go to Tulare County Office of Education HomePage go to Tulare County Office of Education HomePage

The News Gallery

December 2013 / January 2014

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, Rick Mitchell, Leslie Berry, Norma Erwin, Conan Palmer, Tiffany Stark, Eileen Whelan, Christine Glass, Jeanne Croson and Olivia Velasquez.

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.

Community Advisory Committee calendar
CAC releases new calendar on interventions
Community Advisory Committee promotes, studies, recognizes and advocates for special ed

In December, retailers release a flood of wall calendars for the New Year – glossy pinups featuring anything from Schnauzer puppies and English gardens to works by Monet and classic cars – each vying for a spot in our home or office. In Tulare County, thousands of thoughtful educators and community service and healthcare providers forgo the monthly display of cuddly kittens and scenic beaches for a copy of the annual Community Advisory Committee (CAC) calendar. For more than 20 years, the special education advocacy group has produced beautiful color calendars that focus on the services available for, and abilities of, children with special needs.

This year is no exception. Entitled “Meeting Challenges through Home & School Interventions,” the 2014 calendar features monthly profiles of intervention services students receive at school and home. Each month, the calendar highlights a different program or service available to Tulare County students, including at-home therapy for children with Autism and in-school instruction for the deaf and hard-of-hearing and the visually-impaired. More importantly, the calendar highlights the personal successes of Tulare County students in these programs. “The calendar does something special for students and parents of children with special needs,” says CAC facilitator Norma Erwin, a parent liaison with the Special Services Division. “It helps to reduce family isolation and focuses on the positive aspects of the child.”

Community Advisory Committee calendar State education code established the creation of CACs. In Tulare County, this 16-member committee is made up of parents of students with special needs, parents of general education students, general and special education teachers, representatives from community agencies, and a student or adult with special needs.

The calendar project fits neatly into the mission of the CAC, which includes the recognition of the needs and abilities of special education students and the promotion of a free, appropriate public education for them. Nearly 6,000 calendars were printed and distributed to schools, community organizations and hospitals and clinics. “We want to make these available to people who work with students with special needs, highlighting their abilities and the importance of parent/school partnerships,” says Mrs. Erwin. “More importantly, we make the calendars available to agencies that work with the general population to build awareness of the programs and strategies available to children.” CAC chairperson Amy McMahon agrees, “My goal for CAC members is that they obtain a better understanding of resources and services available to those with special needs, not only within the schools, but also in the community at large. Having a greater knowledge of resources allows us to better outreach to the families we come into contact with who may have questions or concerns about their special needs family member.”

The calendar also furthers the mission of the Child Find Project, a public outreach campaign designed to build awareness of services available for children who may have special needs. On every page of the calendar is a phone number for the Child Find Project.

Community Advisory Committee calendar The CAC also serves to advise SELPA Administrator Linda McKean and the Directors of Special Education Committee (DOSE) on special education issues and stay current on trends and issues in special education. Each year, the CAC researches topics and proposes speakers/presentations for professional development trainings. Members of the group have also made themselves available to speak to teachers and students pursuing degrees in special education. Donna Martin, Special Education program director for Fresno Pacific University’s Visalia Center says, “There is something about the personal experiences of parents to make learning real for future teachers. A teacher candidate can read all about disabilities, but hearing first hand from parents makes all the difference in the world.”

Recognizing people, agencies and businesses that support the principles of special education is yet another role of the CAC. This is accomplished at the annual CAC luncheon, which honors dozens of parents, teachers and community members throughout the county for their support of special education.

“The CAC committee, Norma Erwin and graphic artist Leslie Berry have done a fantastic job with the calendar again this year,” says County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. “The CAC’s work in promoting, studying, advocating and recognizing has left a positive mark on the way that Tulare County utilizes and supports Special Education.”

Photos above:
~ The new CAC calendar highlights the abilities of students with special needs as they receive a variety of intervention services at home and at school. CAC calendars across the years have explored a diverse range of special education issues - from the arts and autism to assistive technology and parent support.

to Top of Page

Impact Center offers holiday double feature
History Theater and Planetarium welcome audiences for special family entertainment

Mystery of the Christmas Star
This month, the Impact Center will show four double features of its popular holiday shows Christmas Traditions Around the World and Mystery of the Christmas Star. Audiences will begin the double feature in the History Theater with a showing of Christmas Traditions Around the World. This perennial favorite with elementary-age students was reanimated and rescored last year from the original show produced by retired Impact Center supervisor Sam Peña. The show explores the different winter season traditions people across the globe celebrate at this time of the year.

Viewers will then move into the planetarium for a showing of Mystery of the Christmas Star. This show investigates the possible dates for the birth of Christ and looks at the historical sightings of major astronomical events which so intrigued three wise men to cross a desert in search of a newborn King. Mystery of the Christmas Star is a charming program for audiences of all ages.

The double features will be held at 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. on two Fridays, December 6 and 13. For ticket information, call the Impact Center at (559) 737-6334.

