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The News Gallery

May 2015

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, Paula Terrill, Jen Francone, Joy Soares, Will Kimbley, Connie Smith and Lorena Lopez.

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.

Tulare County Special Olympics

TCOE students win big at Special Olympics
Annual sporting event featured nearly 700 athletes from 64 schools and adult programs

The annual Special Olympics, held Friday, April 24 at Bob Mathias Stadium in Tulare, had all the elements of a sports spectacular - cheering fans, photographers, dancers, pageant winners, dignitaries and a torch bearer - all there to make sure the athletes knew just how special they are. Nearly 700 athletes participated in the Olympics this year, representing 64 schools and adult programs from throughout the county. Among them were numerous students from TCOE's special day classes and community based instruction programs.

Tulare County Special Olympics

Regardless of their ability, the games had an event for just about everyone. Assisted walks and motorized wheelchair races were complemented by softball and javelin throws, standing broad jumps and long distance team relays. Retired Special Services program manager Leigh Mosconi coordinates the event. He reports that older athletes look forward to the games all year long. "But for the younger ones who may never have experienced any type of competition success, Special Olympics is an opportunity for them to win a medal and to feel really great about themselves," said Mr. Mosconi.

Tulare County Special Olympics

Nearly 200 volunteers helped event organizers with the games, including students from various public and private schools. "The work these students did to cheer, direct, physically support and record the efforts of these athletes was CHARACTER COUNTS! in action," said Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "Their caring acts were nearly as wonderful to watch as the athletic events."

Tulare County Special Olympics

A list of all TCOE athletes who received medals in the 2015 Tulare County Special Olympics will be available online May 8 at tcoe.org/specialolympics.

Tulare County Special Olympics

Photos above:
~ Jessica Sanchez, a student at TCOE’s L.B. Hill Learning Center in Porterville, is pictured winning the 25 meter race.
~ Afterwards, she was honored with a gold medal and the applause of hundreds of spectators. Jessica was one of dozens of TCOE students to win medals at the annual Special Olympics.
~ Nearly 700 athletes enjoyed competing in the annual Tulare County Special Olympics.
~ Members of the Tulare Western High School baseball team assisted in scoring various competitions, including the assisted walk won by Cassandra Rodriguez of L.B. Hill Learning Center.
~ Clayton Germain of the Community Based Instruction Classroom #1 in Tulare winds up for the softball throw.
~ The competition also included wheelchair races - both motorized and self-propelled.

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Early Childhood Education pilots rating system
Quality of public, private early childhood education stands to benefit from new program

In the information age, quality ratings are vitally important to everyday decision-making processes. Looking for a Thai restaurant? Check out the ratings on Yelp. Buying a new car? See what Consumer Reports has to say. Soon Tulare County parents looking for child care will have a standardized rating system that will give them some assurances about the quality of the program they are considering. More than just consumer opinion, the new Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS) includes an independent assessment based on standardized criteria.

This year, TCOE's Early Childhood Education Program (ECE) has been trained in developing a local QRIS by the Fresno County Office of Education (FCOE). FCOE was one of 17 California consortia to receive federal Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) funds. Statewide, over three-quarters of the RTT-ELC funding has been spent by consortium members to bring together organizations in their region with the goal of improving the quality of early learning and to help mentor them to implement the QRIS.

Early Childhood Education program ECE administrator Connie Smith reports that the program applied for state funding in April to provide QRIS participation training for child care providers throughout the county. The future trainings are open to all state preschools, home providers and private centers. "By participating in the QRIS program, our goal is to increase the quality of early childhood education offered by all providers," said Mrs. Smith.

Depending on the type of program that is being assessed, independent evaluators use a standardized matrix with six or seven criteria. The matrix evaluates the type of assessment and developmental screening tools the center uses, the educational qualifications of the center teachers, the teacher-child interactions (based on the Head Start CLASS assessment), the teacher/child ratios, and an environmental assessment. Evaluators score each criteria and total the points to determine how many "stars" the program receives on a one-to-five scale. "A three-, four- or five-star rating is what all providers should strive to achieve," said Mrs. Smith.

