
- Teacher, Child Care Educational Program
Luisa Duarte (33 years)
- Teacher Assistant, Child Care Educational Program
Irmalinda Gaitan (38 years)
- Teacher, Child Care Educational Program
Elena Hawley (17 years)
- Child Abuse & Neglect Prevention Project Coordinator/ Family Service Worker, School Health Programs
Candice Hilvers (12 years)
- Program Manager, School Health Programs
Vickie Jewell (23 years)
- Teacher, Severely Handicapped Program
Frank Linik (8 years)
- Teacher, California Technology Assistance Project, Instructional Services
Jan Mekeel (6 years)
- Principal, La Sierra Charter High School (Porterville)
Rosalinda Mendoza (14 years)
- Supervisor, Child Care Educational Program
Willah Mitchell (8 years)
- Instructional Assistant, Special Services
Lynda Moller (16 years)
- Teacher, Severely Handicapped Program
Janice Munce (35 years)
- Speech & Language Specialist, Special Services
Sharon Phillips (23 years)
- Project Coordinator, Community Challenge Grant, School Health Programs
Michelle Romero (4 years)
- Intervention Assistant-Early Start, Special Services
JoAnn Sheklian (40 years)
- Instructional Assistant, Severely Handicapped Program
Anna Wiemer (28 years)
- Teacher Assistant, Child Care Educational Program

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On People in Service and Support

Spotlight on People in Service and Support Beatriz Gonzalez celebrated her graduation from La Sierra High School in Porterville last month (left photo). Beatriz was one of 22 seniors to graduate this year during the last commencement ceremony for the program’s Porterville campus. Since the Porterville campus opened in 2003, La Sierra has awarded 118 diplomas. Long-time La Sierra principal Jan Mekeel has retired (right photo with County Superintendent Jim Vidak).

Spotlight on People in Service and Support The Tulare County Youth Council has completed its annual Alcohol Awareness Calendar for the 2010-2011 school year. The calendar includes statistics on underage alcohol use plus inspiring artwork created by Tulare County students. To obtain a copy, call the Choices office at (559) 651-0155.

Spotlight on People in Service and Support In May, two Tulare County elementary schools were recognized in the Nationwide Learning Book Challenge — Springville Union Elementary and John J. Doyle Elementary in Porterville. Of the 26 award winners nationwide, only three — including the two Tulare County schools — were from the west coast. The youngest class of published co-authors came from Pat Sanders’ first-grade class (left photo) at Springville Union Elementary, with a book entitled “Our Character Counts!” Each student contributed illustrations of a specific pillar of character and how they display the trait in daily life. Mrs. Alvarado’s second-grade class from John J. Doyle Elementary (right photo) chose a similar theme, focusing on the importance of recycling. The book, which is entitled “You Can Recycle,” contains student stories and illustrations about why recycling is important for the environment.

Spotlight on People in Service and Support West Putnam Elementary School in Porterville designed and painted a CHARACTER COUNTS! mural. The mural, funded by the Partnership in Character Education Program federal grant, was completed by Carla Taylor (r) and her third-grade class, along with Veronica Aldaco (l) and her sixth-grade students. An iconic American figure was chosen for each of the Six Pillars of Character along with a quote that represented the selected pillar.

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Gallery Notes

This summer, University Preparatory High School (UPHS) on the College of the Sequoias campus (COS) will host a series of Information Nights for students entering 9th, 10th or 11th grades and their parents. The Information Nights will be held July 7 and 15 at COS (Visalia Campus) in the Yokut Building, Room 9, beginning at 6:00 p.m. UPHS students participate in a rigorous academic program which prepares them for success in college and offers college credits for classes taken concurrently through COS. For more information, call Principal John Kelly at (559) 730-2529, or visit

On August 2, the Instructional Services Division will release the 2010-2011 Calendar of Student Events. The calendar contains descriptions and dates for most of the countywide events coordinated by the division. For a copy, call (559) 733-6328, or visit www.tcoe.org for a link on the home page.

Marvin Lopez, lead recruiter for the California Teacher Recruitment Program, recently received two awards from the Tulare County Charter of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA). In addition to being selected Career Technical Educational Administrator of the Year for Tulare County, he received the Ferd. Kiesel Memorial Distinguished Service Award, for the region of Inyo, Kern, Kings, Mono and Tulare counties. The Ferd. Kiesel Award — ACSA’s highest individual honor — is given to someone who has made a significant contribution to public education. Mr. Lopez founded the Sequoia Gateway Program — a non-profit youth development organization to assist high school students further their post-secondary education.

In August, the Peña Planetarium will offer NASA-produced public shows on space exploration Friday evenings, August 20 and 27. These shows utilize the planetarium’s full-dome projection system for a spectacular visual experience. IBEX: Search for the Edge of the Solar System (August 20) and Field Trip to the Moon (August  27) begin at 7:00 p.m. For ticket information, call (559) 737-6334.

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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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