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The News Gallery

September 2017

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, Gene Mendes, Kate Stover and Gloria Dávalos.

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.



CHOICES Prevention Programs

CHOICES broadens anti-bullying program
State grant funds anti-bullying program and includes victim support services


Verbal, physical and psychological aggression can be forms of bullying when carried out over time with the intent to harm or disturb others. The consequences of bullying behaviors can include physical injury, social and emotional distress, depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, and poor school adjustment for the victims. Youth who bully others are at increased risk for substance use, academic problems, and violence later in adolescence and adulthood.

Last year, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) Victim Services & Public Safety Branch awarded the Tulare County Office of Education CHOICES Prevention Programs a two-year grant through its Bullying and School Violence Advocacy (XB) Program. The grant, which is being implemented this fall in 33 Tulare County CHOICES After School sites, will provide unprecedented levels of support to victims of bullying or school violence.

CHOICES Prevention Programs

“The XB grant builds on the support we have been providing Tulare County school sites and their students,” said Adam Valencia, CHOICES extended learning program director. “With it, we have the ability to directly counsel and refer victims of bullying as we work alongside districts to strengthen their anti-bullying policies.”

CHOICES Prevention Programs The XB grant will provide partner districts with an online reporting center for students to use in the event of bullying, plus training for administrators, teachers, classified staff and students. Sprigeo, the online reporting system used in Tulare County school districts since 2013, will serve as the tool for students, teachers and parents to report bullying incidents anonymously without fear of retaliation. The system also has an administrative tool for identifying behavior trends and demonstrating accountability.

When a report is received through the online reporting system, CHOICES staff will contact the victim. Once consent is provided, staff will arrange screening and assessment to develop a service plan that includes input from the victim. Victor Carrillo, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst with the Special Services Division, will provide counseling and create a referral for additional services, if needed. All referrals will be reviewed to ensure the victim is receiving the services needed. While TCOE will provide counseling to the victim of bullying and school violence, referrals may be made to additional support services, including the California Victim Compensation Board (CalVCB).

CHOICES Prevention Programs

The XB grant will serve to mitigate incidents of bullying discovered in a recent survey of Tulare County middle and high school students conducted by CHOICES. In the spring of 2016, CHOICES administered the nationally-recognized PRIDE Learning Environment Survey to capture information about bullying, school climate and substance abuse with a sample of Tulare County students in 6th through 12th grades. The results of the survey illustrated the impact of bullying on the lives of Tulare County youth. Over 30% of students indicated that bullying has interfered with their school work. Nearly 32% indicated that students who strive to succeed academically are picked on and over 62% of students indicated “feeling left out” at their school. Nearly 15% of students in the survey have been threatened with harm at school while nearly 16% said they felt very afraid of being harmed while at school.

Gene Mendes, CHOICES school community liaison, reports that an online bullying prevention resource page is currently being developed for the TCOE website. Visit tcoe.org later this month for educational materials for school staff, students and parents. For more information on the CHOICES anti-bullying program, call Mr. Mendes at (559) 651-0155.

Photos above:
~ While physical and verbal forms of bullying are well known, psychological bullying, such as leaving someone out or telling others not to be friends with someone, is equally harmful.
~ Gene Mendes, CHOICES community school liaison, is pictured conducting a training on the Sprigeo online bullying reporting system at a recent meeting of the CHOICES After School staff.
~ Psychological bullying can also involve the spreading of rumors about someone, ...
~ ... or embarrassing them in public or through social media.



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Three exceptional teachers chosen for award
Three Tulare County teachers to be honored at Chinese Cultural Center September 21


On September 21, three Tulare County educators will have a special night with family, friends and colleagues celebrating their unique talents and accomplishments. The evening honors are part of the annual teacher recognition partnership with the Central California Chinese Cultural Center. Known as the Confucius’ Birthday/Educators of the Year Awards, the program celebrates three teachers on the birthday of Confucius – an occasion Chinese people around the world often use to recognize exemplary teachers.

“This year’s winners go above and beyond to support the students they serve,” said Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. “What makes the winners so special is that their expectations are high and they are creative in accessing resources to see that their students succeed.”

The winners in the elementary, middle and high school categories are:

Yesenia Martinez
Transitional Kindergarten Teacher
Woodville Union School

Educator of the Year Yesenia Martinez Mrs. Martinez has the only class of transitional kindergarten (TK) students at Woodville Union School near Porterville. The district has entrusted the veteran teacher with its youngest learners for good reason. “Mrs. Martinez has a passion for her profession and is a true professional who is highly respected by her peers,” said Woodville Superintendent Jesse Navarro. “Her devotion to her students is unmeasurable.”