A local child care provider who knows all about the QRIS program is Yadira Mendoza of Lindsay. Ms. Mendoza, who runs a home center for 11 children, agreed to pilot the program for ECE. "It was a great opportunity for a family child care provider to show what we're all about," said Ms. Mendoza. "We do provide high quality instruction and the stars reflect all the work that we dedicate to our children every day." Ms. Mendoza's center did very well with the evaluators, receiving a "four-star" rating. To receive that coveted "five-star" rating, Yadira will need to obtain more training in serving children with special needs, which she plans to do. "The evaluation process was extremely rewarding," she said. "Because we involved the families in the evaluation process, we've seen parent participation triple. It has also helped me realize how much more I can do to help my children and their parents."

With the FCOE training and Yadira Mendoza's pilot evaluation complete, ECE administrator Connie Smith reports that the program has applied for funding to become the support provider for the Tulare County QRIS program. Early childhood educators for children ages 0-5 who are interested in participating in future QRIS trainings should call Connie Smith at (559) 651-3022.

Photo above:
~ Yadira Mendoza (l) and her assistant Ana (r) operate a home based child care center in Lindsay. Yadira was the first provider in Tulare County to participate in the Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS). Through an independent evaluator, her center was assessed and she received a “four-star” rating. TCOE’s Early Childhood Education Program has applied for funding to support other centers as they apply for a QRIS evaluation.

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A Night at the 21st Century Museum returns
Second annual showcase of Project Based Learning to fill the Convention Center May 6

Project Based Learning Students around Tulare County are putting the finishing touches on the projects they will display at the second annual A Night at the 21st Century Museum event May 6 at the Visalia Convention Center. The event is a showcase of the work elementary, middle and high students create utilizing Project Based Learning (PBL). At Liberty School in Tulare, second-grade students in Mrs. Melton's and Mrs. Adams' classes were applying their PBL skills to projects about the national parks.

Last week, the two classrooms were abuzz with activity as students worked on their PowerPoint presentations, performances and brochures. In Mrs. Adams' class, Bianca, Alaya and Crystal had developed a play about the national parks. In their play, Bianca and Crystal play two rangers, who talk to guest Alaya about the history of the parks.

There are 10 characteristics of true Project Based Learning, including an "essential question." For the second-graders, they asked "What is a national park?" The students also developed guiding questions, such as "Why should we preserve them?" and "What can we do to help?"

Project Based Learning

While some students addressed the need to protect the lands for the sake of the animals that live on them, business-minded Bianca, Alaya and Crystal seized on the financial condition of the park system. "Did you know that the parks are $11 billion in debt?" asked Bianca. "Our idea is to perform our play and get people to visit the national parks," she added. "You know, you can visit for just $20 per car. And it doesn't matter how many people you have in your car." Jen Francone, PBL staff development and curriculum specialist, notes that Personalized Learning is also a characteristic of Project Based Learning. "You see among the Liberty teams that students have taken their projects in different directions based on their interests and resources," she said.

Projects from Liberty School will be among more than 50 displays and performances at A Night at the 21st Century Museum. Event coordinators Jen Francone and Joy Soares, TCOE's college and career readiness director, report that the Convention Center's Exhibit Hall will be filled with students anxious to share their PBL work with visitors. The event, which is open to the public, will be held from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. Live presentations will also be held throughout the evening, including the work of high school students from one of Tulare County's Health Academies, engineering interns involved in the INTERNnect Project, participants in the recent National History Day - Tulare County event, and Debbi Parker of Tulare City School District, who will share the impact PBL has had on her district and student achievement.

"We are proud to present A Night at the 21st Century Museum to the community again this year and continue to showcase the extraordinary 21st century learning our students are doing through PBL," said Joy Soares. For more information on the event, call Joy Soares at (559) 651-0501.

Photos above:
~ Liberty School teacher Erika Adams enjoys a moment with students who have written a play about the national parks. Liberty students will showcase their Project Based Learning skills at the second annual
A Night at the 21st Century Museum event May 6.
~ Next door in Mrs. Melton’s class, teammates Joseph and Michaela share their ideas for a brochure on the national parks with event co-coordinator Jen Francone.

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Spotlight on People Olisabet Ramirez and Maria Magana from Crowley Elementary in Visalia watch as Science Olympiad judge Chris Brown loads up their bridge with chalk erasers to determine if it will support the weight. The girls participated in the annual Science Olympiad Division A competition, held April 11 at El Diamante High School. The top three teams in the competition for grades 3-6 were Royal Oaks Elementary, Visalia (first), Oak Grove Elementary, Visalia (second) and Manuel Hernandez Elementary, Visalia (third).

