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The News Gallery

December 2015/ January 2016

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, Nancy Bruce, Helen Milliorn-Feller, Eloise Martinez, Paula Terrill, Tony Velásquez and Anabel Gonzalez.

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.

Expanding Your Horizons

Hands-on STEM activities key to annual conference
Record-breaking 1,100 students attend Expanding Your Horizons event

Sarah Godinho, a junior biology major at Fresno Pacific University, had the challenging task of holding the attention of elementary and middle school girls at the annual Expanding Your Horizons Conference (EYH). Looking young enough to be the girls’ big sister, Sarah accomplished the challenge with an engaging discussion about the anatomy and physiology of the heart. At the conclusion of her presentation, entitled “We Heart Cardiology,” Sarah brought out several sheep hearts for the girls to inspect themselves. After first showing them the proper way to put on and take off medical gloves, she and the girls eagerly explored the hearts’ chambers, valves and vessels.

Expanding Your Horizons

On November 14, 1,100 girls attended the annual conference on the College of the Sequoias Visalia campus. “Expanding Your Horizons is an event designed to nurture girls’ interest in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology,” said Michelle French, EYH event coordinator and STEM staff development and curriculum specialist. “The participants have wonderful experiences learning about career opportunities from women scientists, mathematicians and engineers.”

This year, EYH featured over 30 breakout sessions. In Danielle Gibson’s session entitled “Down the Rabbit Hole: The Chemistry Wonderland,” girls performed a variety of experiments, with an emphasis on the scientific method, polarity and surface tension. In Tracy Delperdang’s “Let’s Build a Whale!” session, students constructed a life-sized, inflatable orca and discussed the animal's adaptations, morphology, relationship to other species and its importance within the marine ecosystem. Attendees also enjoyed sessions on physiology, robotics, rocket propulsion, computer programming and app development.

Expanding Your Horizons

This year, the keynote presenter was Dr. Suzanne L. Singer, who holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from U.C. Berkeley. Dr. Singer is an energy systems and thermal analyst at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. She told the girls of her childhood in Flagstaff, Arizona and her family who are members of the Navaho tribe. She credited her parents for inspiring her to pursue a career in science. Her mother compiled planetary maps for the US Geological Survey as a cartographic technician, while her father was an electrical engineer. Dr. Singer told the girls that 40% of the Navahos living in the area where she grew up don’t have electricity. She shared how she is using her passion for science to help develop renewable energy systems for Native American tribes.

For more information on Expanding Your Horizons, call Michelle French at (559) 651-3003.

Photos above:
~ Sarah Godinho, a junior biology student at Fresno Pacific University, discussed the physiology of the heart with attendees at the annual Expanding Your Horizons conference.
~ In the
Let’s Build a Whale session, students built a life-sized, inflatable orca.
~ Students estimated and then tested the number of water drops that would fit on the surfaces of various coins in
Down the Rabbit Hole: The Chemistry Wonderland.

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Field Science Weekend

Weekend offers real-world environmental science
Students work alongside scientists on conservation and restoration projects

Over the weekend of November 14-15, 31 Tulare County high school students came to the Circle J-Norris Ranch to work alongside 12 teachers, scientists and Americorps volunteers on real-world conservation and restoration projects to benefit the program. Circle J-Norris Ranch is a 630-acre ranch in Tulare County’s blue oak woodland in the Springville area. It is operated as a field trip campus by Tulare County Office of Education and is SCICON’s sister campus.

Students performed studies under the guidance of professional scientists and made recommendations for projects that will maximize wildlife habitat quality on the ranch. This year, scientists led students to evaluate the quality of bird habitats, pastures, soil, water, plants and animals. In addition, they also were involved in several service projects, including propagating California wild roses, setting up wildlife cameras, planting native plants and removing noxious weeds.

Field Science Weekend

Granite Hills High School science teacher Stacy Vehrs said that she sees a significant change in how her students engage in science. After participating in the Field Science Weekend, she said that students participate more in discussions of scientific issues and begin to see Environmental Science as an active, problem-solving profession that can solve environmental challenges in the world. “Field Science Weekend is an excellent opportunity for my science students to apply chemistry, biology and physical sciences in real job situations,” she said. “They integrate all of the science subjects they have studied and use critical thinking skills to study and try to solve real problems on the ranch.”