Mrs. Martinez is not only responsible for laying the academic foundation for her students – most of whom are four years old – but also helping to develop their social and emotional skills. “My students come as blank slates, showing so much potential to learn,” she said. “In addition to academics, we focus on getting them used to the structure of the school setting – learning to share, listen and work together as a class.” Mrs. Martinez has a class of 24 students; 13 of them are English language learners.

Mrs. Martinez has been a teacher for Woodville Union School District since 2001. Her own academic journey included graduating from California State University, Bakersfield in 2000 and receiving her teaching credential in 2002. Since that time, she has also earned a Master of Arts Degree in Education with a concentration in Multicultural Education.

Yesenia Martinez will admit that she is a competitive person. “I don’t like to hear that my students can’t be expected to do or learn certain things,” she said with a smile. She has established the ambitious academic goal that her students will be reading at level four by the end of the school year. Her standard is the same as kindergarten teachers working with students one year older. To realize her goal, Mrs. Martinez works with curriculum specialists from Tulare County Office of Education utilizing the Guided Reading program.

In addition to her TK teaching assignment, Mrs. Martinez dedicates her time to Woodville’s after school migrant intervention classes, as well as a variety of activities geared toward motivating all Woodville students. She is a key player in the success of many noontime activities, the school’s "Night at the Museum" and the annual Cinco de Mayo celebration. During the summer, she served as a teacher for the Tulare County Migrant Education Program home base labor camps in Ducor.

Joel Muller
Sixth-Grade Teacher
Columbine School

Educator of the Year Joel Muller Teacher, coach, theater director, academic activities facilitator and yearbook advisor – Joel Muller wears many hats at Columbine School. Mr. Muller has taught at Columbine School for 17 years. For the last five years, he has been the small school’s sixth-grade teacher.

Joel Muller played basketball at California State University, Stanislaus, where he earned his bachelor’s degree. During the summers, he would return to Tulare County and work as a painter. While painting Columbine School, he learned that administrators were looking for teachers. Following his graduation, he accepted a teaching job while he worked to complete his credential.

“I absolutely love the sixth-grade curriculum,” said Mr. Muller, who teaches all subjects. “Of course, it’s the year students get to go to SCICON, but we also study ancient civilizations, which exposes them to the world of the past. I also enjoy that students are showing greater independence as learners, but at times need my guidance.”

In addition to his classroom responsibilities, Joel Muller is a busy coach. Mr. Muller coaches Columbine’s A boys teams in football, soccer and basketball, and assists with the A baseball team. He also coaches the school’s track team. “He teaches skills in all of these sports by demonstrating and having students actively participate,” said Columbine Superintendent Tim Jones. “His players learn excellent techniques which enhance their athletic abilities.”

Each year, Mr. Muller teams with fifth-grade teacher Mrs. Taylor to present The Naughty Little Kids of Christmas, a play he and Mrs. Taylor co-wrote. The play has become a popular event with parents and a positive experience for Columbine students developing their self-confidence and oral language skills with an audience.

Mr. Muller also coaches Columbine’s Odyssey of the Mind team as a noontime activity. His teams frequently place first or second at the regional level. At the state level last year, his team placed tenth. Mr. Muller also supervised Columbine’s yearbook club the last two years. Student participation has escalated, with seventh and eighth graders helping with the book's design and photography.

“Not all students want to be great athletes,” he said. “By offering them other academic and enrichment activities, we ensure that they are engaged and developing as well-rounded learners,” said Mr. Muller.

Jodi Fortney
Teacher, Severely Handicapped, Mt. Whitney High School
Tulare County Office of Education

Educator of the Year Jodi Fortney Jodi Fortney grew up in Visalia, attended Redwood High School and graduated from the University of Calgary with a Bachelor of Commerce degree. Although education may not have been Mrs. Fortney’s first choice for a career, she fell in love with the idea after spending six weeks student teaching in a special needs classroom.

In 1987, she joined the Tulare County Office of Education (TCOE) Special Services Division and has been inspiring students, families, and peer educators ever since. “Enthusiastic, energetic, compassionate, loving, hopeful, creative, and nurturing are all words that come to mind when I think of Jodi,” said TCOE Assistant Superintendent of Special Services Tammy Bradford. “She has become the beacon of light for her students and families from the moment they enter her classroom and long after they leave.” During the last 30 years of her career, she has taught students with special needs from pre-school through high school. She has been a teacher at Mt. Whitney High School in Visalia since 1999.

