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The News Gallery

July/August 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, Tony Velásquez, Ermelinda Ozuna, Nancy Bruce,Nicole Rocha, Brian Roberts and Nicole Zweifel.

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.

TCOE Theatre Company

The Secret Garden blooms again this month
Theatre Company to perform Tony Award-winning musical beginning July 22

This month, the Theatre Company will reprise its 2006 production of The Secret Garden, a Tony Award-winning musical with a cast of over 40 Tulare County students. The Secret Garden is based on a classic 1911 children’s book by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

The story centers on 10-year-old Mary Lennox, an unhappy and difficult English girl living in India with her selfish, disinterested parents. Chloe Hunt, a future freshman at Golden West High School and veteran of Theatre Company productions including Peter Pan and 101 Dalmatians, plays the demanding Mary Lennox. “It’s been tough to play a character who is so mean to others,” said Chloe. “But I’ve liked that Mary is strong-willed – a trait that I believe comes from her tragic childhood and from being left alone so much.”

In India, Mary’s only delight comes from gardening. When a cholera epidemic ravages the Indian village where she lives and kills both her parents and the Indian servant who cares for her, Mary is sent to live with an uncle she has never met in a gloomy mansion on the edge of the English moors.

Once Mary arrives at her uncle’s manor, she becomes active and interested in the world around her, discovering a local country boy named Dickon Sowerby and her frail, obstinate cousin, Colin Craven. Josh Peters, a future freshman at Redwood High School plays Colin. Josh is a veteran of Theatre Company productions including Peter Pan and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. “Playing Colin is a challenge because of all the tantrums, screaming and crying,” he said. “As difficult as he is, I’ve loved working with everyone and watching the production come together.”

No longer isolated, Mary discovers a neglected, walled garden her uncle locked following the death of his wife, Colin’s mother. Once she gains access to the garden and begins to restore it, she transforms not only the garden, but the lives of everyone at the manor.

“When choosing the show to do this summer, The Secret Garden rose to the top of the list because it is such remarkable material and we have such a remarkable group of students who are passionate about musical theatre,” said Theatre Company Director Brian Roberts. “This production has presented us with some unique challenges. The material and, in particular, the music in The Secret Garden is very demanding and requires sustaining a mood unlike most other musical theatre projects. Our cast has taken on these additional challenges with passion, joy and commitment. This performance is a tribute to their creativity, hard work and collaborative spirit.”

Seven performances of The Secret Garden will be held at the L.J. Williams Theater in Visalia — two matinee performances at 2:00 p.m. July 23 and 30, and five evening performances at 7:30 p.m. on July 22, 23, 28, 29 and 30.

The production of The Secret Garden is the nineteenth annual summer musical performed by the Theatre Company since its creation by Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. “I’m sure the production will delight fans of the book,” said Mr. Vidak. “Our hope is that it will also inspire parents and grandparents to share this wonderful story with the young readers in their lives.” Tickets are available for $15 for general admission seating and $25 for VIP seating at either Tulare County Office of Education facility in Visalia: 6200 S. Mooney Blvd. or 7000 Doe Ave. (north of Goshen Avenue on Shirk). Tickets may also be purchased at the door.

L.J. Williams Theater, 1001 West Main Street, Visalia

Show Times
Evening Shows (7:30 p.m.): July 22, 23, 28, 29 and 30
Matinee Shows (2:00 p.m.): July 23 and 30

Show Ticket Information
$15 general admission / $25 VIP tickets
available at Visalia TCOE locations:
6200 S. Mooney Blvd. and 7000 Doe Ave.
Monday through Friday during normal business hours.
Cash or check only.
Tickets may also be purchased at the door.

Principal Characters
Dr. Neville Craven played by Tristan Beck
Dickon Sowerby played by Andrew Cantelmi
Martha Sowerby played by Carly Caviglia
Rose Lennox played by Carissa Gonzalez
Mary Lennox played by Chloe Hunt
Mrs. Medlock played by Alyssa Lotenero
Lily Craven played by Kaley McConnaughey
Archibald Craven played by Jack O'Leary
Ben Weatherstaff played by Gilbert Ortiz
Colin Craven played by Josh Peters
Albert Lennox played by Owen Webb

For information, call the Theatre Company at (559) 651-1482.

Photo above:
~ Characters Mary Lennox and her cousin, Colin Cravens, discover the magic of The Secret Garden. Mary is played by Golden West High School’s Chloe Hunt; Colin is played by Redwood High School’s Josh Peters.