Teachers and students benefit from working alongside scientists to create networks with professionals who can come into their classrooms as guest speakers or serve as mentors for students working on their senior projects. Students have the opportunity to ask the volunteer scientists how they prepared for their careers, how to get internships through their organizations and what they like and dislike about their careers.

Field Science Weekend

From year to year, students build upon the work done by previous Field Science Weekend participants. Circle J-Norris Ranch lead teacher Nancy Bruce reports that students have completed a wide variety of projects, including removing noxious weeds and re-vegetating an area above the site’s pond with native plantings, creating nurseries for young fish in the pond, introducing floating islands for turtles with plants that help reduce the nitrates in the water and constructing nesting boxes for a variety of birds.

“I have seen the value of this event in introducing students to the idea of a natural resource management career,” said Ms. Bruce. “A few years ago I bumped into a young college student attending a bird symposium. It turned out that she is from Porterville and attended our Field Science Weekend as a student. It’s rewarding to see Tulare County students becoming part of the scientific community that is working to protect our environment.”

For information on the Circle J-Norris Ranch program and the field study opportunities offered to students in elementary, middle school, high school and community college, contact Nancy Bruce at (559) 539-2263.

Photos above:
~ Field Science Weekend participants helped to propagate the California wild rose for future plantings, a valuable plant for wildlife.
~ Michael Sowers, a soil scientist with Cascade Earth Sciences in Visalia, leads students in identifying soil samples taken from the ranch.
~ Students use a quadrant to evaluate vegetation coverage.

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Employee service milestones celebrated
Annual Longevity Awards dinner recognizes 79 employees for over 1,300 years of service

Annual Longevity Awards

The annual TCOE Longevity Awards dinner was held on Wednesday, November 4 at the Visalia Veterans Memorial Building. The dinner was hosted by the Human Resources Division. This year, 79 employees were honored for service milestones of 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35 and 45 years. The longest-serving employee this year was Marina Gonzales who celebrated her 45th anniversary with the Tulare County Office of Education. Ms. Gonzales is an instructional aide for the Severely Handicapped Program, serving students at Tulare Western High School.

Annual Longevity Awards

Human Resources Director John Rodriguez shared with the audience that the 79 employees honored this year had contributed a total of 1,345 years of service to the students of Tulare County.

45 Years
Marina Gonzales

35 Years
Andrea Clark

30 Years
Sylvia Lopez
Robert Ridenour
Roger Smith
John Wilborn, Jr.

25 Years
Oleida Encinas
Norma Gomez
Michael Keller
Sallie Kleppe
Ines Leonardo
Donald Lett
Karen Phillips
Patrick Rankin
Jill Roderick
Alma Rooney
Patricia Russell
Rhonda Souza
Scott Unser

20 Years
Michael Aulds
Cherí Barnes
Anne Clifford
Gary Kenny
Tiffany Manning
Eloise Martinez-Raya
Ruth Molano
Rebecca Ochoa
Joann Soares
Pete Soto, Jr.
Dianne Thompson

15 Years
Sadhana Awasthi
Maria Barba
Stacey Broyles
Nancy Bruce
Kathie Chavez
Jane Gahl
15 Years (cont.)
Joe Garza, Jr.
Shirley Gowett
Patricia Gutierrez-Murillo
Paul Harrington
Richard Hernandez
Stacey Jared
Lisa Keeley
Kristi Lomonaco
Ana Martinez
Nancy Pallanes
Julia Ponce
Alvaro Rodriguez
Donna Rodriguez
Caroline Salazar
Mitchell Vidak
Nathanael Wills

10 Years
Jaime Burnitzki
Glenda Couch
Shelly DiCenzo
Jennifer Fisher
Claudia Gerardo
Angela Griffith
Micaela Gutierrez
Adrianna Hernandez
Michael Holguin
Lorene Johnson
Kirstin La Tour
Michelle McNiece
Amanda Mirise
Marlene Mitchell
Heather Parker
Ronald Pekarek
Kelley Petty
Maria Pizano
Hilda Quintana
Evangeline Riggs
Robert Roldan
Claudia Silva
Pamela Smith
Toby Soto
Sally Ybarra
Roxana Yzaguirre
Anjelica Zermeño