In addition to her passion for the classroom, Mrs. Fortney has inspired teachers around the state with her approach to adapting and delivering curriculum. Three years ago, she was given the opportunity to work with the California Department of Education, and National Center and State Collaborative on how to teach students with significant cognitive disabilities. As a result of her involvement, she was selected to be a part of a field test through the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. The findings from that study supported the belief that students with significant intellectual disabilities were tremendously successful in learning grade-level material. Due to these significant findings, Mrs. Fortney was invited to present her experience at a national conference in Washington, D.C. With the use of a variety of visual response strategies and teaching modalities, Jodi’s students are interacting and answering questions to novels such as To Kill a Mockingbird and The Pearl – once again proving that with high expectations, great things can be accomplished.

At Mt. Whitney, Mrs. Fortney’s students are an integral part of campus culture. “What makes this school so special is that we are part of the family,” said Mrs. Fortney. “There is a unique and longstanding partnership between the teachers, general education students and the kids in my classroom.” Each year, dozens of general education students apply to be aides in her classroom. “From this experience, I know we have had several former Mt. Whitney students decide to pursue careers in special education,” she added. “Teachers also approach me about having my students enroll in their elective classes.” In addition, Mrs. Fortney’s students operate a coffee cart as a service to the faculty and participate in the Pioneer Partners club to plan special events for general education and special education students.

Mrs. Fortney is also a curriculum and instruction teacher with the TCOE IMPACT Intern Program. She teaches candidates working to obtain their Moderate/Severe Disabilities Special Education Credential.

For more information about the Confucius Birthday/Educators of the Year Awards, call Marlene Moreno at (559) 733-6302.

Photos above:
~ Yesenia Martinez, a transitional kindergarten teacher at Woodville Union School, is one of the three teachers being honored in the 24th Annual Confucius’ Birthday/Educators of the Year Awards at the Central California Chinese Cultural Center September 21.
~ Joel Muller is a sixth-grade teacher and middle school coach at Columbine School.
~ Jodi Fortney is a teacher for the Tulare County Office of Education Special Day Class at Mt. Whitney High School in Visalia.



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Hewlett Foundation funds arts strategic plan
Grant will support access to arts and creation of ongoing advocacy network


In July, TCOE was awarded a two-year, $60,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to create a countywide strategic arts education plan. Kate Stover, TCOE’s Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) staff development and curriculum specialist, reports that a small planning team will work with the California Alliance for Arts Education to identify strengths and limitations in existing arts programs. The planning team will seek feedback from teachers, parents, community members, business owners, and other stakeholders. The goal of this project is to ensure that the students, families, and communities of Tulare County have equitable access to the arts.

“We know that one in every six jobs in California is in the creative industries,” said Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. “We also know that CEOs across the nation rank creativity as the number one job skill they seek in candidates. Through the arts, students learn collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking skills, as well as the self-expression, empathy, and global awareness they need to be successful in the career of their choice.”

A group of community members will begin the work to create the strategic plan and an ongoing arts advocacy network at a kick-off breakfast on October 6 in the TCOE Redwood Conference Center. “The strategic plan will be a supporting framework enabling Tulare County school districts to grow their arts programs,” said Ms. Stover. “We know challenges exist, but we are committed to working with districts to overcome the hurdles, making Tulare County a leader in arts education in California and ensuring students have access to robust arts programs.”

For more information on the strategic arts education plan, contact Kate Stover at (559) 741-0809.


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Migrant students immersed in engineering
Summer STEM Program serves nearly 500 students at 25 Kings and Tulare county sites


Migrant Education Summer STEM Program

Migrant Education students in the program’s annual Summer STEM Program returned to the world of STEM in June with projects that replicated work done by agricultural and environmental engineers. The Migrant Education Program offered its three-week Summer STEM Program at 25 school sites throughout Kings and Tulare counties. The program served nearly 500 students with grade-specific science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) lessons.

Utilizing curriculum developed by the Museum of Science, Boston’s Engineering is Elementary curriculum and working in partnership with Educational Resource Services STEM Staff Development & Curriculum Specialist Jared Marr and Instructional Technology Specialist Doug Cairns on the training and assessment component, the Migrant Education Program provided teachers the tools they needed to guide students through real-world applications of engineering principles.