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BioBlitz adds to growing Biodiversity Project
New Circle J program invites students on an outdoor adventure with technology

Circle J-Norris Ranch BioBlitz

In September, the Circle J-Norris Ranch program will launch a new student event entitled BioBlitz. Students in grades 4-12 are invited to join program education coordinator Nancy Bruce and local scientists to document the biodiversity of Circle J, discovering unique living organisms and photographing them using the iNaturalist app. The event will be held Saturday, September 17, from 9:00 a.m. until noon.

The students’ findings will be uploaded to the Circle J Biodiversity Project on the iNaturalist website. “As observations are acquired and added to the project, we will be able to create online instructional resources, such as a field guide to dragonflies of Circle J, or guides on wildflowers, reptiles and amphibians,” said Ms. Bruce. “Classes coming on field trips any time during the year can access those guides before they visit the ranch in order to learn more about the species they will see.”

Ms. Bruce reports that the Biodiversity Project will go on for years, with students being challenged to become explorers of the natural world, discovering species that no one else has seen before. On a recent visit to Circle J, students from the Monache High School (Porterville) Environmental Science Academy utilized the iNaturalist app for the first time. “As soon as I showed them the app, they went from standing up to crouching down to photograph the organisms,” said Ms. Bruce. “One discovery led to another. It was a great way to apply technology in the outdoors, helping students discover and document wildlife, plants and fungi.”

Circle J-Norris Ranch is the beautiful 620-acre field trip site in the Sierra foothills that is part of the SCICON program. The program offers all grade levels a wide variety of field study experiences that enrich and extend classroom learning. Programs conducted on the property are designed to expand the appreciation of the environmental and aesthetic values of the outdoors, and increase understanding of the relationship between humans and nature.

In addition to the BioBlitz event, Circle J will offer its popular astronomy nights this fall. Beginning August 25, students and their families are invited to view some spectacular celestial objects as part of seven astronomy evenings at Circle J-Norris Ranch. A team of local amateur astronomers will help parents and students use the telescopes and guide them to view planets, star clusters and distant galaxies. Visitors will also learn the ancient mythologies of the constellations and how to identify the stars that they contain.

For more information on attending the BioBlitz event, call Nancy Bruce at (559) 539-2263. For a list of the upcoming astronomy night events, visit

Photo above:
~ Students from the Monache High School Environmental Science Academy utilize the iNaturalist app to capture images of plant and animal species at Circle J-Norris Ranch. The app will be a key component of Circle J’s new BioBlitz event on September 17.

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Migrant students immersed in engineering
Summer STEM Program serves nearly 650 students on 26 Kings and Tulare County sites

Migrant Education

Migrant Education students in the program’s annual Summer STEM Program returned to the world of engineering last month with projects that replicated work done by packaging engineers, biomedical engineers and biomechanical engineers. Beginning in June, the Migrant Education Program offered its three-week Summer STEM Program at 26 school sites throughout Kings and Tulare counties. The program served nearly 650 students with grade-specific science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) lessons.

Utilizing new curriculum developed by Engineering is Elementary (EIE) and working in partnership with Educational Resource Services STEM curriculum specialists Michelle French and Jared Marr on the training and assessment component, teachers were eager to guide students through real-world applications of engineering principles.

Migrant Education As packaging engineers, students in kindergarten, first and second grades utilized ordinary materials to design and build containers to ensure the health of plants for the consumer market. After addressing the plants’ needs for water, sun and air, the students included in their designs how the packages would be transported and displayed, along with instructions to consumers on how best to care for the plant.

Migrant Education area administrator Ermelinda Ozuna reports that older students who have been in the Summer STEM Program for a couple of years often repeat elements of the engineering design process to her: identify the need, research the problem, develop solutions, create a prototype, and so on. “I have had several children excitedly tell me that they now want to be engineers,” said Ms. Ozuna. “It’s not something they considered before we offered the Summer STEM Program.”

This year, students in grades 3-5 were introduced to the field of biomedical engineering. They explored how human feet vary in shape, weight and structure, then used this information to design and create shoes. They also measured the range of motion in knees and how knee joints work. After learning about the structures of the knee, they had to design and create a knee brace that would restore movement to a model with an injured knee.

Migrant Education

As biomechanical engineers, sixth- and seventh-graders explored the brain and how a concussion can alter its structure. Students learned ways people can protect their heads by using a helmet. To illustrate the effects of concussion on the brain, students, wearing obscured goggles, were challenged to walk an obstacle course and write simple words.

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 432 students.