Photos above:
~ Pictured is 35-year honoree Andrea Clark. She is an instructional assistant with Special Services Severely Handicapped Program based in the Pixley School District.
~ Thirty-year honorees included (l-r) Sylvia Lopez, secretary at the Mid-County Community School, John Wilborn, director of External Business Services, and Roger Smith, director of Information Systems.
~ County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak thanks Human Resources Director John Rodriguez for organizing the event and the honorees for their service to the students of Tulare County.

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Behavior expert to address achievement
Horacio Sanchez coming to Visalia in January for two conferences

Horacio Sanchez In January, the Tulare County Office of Education and the Tulare Charter of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) will team up to bring Horacio Sanchez to Visalia. Mr. Sanchez, a leading authority in emotional disorders and the development of resiliency, has been a teacher, school administrator, mental health director and consultant to the Departments of Education in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and other states. He is currently the president of Resiliency Inc., which provides behavioral resolutions through mental health and educational programs.

Mr. Sanchez will speak to ACSA administrators and their guests at the organization’s annual Winter Conference, January 19 from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. The following day, he will be the keynote presenter at a conference organized by Educational Resource Services (ERS). His presentation on January 20 is entitled Steps for Closing the Achievement Gap. Both events will be held at the new TCOE Administration Building and Conference Center at 6200 S. Mooney Blvd. in Visalia.

Mr. Sanchez combines neuroscience, research and best practice in the field of education to help agencies and educators modify instruction in order to improve academic performance for all students. “The first thing that has to be understood concerning the achievement gap is that it is not merely an academic issue that can be extinguished through academic strategies alone,” said Mr. Sanchez. “The achievement gap is an outcome of the whole child: genetics, temperament, environment and life experiences. Institutions working with children and adolescents must understand how to create environments that maximize behavioral and academic performance.”

Horacio Sanchez is also the author of a new book entitled A Brain-Based Approach to Closing the Achievement Gap. For information on registering for the ACSA Winter Conference, call Yolanda Valdez, superintendent of the Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified School District, at (559) 528-4763. To register for the ERS conference, visit

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Migrant Ed helps select award winner
Tulare County mother selected Farmworker Woman of the Year

The 13th Annual Farmworker Women’s Conference was held on Friday, November 6 at the Visalia Convention Center. Each year, conference organizers recognize one woman as the Farmworker Woman of the Year. This year, the Migrant Education Program Region VIII had the honor of nominating the woman who would receive the honor.

Concepción Santiago is the mother of two children who attend Kings River Union School in Kingsburg. Mrs. Santiago immigrated to the United States in 1995. For the past eleven years, she and her husband, Rogelio Soto, have resided in New London, but continually migrated throughout California in search of agricultural work.

Mrs. Santiago was selected as the 2015 Farmworker Woman of the Year for her commitment to education, which she has maintained despite the challenges of migrating for work in agriculture. She is currently attending classes to complete her GED with the goal to obtain a job that would allow her to spend more time with her children. She shared, “I want to teach my children that with hard work and determination, anything is possible.”

Mrs. Santiago actively participates in the Migrant Education Program’s parent meetings. She was selected as the Vice President to represent the Migrant community of New London for 2015-2017. The administration and staff of the Migrant Education Program wish to congratulate Concepción Santiago for her award and her commitment to serve her family and her community.

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Spotlight on People
On November 4, over 300 educators and community members gathered at the Visalia Convention Center to honor the nominees, finalists and winners in the 21st Annual Excellence in Education Awards program. The winners in the three awards categories are pictured with Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak (r) and include (l-r) School Employee of the Year Evelia Alvarez, a school counselor at Pioneer Middle School in the Porterville Unified School District; Teacher of the Year Chris Cumiford, a social science teacher at Visalia Technical Early College High School (VTEC); and Administrator of the Year Leticia Treviño, principal at Golden Valley Elementary in the Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified School District. Finalists and nominees were also honored, including TCOE's Lorena White, a finalist in the school employee of the year category. Mrs. White is the web developer with the Information Systems department. To see a complete list of the finalists and nominees and to watch the video created in honor of the award winners, visit

Spotlight on People This fall, Travis Brown (l) joined the Beginning Teachers Support and Assessment (BTSA) program as the induction program coordinator. Mr. Brown had been the principal at Strathmore Elementary School. Barbara Leal (r) was promoted to BTSA induction program director following the retirement of Ron Koop.

