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The News Gallery

May 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, Charlene Stringham, Joy Soares, Kim Rice, Paula Terrill, Peyton Ellas, Nani Rowland, John Kelly and Tara Williams.

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.

Healthy Murals
Murals make big, healthy impact on schools
Network helps schools make prominent statement about healthy foods and physical activity

In 11 schools around the county this semester, the Tulare County Office of Education’s Network for a Healthy California (Network) and Three Rivers artist Nadi Spencer are creating engaging visual reminders of the importance of good nutrition and physical activity. Network staff members work with school site personnel and Ms. Spencer to develop murals that are unique to each site. Using a bold and colorful palate, Ms. Spencer has begun creating large works of art that communicate each school’s commitment to healthy eating and daily physical exercise.

The murals have been funded by the Network, which is a program of the California Department of Public Health, with support from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). They encourage students, families and staff to make healthy choices. “We are thrilled to have this mural here at Kings River,” said Superintendent/Principal Sherry Martin. “Its vibrant colors enliven our multipurpose room and make a positive statement about healthy lifestyles.”

Healthy Murals Of the mural projects, Network coordinator Nani Rowland said, “When our surroundings are positive and energizing, our attitudes change for the better. Our brains are stimulated by bright colors and images of children playing soccer, eating an apple, climbing a tree or walking with their family. These experiences, depicted in the murals, can increase the importance we place on them and lead us closer to ending childhood obesity and the chronic diseases that accompany unhealthy behaviors.”

Eleven murals will be completed by June 2013. They include:

Castle Rock Elementary School (Woodlake)
El Monte Middle School (Orosi)
Francis J. White Learning Center (Woodlake)
Grand View Elementary School (Dinuba)
John F. Kennedy Academy (Dinuba)
Kings River Union School (Kingsburg)
Lincoln Elementary School (Exeter)
Rocky Hill Elementary School (Exeter)
Roosevelt Elementary School (Dinuba)
Sunnyside Union School (Strathmore)
Wilson Elementary School (Dinuba)

www.tcoe.org/nutrition to see the murals as they are completed.

Photos above:
~ The recently completed mural at Rocky Hill Elementary in Exeter is a depiction of the school’s garden and contains portraits of several students and staff.
~ Artist Nadi Spencer speaks with Kings River students about the development of the mural at their school.

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SCICON gains popularity as retreat destination
Community organizations using outdoor education site for meetings and trainings

Eleven hundred acres of beautiful oak trees, mountain views, wildlife, streams and solitude.” The description of the SCICON outdoor education program sounds like it would work to lure businesses, civic groups, and youth organizations looking for a place to hold a retreat. Fortunately, it has!

SCICON Conference and Retreat Facilities
Thanks to the efforts of SCICON administrator Rick Mitchell and conference specialist Peyton Ellas, more companies and organizations are headed to SCICON this year to hold their special meetings and events. School-based programs, scouting troops, music groups, church camps, family reunions, company leadership teams, and couples looking for an alcohol- and tobacco-free wedding event are finding the combination of nature and state-of-the-art facilities makes SCICON the perfect place for their events.

On weekends during the school year, the campus is available for conferences and retreats from Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon. During the summer months, the campus is available both weekdays and weekends.

Conference stays include healthy and tasty meals at affordable rates. Working from a fully-staffed, professional kitchen, SCICON's food service manager can work with wedding planners and group leaders to accommodate all guests, including those with special diets. Food service staff can even pack "to-go" lunches for hiking or off-campus outings. Outdoor arbors and barbecues are also available for guest use.

SCICON offers free Wi-Fi and complete audio-visual technology in all its meeting rooms. In addition to miles of hiking trails, the campus also has a large outdoor recreation field with volleyball net, basketball hoop and area for horseshoes.

In keeping with the surroundings, SCICON's retreat facilities are rustic and simple. This helps keep the fees affordable for groups as small as 35 and as large as 300. Lodging is in semi-private and “student” bunk bed cabins. All cabins are heated and air conditioned and within walking distance of the John Muir Lodge and other meeting areas on the campus. Each conference group has a dedicated host to make sure everything goes smoothly. Ms. Ellas, hired as the part-time conference specialist in October 2012, is available to make conference arrangements.

“We are delighted to offer the SCICON campus for conferences and retreats,” said County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. “It offers organizations in Central California the best of both worlds – a spectacular site with excellent accommodations and an affordable venue close to home.”

For more information, visit the website at
www.tcoe.org/SCICONconferences or call (559) 539-5142.

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UPHS wins big at Step Up Youth Challenge
Team creates multimedia teen pregnancy prevention program for middle school audience

A team of students from University Preparatory High School (UPHS) won the “Best Overall” award in the high school portion of the annual Step Up Youth Challenge, which concluded April 25 with a red carpet awards ceremony at the Visalia Fox Theater. The UPHS students, along with teams from five other high schools and 13 middle schools, worked October through April to identify a community need and create a program to address that need.