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

Photos above:
~ Migrant students in the grades 3-5 learned about the role of biomedical engineers, designing their own custom-fit shoes and knee braces. For a third year, the program utilized an engineering curriculum.
~ Migrant children in kindergarten, first and second grades learned about the role of packaging engineers by designing their own plant containers, complete with care instructions.
~ In their roles as biomechanical engineers, students in sixth and seventh grades studied the importance of helmets in protecting the brain from injury. The students also learned the effects of concussions on mobility and dexterity.

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Court/Community Schools hold graduation
Seniors graduated, gaining credits and career certifications through online coursework

Court/Community Schools

June 2 was a historical day for the Court/Community School Program as it graduated 19 students. Eight of these students attended a formal graduation ceremony in the Redwood Conference Center complete with decorations, proud family members and teachers, and Pomp and Circumstance played by Deputy Superintendent of Instructional Services Dr. Guadalupe Solis (on the saxophone), Court/Community School teacher Carlos Rodriguez (on the guitar) and his brother, Estevan Rodriguez (on the congas).

Court/Community Schools The program, which usually works to return students to their districts of residence following the completion of their expulsion or probation terms, took the unique step of graduating a record number of students. “Our first goal is to transition our students back to their comprehensive high schools,” said Court/Community School administrator Nicole Rocha. “However, if the students are seniors and behind in credits, it may be difficult for them to make up credits and graduate in a timely manner.”

Court/Community Schools This year, the program partnered with Instructional Access, a widely used online course program. The program allows students to complete needed courses in English, science, math and history/social science at a pace that meets their learning style in order to fulfill graduation requirements. Ms. Rocha reported that the Court/Community Schools also partnered with Smart Horizons, an online program for career certifications in fields ranging from child development to retail management. She noted that 63 students completed career certification courses this year.

“We are proud of the effort the Court/Community School staff and administrators took to support these seniors in obtaining their high school diploma and career certifications, easing their transition into adulthood,” said County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. “In turn, the students’ determination to seize this opportunity speaks volumes about their potential for success in college or in a career of their choosing.”

Photos above:
~ Court/Community School administrator Nicole Rocha smiles as 8 of the 19 graduates turn their tassels from right to left at a history-making graduation ceremony June 2.
~ Maria Jimenez-Valdivinos was recognized for earning two scholarships in the amount of $1,000 each – the Imagine America Scholarship and the John Futrell Memorial Scholarship for attendance at San Joaquin Valley College.
~ Mid-County Community School Teacher Matt Lee is pictured with graduate Roman Cisneros. Roman was chosen as the student speaker for the ceremony, sharing the challenges he overcame to stay in school and complete his degree, while holding a job.

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Excellence in Education winners announced
Three educators dedicated to student engagement, success selected for top awards

On May 27, Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak surprised three Tulare County educators by sharing with them that they were winners in the 2016 Excellence in Education Awards program. “The common trait we see in these fine educators is that they are completely dedicated to engaging students and moving them toward independence and success – particularly those who may be at risk of becoming disconnected from school or who have struggled in the past,” said Mr. Vidak. “Each of these creative individuals uses the widest range of resources to see that students meet their greatest potential.”

The winners in the 2016 Excellence in Education Awards program are:

Administrator of the Year: Luis Cobarruvias
Dean of Students, Mission Oak High School, Tulare Joint Union High School District
Excellence in Education Awards

Luis Cobarruvias serves as the dean of students at Mission Oak High School in Tulare – a position he also held at Tulare Union High School until earlier this school year. He serves as the administrative liaison and instructional coach to the school’s core departments, including mathematics, English, science, special education and World Languages. He also oversees discipline and counseling, at-risk students, English Learners and Migrant students, and has developed the school’s PIQE (Parent Institute for Quality Education) and the ELAC (English Learners Advisory Council).

Mr. Cobarruvias’ passion for student success has led him to make connections to the school’s feeder districts of Pixley and Tipton. Through regular visits to these towns, he has made students feel welcome before they ever step foot on campus and made parents feel empowered and connected. In the short time that Mr. Cobarruvias has been at Mission Oak, participation in the school’s PIQE has grown nearly 400%. Under his supervision, Tulare Union’s PIQE has seen more graduates than any other high school in California.

Mr. Cobarruvias is the founder and past-president of the Tulare County Hispanic Leadership Network, a local network of professionals in the field of education who meet regularly to discuss best practices, hear from leaders in the field, and establish a network of educators. He has worked for the Tulare Joint Union High School District for nine years.

Teacher of the Year: Stephen Amundson
Teacher/Activities Director, Tulare Western High School, Tulare Joint Union High School District
Excellence in Education Awards

A champion for engagement at Tulare Western High School, Stephen Amundson works to develop the potential in all students. Whether he’s teaching at-risk students through Reconnecting Youth, helping to pair freshmen and upper classmen through Link Crew, supporting students to become college-ready with study, organization and social skills through AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), or motivating student leaders through ASB (Associated Student Body), Mr. Amundson is inspiring all students to be their best.