Photo above:
~ Visitors to the Impact Center this month have an opportunity to enjoy a showing of "Mystery of the Christmas Star" (photo above) along with a showing of "Christmas Traditions Around the World".

to Top of Page

Intervention Resource Classrooms expanded
Behavioral Services spreads successful pilot program to 21 school sites

This fall, the Behavior Health Services (BHS) program expanded the reach of its successful Intervention Resource Classroom (IRC) first piloted at Lindsay High School last semester. The Lindsay High School pilot, known as the Green Zone (profiled in the February 2013 News Gallery), is a safe and highly supportive classroom where students with identified behavior management issues can go when they feel overwhelmed. In the Green Zone, students learn strategies for mitigating the stress they feel in their regular academic classes and obtain the one-on-one academic support so that they can be successful in their core academic subjects. At the November meeting of the Tulare County Board of Education, Dr. Eileen Whelan, administrator of the Behavioral Services program, and staff members Tiffany Stark and Ryan Tanney, shared the promising data collected from students in the program. While the sample size was small, administrators recorded a substantial decrease in problem behavior and suspensions, and an increase in attendance and parent participation in the program.

BHS now operates 17 IRCs in schools across the county, with plans to open four more sites in January. The students served by IRCs include those in elementary, middle and high schools, as well as TCOE Court/Community Schools and one center for the severely handicapped. About half of the 130 students served in the IRCs this fall have not previously received any type of special education services; over one-third have not received mental health services.

Dr. Whelan reports that the IRCs were designed in response to individual school/district needs. Twelve of the IRCs are standard classrooms, welcoming students to attend as needed. Five of the IRCs serve as “push-in” or “pull-out” resources for behavior, academic and social support. At these sites, behavioral intervention specialists work as needed with students in their own classrooms. Throughout the county, students are learning social skills utilizing several research-based curricula.

Next semester, program administrators will report on additional data collected to measure the effectiveness of the IRCs in decreasing referrals while increasing student time at school, the amount of academic work successfully completed and parent participation. “We appreciate that so many Tulare County districts have welcomed the IRC program,” says Dr. Whelan. “We are particularly excited to work with students in elementary and middle schools, addressing problem behaviors and giving them the tools they will need to be successful young adults.”

to Top of Page

Employee milestone anniversaries celebrated
Annual Longevity Award Dinner recognizes 58 employees for nearly 1,000 years of service

The annual TCOE Longevity Awards Dinner was held on Wednesday, November 13 in the Education Center. The dinner was hosted by the Human Resources Division, with Director John Rodriguez serving as emcee. This year, 58 employees were honored for service milestones of 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and 35 years. Among them was 35-year speech and language specialist Robin Hoffman. Ms. Hoffman came to the Tulare County Office of Education almost 36 years ago from Washington State University. She learned of the position at TCOE from graduate school classmate Scott Aldrich, who is the program manager for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program.

Longevity awards
Ms. Hoffman serves students in the Palo Verde, Strathmore, Sunnyside and Tipton school districts. She says she always knew she wanted to be a teacher, but was recruited into the field of speech pathology. Nearly 36 years later, she still loves seeing the growth students make. “I’ve seen dozens of students make remarkable progress,” she says. “One recent example was a first-grader at Tipton who was a selective mute. If he spoke at all, he would only whisper. Now, two years later, we can’t get him to be quiet,” she laughs. At the dinner, Assistant Superintendent Linda McKean praised Ms. Hoffman for her resourcefulness in meeting student needs and for keeping up on the latest instructional practices.

Longevity awards
Those honored at the 2013 Longevity Awards Dinner 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

In August, the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program held its own recognition for employees with similar milestones. ECE employees who have reached their 30-, 35- or 40-year anniversaries include:

40 Years
Virgie Luna

35 Years
Lidia Cabrajal
Mona Espino
Maria Franco
Julie Ruiz-Gonzales
30 Years
Sandra Andalon
Elva Ramirez
Alma Villarreal
Yolanda Villarreal

Photos above:
~ This year, Robin Hoffman, a speech and language specialist, celebrated her 35th anniversary.
~ Audiologist and 30-year honoree Dr. Jim Beauchamp shakes hands with County Superintendent Jim Vidak as trustees (l-r) Celia Maldonado-Arroyo, Debby Holguin and Joe Enea look on.
~ Honorees in the 20-year category present at the awards dinner were (l-r) Nu Cha from the Services for Education and Employment (SEE) Youth Program, Carol Hodson from the California Friday Night Live Partnership, Linda Patino from the Ticket to Success/MOVE Program and Emily Rivera, a psychologist with Special Services.
~ Martha Alexandros, director of the SEE Program, celebrated her 25th anniversary this year.

to Top of Page


Spotlight Within the Human Resources Division, CalSTRS regional benefits counselors Enid Brinkman and Ken Hochnadel have advised thousands of Kings and Tulare County school employees prior to retirement. Kings and Tulare County teachers have appreciated the personal service Ms. Brinkman and Mr. Hochnadel provided for a combined total of nearly 40 years. In the new year, school employees will be advised by benefits counselors from the CalSTRS regional office in Fresno. For more information, visit

Spotlight Public Information Officer Rob Herman (l) is pictured with members of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) board at the President’s Celebration/Awards Dinner held last month in San Jose. Pictured (l-r) are ACSA’s Past President David Gomez, President Marc Ecker and Vice President Tom Armelino. Mr. Herman was honored as the state Classified Leader of the Year, along with 20 other administrators working as principals, superintendents, curriculum leaders and special education administrators.

