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The News Gallery

November 2013

View and print a pdf version of this News Gallery.
Editor: Robert Herman
Public Information Officer
(559) 733-6606

Contributors to this issue:
Marlene Moreno, Jennifer Fisher, Lorena White, Shelly DiCenzo, Mike Franco, Kelley Petty, Cherí Barnes, Felicia Bernard, Tiffany Stark, LouAnn Lubben, Charlotte Garcia and Randy Wallace.

The News Gallery is published monthly with the exception of double issues printed for July/August and December/January. To receive the News Gallery, visit www.tcoe.org/GetTheGallery, or contact Jennifer Fisher at jenniferf@tcoe.org or (559) 733-6172.

Preschool Expulsion Reduction Program
Program works to reduce preschool expulsion
Special Services leads teachers, parents to build social "life skills," reduce problem behavior

Even veteran educators are surprised to learn that preschoolers are expelled at a rate three times that of students in grades K-12. To mitigate this statistic and to prevent future behavioral issues in school, a team from the Behavioral Health Services program, within the Special Services Division, has been working with preschool teachers, students and parents over the past three years.

The grant-funded Preschool Expulsion Reduction Program has provided social skills training using the Preschool Life Skills Curriculum for nearly 400 preschool children in 30 classrooms throughout the county since November 2010. Trainings designed to teach parents effective, positive behavioral support strategies and interventions have also been provided to more than 250 parents in the last three years. In addition, 375 TCOE and other preschool staff members have been trained in the Preschool Life Skills Curriculum and are implementing the curriculum in classrooms. The overall program objective is to decrease the number of preschool expulsions by reducing problem behaviors and increasing the development of positive social skills to prevent potential long-term social and educational difficulties.

When a child is in danger of expulsion, the Behavioral Health Services team is contacted. The team works with children in both private and public preschools to conduct a formal behavioral assessment. In order to serve a child under the grant, he or she must meet one of several criteria, including being a child in foster care, being a child who is showing early signs of mental illness, being a child in a stressed family or one exposed to a traumatic event or prolonged traumatic condition.

Preschool Expulsion Reduction Program In the past three years, over 30 children at risk of being expelled have been admitted to the program to work one-on-one with a behavioral intervention assistant. The assistant generally spends 2-3 hours each day for 6-9 months until the child successfully masters the Life Skills curriculum, which has 13 key skills that are taught in sequence. The 13 life skills are built around the following themes: following instruction, functional communication, tolerating delays and being a friend. The program not only teaches social skills, but helps children recover from setbacks and build resiliency so that additional services are not needed as they advance to primary school. Felicia Bernard, a rehabilitation specialist/case manager with the program, reports that 96% of the children admitted to the program mastered the life skills and remained in their preschools.

The program also carries a mandatory parent training component. Ms. Bernard says that parents have appreciated the training for themselves and their children. Because the parent training is conducted in a group setting, "they have also benefitted from the social support that the program provides." Even parents, who have initially resisted the program, have become advocates of the training. "One parent, who works in special education, was upset that her son had been assessed for the program, feeling that it would lead to a mental health diagnosis," says Ms. Bernard. "I explained that the techniques and strategies that we were training her to use were generalized to behaviors and not specific to a diagnosis. By the end of the trainings, she became one of our most enthusiastic supporters."

The grant, which is a Prevention & Early Intervention (PEI) program funded by the state Mental Health Services Act, was provided by the Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency. "We are so thankful to have had the support to provide this service," says Tiffany Stark, program specialist with Behavioral Health Services. "Through the expulsion reduction program, we have given many children the social skills they need to be successful in school. We're also proud that we have been able to support preschool teachers who may not have had behavioral intervention training."

Ms. Stark reports that the initial evaluation of the program showed that trained teachers were capable of implementing the program with high integrity. Teachers saw problem behavior reduced by 70% while the occurrence of critical social skills increased by over 400%. "This is excellent news for replicating the program's successes into the future," she says.

For more information on the Preschool Expulsion Reduction Program, contact Tiffany Stark at (559) 730-2910, extension 5147, or Felicia Bernard at (559) 737-6710.

Photos above:
~ Allie Gutierrez, a behavior intervention assistant, works with the Preschool Expulsion Reduction Program to build students' social skills and resiliency utilizing the Preschool Life Skills Curriculum. The program has had a 96% success rate in improving behavior and avoiding expulsion.

