The News Gallery
December 2011/January 2012
Editor: Robert Herman
Public Information Officer
Contributors to this issue:
Marlene Moreno, Jennifer Fisher, Priscilla Soliz, Shelly DiCenzo, Lorena White, Paula Terrill, Jane Mitchell, Rick Mitchell, Donna Orozco, Jeanne Croson and Ray Chavez.
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 Jennifer Fisher at firstname.lastname@example.org or (559) 733-6172 and provide your name and address.
New SCICON cabin completed this month
New cabin adds needed classroom and accommodations for students with special needs
On a bright November afternoon, a group of students visiting SCICON from Westfield Elementary School in Porterville stood on the edge of a new deck, admiring the mountains around them. The incredible deck is just one of many features of the new Special Education Classroom and Cabin due to be completed this month. Located in Eagle Point Village, the 2800-square-foot facility was designed to provide wheelchair-accessible housing for students staying in the village. In addition, the building features a large classroom meeting area for all students. This project, funded by the Office of Public School Construction for the State of California, began in late March.
Inside, the large classroom features a moveable, dividing wall to create separate learning areas. Both sides of the room are equipped with SMART Boards and audiovisual equipment ideal for rainy-day instruction. Students also have access to a pair of restrooms.
“We are delighted to be able to expand the amenities of Eagle Point Village for all students,” says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. “Most importantly, we look forward to offering the once-in-a-lifetime SCICON experience to more students with special needs.”
~ A short bridge, just off the covered arbor, leads students to the new Special Education building.
~ The large deck is ideal for observation and evening astronomy lessons with telescopes.
Program implements trainings, assessments
Child Care's Mentor Coach Project aims to improve instructional quality and outcomes
For two months this year, Instructional Consultant Jane Mitchell visited numerous Child Care Centers, sitting in tiny preschool chairs to meet one-on-one with 735 three- and four-year-olds enrolled in the Head Start Program. Mrs. Mitchell assessed the children’s language and mathematics skills as part of the large Mentor Coach Project, the program launched earlier this year. She says, “My assessments have two purposes — one is to provide a baseline for comparing student performance to a second test we will conduct in January. The other purpose is to show Child Care teachers how to conduct the tests in the future.”
Since last spring, teachers in 13 Child Care centers have been receiving training and coaching on practical ways to improve their classrooms and outcomes. “The assessments and trainings are key to our efforts to increase instructional quality and accountability,” says Child Care administrator Ray Chavez. The trend toward increasing quality and accountability began with the federal Head Start program and mirrors the trend in schools throughout the nation. “The things that haven’t changed about our Head Start Program are that we continue to serve the neediest students and we involve parents in every step of the process,” says Mr. Chavez. “Through this Mentor Coach Project, we want to identify any gaps in our teaching and look for ways to improve instruction so our students receive the highest quality education and enter kindergarten on level with the other students.” The project is being funded through a $225,000 Head Start grant for Early Learning Mentor Coaches. The Tulare County Child Care Educational Program was one of only 131 organization nationally to receive the grant.
Mrs. Mitchell uses a Houghton Mifflin (HM) assessment that ties to the preschool curriculum most Child Care centers are now using. The assessment includes phonological awareness, letter knowledge, oral language comprehension and number sense. Throughout the process, Support Technician Christina Sartuche assists Mrs. Mitchell with data collection and organization.
For several months, Child Care supervisors, teachers and teachers’ assistants have been receiving training from Head Start consultants on topics such as social/emotional development, school readiness, classroom environments, literacy, science and math. This training, coupled with reflected supervision, supports long-term professional development for teachers and staff. Mr. Chavez reports that teachers have become more aware of the emotional climate of their classrooms, which affects how children learn. Teachers are also now using techniques to help children build critical thinking skills which in turn build language and communication abilities.
“We appreciate the support of Jane Mitchell and Christina Sartuche to establish a process for assessing our students,” says Mr. Chavez. “We especially appreciate the hard work the staff is doing to meet these challenges.”
~ Instructional Consultant Jane Mitchell assesses Emma Mendez’s understanding of the beginning phonological sounds for each picture. Emma is a student at the Senaida Garcia Center in Visalia.
Employee milestones total over 2,500 years
Human Resources honors employees for service to students and districts
This fall, 176 employees celebrated service milestones, dedicating over 2,500 years of their lives to the students of Tulare County.
Last month, the Human Resources Division and the Child Care Educational Program’s Human Resources department marked the milestone anniversaries of 161 employees who have served 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, and 40 years in various programs. The Child Care Educational Program also recognized 15 employees who have served the program for five years.
The employees with the longest service this year included 40-year veteran Cheryl Hinton, a teacher of the severely handicapped; and 35-year veterans Robin Artin, an instructional assistant in the severely handicapped program, Kevin Humann, maintenance supervisor at SCICON, and Mary Alvarado, a teachers’ assistant for the Woodlake Child Care Center #1. The complete list of honorees is below.