Spotlight Visitors to the Burrel Avenue office in Visalia this month can enjoy a display of artwork as part of the annual Student Art Exhibition. One of the pieces featured is a watercolor entitled “Green Zebra” by Marinn Browne, a junior at Mt. Whitney High School in Visalia. In March, pieces selected as “Best of Show” from the current exhibition and the January-February exhibition will be displayed. A public reception honoring the student artists will be held 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. on March 21.

Spotlight The annual Access to Higher Education Summit for high school-age foster youth will be held on February 1, 2014 at College of the Sequoias, Visalia. Attendees will have an opportunity to speak with former foster youth now in college, meet with representatives from area universities, and learn about available resources. The summit’s keynote speaker will be Sade Daniels, a California native who spent many years in group homes and transitional housing placement programs. After experiencing many trials while in the foster care system, Sade developed a strong desire to help those in similar circumstances. She has been active in many youth advocacy organizations and has been featured in the San Francisco Chronicle and Essence Magazine. For student registration, call Pete Martinez at (559) 623-0357.

Spotlight Last month, SCICON director Rick Mitchell came before the Tulare County Board of Education to present two donations made to the outdoor education program (top photo). Mr. Mitchell smiles as Porterville Breakfast Rotary President Bill Bennett (podium) describes how the club came to donate $30,000 to the program for new exhibits in the recently completed Phyllis Wall Museum expansion. Also present from the Porterville Rotary were (l-r) Jackie Witzel, Janice Castle and Kent Sorrells. (lower photo, l) Lisa Ludovici  with Charter Communications is shown presenting a check to Rick Mitchell for $2,500. Ms. Ludovici contacted State Senator Jean Fuller (center) for direction on supporting a worthy educational program. Mr. Mitchell and the SCICON staff are grateful for Senator Fuller’s endorsement.

to Top of Page

Gallery Notes

The 2013 Red Ribbon committee is pleased to report that $3,500 in donations was received from activities held October 21-25. Red Ribbon Committee chairperson Jennifer Fisher would like to thank the hard-working committee members, generous donors and staff who participated in the week’s activities. TCOE programs donated more than 30 wonderful raffle prizes. The proceeds will be given to CASA of Tulare County, which advocates for abused, neglected, and abandoned children.

Several long-time employees will be retiring this month from the Tulare County Office of Education. Angel Vázquez, who has supervised the Court/Community Schools, will retire after 33 years of service. Most recently, Mr. Vázquez was promoted to administrator of the Educational Options Program, which oversees the Court/ Community Schools, La Sierra Military Academy and University Preparatory High School. Also retiring are: Linda Shiba (20 years, Business Services), Candice Haas (18.5 years, Court/ Community Schools) and Dennis Sirkin (10.5 years, La Sierra Military Academy).

La Sierra Military Academy is one of 11 schools statewide chosen as a finalist in the California State University System’s California Academic Partnership Program (CAPP) Demonstration Partnership Grant. In Tulare County, Orosi High School was also selected as a finalist. The purpose of the three-year Demonstration Partnership Grant is to help schools build partnerships with post-secondary institutions for successful college and career readiness as part of the Common Core State Standards. Over the next three years, La Sierra teachers and administrators will work to align some of its high school courses with College of the Sequoias and Fresno State courses to enable dual enrollment. Once completed, La Sierra students will have the opportunity to earn college credits in high school.

Educational Resource Services has recently welcomed two new instructional consultants: Shelah Feldstein and Gina Mechigian. Ms. Feldstein is a Staff Development and Curriculum Specialist for Mathematics. Her teaching experience includes math instruction, as well as academic coaching at the middle school and elementary school levels. Her responsibilities include assisting teachers, schools and districts with current issues in mathematics education, including the California Common Core State Standards. She provides math coaching and professional development for teachers in the areas of math standards, instruction, pacing and assessment. Gina Mechigian is a Staff Development and Curriculum Specialist for English Language Arts and History/Social Studies. She has utilized her multiple- and single-subject credentials to teach grades K-12 for 10 years and has served as a high school administrator for 12 years. Ms. Mechigian will provide professional development trainings related to the implementation of the Common Core Literacy Standards for ELA and History/Social Studies, as well as oversee the Mock Trial program.

The theme for the Tulare County Farm Bureau Calendar Art Contest (for students in grades K-12) is “Exploring the Treasures of Tulare County Agriculture”. Details of the competition, including the February 14 deadline, are posted on the Bulletin Board section of
www.tulcofb.org. The contest is annually sponsored by the Tulare County Farm Bureau and the Tulare County Office of Education.

to Top of Page

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

| Home Page | Site Index |

Please direct web site problems or comments to tcoeweb@tcoe.org.

Copyright © 2018, Tulare County Office of Education