Mr. Amundson’s motto, “leadership starts with you, but it’s not about you”, perfectly reflects his focus on building servant leaders. Tulare Western’s ASB has led the Soled Out for Kids campaigns, which afforded every elementary student at Roosevelt and Maple schools new shoes, as well as Operation Warmth, Feeding the Need, and numerous other community partnerships. Nominators praised Mr. Amundson for his tireless work ethic, which motivates students to create school spirit, generate a safe and bully-free environment, serve their campus and community, and highlight the achievements of others and not just their own. Through his example, students are gaining the leadership skills they will use in college or career.

Stephen Amundson lives by the philosophy, “A teacher's main objective is to become less and less needed in the lives of their learners.” For the 2015-16 school year, he was named the Tulare Joint Union High School District’s teacher of the year. He has served the Tulare Western campus for 12 years.

School Employee of the Year: Erik Gonzales
Student Advocate, John J. Cairns Continuation High School, Lindsay Unified School District
Excellence in Education Awards

As a student advocate for Lindsay Unified’s three alternative education sites (John J. Cairns Continuation High School, Lindsay Community Day and Loma Vista Charter), Erik Gonzales supports students with social skills training, behavior modification and academic monitoring. He also provides parent outreach, including in-home and school site consultation and related assistance. Nominators praised Mr. Gonzales for helping to transform the culture at the alternative education programs through strong collaboration with students, parents, administrators and the community. He has helped to create motivating learning opportunities, such as building a work-based internship program, that connect students to real-world experiences.

Prior to joining the staff at Lindsay’s continuation high school, Mr. Gonzales was a Reconnecting Youth specialist at Lindsay High School. There, he helped to create a culture of inclusion and acceptance, coaching staff on how to best create a learner-centered environment that supported the needs of at-risk learners. He brought the need for interventions to the forefront of staff discussion to support students’ academic achievement.

Erik Gonzales has been employed with the Lindsay Unified School District since 2010. He has served the students at John J. Cairns Continuation High School and the other alternate programs since 2013. In his current position he says, “Every day I get to face new challenges and find solutions for every obstacle our learners face.”

Additional Recognitions

The Excellence in Education Awards selection committee reviewed and scored each of the nominations received in the Administrator/Manager of the Year, Teacher of the Year and School Employee of the Year categories. In addition to selecting the winners, the committee of Tulare County business and educational leaders also named two finalists in each category. They include:

Administrator of the Year
Lana Brown, Deputy Superintendent, Lindsay Unified School District
Brian Roberts, Theatre Company Director/Instructional Consultant, Tulare County Office of Education

Teacher of the Year
Dr. Michael Allard, Orchestra Director, Harmony Magnet Academy, Porterville Unified School District
Benjamin Cooper, Third Grade Teacher, Alpine Vista School, Tulare City School District

School Employee of the Year
Juana Gray, Guidance Counselor, Harmony Magnet Academy, Porterville Unified School District
Jeanette Medina, Instructional Assistant, Jefferson Elementary School, Dinuba Unified School District

The Excellence in Education Awards program, now celebrating its 23rd year, received a total of 26 nominations from Tulare County school districts this year. All award recipients, finalists and nominees will be honored at a recognition breakfast on November 2, 2016. Event attendees will enjoy a video highlighting the work of the overall winners.

“We greatly appreciate the support of our partners in this event – the Educational Employees Credit Union, its President/CEO Beth Dooley, and board of directors,” says Jim Vidak. “Together, we have the privilege of recognizing the many talented men and women who devote their lives to educating children and young adults in Tulare County.”

Photos above:
~ County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak explains to staff at Mission Oak High School in Tulare that Luis Cobarruvias has been selected as the 2016 Tulare County Administrator of the Year.
~ Stephen Amundson, a teacher at Tulare Western High School, holds his daughter while expressing his appreciation for being selected as Tulare County Teacher of the Year.
~ (l-r) Tom Rooney, Lindsay Unified superintendent; Erik Gonzales, student advocate at John J. Cairnes Continuation High School and Tulare County School Employee of the Year; Dennis Doane, the school’s principal; and Jim Vidak.

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Spotlight on People La Sierra Military Academy held its graduation ceremony on June 2. Jose Castro Ayala, La Sierra’s battalion commanding officer, addressed the audience during the graduation ceremony, reflecting on the challenges and experiences that helped him build leadership skills.

