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The News Gallery

March 2012

Editor: Robert Herman
Public Information Officer
(559) 733-6606

Contributors to this issue:
Marlene Moreno, Jennifer Fisher, Priscilla Soliz, Shelly DiCenzo, Lorena White, Jaime Burnitzki, Irene Barba, Frank Escobar, Sr. and Adam Valencia.

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 jenniferf@tcoe.org or (559) 733-6172 and provide your name and address.

SEE after school program
SEE pilots after school program with Pro-Youth
Golden West students benefit from program's long history of food service education

SEE after school program Students fill the demonstration kitchen classroom at Golden West High School to participate in a new enrichment class offered by Services for Education & Employment (SEE) in partnership with Visalia Unified’s after school provider, Pro-Youth. At the head of the classroom under the mirrored demonstration table is veteran SEE hospitality instructor Carol Callahan. She is showing students how to make simple pizzas from English muffins. “The purpose of the class is to give students some basic cooking skills they can use once they live on their own,” says Ms. Callahan. Golden West junior Megan Salazar appreciates the focus of the class saying, “I hope to gain the skills to put meals together without having to follow a recipe, using ingredients I have available.”

In the seven-week pilot course, Ms. Callahan plans to cover a variety of simple recipes, table etiquette, gourmet coffee making (using SEE’s espresso machine), food service, proper use of cooking utensils, and fruit and vegetable preparation. Carol Callahan, who worked for many years at The Vintage Press, may even use her connections in the local restaurant business to have a chef visit her classroom. If the class is popular, SEE administrators hope to offer it through other high school after school programs.

Photos above:
~ Golden West students enjoy their new after school cooking class.
~ Hospitality instructor Carol Callahan has plans to offer a variety of food preparation, service and etiquette instruction.

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Students brew successful coffee business
Through Woodlake High on-campus business, students learn new vocational, social skills

Woodlake High School's Tiger Fusion Irene Barba has found just the right vehicle to make a good impression — a coffee cart. Ms. Barba is a teacher who is leading a new Tulare County Office of Education classroom for the severely handicapped on the Woodlake High School campus. The coffee service, which is offered daily to faculty and staff, is a way to integrate her students into the campus culture while developing their vocational skills.

“The students really love the responsibility and the recognition,” says Ms. Barba. Through the service, known as “Special Brew,” students are learning customer service, cleanliness, measuring and how to make change. In order to sell coffee on campus, Ms. Barba had to establish a school club, recognized by the Associated Student Body (ASB). The new club, which was named Tiger Fusion, includes dozens of regular education students committed to supporting Ms. Barba’s class.

“My students have grown tremendously through this experience,” says Ms. Barba. “The more challenging the task, the more they enjoy it. They have even developed a coffee called the Librarian Special, which consists of French Vanilla, hot chocolate and medium-roast coffee,” she laughs. Special Brew sounds like a welcome addition to any day!

Photo above:
~ Members of Woodlake High School’s Tiger Fusion Club, who market the Special Brew coffees on campus, are (l-r) Dakota Sanchez, Gabby Medina, Jorge Quezada and Roberto Caballero.

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Grant helps to build partnerships, practices
Choices Program chosen to oversee Student Mental Health Initiative in six counties

The importance and availability of student mental health services throughout California will soon receive more attention and resources due to the statewide Student Mental Health Initiative created by the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) and the California Mental Health Services Administration. In Central California, the Tulare County Office of Education’s Choices Program was selected to be one of 11 statewide regional leads for the initiative.

Choices Program Supervisor Adam Valencia is excited about the opportunity to help county offices of education in Region 7 (Fresno, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced and Tulare) identify and share evidence-based practices that are making a difference in the lives of K-8 students. Programs will be sought to address the issues of depression, suicide and discrimination. “We have had a great partnership with the Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency for many years,” says Mr. Valencia. “I look forward to working with colleagues in other counties to identify potential partners and share the programs that are working for them.” To share the best practices used throughout the region, Mr. Valencia reports that a web-based repository will be created to house videos and other training materials.

The project will take three years to develop and involve gathering of resources, mentoring and implementation. “I appreciate the work Adam and his staff are doing to help county offices and districts connect funding opportunities, identify and share effective programs, and build a strong network of partners to support the mental health of our students,” says County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak.

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Small school wins big at Academic Decathlon
Harmony Magnet Academy becomes first small school to win competition in decades

Academic Decathlon Perhaps for the first time in the 30 years of Academic Decathlon in Tulare County, the smallest school was the overall winner. In Tulare County, high schools compete in either the large or small school categories depending on their enrollment, with trophies given to the overall champion in each. After winning the small schools division, Harmony Magnet Academy in Strathmore emerged victorious over all large school teams, including nine-time champion Granite Hills High School. As the overall winner, Harmony Magnet earned the right to compete in the state finals this month in Sacramento.

The winning team, known as “The Rebel Alliance,” received 33 individual medals, two first-place plaques, two individual trophies and a total of 30,768.6 points. The Rebel Alliance team, coached by John DeNicola, includes Edfil Dulay, David Dunn, Grant Innis, Nick Milner, Doug Murdock, Matt Nguyen, Jane Silva, Cassidy Vanasen, and Lorenzo Vargas.

