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The News Gallery

September 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, Shelah Feldstein, Steve Woods, Paula Terrill, Sarah Hamilton, Christine Roberts, Myrna Garcia, Melonie Young, Kelley Petty, Lorena Castillo, Tammy Bradford, and Julie Berk.

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.

Special Services

Young adults gain life skills in new Visalia CBIC
Special Services begins school year with new classrooms serving elementary, adult students

Back-to-school shopping for students in Melonie Young’s new Community Based Instruction Class (CBIC), located at the Visalia Adult School, included a trip to Food Maxx. The young adults were shopping for ingredients for Brazilian Bananas, a simple recipe of bananas, sugar and cinnamon. Ms. Young and her aide, Judy Lambkin, guided students through the aisles in search of the ingredients they would use as part of their Cooking to Learn curriculum. The students counted, weighed, compared prices and calculated the cost of their ingredients relative to their budget before proceeding to the checkout register.

Special Services Back in the classroom, students rotated between two stations as they prepared the Brazilian Bananas. At one station, aide Adriana Hernandez helped students with a social studies lesson about Brazil before moving to the final station where they sliced, counted and measured ingredients for the tasty dessert. A total of 13 students are served in the new Visalia CBIC #2.

In August, the Special Services Division opened three new classes: a Special Day Class at Pinkham Elementary in Visalia, a Special Day Class at Garden Elementary in Tulare and the new CBIC class in Visalia. Across the county, the division operates CBICs at 10 sites. In Visalia, the original CBIC is led by Donna Agler. Teachers Shirley Gowett and Susan Wendt lead the CBICs at College of the Sequoias. CBICs help students with special needs, ages 18-22, develop key life skills, such as character development, money management, personal health and fitness, and communication, navigation and job skills. The goal of the program is to prepare students to live as independently as possible following their graduations. Students who have the skills to utilize public transportation and the ability to work, often do so during class time. “Our goal is to build the local business partnerships that provide meaningful work and help our students develop their job skills and self-esteem,” said Ms. Young. Prior to becoming a CBIC teacher, Melonie Young served as a teacher at the Hurley Elementary Special Day Class in Visalia. “Coming for an elementary setting, I am delighted by our students’ confidence and independence,” she said.

Special Services

Tulare County businesses and community organizations interested in partnering with the CBIC program are encouraged to call Sarah Hamilton, administrator for Severely Handicapped Programs, at (559) 730-2910, extension 5128, or email her at

Photos above:
~ Adilene, a student in Melonie Young’s new Visalia Community Based Instruction Class, helps pick out bananas as part of the program’s Cooking to Learn curriculum.
~ Antonio lends a hand bagging the items the class will use back in the classroom.
~ Leon calculates the cost of the class’s items to make sure they don’t exceed the monthly food budget.

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23rd annual event celebrates teachers
Three Tulare County teachers to be honored at Chinese Cultural Center

On September 22, three Tulare County educators will have a special night under the stars with family, friends and colleagues celebrating their unique talents and accomplishments. The evening honors are part of the annual partnership with the Central California Chinese Cultural Center. Known as the Confucius’ Birthday/Educators of the Year Celebration, the teacher recognition program celebrates three teachers on the birthday of Confucius – an occasion Chinese people around the world often use to celebrate teachers.

“The remarkable love and dedication our winners have for their students is certainly evident,” said Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. “What makes the winners extraordinary is that they work to support the rest of their colleagues and make their schools better learning environments.”

Kristy Caesar Kristy Caesar is a kindergarten learning facilitator at Kennedy Elementary in Lindsay. Originally from Washington State, Mrs. Caesar and her family moved to Tulare County when her husband was hired by Lindsay Unified to help implement its performance-based education system. While in Washington, Mrs. Caesar had been utilizing the performance-based system, which has students working at their performance level and advancing through the curriculum when they have demonstrated knowledge or skills proficiency. Mrs. Caesar says that the foundation of a performance-based education is that students know what they’re learning, they know where they’ve been, and what they’re learning next. Mrs. Casear explains, “It’s like we’ve taken assessments hidden in the teacher’s desk drawer and shared it with the students.” She adds, “I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, but I had to work hard in school. I hope that my kids grow to love learning and see education as their own stepping stone.”

Mrs. Caesar's former principal, Nikolaus Namba, says that she has an amazing ability to connect with learners and personalize their learning experience. He says, “The learners are so articulate in their own understanding of their data that every child can tell you what they are working on, what they need to do next, as well as what their current goal is. There is nothing more amazing then hearing five- and six-year-old children being this articulate and informed about their education.”