Step Up Youth Challenge
UPHS students developed a multimedia teen pregnancy prevention program. The program, which was designed for middle school audiences, is performed on stage with a mix of video interviews with teen parents and short play vignettes. UPHS Language Arts teacher and project advisor Dr. Tara Williams said, “From my point of view, the students took a lot of initiative in putting the project together. They surprised me with some of their insights and ideas, particularly their awareness of the influence of mass media and their awareness of teen pregnancy as a cycle that repeats through generations. The students did an amazing job of connecting their research with real-life examples.”

For their efforts, the UPHS team was awarded a $5,000 grant from the Tulare County Gang Prevention Task Force. The Task Force also awarded $2,500 grants for projects in Innovation, Sustainability, Meeting the Need and Impact Categories. Valley Life Charter School in Visalia won a $2,500 grant in the Innovation category for their partnership program with the Visalia Rescue Mission.

UPHS junior Gissele Vazquez said, “I gained a lot of leadership skills out of this experience. I didn’t have much experience previously working in groups on a project like this. I learned that each individual contribution, no matter how small it may seem, is important to the end result.” For information on scheduling a presentation of the UPHS teen pregnancy prevention program, contact Principal John Kelly or Dr. Tara Williams at (559) 730-2529.

The Youth Challenge was launched in 2011 for middle school teams. High School teams were invited for the 2012-2013 challenge.

Winners in the 2012-13 Step Up Youth Challenge Program
Junior High Challenge Awards

Best Overall
Wilson Middle School (Exeter)

Impact Award (Tie)
Lincoln Elementary School (Lindsay)
Washington Intermediate School (Dinuba)

Sustainability Award
Burton Middle School (Porterville)

Innovation Award
Valley Life Charter School (Visalia)

Meeting the Need Award
Pleasant View School (Poplar)

High School Challenge Awards

Best Overall
University Preparatory High School (Visalia)

Impact Award
No award given

Sustainability Award
Mt. Whitney High School (Visalia)

Innovation Award
No award given

Meeting the Need Award
Orosi High School (Orosi)

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Project Based Learning successes highlighted
Tulare and Fresno County schools share instructional models at recent Curriculum Council

Project Based Learning Each month, the Instructional Services Division holds a Curriculum Council meeting, inviting administrators and curriculum leaders from districts throughout the county to discuss a particular instructional topic. The topic of the April council meeting was Project Based Learning (PBL). Facilitated by Joy Soares, the new staff development and curriculum specialist for Project Based Learning, the meeting featured presentations by administrators, teachers, librarians and students representing Tulare and Fresno county schools. Individually, the presenters showcased how they have implemented Project Based Learning on their campuses.

Cindy Brown, Student Pathways director from the Porterville Unified School District highlighted the career-related academies the district has developed at each of its high schools. Porterville now offers nine academies, including law enforcement, business, health, engineering and others. In addition to their academy studies, students take core subjects of Math, Language Arts, Science and Social Science that have been designed to closely integrate with their career-related courses.

Project Based Learning Using graphs, Ms. Brown showed how students enrolled in an academy at the district’s comprehensive high schools (Porterville High, Granite Hills, and Monache) scored better on the high school exit exam (CAHSEE) and on the California Standards Test (CST) than their general education counterparts. While students in the academies come from a wide range of academic backgrounds, they are successful in the project based learning environments “because they are engaged,” said Ms. Brown. “Plus, we are seeing excellent attendance and virtually no discipline referrals.”

Several groups of students from the Clovis-based CART (Center for Advanced Research and Technology) program presented their PBL experiences. Business teacher Patrick Beggs explained that one of his classes worked on a marketing project for China Peak Mountain Resort. China Peak CEO Tim Cohee contacted the school, challenging the students to develop an outreach program to fifth-grade students in the Fresno/Clovis area.

The students developed a presentation designed to familiarize fifth-grade students with winter sports with the hope that they would visit China Peak. The project team visited 25 area elementary schools, taking their PowerPoint presentation, ski boots for the students to try on and free passes to the ski resort. “This wasn’t just a project we did for a grade,” said Jazel Palma. “It had real meaning. We changed our community.”

“The topic of Project Based Learning is relevant and timely as the Common Core State Standards warrant a shift in instructional pedagogy,” said Mrs. Soares. “PBL can be the vehicle for students to engage with rigorous content in seeking solutions to real world, application-based experiences.”

The “Four Cs” of the Common Core State Standards (collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity) were a consistent theme in all of the presentations. Vicki Porter, principal at Visalia Technical Education Center (VTEC), spoke about an unexpected outcome from the school’s PBL environment. “Students who wouldn’t even say ‘hello’ to one another have become like family through their collaborative work in our academies.”