As agricultural engineers, students in kindergarten, first and second grades utilized ordinary materials to design and build hand pollinators. Students explored the essential role of insects in natural pollination and the technologies used in hand pollination and Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

Migrant Education Summer STEM Program

Migrant Education area administrator Gloria Dávalos reports that older students who have been in the Summer STEM Program for a couple of years have a firm grasp on the engineering process as they design, build, and test their own creations. “As we continue to move forward with STEM, the addition of new technologies this year greatly enhanced our summer programs,” said Ms. Dávalos.

Migrant Education Summer STEM Program This year, students in grades 3-5 were introduced to the field of environmental engineering. They explored the human need for clean and safe drinking water and used this information to design and create a water filtration system. They investigated how air, water and soil contamination occurs, tested the efficacy of different filter materials on non-toxic contaminated water, and continued to engage through the engineering design process to improve their water filters.

As environmental engineers, middle school and high school students explored urban landscapes and how to prevent storm runoff. Students learned how to create a green roof utilizing natural materials and investigated permeable pavement technologies to ultimately create a model city to address the issue of water runoff.

"It’s remarkable to see how the STEM Summer Program has improved academic achievement and ignited career interests in students who have participated in it for the past several years,” said Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. “It’s also been gratifying to see that Migrant Education programs throughout the nation have taken note of our STEM Summer Program and its success.”

For students unable to attend one of the school-based STEM programs, Migrant staff members provided in-home math lessons this summer. This in-home program served an additional 614 students.

For information on Migrant's summer program, call Tony Velásquez at (559) 651-3035.

Photos above:
~ Migrant students in the Summer STEM Program gain hands-on experience building a computer and coding it utilizing a Piper kit. This year, the Migrant Education Program served nearly 500 students at 25 Kings and Tulare county school sites.
~ Migrant children in kindergarten, first and second grades experimented with different materials to pollinate their paper flowers.
~ Migrant students in grades 3-5 learned that some filter materials work better than others on different kinds of non-toxic contaminated water.



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Spotlight

Spotlight on People This month, middle and high schools from throughout Tulare County can register to participate in the 2017-18 Step Up Youth Challenge. A total of 20 middle school and 15 high school spots are available for the six-month, project based learning program, challenging students to create meaningful programs that positively impact their school cultures and communities. The Step Up Youth Challenge provides a total of $13,000 in grants for winning projects in the middle and high school categories. Reservations are being accepted on a first-come basis prior to the mandatory September 14 Advisor Training. To register your team, visit
tcoe.org/StepUp, or for more information, call Samantha Ferrero at (559) 636-5000.

Spotlight on People The Tulare County Council on Child & Youth Development will host its Ninth Annual Legislative Breakfast at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, October 24, at the Wyndham Visalia. This free event is designed to inform educators and key decision makers about the importance of early childhood education programs. Dr. Junlei Li, co-director of the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media at St. Vincent College in Pennsylvania, will be the featured speaker. Visit tularecountykids.org for registration information.

Spotlight on People Representatives from nearly 80 universities and colleges will be on hand at the 36th Annual Tulare County College Night to answer questions about entrance requirements, available degrees and tuition expenses at their institutions. College Night, which will be held at the Visalia Convention Center on Tuesday, September 12 beginning at 6:00 p.m., is designed for high school students and parents who want to learn more about preparing for and applying to colleges. In addition to the college representatives, students and parents can visit two sessions of informational presentations (beginning at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m.) on topics that include writing an effective college essay, prerequisite courses, financial aid and athletic recruitment. One presentation on financial aid and educational planning will be offered in Spanish. More information is available at tcoe.org/collegenight.

Spotlight on People On numerous evenings this fall – above the lights of Tulare County cities and towns – students and families are invited to view some spectacular celestial objects as part of the astronomy nights program at Circle J-Norris Ranch. Under the supervision of a team of local amateur astronomers, visitors learn to operate telescopes and guide them to view planets, star clusters and distant galaxies. Visitors also learn the ancient mythologies of the constellations and how to identify the stars that they contain. For a list of Circle J-Norris Ranch Astronomy Nights, visit tcoe.org/StudentEvents.

