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The News Gallery

April 2012

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

Contributors to this issue:
Marlene Moreno, Jennifer Fisher, Priscilla Soliz, Shelly DiCenzo, Lorena White, Paula Terrill, Nani Rowland, Nicole Zweifel and Linda Horsting.

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.

Tulare County Science & Engineering Fair
Science projects show imagination, application
Students shine at annual Science & Engineering Fair

Tulare County Science & Engineering Fair With projects ranging from scholarly to practical, Tulare and Kings County students submitted 135 entries to the annual Tulare County Science & Engineering Fair. Ducor Union’s Valery Vigil tested the protection fluoride provides teeth by applying toothpaste to eggshells and then subjecting them to a variety of liquids, including vinegar, lemon, sodas, and coffee. Monache High School’s Madison Meredith (who presented a project at the state championship last year) entered a study on the healthiness of water in Lake Success, using Army Corps of Engineers data for comparison.

Many students were surprised by their results. Henry Pfaff and Kyle Beedle of Three Rivers Union found that reaction times were slower for subjects using hands-free cell phones compared to those using hand-held devices — a discovery that impressed judge Dianne Shew. “You have learned something that has real application in today’s world,” she said. For a list of students who will be taking their projects to the California State Science Fair beginning April 30 in Los Angeles, visit

Photos above:
~ Three Rivers students Henry Pfaff and Kyle Beedle discuss their project with Science Fair judges. The students conducted a study on reaction times, comparing hand-held and hands-free cell phones.
~ Monache High School’s Madison Meredith presents her water study project.

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Science Olympiad teams vie for top honors
Tulare County to host NorCal Science Olympiad at College of the Sequoias April 14

Tulare County Science Olympiad Last month, 37 Tulare County middle and high school teams battled in the annual Science Olympiad for the opportunity to advance to the NorCal Science Olympiad state finals this month. Once the dust settled from over 30 competitions ranging from microbe investigations to mousetrap vehicles, Science Olympiad power houses Redwood High School and Green Acres Middle School of Visalia captured three of the top four team prizes.

Since schools are allowed only one team at the state competition, Redwood High School’s Blue Team will be joined by Exeter Union High School’s White Team, University Preparatory High School and Golden West High School. In the middle school category, Tulare County will be represented by Green Acres Middle School Green Team, St. Aloysius School Blue Team (Tulare), Wilson Middle School Blue Team (Exeter) and Los Tules Middle School (Tulare). The NorCal Science Olympiad will be held April 14 at College of the Sequoias. For more information, visit

Photo above:
~ Gary Cordell of Educational Resource Services assesses Kyle Miller’s efforts in the new Robot Arm competition. Kyle is a junior at Tulare Union High School.

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Children's Mental Health program developed
Program begins supporting students in schools, and awaits opening of Farmersville clinic

Beginning this school year, students needing mental health services will benefit from a more cohesive system of support. For more than 20 years in California, AB3632 established the way students received mental health treatment. On July 1, 2011, AB3632 was rescinded so that California’s student mental health delivery system could function like other states that operate under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

In Tulare County, the Special Services Division was in a unique position to step in and transition students from community center-based services to school-based services. Through conversations with Dr. Cheryl Duerksen (Tulare County’s former Mental Health director who now serves as director for the Health and Human Services Agency), Assistant Superintendent Dr. Marilyn Rankin conceived of the Children’s Mental Health program. The program (like the division’s Bright Future program which serves students with Autism Spectrum Disorder) employs behavioral intervention specialists and mental health clinicians to provide therapy to students at school or at home if the student is unable to attend school.

Under the direction of Dr. Eileen Whelan, Children’s Mental Health takes a behavioral approach to helping students feel better about themselves and improving their success in school. “We are reintegrating mental health services into schools and, in the process, building bridges between students, their families and the schools that serve them,” says Dr. Whelan. Dr. Whelan reports that the program will open a Children’s Mental Health Clinic in Farmersville this month. One of the grants, known as the Preschool Expulsion Prevention Grant, is intended to prevent behavior problems in young children from turning into long-term mental health issues. “I appreciate the initiative of Dr. Rankin and her staff to develop a program which provides students with the continuity of service they deserve,” says County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. For more information about the Children’s Mental Health program, call Dr. Whelan at (559) 730-2910, ext. 6810.

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Eighteen History Day projects bound for state
Students explore "Revolution, Reaction, and Reform in History" at annual competition

Tulare County History Day Searching for a topic within the broad subject of World War II, Kings River students Mariah Chavez, Cinthia Garduno and Victor Perez found a winner. Their group exhibit, Living in the Shadows: Women in the French Resistance, was one of 14 projects in the annual History Day competition selected to advance to the state competition April 27-29 in Riverside.

Mariah and Cinthia were particularly impressed by the four women they researched for their exhibit: Josephine Baker, Irene Gut, Sophie Scholl and Nancy Wake. “We learned that many women were bravely and courageously involved in the war, doing whatever they could to help their countries,” said Cinthia. “And they all said that they wished they could have done more,” added Mariah.

This year, Tulare County schools submitted 49 History Day projects, including historical papers, exhibits, performances, documentaries and historical web sites. For a complete list of the finalists eligible to advance to the state competition, visit

Photo above:
~ Kings River Union’s Victor Perez explains his team’s winning group exhibit project to judges at the annual History Day event. Victor’s teammates are Cinthia Garduno and Mariah Chavez (l-r).