Mrs. Caesar is one of the district’s leads for its K-2 achievement team because of her knowledge of instructional strategies and their effectiveness with students. The district regularly records her classroom instruction time for training purposes among the staff. Mrs. Caesar was also praised for her consistent integration of the arts in daily lessons to foster students’ creativity and help them absorb the content in meaningful ways.

AmyRose Lardner AmyRose Lardner is a first-grade teacher at Kohn Elementary School in Tulare, where she has taught for 17 years. Her principal, Whitney Avila, says, “There is not one student on our campus she does not consider to be her own. If she notices a child who needs a little TLC, she is the first to recognize it and offer to help – whether it's giving that child a few positive words of encouragement, a hug or inviting them back to her classroom to take their mind off of things. She doesn't skip a beat when meeting students’ social and emotional needs.” Mrs. Lardner says, “This is a family here. For students who don’t have a great family outside of school, we need to take the first step to show them that this is a safe zone.”

Through her own initiative, Mrs. Lardner has become a campus leader in the use of technology. A few years ago when Superintendent Dr. Clare Gist made technology a district-wide priority, Mrs. Lardner took it upon herself to research applications for the iPads the school was given. Through networking with teachers around the nation and conversations with Google staff, she discovered valuable teaching tools she incorporates into her classroom. “First-graders are just as capable of doing things on computers as most adults,” she said. Students in her classroom enjoy using OSMO, an intuitive coding tool that allows them to program games and stories. Now as Kohn’s lead technology teacher, Mrs. Lardner works with other teachers to incorporate and trouble-shoot technology in all classrooms.

Outside of her own classroom, Mrs. Lardner serves as the school’s Lexia literacy improvement and Accelerated Reading program representative, as well as the advisor for a group of middle school students known as the “Tech Team” – team that creates PowerPoint presentations for Student of the Month assemblies.

John Domingcil John Domingcil is the band director at Dinuba High School (DHS). He began his career at Dinuba Unified in 2001 as the Washington Intermediate School (WIS) band director. During his tenure there, the WIS band received numerous awards, including the sweepstakes award at the Pismo Beach Band Review.

In 2013, he became the band director for Dinuba High School, while also serving a year as the WIS band director to help with the transition. Prior to his arrival at DHS, the program had only 32 band members and eight color guard members. For the 2016-17 school year, the band has a membership of 87 musicians, with an additional 39 students in the color guard and drill team.

Mr. Domingcil’s goal for the DHS band and guard program is to make it fun for students and a source of pride for the community. “Winning awards is fine, but are we winning the hearts of the community? Does Dinuba love us?” he says. Through a repertoire of current pop music and a USC high-step marching style, Mr. Domingcil has made football field shows and music at many sporting events the driving force behind DHS’s school spirit.

“I treat my students like they were my own,” said Mr. Domingcil. “Through music we learn to work together as a team, to treat each other with respect and strive for excellence in all that we do.” In the short time he has been band director at DHS, the program has received numerous awards. In that time, he has also built a growing guitar program. Mr. Domingcil reports that the guitar program has been a stepping stone for students who don’t have previous musical experience. Students in his guitar classes have gone on to perform in pop and folk bands and at their churches. This year, he has two guitar classes with nearly 30 students each.

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

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CHARACTER COUNTS! begins third decade in Tulare County
Program launches school year with trainings to grow character education programs regionally

In September, the Tulare County CHARACTER COUNTS! Program (CC!) begins its third decade of advocating for the implementation of character education in Central Valley schools. The program will hold a series of trainings for teachers, administrators, coaches and athletic directors, including a new advanced training for schools that have long-standing character education programs. The advanced training will cover how CC! can support and align with other social-emotional and behavioral programs on campus.

Additional trainings include the initial CC! two-day seminar, which covers the basics of the Six Pillars of Character and implementation strategies to support good character in the classroom, on campus and in student leadership. The one-day Pursuing Victory with Honor training is designed for coaches and athletic directors interested in reinforcing good sportsmanship in their athletic and extra-curricular programs.

September also marks the opening of the annual CC! 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. A nomination form for K-12 students is available online at
tcoe.org/KidsOfCharacter through October 3. In Tulare County, National CHARACTER COUNTS! Week will be celebrated October 16-22.