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Oklahoma! coming to L.J. Williams Theater
Theatre Company to perform Rodgers and Hammerstein's great American musical

This month, the Theatre Company will perform four public performances of the classic American musical, Oklahoma!. Students have been working this semester to prepare their production of the high-spirited musical, which recently celebrated its 70th anniversary, debuting on Broadway in March 1943.

Theatre Company's fall production 'Oklahoma!' Oklahoma! was the first musical written by the team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Set in Oklahoma Territory outside the town of Claremore in 1906, it tells the story of cowboy Curly McLain and his romance with farm girl Laurey Williams. Tiger Ricks, a junior at Eleanor Roosevelt Community Learning Center, will play Curly. Kaley McConnaughey, a freshman at Redwood High School, will play Laurey.

The Theatre Company will perform Oklahoma! November 21, 22 and 23 at 7:00 p.m. at the L.J. Williams Theater in downtown Visalia. A 2:00 p.m. matinee will also be offered on Saturday, November 23. Beginning November 1, tickets will be available at two Visalia locations: Tulare County Office of Education, 2637 W. Burrel Ave.; and Educational Resource Services, 7000 Doe Ave., Suite A. General admission tickets are $10 per person. Tickets will also be available at the theater box office prior to each performance.

"The original Broadway production of Oklahoma! solidified musical theatre as a permanent art form," says Brian Roberts, Theatre Company director. "The show has been loved by audiences everywhere ever since. The Theatre Company is delighted to celebrate the 70-year tradition of Oklahoma! with our own energetic production featuring an amazing group of Tulare County students." The original Broadway production ran for an unprecedented 2,212 performances, later enjoying award-winning revivals, national tours, foreign productions and an Academy Award-winning 1955 film adaptation.

Oklahoma! Cast
Curly McLain played by Tiger Ricks, a junior at Eleanor Roosevelt Community Learning Center
Laurey Williams played by Kaley McConnaughey, a freshman at Redwood High School
Aunt Eller played by Julia Galvan, an 8th-grader at Live Oak Middle School
Will Parker played by Owen Webb, a freshman at Redwood High School
Ado Annie played by Hayley Nelson, a freshman at Redwood High School
Ali Hakim played by Javier Camacho, a freshman at Redwood High School
Jud Fry played by Cameron Haley, a junior at Visalia Technical Education Center
Andrew Carnes played by Alex Werner, a sophomore at Redwood High School

For more information on the Theatre Company's production of Oklahoma!, call (559) 651-1482.

Photo above:
~ Oklahoma! stars Kaley McConnaughey as Laurey. Kaley is a freshman at Redwood High School. Tiger Ricks is playing Curly. He is 16 years old and is a junior at Eleanor Roosevelt Community Learning Center.

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Linked Learning Consortium kicks off this month
JPMorgan Chase & Irvine Foundation support new statewide education/business initiative

The Tulare-Kings Linked Learning Consortium is planning a kickoff event Friday, November 1 to announce its participation in a new statewide career-based educational initiative. In Tulare and Kings Counties, seven districts are participating in the Linked Learning Pilot Program: Tulare Joint Union High School District, Visalia Unified, Hanford Joint Union High School District, Lindsay Unified, Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified, Porterville Unified and Dinuba Unified. The pilot program is currently working with more than 6,000 students, with the potential to reach 26,000 high school students throughout the two-county area.

Linked Learning is an approach designed to transform education for California students by integrating rigorous academics with career-based learning and real world workplace experiences. "We are excited to be part of the initiative," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "Linked Learning is the latest and most promising approach of connecting students to college and career - a priority we have supported for over 20 years."

School-to-Career Project Director Randy Wallace reports that the Porterville Unified School District and the Tulare County Office of Education are working together to coordinate school districts, nonprofit partners and employers in a proven approach to increase attendance, graduation rates and post-secondary degree completion. Porterville Unified will serve as a mentor district in Kings and Tulare counties, modeling its high quality pathway programs built around nine "open choice" magnet options in career areas such as engineering, health care, performing arts and law. "These are outstanding examples of the approach to high school education that we will help to grow in our region," says Mr. Wallace. "The pathway programs ignite high school students' passions by creating meaningful learning. They also give students a vision of a career in their field of interest."

At the November 1 kickoff event, organizers are expecting to announce that the James Irvine Foundation has committed $355,000 specifically for the work of the Tulare-Kings Linked Learning Consortium. Statewide, the Linked Learning Alliance is also supported by JPMorgan Chase.

