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The News Gallery

February 2017

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, Nancy Bruce, Donna Glassman-Sommer, Ruth Dutton, Debra Lockwood, Kate Stover, Paula Terrill, Conan Palmer, Alex Villaseñor, Tony Velásquez, Shantall Porchia, Jaime Burnitzki and Rebecca Hendrickson.

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 medallion

New medallion dedicated on first anniversary
Former planetarium director Sam Peña creates sculpture for administration building

TCOE medallion In celebration of the first anniversary of operations in TCOE’s new Administration Building and Conference Center on Mooney Boulevard, County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak held a dedication ceremony on January 11. The dedicated item was a beautiful 43” bronze medallion created by Visalia sculptor and former planetarium director Sam Peña. The medallion now sits adjacent to the sidewalk near the main entrance to the building.

“On January 4 of last year, we began our first full week of operations in this beautiful building,” said Mr. Vidak, who shared some statistics and history-making events hosted in the new conference center. “We’ve hosted Academic Decathlon, History Day, CyberQuest, an awards dinner for the California Department of Education and numerous other events. In fact, our conference center was so busy that in just one year, we’ve hosted nearly 1,100 meetings and special events with set-ups for over 43,000 people!”

TCOE medallion Continuing, Mr. Vidak described the medallion that was commissioned for the building. “As we planned this building, we envisioned a special place for a piece of Sam’s work – a work that depicts the history of Tulare County schools and the service this office has provided for over 160 years.”

Mr. Vidak invited Sam Peña to the podium to share his experiences in creating the work of art. Sam shared that he didn’t set out to become a sculptor, but that he was given the opportunity in the 1980s by former Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Dean Hall. A talented illustrator, Sam had drawn a sketch of Mahlon Levis, a SCICON benefactor and former member of the Tulare County Board of Education, for a plaque to be installed at TCOE’s outdoor education school. Upon seeing the portrait of Mr. Levis, artisans at the Fresno foundry that was contracted to cast the bronze plaque suggested that Sam turn the drawing into a bas relief (low relief) sculpture. The commission from TCOE was the beginning of his career as a sculptor.

Since he retired from the planetarium in 2006, Sam Peña has been a sought-after artist and sculptor, both locally and nationally. He recently completed bronze bas relief pieces for The Visalia Rawhide Hall of Fame inductees and a statue of Hugh Mooney that stands at the entrance of Mooney Grove Park. Nationally, Mr. Peña has created 35 medallions that have been installed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The medallions are part of the Points of Light Monument, which honors Americans who created great service and social change movements. For more information on the Americans depicted on the Points of Light Monument, visit

Photos above:
~ A bronze medallion now sits near the entrance to TCOE’s new administration building.
~ Staff admire its depiction of modern students reading below a scene of a historic Tulare County schoolhouse.
~ Former TCOE planetarium director and renown sculptor Sam Peña (l) poses with Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. Mr. Peña created a sculpture for TCOE’s new administration building similar in size to 35 bronze medallions he has designed for the Points of Light Monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

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MakerSpaces engage students creatively
ERS supports schools interested in developing MakerSpaces in libraries, classrooms


At the January meeting of the Library Multimedia Network (LMN), over 50 library media technicians from schools throughout Tulare County participated in a morning of making. The meeting’s focus was on introducing MakerSpace activities in the K-12 library. The MakerSpace movement in education has increased in popularity over the past few years. The idea behind the MakerSpace movement is that students have an opportunity to learn through exploration, problem solving, creating, collaborating, designing and articulating their thinking. “MakerSpaces can be small or large areas in the library, a dedicated classroom or a converted computer lab,” explained Debra Lockwood, library media supervisor with TCOE’s Educational Resource Services (ERS). “We’re seeing school and library staff across the country providing room for students to explore computer coding, robotics, 3-D printing, engineering challenges and art projects.”


MakerSpace stations highlighted during the LMN meeting included a mixture of high- and low-tech activities. Participants learned how to code Sphero balls on a tablet with Toni Haines, library media technician from Heritage School, Tulare City School District. They learned how to manipulate LEGO Robotics with Doug Cairns, an instructional technology specialist with the ERS Library. Participants also had the chance to experience coding with Ozobots and Bee Bots, which are available for schools to check out from the ERS Library. Kate Stover, visual and performing arts specialist with ERS, helped bring out participants’ hidden creativity with several unique art projects that were completed in under 30 minutes. Other low-tech maker ideas included engineering challenges using craft sticks, clothespins, binder clips, plastic cups, marbles and paper plates.