“Our partnership with the Visalia Times-Delta has been a cornerstone of the program’s success,” said County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. “This year, we expect to receive our 100,000th student nomination in a program that has been supported by Tulare County schools and families for 21 years.”

Upcoming CC! training opportunities
September 7 & 20
September 8

September 22
Initial CC! training
Pursuing Victory With Honor
Sportsmanship Training
Advanced CC! training
To register, contact Kelley Petty at (559) 740-4303, or e-mail her at kelleyp@tcoe.org.

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New group works with national resources
Central Valley Networked Improvement Communities formed to improve instruction

Together with six Tulare County school districts and two local charter schools, TCOE’s Educational Resource Services (ERS) has formed the Central Valley Networked Improvement Communities (CVNIC), a collaborative effort funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The mission of CVNIC is to learn improved instructional practices for implementation in classrooms – practices which may be later shared throughout Tulare County.

Central Valley Networked Improvement Communities

CVNIC’s initial aim is to improve teaching practice and student outcomes in the area of mathematics, specifically at the fifth-grade level. In July, math teachers from CVNIC members Burton School District, Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified, Dinuba Unified, Exeter Unified, Sycamore Valley Academy, Tulare City School District, Valley Life Charter School and Visalia Unified met for an intensive two-day training featuring Dr. Jo Boaler, an internationally-known Stanford University professor, researcher, author and co-director of youcubed.org. As part of CVNIC’s three-year grant, Dr. Boaler will be supporting the work of the 68-teacher team, applying her latest research to the instructional work in partner schools.

In her recent book, Mathematical Mindsets, Dr. Boaler helps U.S. math educators revolutionize their classrooms by addressing the math trauma that has occurred in American classrooms – a trauma that has created generations of individuals who feel they could never be successful in math. To begin the process of changing math instruction in Tulare County schools, CVNIC teachers kicked off the new school year with a Week of Inspirational Math – a series of five mathematics lessons designed to promote problem solving and a growth mindset. Shelah Feldstein, ERS math curriculum specialist, reports that teachers will share their Week of Inspirational Math experiences at the next CVNIC network meeting on September 13.

In addition to the support from Dr. Boaler, CVNIC receives consulting services from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which is located near the Stanford campus. Trainers from the Carnegie Foundation are teaching designated “improvement specialists” from CVNIC’s partner schools a methodology called improvement science, which is designed to produce continual improvement. CVNIC improvement specialists are continuing their training in the methodology to gain the tools they can use to support the work in their districts and schools. Over time, CVNIC’s successes in improving student learning will be shared with other school organizations.

For more information on CVNIC, contact Charlene Stringham, assistant superintendent of Instructional Services, at (559) 651-0562.

Photo above:
~ Stanford professor Dr. Jo Boaler speaks to a group of 68 Tulare County math educators participating in a grant to improve instructional practices for fifth-grade students. The grant also includes the support of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

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Program seeks participants, offers rewards
Tulare County Early Stars invites preschool programs to enroll and receive training

Tulare County Early Stars, the early childhood education Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS) for Tulare County, is now accepting applications from state preschools interested in enrolling in the evaluation/training program. Preschool programs may elect to enroll in a cohort which begins in September, or a second cohort, which will begin in January 2017.

The QRIS program is a statewide assessment and improvement support system funded by the California Department of Education for providers of early childhood education services. Depending on the type of program that is being assessed, independent evaluators use a standardized matrix with five or seven criteria. The matrix evaluates the type of assessment and developmental screening tools the center uses, the educational qualifications of the center’s teachers, the teacher-child interactions (based on the CLASS assessment), the teacher/child ratios, and the environment. Evaluators score each criteria and total the points to determine how many “stars” the program receives on a one-to-five scale, with five stars being the highest.

Preschools entering the program receive an initial evaluation and a star rating. Following several months of coaching, training and support, including materials and supplies, participants receive an additional assessment and a final rating. “We are able to award programs that receive a four-star rating $6,000 per classroom,” said Lorena Castillo, program manager for Tulare County Early Stars. “Preschools that receive a five-star final rating are awarded $9000 per classroom for use in improving their programs and their facilities.”

Mrs. Castillo reports that up to 15 state preschool programs may enter the September cohort with another 15 eligible to join the January cohort. In addition, Tulare County Early Stars can provide training and support to an unlimited number of preschool programs that aren’t classified as state preschool programs. These include family child care homes, migrant preschool programs, and locally-funded programs.