Spotlight on People Rebecca Hendrickson is returning to the Special Services Division as program manager for the severely handicapped programs in the Tulare area. Since 2013, she has worked as a Special Education program manager for Visalia Unified School District. Prior to joining the district, Ms. Hendrickson had been an educational specialist for TCOE and a teacher for the Bright Start Parent/Infant Program.

Spotlight on People In July, Joe Martinez (above, left), Dinuba Unified’s director of Special Student Services, will be joining the Special Services Division as director of Psychological Services. Mr. Martinez served Dinuba Unified for eight years and, prior to that, Visalia Unified for three years. • Jeff Ramsay (above, right) has joined the Business Services Division as director of General Services. The former director of facilities for Visalia Unified, Mr. Ramsay will oversee TCOE facilities, construction and insurance matters.

Spotlight on People National workplace expert Joel Zeff had some improvisational fun with administrators at the annual Tulare County Summer Institute June 15 to talk about building positive, innovative and creative office cultures. Pictured with Mr. Zeff are (l-r) Tammy Bradford, TCOE assistant superintendent of Special Services; Yolanda Valdez, Cutler-Orosi Unified superintendent; and Norma Lovelace, TCOE New Teacher & Leadership Development recruiter. Mr. Zeff will be the keynote speaker at the 2017 Tulare County Support Staff Conference April 26.

Spotlight on People Christina Loya, External Business Services technician, is pictured charging her electric Fiat 500 at the new TCOE Administration Building and Conference Center on Mooney Blvd. The charging station, and a similar one at the TCOE Doe Avenue Complex, is available on a fee basis to employees and visitors with electric vehicles. Ms. Loya reports that the station will charge her car completely in 3 to 4 hours.

On June 8, the Human Resources Division hosted its annual Retiree Reception in the Redwood Conference Center. Thirty-seven TCOE teachers, administrators and support staff members retired during 2015-2016, having contributed a total of 884 years to the students of Tulare County. Among the retirees honored at the reception were: Migrant Education’s Anna León (photo 1); Connections for Quality Care’s Molly Anzaldua (with Melissa Bachtelle) (photo 2); Early Childhood Education’s Maria Arreola (with Jim Vidak and John Rodriguez (photo 3); Special Services’ Susan Griggs and Sandie Sweeney (photo 4); Teacher of the Severely Handicapped Steve Carney (with Jim Vidak) (photo 5); Early Childhood Education’s Connie Smith (with Dr. Lupe Solis) (photo 6); and Special Services’ teacher Ruth Molano (photo 7). Spotlight on People

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Gallery Notes

The Calendar of Student Events for the 2016-17 school year is online at
tcoe.org/StudentEvents. The booklet contains dates and information on nearly 50 student events and programs, including several new ones. This year, the Instructional Services Division is introducing Tulare County Poet Project (September 15) and Circle J-Norris Ranch’s BioBlitz (September 17).

For the third year, the Tulare County Office of Education CHARACTER COUNTS! Program recognized four high school senior student athletes with a $500 Pursuing Victory With Honor college scholarship for their exemplary character on and off the field. The recipients, who possess exceptional traits in sportsmanship, leadership and initiative, are: Christian Webb (Tulare Union High School), Jillian Dudley (Mt. Whitney High School, Visalia), Julianna Acosta-Swilley (Dinuba High School), and Sydney Garcia (Harmony Magnet Academy, Strathmore).

Internet giant Amazon recently launched a new service called Inspire, which is designed as an interface with “open” or free educational resources. Educators across the nation can go to the site to access teaching modules, lessons, activities and more, or to upload and share their own content or links. Several months ago, Amazon approached TCOE’s Educational Resource Services (ERS) about sharing the content developed by TCOE instructional consultants and curriculum specialists for their Common Core Connect website (commoncore.tcoe.org). Since that initial contact, ERS staff members have uploaded approximately 200 of its resources to the site, making TCOE one of California’s largest content contributors. For more information on accessing Amazon Inspire (amazoninspire.com), please contact Steve Woods at (559) 651-3077, or stevew@ers.tcoe.org.

The second annual California Teachers Summit will be held Friday, July 29. The free event, which is open to PreK-12 teachers, teacher candidates and school administrators, will be held in 40 locations across the state. Tulare County educators can register to attend sessions at neighboring CSU Fresno or CSU Bakersfield. Last year, the one-day event attracted 15,000 educators who came to learn concrete strategies to implement the new California Standards, build networks and share ideas. The California Teachers Summit is sponsored by the California Department of Education and the California State University System and features a statewide keynote speaker, followed by presentations by local education leaders. To register, visit www.CATeachersSummit.com.

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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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