Administrator Charlene Stringham reports that the Educational Resource Services (ERS) program will be a resource for districts seeking to implement PBL. “While the PBL concept is an avenue for moving forward in the execution of Common Core State Standards, there are many models a district can consider, adopt, and integrate,” she said. “We have partnered with the Buck Institute for Education (BIE) to certify several consultants to provide the BIE PBL training. Also, ERS is hosting a Lee Crockett 21st Century Fluency Project professional development training on June 21 at the Holiday Inn in Visalia. Crockett's model and supporting website,
fluency21.com, offers a structured process for building rigorous and relevant PBL units of study.”

In addition, ERS is working with districts to repurpose existing curriculum and assessments to offer a Common Core, inquiry based design. Numerous resources, including units of study and information on future professional development offerings, can be found on TCOE's Common Core Connect website at commoncore.tcoe.org.

For additional information on PBL trainings or resources, call Joy Soares at (559) 651-0501.

Photos above:
~ CART (Center for Advanced Research and Technology) student Jazel Palma speaks about her experience conducting a marketing study for China Peak Mountain Resort.
~ Porterville Unified Student Pathways Director Cindy Brown shares the success the district has had in integrating Project Based Learning into their career academies at each high school.

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Spotlight Jeanette McDonald recently joined the Human Resources Division as the new Credentials/Retirement Analyst. Ms. McDonald comes to the Tulare County Office of Education from Lindsay Unified, where she was director of Personnel Services for nearly 10 years.

Spotlight Gabriela Ceballos was recently selected from 84 other applicants as the 2013 College Night Scholarship recipient. Gabriela is a senior at Harmony Magnet Academy in Strathmore and a member of the school’s student council, Key Club, volleyball, track and basketball teams. She was also active in her community and served as a counselor at SCICON. She plans to attend UCLA in the fall, working toward a career as an OB/GYN.

Spotlight University Preparatory High School (UPHS) students (l-r) Uriel Saldivar, Alan Lewis and Michael Toomey are shown competing in the NorCal State Science Olympiad last month. The UPHS team was the top scoring Tulare County high school team at the competition.

Spotlight Conan Palmer, media developer for the Impact Center (home of the Peña Planetarium and the History Theater), has been named as the program’s new supervisor. Mr. Palmer replaces supervisor Sara Sutton, who retired in April. Since joining the program in 2008, he has innovated the projection systems at the center, as well as the theater inside the new Tulare County History of Farm Labor and Agriculture Museum.

Spotlight Eighth-grade student Jose Hernandez, of Los Tules Middle School in Tulare, is pictured with County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak at the annual Math Super Bowl competition. Jose was the top eighth-grade student in the large school category. The top eighth-grade student in the small school category was Karina Gonzalez from Washington Elementary (Lindsay). The top large and small school seventh-grade students were Jonathan Camarena of Cherry Avenue Middle School (Tulare) and Brandi Borba of Rockford School (Porterville). The Math Super Bowl, now in its 40th year, attracted over 650 middle school students from throughout the county.

Spotlight Rawhide Baseball team members have been visiting schools this month as part of a partnership with the CHARACTER COUNTS! Program. Players have been speaking to students in large and small settings, encouraging them to follow their dreams and make healthy choices. Pictured (l-r) are Conrad Flynn, Steven Rodriguez, Patrick Schuster and Keith Hessler at Sundale Union School. At a presentation at Golden West High School, pitcher Seth Simmons told athletes, “I was told I wouldn't start in college and I was told that I wouldn't get drafted, but I still believed in my heart. Don't let anyone tell you you're not good enough.”

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Gallery Notes

Three middle schools from Tulare County received the Bonner Center’s 2013 Virtues and Character Recognition Award from California State University, Fresno for their exemplary character education programs. The honorees were Mulcahy Middle School (Tulare), Green Acres Middle School (Visalia) and Divisadero Middle School (Visalia). Tulare County CHARACTER COUNTS! Coordinator Kelley Petty, reports that Tulare County schools have received over 60 awards since the program was founded in 1996.

Construction has begun on the expansion of the Phyllis Wall Museum at SCICON. The addition, which is due to be completed this summer, will nearly double the exhibition space. This will allow SCICON the opportunity to display more of its fine natural history collection and to accommodate the growing number of students visiting each year.

Nearly 200 student-produced films have been submitted to the Slick Rock Student Film Festival. The films will be judged this month with the top films in multiple middle and high school categories earning a “Premiere Cut” designation. The numerous Premiere Cut films will be shown May 18 at the Visalia Fox Theater beginning at 9:00 a.m. and extending into the afternoon. The awards ceremony, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 7:00 p.m. Beginning May 13, a schedule of Premiere Cut showings will be posted at

Educational Resource Services is launching a new student event this month — Robot Riot. The event, scheduled for May 11 and open to students in grades 4-12, is designed to test the skill of students in maneuvering Mindstorm LEGO Robotics through nine competitions, such as tug-of-wars, sumo battles, soccer games, dances, mazes and races. For more information, contact Dr. Glenn Williams at (559) 651-3047.

May 13-17 is Bike to Work week in Visalia. For a list of the week’s activities, call Nani Rowland at (559) 651-0130, extension 3720.

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Tim A. Hire, 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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