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Special Services helps organize resource fair
High school students with mild disabilities find resources to transition to college & career

Special Services College and Career Fair Hundreds of high school seniors from districts throughout Tulare County attended the second annual College and Career Fair at the Tulare Veterans Memorial Building on October 23. Organized by the Tulare County Office of Education Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA), the Tulare Joint Union High School District and the local WorkAbility Advisory Committee, the College and Career Fair is an event designed to provide students with mild disabilities exposure to post-secondary education and training opportunities as they transition to adult life.

The event featured dozens of representatives from area community, vocational and private colleges and adult schools and trade institutes, as well as military recruiters and local employment supporters, including Employment Development Department, Services for Education & Employment (SEE) and CSET. At the beginning of the fair, representatives from each agency gave an overview of their program offerings before heading to their booths to talk with students.

Young men were drawn to the National Guard booth where Sgt. Alfonso Medina talked about the benefits of serving. He drew a crowd when he asked for four volunteers to perform a group pushup to illustrate the concept of teamwork. "The benefit of enrolling in the National Guard is that you can earn the money you'll need to attend many of the programs represented here," he said.

"Our goal is to inform students of the training and education available within the Tulare County communities that will lead them to successful vocational careers," said Kris Larson, event coordinator and program specialist with the Tulare County Office of Education's Special Services Division. Jennifer Reimer, Director of Special Education for the Tulare Joint Union High School District, co-chaired the event with Mr. Larson.

Photo above:
~ Shail Lopez-Ortiz, a representative from Fresno State’s Wayfinders Program, attended the College and Career Fair along with her students Lizzie Allen and Matt Bradshaw to share with attendees the services that the university offers to students with special needs.

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Salierno Foundation awards celebration held
38 students honored for exemplary character as part of CHARACTER COUNTS! Week

What began as a gesture of support for character education has become an evening to honor Tulare County's distinguished students of character. Founded last year, the Provident-Salierno Family Foundation Awards is an addition to the annual CHARACTER COUNTS! Week celebration. Last year, Tony and Mary Salierno announced that their foundation would provide the Tulare County Office of Education CHARACTER COUNTS! Program with $3,000 per year in the form of scholarships to award to exemplary Kids of Character.

Kids of Character The Saliernos have been longtime supporters of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Program, having participated in the initial community trainings nearly 20 years ago and having contributed to the construction of the Pillar Square monument in Mooney Grove Park. On October 29, the CHARACTER COUNTS! Office recognized 38 students at the Provident-Salierno Family Foundation Awards - 14 winners and 24 finalists.

Throughout the previous week, the winners and finalists were featured in the Visalia Times-Delta and the Tulare Advance Register. The newspapers ran one north county and one south county feature story profiling the winners that correspond to the Six Pillars of Character - Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship. The finalists were also featured in the newspapers.

CHARACTER COUNTS! Coordinator Kelley Petty reports that 130 Tulare County schools nominated a total of 6,853 students this year. "Eighteen years ago, we counted just over 100 student nominations in our first CHARACTER COUNTS! Week Celebration," says Mrs. Petty.

"Tulare County is unique in the nation to have long-standing media and charitable foundation partnerships celebrating Kids of Character," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "We truly appreciate the Times-Delta and the Saliernos for recognizing the value in promoting good character to build healthy communities." For a complete list of winners and finalists, visit

Photo above:
~ Darlene Christie, a senior at Woodlake High School, was one of 14 winners in the second annual Provident-Salierno Family Foundation awards. She is pictured shaking hands with Tony Salierno, supporter of the scholarship awards. Darlene was recognized for the Pillar of Caring for her friendship with a special needs student.

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Spotlight Members of the Ballet Folklorico Sierra Linda performed at the annual Red Ribbon Celebration October 26 at the International Agri-Center in Tulare. The event, which is a partnership between the Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency and TCOE’s Choices Prevention Programs, showcased dozens of performing groups and community organizations that provide students with positive alternatives to drugs and alcohol.

Spotlight The 19th Annual Excellence in Education awards breakfast was held October 15 at the Visalia Convention Center. Thirty-four nominees, finalists and winners from districts and community colleges throughout Tulare County were recognized. Pictured (l-r) are Porterville Unified’s Gail Inman (School Employee of the Year), Tulare City School District’s Susan Burley (Teacher of the Year) and Tulare City School District’s recently retired Luis Castellanoz (Administrator of the Year).