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Gas Company donation supports STEM
Tulare and Kings County after school programs to benefit from science-supporting grant

STEM With very little instruction, students at the after school program at Parkview Middle School in Armona took to the LEGO Mindstorm Robotics presented to their class one afternoon last month — awakening the little machines to perform their computer programmed tasks. The students then learned that their after school program could receive their own set of LEGO kits as part of a grant awarded to Kings and Tulare County after school programs by Southern California Gas Company. Colby Wells, public affairs manager for Southern California Gas Company, explained that the grant was given because his company supports STEM (science, technology, engineering & mathematics) education.

In Tulare County, Dr. Glenn Williams of Educational Resource Services, is working with Choices After School coordinator Virginia Sepeda to develop plans to place and utilize the machines. “These are incredible teaching tools for STEM subjects,” says Dr. Williams. “As a bonus, students are eager to work with them.”

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Spotlight Mike Rayburn will be the keynote speaker at the 20th Annual Tulare County Support Staff Conference Friday, May 4 at the Visalia Convention Center. Known as “The World's Funniest Guitar Virtuoso,” Mike is both a world-class guitarist and a stand-up comedian. Featured in Newsweek, USA Today, and Billboard, he received standing ovations at all eight of his Carnegie Hall shows. Recently, he received the “Best Solo Artist” Award from American Entertainment Magazine. For registration information, visit

Spotlight In the second annual Battle of the Books competition, held March 7, the “Chips ‘n Salsa” team from George McCann School in Visalia beat ”The Intimidators” team from returning champion Eleanor Roosevelt Community Learning Center. The George McCann team includes (l-r) Bridget Byerlee, Brittany Spade, Claire Stetson, Jake Applegate, Makena Dougherty, and Laura Toomey. Twenty-two teams competed in the annual event. Students, grades 6-8, prepared for the competition months ahead by reading from the same core list of book titles. The event organizers plan to add a high school competition next year.

Spotlight The Theatre Company will present its spring performance recital entitled Fabulous Fifties Flashback April 26-28. The production will feature a medley of music from the late 1950s, plus selections from the musicals Grease and Little Shop of Horrors. Redwood High School’s Daniel Townsend stars as “Seymour” in the selections from Little Shop of Horrors. For show times and ticket information, visit www.tcoe.org/TheatreCo.

Spotlight Copies of the 2012-13 Tulare County Farm Bureau Calendar are now available at the front desk of the Burrel Avenue building while supplies last. The theme of the calendar, “Grown Locally, Enjoyed Globally,” was best captured by winning artist Reilley Gaytan, an eighth-grade student at Washington Intermediate School in Dinuba.

Spotlight Last month, students from Harmony Magnet Academy in Strathmore took top honors in the sixth annual Gas Company Student Entrepreneur Challenge. Team members (l-r) Logan Couch, Elizabeth Brown and Daniel Reif impressed the judges with their business concept entitled “BRC Ag Services.” The business would market low-altitude rockets to capture imagery of crops which could be used by farmers to determine water needs.

Spotlight Victoria Prado, a senior at Harmony Magnet Academy, received the annual STEM Entrepreneur Scholarship of $1000, sponsored by TUCOEMAS Federal Credit Union. Victoria is pictured with TUCOEMAS’s Saeed Goraya. The scholarship was created to support students who exhibit an entrepreneurial spirit and plan to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM). Victoria submitted an essay on the potential of developing a business called “Ecoscape,” which would market a home water reclamation system to irrigate lawns and gardens.

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Gallery Notes

On Sunday, April 15, from 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., the Friends of SCICON will be hosting the 51st Annual SCICON Barbecue and Wildflower Festival. All students, families and the general public are invited to SCICON for this beautiful event. The SCICON staff will be on hand to lead wildflower, bird watching, and nature hikes. Musical groups from local schools will provide live entertainment. A delicious meal is provided by the Friends of SCICON with traditional deep pit barbecue. There is no charge to attend for the day. Meal prices are $10 for adults, $5 for seniors (60 & over) and $5 for children (12 years and under.) For more information, please call the SCICON office at (559) 539-2642.

More than a dozen teams of middle school students will attend a red-carpet awards ceremony at the Visalia Fox Theatre April 12 to learn if their service-learning project captured one of the top prizes in the Step Up Youth Challenge. The teams have been working for the past five months to develop a project that could change their school culture and community for the better. Teams could choose to address a wide variety of school culture issues including, but not limited to, gangs, drug abuse, peer pressure, bullying, student self-esteem, and suicide prevention. Final reports were submitted to a committee of the Tulare County Gang Prevention Task Force March 23 for judging. The event, which begins at 7:00 p.m., is open to the public. The top five teams will be awarded grants totaling $15,000.

The Network for a Healthy California program is preparing for its biennial Fruit & Veggie Fest, entitled “Make Every Day Delicious,” scheduled for Saturday, May 19 at the Save Mart Supermarket at 900 W. Henderson in Porterville. Students are encouraged to bring their families to the no-cost event to receive smart shopping tips, plus participate in store tours, physical activities, treasure hunts, and story telling. Tulare County Dairy Princess Alexandra Macedo will also demonstrate how to make strawberry-banana smoothies. For information, call (559) 651-0130.

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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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