“Through the QRIS Program, we continue to support the improvement of early childhood education programs throughout Tulare County for the benefit of our students,” said Mrs. Castillo. For enrollment information, contact Lorena Castillo at (559) 651-0862, or

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Spotlight on People On August 4, the TCOE Early Childhood Education Program (ECEP) held its annual staff in-service conference in the Redwood Conference Center. Nationally-recognized educator, psychologist, researcher and speaker Dr. Adolph Brown returned to Tulare County to inspire over 400 ECEP employees in their service to the children of Tulare County. Dr. Brown shared that he is a success today because of his start in a Head Start Program.

Spotlight on People In August, Taurie Thayer was selected as the new receptionist for TCOE’s Mooney Boulevard Administration Building and Conference Center. Ms. Thayer, who previously worked as a secretary for the California Friday Night Live Partnership, directs incoming phone calls, welcomes visitors to the building and oversees the Conference Center reservation system.

Spotlight on People This summer, Educational Resource Services welcomed two new curriculum specialists. Katherine Goyette is the educational technology and integrated studies staff development & curriculum specialist. She is responsible for overseeing the Expanding Your Horizons, CyberQuest and STEM Expo student events. Daniel Rocha joins the mathematics team as a mathematics staff development & curriculum specialist to assist Tulare County school districts with professional development training.

Spotlight on People Tracy Clark has been appointed the new accounting specialist for the Information Systems department. In this role, Ms. Clark will assist Tulare County business personnel in utilizing and trouble-shooting the SACS financial system. She will also assist in E-Rate funding applications and documentation. Ms. Clark previously served as an accountant for Internal Business Services.

Spotlight on People Representatives from nearly 100 universities and colleges will be on hand at the 35th 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 13 beginning at 5:30 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 informational presentations 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. College Night is one of the first student events of the new school year, followed by nearly 50 others offered by various TCOE programs. For a complete list of student events, including information on how to participate, visit tcoe.org/StudentEvents.

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Gallery Notes

This month, middle and high schools from throughout Tulare County can register to participate in the 2016-17 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 $15,000 in grants for winning projects in both the middle and high school categories. Reservations are being accepted on a first-come basis prior to the mandatory September 28 Advisor Training. To register your team, visit
tcoe.org/StepUp, or for more information, call Allison Pierce at (559) 636-5000.

The Tulare County Council on Child & Youth Development will host its Eighth Annual Legislative Breakfast at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, October 13, at the Wyndham Visalia. This free event is designed to inform educators and key decision makers about the importance of early childhood education programs. Camille Maben, executive director for First 5 California, and Dr. Gerrit Westervelt, director of Early Childhood Policy and Resource Development, Center for Child & Family Studies, will be the featured speakers addressing how communities can help to develop a culture of lifelong learners. Visit www.tularecountykids.org for registration information.

Reservations are now being accepted for the Theatre Company’s On Stage Program – an after-school program that helps schools prepare for an on-site theatrical production in only two weeks. Four productions are available this school year – Disney’s The Aristocats Kids, The Jungle Book Kids, 101 Dalmatians Kids, and Winnie the Pooh Kids. Each musical comes complete with props, costumes, sets and a talented director to oversee the production – all for a reasonable fee. For more information, call Brian Roberts at (559) 651-1482.

The annual Tulare County Office of Education Red Ribbon Week will be held October 24-28 with the theme of You Only Live Once – Be 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 Friday, September 30 at noon. For a copy of the order form and to see updates on the week’s activities, visit tcoe.org/RedRibbon.

The Child Abuse and Neglect (C.A.N.) Prevention Program – operated by the Tulare County Office of Education – is seeking volunteers. C.A.N. is a prevention program designed to help reduce the incidence of neglect, as well as physical, emotional and sexual abuse. The program is seeking people who are comfortable in a classroom setting, available a few hours each month during the school year, and committed to child safety. Linda Cemo is the Project Coordinator for C.A.N. She and a team of volunteers make classroom presentations to first- and fifth-grade children in Tulare County. The team presents to an average of 2,800 students per year. First-grade children see a 10-minute video and meet a hand puppet named Safety Sam. The fifth-grade presentations are more interactive. Following a separate video presentation, students discuss the situations presented in the film and how they can keep themselves safe. Both presentations have a similar message: children in a dangerous situation should say “NO!,” then get away and tell someone they trust. To become a volunteer, contact Linda Cemo or Nan Arnold at School Health Programs for an application and an interview. They can be reached at (559) 651-0130.

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

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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