Spotlight on People Lisa Lemus has joined the Educational Resource Services ELA/ELD team. She holds a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on literacy and has a decade’s worth of teaching experience in general education classes, special day classes and as an education specialist. Along with other members of the ELA/ELD team, Mrs. Lemus will support Tulare County teachers and school districts in building students’ literacy skills for the 21st century.

Spotlight on People Marty Frolli has joined the Instructional Services Division as the new Leadership Support Services Administrator. Mr. Frolli, who had been a principal for Visalia Unified for over 16 years, will be working with Tulare County districts supporting the development of their Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAP). He will provide both technical assistance and serve as a facilitator to connect districts to best practices through leadership and learning forums being developed by Educational Resource Services.

Spotlight on People
On November 6, University Preparatory High School (UPHS) held a Veteran's Day assembly. UPHS principal Eric Thiessen, a Lieutenant Commander in the US Naval Sea Cadet Corps, read the names of local veterans in attendance, which included five World War II servicemen. The UPHS choir also performed.

Spotlight on People
Debra Lockwood (c), surrounded by members of the ERS Library Media team, was recently named library media supervisor for the program. She comes to the Tulare County Office of Education from Kingsburg High School, where she was a teacher librarian who taught students how to access and evaluate digital sources, how to give credit to their sources and how to avoid plagiarism. Pictured with Ms. Lockwood (l-r) are Kim Rice, Maria Ortiz, Sara Torabi, Nathan Wills, Steve Woods, Doug Cairns and Virginia Baiza.

Spotlight on People
On November 19, the Tulare County Office of Education Foundation teamed up with Senator Andy Vidak to bring Vision Service Plan’s (VSP) Mobile Eyes Clinic to Tulare County. VSP staff in the Mobile Eyes Clinic were able to perform an eye exam and make a pair of glasses that same day for over 40 people who did not have access to vision insurance. With the help of volunteers from School Health Programs, including retired nurse Anita Solis (l) and secretary Margarita Quintana (r), 100 additional people were screened and given vouchers for free eye exams and glasses.

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Gallery Notes

The 2015 Red Ribbon committee is pleased to report that $4,200 in donations was received from activities held during the annual event in October. 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 staff and business partners donated 27 wonderful prizes for a raffle drawing. The proceeds from the week’s events will be given to CASA of Tulare County, which advocates for abused, neglected, and abandoned children. More information, including a list of raffle winners, can be found at

Since the Planetarium & Science Center opened to students on November 2, Supervisor Conan Palmer reports that the program is expected to see over 2,700 visitors through the month of December. This represents a 75% increase over the same two-month period last year. Student groups are coming from Tulare, Kings, Fresno and Madera counties. Teachers interested in booking a school tour for 2016 should call (559) 737-6334. More information on available programs can be found at tcoe.org/Planetarium.

The Community Based Instruction Class (CBIC) at Porterville College will host its annual Greenhouse Sale on Saturday, December 5 from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Students in the program cast a variety of decorative birdbaths, statues, stepping stones, water fountains, benches and planters. Sales of the reasonably-priced items benefit the program. Porterville College is located at 100 E. College Ave. The CBIC Greenhouse is located on the north side of the campus parallel to Highway 190 and west of Plano Street. For more information, call (559) 791-2377.

La Sierra High School will hold its first student art exhibition December 2 in the campus’s Eagle Hall. The exhibition, entitled Fears, Values, Hopes and Justice for Whom?, will feature 100 pieces of art, including drawings, paintings and several sculptures from students in the military academy and the independent study program. La Sierra High School is located at 1735 E. Houston Ave. in Visalia. The free exhibition will be open from 5:00 until 8:00 p.m. For more information, call (559) 733-6963.

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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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