Spotlight Cherí Barnes, lead personnel technician, is pictured speaking with an assembly of cadets at La Sierra Military Academy. Ms. Barnes, who founded the Jeff Barnes Brain Injury Foundation in honor of her husband, has been making presentations to schools on the importance of protecting oneself from brain injury. In the nine years since the creation of the Foundation, Ms. Barnes and members of the board have made dozens of school presentations and distributed over 8,000 bike helmets.

Spotlight Last month, Bright Start Program children and their parents visited the Vossler Farms pumpkin patch for fun and networking. Bright Start provides a variety of special services to infants and toddlers, including occupational and physical therapy and hearing and language services in the child’s natural environment. Since its transition from center-based services in 2012, the program has continued to create instructional and social opportunities for parents, including the development of a parent training classroom at TCOE’s Liberty Center offices.

Spotlight Last month, nearly 200 students attended the annual Cowboy Poetry event at Ritchie’s Barn in Visalia. Cowboy Poetry is held in conjunction with the Visalia Cowboy Cultural Committee’s annual Fall Roundup and features many nationally-known western musicians and poets. Western Music Association award nominee Nancy Lee was a key performer, teaching students about western music and how to yodel.

Spotlight During the 2013-14 Step Up Youth Challenge training last month, La Sierra Military Academy Sgt. Major Yesenia Dueñas-Terriquez discussed with fellow cadets some ideas for their community service project. Over the next six months, the cadets, along with their advisor Mike Berrera (standing right), will develop and implement a community service project for a chance to win one of the five grant awards presented at the Fox Theatre May 8. A record number of 24 middle and high school teams are participating in the Challenge this year.

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Gallery Notes

Tulare County school administrators and board members are invited to the annual Fall Institute November 14 at the Visalia Holiday Inn. The event will begin at 5:00 p.m. with two informative breakout sessions featuring presentations on a number of current educational and legal matters. Following the breakout sessions, Dennis Meyers with the California School Boards Association will be the keynote speaker. For registration information, call Marlene Moreno at (559) 733-6302, or visit

The annual TCOE Longevity Award Dinner will take place on Wednesday, November 13 in the Education Center at 2637 West Burrel Avenue beginning at 5:00 p.m. This year, 58 employees will be honored for service milestones of 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and 35 years. To attend the dinner, call Jeanne Croson at (559) 733-6322. This year's honorees include:

35 Years
Robin Hoffman
Marie Holguin

30 Years
James Beauchamp
Dorothy Guarisco
Rhonda Marlow

25 Years
Martha Alexandros
Sara Castillo
Sonia Pavao

20 Years
Mary Blaswich
Bynovu Cha
Brenda Drumright
Carol Hodson
Ronnie Ochoa
Linda Patino
Emily Rivera
Linda Shiba

15 Years
Christine Alfaro
Jeannetta Belvin
Kathleen Briones
Roger Brown
Stephanie Caldera
Todd Canterbury
Lori Diaz
Cindy Dinis
Sandra Dutch
Mike Franco
15 Years (cont.)
Elizabeth Green
Susan Griggs
Elvia Jimenez
Candace Kiefer
Rosie Martinez
Eugene Mendes, Jr.
Cynthia Miller
Marlene Moreno
Karen Morgan
Christopher Ortega
Sherri Pack
Ray Palomino
Elvira Pedregon
Kurt Quint
Russell Range
Brian Roberts
Maria Sanchez
Rosemary Slater
Ruth Spurgeon
Cheryl Wiseman
Mee Xiong

10 Years
Yolanda Bongato
Michele Garcia-Phillips
Katherine Lopez
Erika Marquez
Rachel Rodriguez
Jeanette Rowland
Jesse Ruiz
Sandy Urias
Holly Vincent
Shandon Wilson
Ly Yang

The annual CyberQuest competition will be held at the Visalia Convention Center on Saturday, November 23. Dozens of teams in grades 4-12 will compete in a problem-based learning experience where students apply research skills to develop a multimedia presentation which is given to a panel of judges. This year, the teams will develop proposals to change instructional practices and classroom technology to address the way students learn today. For information on CyberQuest, call Will Kimbley at (559) 651-3031. On the same day, the Tulare County Office of Education-sponsored Kids’ Festival will be held in the Visalia Convention Center Exhibit Hall from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. For more information, visit www.kidsfestival2013.com.

The annual Doe Avenue Chili Cookoff will be held on December 6 in the Elderwood Room from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Several teams will be offering chili in hopes of selling the most bowls and claiming the championship trophy. Visitors to the event, which benefits United Way of Tulare County, can vote for their favorite variety by purchasing a bowl for just $5. For more information, call Luci Castanon at (559) 651-3022.

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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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