Photo above:
~ Coach John DeNicola (l) and members of Harmony Magnet Academy’s winning team enjoy their recent victory at Academic Decathlon. The team will compete at the state finals March 15 in Sacramento.

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New Street Gangs in Tulare County available
Resource booklet for parents, schools and community updated and expanded

Street Gangs of Tulare County Street Gangs in Tulare County, the reliable community resource published by the Tulare County Office of Education for more than a decade, has been updated. Thanks to Court/Community School Truancy/Intervention Officer Louie Thomas, working in partnership with the booklet’s original editor Mel Borbolla, Street Gangs in Tulare County has grown to include up-to-date information on established and emerging street gangs, evolving forms of communication, and advice for parents concerned that their child may be becoming gang-involved.

Copies of the booklet are available by calling County Superintendent Jim Vidak’s office at (559) 733-6302. “We welcome schools, parent groups, churches and civic organizations to contact us for copies of the book,” says Mr. Vidak. “The material becomes even more applicable when it is part of a personal presentation by our gang prevention specialist Joe Aguilar. For that reason, we urge all interested community groups to have Mr. Aguilar come and speak to them.” Joe Aguilar can be reached at (559) 471-9544. The booklets and the community presentations are provided at no cost.

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Spotlight Earlimart Middle School’s Team 2 took home the top prize in the annual Anti-Tobacco Challenge Bowl, hosted by the Choices Program. The game show-style competition, which attracted a record-breaking 24 teams, tests the sixth-grade participants’ knowledge of the harmful effects of tobacco use and the tobacco industry. The Earlimart team, which includes (l-r) Luiz Esparza, Daisy Garcia, Omar Prieto, Raul Esquivel and Lizet Ayon, credits their coach Beverly Mamaril (r) for helping them prepare for the competition.

Spotlight After 15 grueling rounds and over 225 tough competitors, Bridget Byerlee, a seventh-grade student at George McCann School in Visalia, earned the top speller honors at the annual Tulare County Spelling Championship February 22. Bridget, pictured with County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak and Spelling Master Scot Hillman, will compete in the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. beginning May 27.

Spotlight The Lisa Project, the powerful, interactive exhibition exploring child abuse through the eyes of children, is returning to Tulare County for National Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month in April. The Tulare County Child Abuse Prevention Council (TCCAPC) is sponsoring the free exhibition, which will be on display in the Sears parking lot at the intersection of Caldwell and Mooney in Visalia. The Lisa Project will be open Thursday - Sunday (except Easter) beginning Friday, March 30. For exhibition hours and more information, contact the TCCAPC at (559) 745-0456, or visit

Spotlight Sitting before Tulare County Superior Court Presiding Judge Melinda Reed at the Mock Trial finals last month, the Tulare Union High School team successfully presented, argued and cross examined their way to victory again this year. Tulare Union defeated challenger Redwood High School (varsity team) to earn a spot at the state competition this month in Sacramento. Benjamin Borges, who played a defense attorney for the Tulare Union team, gave a stirring closing argument.

Spotlight Visitors to the Burrel Avenue office in Visalia this month can enjoy over 100 drawings, paintings and sculptures in the “Best of Show” Student Art Exhibition. One of the pieces featured in the show is a wonderful pencil drawing by Jose Velasquez, a senior at Woodlake High School. The exhibition is open Monday - Friday from 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. A public reception honoring the student artists will be held in the Education Center 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. on March 22.

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Gallery Notes

Support Staff Rocks! is the theme of the 20th Annual Tulare County Support Staff Conference scheduled for Friday, May 4 at the Visalia Convention Center. The full-day event is both a personal enrichment opportunity and a celebration of the work school secretaries, aides and district office staff perform for Central Valley students. The conference will feature inspirational speakers, lively student entertainment and a variety of breakout presenters on topics ranging from personal wellness to timely educational issues. For more information, contact Marlene Moreno at (559) 733-6302.

First 5 Tulare County is seeking nominations for its annual Hands-On Heroes Award. The award recognizes unsung individuals who have gone “above and beyond” in supporting children ages 0-5. Heroes can be preschool teachers or aides, preschool support staff, health care workers, speech therapists, and others. Nominations, which are due March 30, can be found on the First 5 Tulare County website at
www.first5tc.org. Recipients will be acknowledged at an event on April 26 at the Visalia Holiday Inn. For more information, call First 5 Tulare County at (559)  622-8650.

Last month, Southern California Edison presented the Tulare County Office of Education with its Community Partner Award for work in furthering the study of local African American history. The honor was given at the company’s second annual Black History Celebration event. County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak shared the award with History/Social Science Instructional Consultant Marsha Ingrao, Impact Center Supervisor Sara Sutton, Educational Resource Services Library Services Manager Beth Olshewsky and Public Information Officer Robert Herman.

The public is invited to see the annual Young Authors Faire this year at the Doe Avenue complex (Elderwood Room). Books written and illustrated by over 100 young K-8 authors will be on display for reading and comment during normal business hours through Friday, March 2.

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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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