Spotlight on People Rafael Zaragoza, Alex Arroyo and Eden Franklin (l-r) of Mulcahy Middle School in Tulare are pictured participating in the first annual Tulare County Technology Challenge or TC² - a new event designed to test students' ability to use technology to develop a variety of projects, including math infographics, iMovie book trailers and Google Lit (literature) Trips. Students were given their challenge scenarios as they arrived at the event, with several hours to develop projects before uploading them for judges to review. The team from Mulcahy took on the challenge of developing an information graphic illustrating their solution to a math problem. They were asked to determine the break-even cost of buying a $139.00 coffee mug that allowed them to have unlimited coffee for one year, using the cost of coffee from a variety of coffee shops. For a list of TC² participants and awards, visit tcoe.org/tc2.

Spotlight on People Julie Berk has been named the new Assistant Administrator of the Early Childhood Education Program. Until last month, Mrs. Berk had been a principal with Visalia Unified for over 17 years, including service at Crowley, Hurley and Linwood Elementary.

Spotlight on People Nan Arnold, a 20-year veteran of the School Health Programs, has been selected as its new program manager. Ms. Arnold will succeed Kathy Johnston who will be retiring at the end of June. In 2013, Nan was honored as the State School Nurse of the Year by the California School Nurses Organization.

Spotlight on People Tulare Western senior Luisa Rosales recently won third place in the California Mock Trial competition for her courtroom sketch work. Luisa, who has been a sketch artist for the Tulare Western Mock Trial team for four years, plans to pursue a degree in art and fashion.

Spotlight on People Last month, Tulare Western senior Kassie Reynolds was selected as the recipient of the 2015 Tulare County College Night Scholarship. Kassie impressed the scholarship committee with her extensive list of volunteer activities, including work with the Harvesting Hope organization, and mentoring, tutoring and volunteering at Garden Elementary, Live Oak Middle School, and St. Aloysius. Kassie, who was also president of her senior class and a four-year swimmer, plans to attend UCLA, Cal Poly or USC to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering.

Spotlight on People County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak has announced that Special Services administrator Tammy Bradford has been selected as the division's new assistant superintendent. Ms. Bradford will succeed Linda McKean, who is retiring June 30 after three years as assistant superintendent. The Special Services Division includes behavioral health services and the Bright Future program for students with autism; assistive technology; programs for the severely handicapped; Bright Start Parent/Infant Program; and vision, speech, hearing, occupational and physical therapy programs.

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Gallery Notes

Educational Resource Services has announced a three-day Minecraft Summer Camp for teachers and students, July 13-15 in the Computer Lab at 7000 Doe Avenue. Minecraft is an open world video game which is increasingly used in education to teach science, engineering, mathematics and technology (STEM) principles as players create environments, gather resources and explore. Summer camp participants will begin by learning basic crafting and construction and then move to more advanced concepts. Teacher participants will learn how to set up, manage and support Common Core ELA, Math, Social Studies and Next Generation Science Standards using this dynamic and collaborative gaming tool. For more information or to register, call Doug Cairns at (559) 651-3045.

Over 400 student-produced films from 49 schools throughout the Central Valley have been submitted to the 12th Annual Slick Rock Student Film Festival. From these entries, 185 films have been selected to be showcased in the Premiere Cut screening, beginning at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, May 15 at Visalia's Fox Theater. A free awards ceremony featuring 8 middle school film categories and 16 high school film categories will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the theater. Student filmmakers will arrive at the theater via limousine beginning at 5:15 p.m. The public is welcome to attend. A schedule of Premiere Cut showings will be posted at www.slickrockfestival.org one week prior to the event.

On May 4, 15 middle school and 8 high school teams from throughout the county will attend the 4th annual Step Up Youth Challenge Awards to receive grants for their work in developing community service projects. The awards ceremony, which begins at 6:00 p.m. at the L.J. Williams Theater in downtown Visalia, is open to the public. The top five projects in both the middle and high school categories will receive prizes totaling $30,000. The grants are provided by the County of Tulare's Step Up initiative and the Tulare County Youth Commission.

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

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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