~ Last month, 35-year veterans Robin Artin and Kevin Humann were honored at a dinner at “210” in Visalia.
~ Mary Alvarado, a teachers’ assistant with the Child Care Educational Program in Woodlake has also served 35 years.
Ray Chavez steers Child Care through changes
Child Care Educational Program administrator set to retire in January
For the past seven years, Ray Chavez has been at the helm of the Child Care Educational Program, one of the county office of education’s largest programs. During this time, Child Care’s major funder, the federal Head Start Program, imposed new requirements for staff educational attainment and classroom instruction — all for improved quality and accountability. With these new requirements in front of him, Mr. Chavez has captained the 650-employee program to new waters, doing so with reduced resources. The 44-year public service veteran is now embarking on a new voyage — retirement.
“Ray has done a remarkable job of leading the program through the changes created on the state and federal levels,” says County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. “His love for children and his staff, and his deep-seated desire to deliver the absolute best service for our students and their families has served us well through some difficult years.”
“It has been pleasure to serve with a staff so dedicated to the education and well-being of our children, as well as their parents,” says Ray Chavez. “These have been some of the most rewarding years of my career.”
The annual Student Art Exhibitions opened in late November, displayed on the walls of the Education Center at 2637 W. Burrel in Visalia. On view are dozens of works from schools in districts beginning with the letters R-W, including a mask by Amna Qamen from La Joya Middle School in Visalia. Artwork from districts beginning with the letters A-P will be displayed from January 9 - March 2. In March, pieces that receive a “Best of Show” honor in the November-December or January-February exhibitions, will be shown in the annual “Best of Show” Exhibition. A reception honoring the Best of Show artists will be held in the Education Center on March 22.
SCICON was one of seven Tulare County Office of Education programs featured at the annual Kids Festival at the Visalia Convention Center on November 19. SCICON administrator Rick Mitchell was on hand to provide visitors with information about the program and to promote the school’s Summer Academy. The Summer Academy is a week-long educational camp for students entering grades 6-8 in Fall 2012. Students will be involved in a variety of outdoor and academic activities. The Academy will be held at SCICON twice: June 17-22 and June 24-29, 2012. Visit www.tcoe.org/scicon/SummerAcademy for more information.
The Community Advisory Committee (CAC) is pleased to announce that its annual “Meeting Challenges” calendar is available at no cost at the Burrel Avenue office. This year, the organization has chosen to highlight students with special needs from throughout Tulare County who are finding academic and social success through the support of their families, schools or communities.
Last month, the 2011 CyberQuest event attracted 73 teams from schools in Tulare and Kings counties. The teams compete by preparing multimedia presentations on pre-assigned topics. Harmony Magnet Academy in Strathmore took home the top prize in the high school category for their presentation on creating a film about democracy in the Middle East. In their presentation, the Harmony Magnet team, coached by John Hammelmann, made an appeal to potential investors, giving reasons why they should fund their documentary on the emergence of democracy in Egypt. View the complete CyberQuest competition results.
On Saturday, January 28, former foster youth Dee Hankins will speak at the fifth annual Access to Higher Education event, which is a program designed to motivate and educate foster youth in Tulare and Kings Counties about the opportunities they have in college. Students attending the event will have an opportunity to meet with representatives from ten area colleges, and receive special instruction on applying for financial aid.
This spring, the Theatre Company has two exciting children’s musical theater productions available for elementary schools to perform on their own campuses. The Theatre Company’s ON STAGE Program assists schools with the elements needed for a successful production, including sets, costumes, auditions and rehearsals. To learn more about the program, or to book a production of Disney’s The Aristocats Kids or Alice in Wonderland, call the Theatre Company at (559) 651-1482.
The 2011 Red Ribbon committee is pleased to report over $1600 in donations were received during the week-long event. The committee selected CASA of Tulare County (Court Appointed Special Advocates) to receive the proceeds. CASA trains advocates to support abandoned, abused or neglected children in court. Chairperson Jennifer Fisher wishes to thank everyone who participated in the 2011 Red Ribbon activities.
Parents and middle school students in the Porterville area interested in learning more about high school, college and career options are invited to attend the annual College Offers Opportunities for Life (COOL) Night. This year, COOL Night will be held at Porterville High School on January 18 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Students will have an opportunity to attend workshops on preparing for high school and college, as well as speak with students and staff members representing various clubs and programs at Porterville’s high schools.
Human Resources will hold its annual Holiday Tea Friday, December 2 at the Burrel Avenue office. This year, Human Resources is collecting items for women in the county’s Battered Women’s Shelters. For event details and a list of needed items, view the flyer.
The Region VII After School Program will hold its annual Winter Conference January 4 at College of the Sequoias. The no-cost event is open to After School personnel and includes a full day of enrichment and timely instructional workshops. For more details, call Diane Wilcock at (559) 651-0155.
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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