Spotlight on People In July, the California Friday Night Live Partnership (CFNLP) held its Leadership Training Institute for representatives from counties throughout the state. During the conference, the Partnership presented several annual awards. Betty Cunningham of Shasta County (pictured with CFNLP administrator Dr. Jim Kooler) received the annual Pete Bellin Strength and Courage Award – an award named for the late TCOE prevention education pioneer who helped create the Club Live program and the FNL Kids program. The annual Casey and Kyle Goodwin Adult Ally Award was presented to Ramona Prieto, former deputy commissioner of the CHP and former director of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Elke Petras of Orange County was awarded the CFNLP Collaborative Leadership Award. In June, CFNLP hosted its Betting On Our Future Spotlight Festival (BOOF) in Anaheim. Youth and adult allies from 29 sites across California gathered to share the problem gambling awareness campaigns they developed in their communities, which included public service announcements, print ads, digital messages and a premier of their work. The youth also reported on gambling prevalence studies they conducted to learn more about the magnitude of the problem. In July, the BOOF Program received the Best in Prevention Showcase Award at the National Council on Problem Gambling conference in Portland, Oregon.


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Gallery Notes

The annual Tulare County Office of Education Red Ribbon Week will be held October 23-27 with the theme of Your Future is Key, So Stay Drug Free. All proceeds from this year’s event will benefit Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Tulare County. Orders for the Red Ribbon t-shirts – now on sale – are due by Tuesday, September 26 at noon. For a copy of the order form and to see updates on the week’s activities, visit
tcoe.org/RedRibbon. The annual Tulare County Red Ribbon Celebration for students will be held from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. October 18 at the Visalia Convention Center. The event is a partnership between the TCOE CHOICES Prevention Programs, the Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency and a myriad of other county and city resources. The event emphasizes the importance of making positive life choices without the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, and it showcases many positive extracurricular opportunities for local youth.

Educational Employees Credit Union (EECU) offers a variety of fun and interactive financial workshops free of charge to Tulare County students of all ages. One of EECU’s most popular programs is entitled “Wise Up.” High school seniors and college students participate in a “reality fair” where they select a job for the day and make grown-up decisions about housing, transportation, clothing, food, entertainment and other expenses. This is a dynamic learning experience conducted by EECU education specialists on high school campuses. Additional programs are available for students in elementary and middle school and include topics on spending and saving principles, investments and fraud protection. For more information, or to schedule one of EECU’s financial education presentations, contact Lisa Franks at (559) 360-1727, or lisaf@myeecu.org.

September marks the opening of the annual CHARACTER COUNTS! Week nomination process. Teachers, parents and community members may nominate students for the annual Kids of Character recognition program held in partnership with the Visalia Times-Delta/Tulare Advance-Register. Outstanding students of character will be recognized as part of the annual Provident-Salierno Family Foundation Awards scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on November 2 in the TCOE Redwood Conference Center. A nomination form for K-12 students is available online at tcoe.org/KidsOfCharacter through October 2. In Tulare County, National CHARACTER COUNTS! Week will be celebrated October 15-21.

The Calendar of Student Events for the 2017-18 school year is online at tcoe.org/StudentEvents. The booklet contains dates and information on nearly 50 TCOE student events and programs.

The Instructional Services Division recently welcomed several new team members. In the College and Career program, Lori Morton was selected as the new career pathways engagement manager. Educational Resource Services (ERS) welcomed three new English Language Arts/ELD and instructional rounds staff development and curriculum specialists: Jenean Bray, Sandi Cahill and Cari Carlson. Nicole Ray joins the program as a STEM staff development and curriculum specialist, while Samantha Tate will serve as the state and federal programs specialist.

On September 29, ERS will host a workshop for Central Valley school administrators, teacher/librarians and library technicians entitled School Library Services in California and the Central Valley. Among the workshop topics are presentations on how to complete the Annual School Library Survey and how school libraries address the Local Control Funding Formula eight state priorities. Debra Lockwood, ERS library media supervisor, will provide an overview of the Model School Library Standards and the variety of services available through the Educational Resource Services Library. To register for this free workshop, visit tulare.k12oms.org/137026.

Five Tulare County school districts welcomed new superintendents for the 2017-18 school year. Former Alpaugh Unified superintendent Rob Hudson, Ed.D. was appointed to lead the Alta Vista School District. Retired Burton School District superintendent Gary Mekeel, Ed.D. is serving as interim superintendent at Alpaugh Unified. Tony Rodriguez was promoted to superintendent of the Tulare Joint Union High School District. Perry Jensen now serves as superintendent of Sequoia Union School District. In Tipton, the board of education promoted Stacey Bettencourt, Anthony Hernandez and Jacob Munoz to co-superintendents.


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For a list of upcoming events,
visit our
Calendar of Events web 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

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