MakerSpace “It is a movement akin to Project Based Learning where students acquire a deeper knowledge of a subject, real world problem or challenge through active exploration,” said Ms. Lockwood. “MakerSpace activities can be developed in every curricular area and don’t have to be expensive.”

Schools in the county that are experimenting on a large scale with MakerSpaces include Jim Maples Academy in the Burton School District. The school has two rooms dedicated to the maker philosophy: the Thinker Space, a room where students brainstorm their ideas, and the MakerSpace Lab where those ideas go into production. According to Valarie Seita, district librarian for Visalia Unified, Ridgeview Middle School’s new library was built with the MakerSpace movement in mind and includes an area dedicated to making projects.

MakerSpace Eleanor Roosevelt Community Learning Center (ERCLC) is also engaged with the MakerSpace movement. Daniel Huecker, director of ERCLC, is very supportive of engaging students with “making.” Over the past four years, ERCLC has hosted weekend MakerFaires where students, staff and even parents share their MakerSpace projects and workshops are offered for students and parents. ERCLC is preparing to open a dedicated space for maker classes to all K-12 students during the 2017-18 school year. Whether schools call their spaces “Idea Labs,” “Genius Rooms,” “Design Studios,” “Innovation Labs” or “MakerSpaces,” students are engaged with the learning process in meaningful, hands-on ways. For more information about MakerSpaces in libraries and classrooms, or to check out the Ozobots or Bee Bots, please contact Debra Lockwood at
debral@ers.tcoe.org or phone (559) 651-3042.

Photos above:
~ ERS hosted a workshop on MakerSpace activities educators can incorporate into their school libraries.
~ Debra Lockwood, ERS library media supervisor, discusses some of the simple materials that can be used in building a MakerSpace and the resource materials available through the ERS Library.
~ Alpaugh Unified’s Carmen Diaz programs a Bee Bot to navigate a poster.
~ Jeanette Gonsalves-Roach from Lincoln Elementary in Lindsay prepares an Ozobot to follow a course she has drawn. Ozobots and Bee Bots, which are available for checkout through the ERS Library, help students learn about coding.

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Center to bolster connectivity with new portal
TCOE receives grant to build California Center on Teaching Careers for recruitment

In December, TCOE received noticed that it was awarded a $5 million grant from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to establish and administer the California Center on Teaching Careers (CCTC) – the only agency in the state to receive an award. The purpose of the grant is to support the recruitment, retention, and advancement of a qualified teacher candidate pool for the state of California. This grant was awarded to the New Teacher & Leadership Development Program (NTLD) as a result of their years of success in teacher recruitment in the Central Valley and throughout the state.

The grant was awarded in one-time funds to establish the California Center on Teaching Careers with a strong online presence. The Center is being established to recruit individuals into the teaching profession through the development and dissemination of recruitment publications, and information on credentialing, teacher preparation programs and financial aid. The Center will also create a web-based referral database linked to existing databases for teachers seeking employment. The website will also serve as a place to engage high school and college students interested in the teaching profession, as well as current credentialed teachers interested in advancing their careers. In addition to a strong online presence, Tulare County will establish six collaborating regional centers at county offices of education across the state – Los Angeles, Riverside, Shasta, San Diego, Sonoma and Ventura.

The California Teacher Recruitment Program, operated by NTLD since 2000, has over 15 years of experience in local, regional and statewide recruitment efforts through Teacher Quality Enhancement, Transition to Teaching, and Teacher Quality Partnership Grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, TCOE was designated as one of the California Teacher Recruitment Centers for Central California. Following the completion of these grants, in 2006 TCOE was selected as the single grant recipient leading a statewide recruitment in three unique regions – Los Angeles, San Bernardino/Riverside, and Central California. “Since 2000, we have remained committed to teacher recruitment, through good times and bad,” said Jim Vidak, Tulare County Superintendent of Schools. “Our experience and location within the state means that we understand the staffing needs of both urban and rural school districts.”

The need for a Center on Teaching Careers was initiated by legislation to assist with the present statewide teacher shortage that exists in California. “Mr. Vidak’s maintained vision that the teacher shortage would come meant that our California Teacher Recruitment Program was uniquely positioned to scale up existing structures and develop innovative web-based tools to support statewide recruitment activities,” said Donna Glassman-Sommer, NTLD administrator.

Central to the proposed project is the development of an online teacher recruitment portal, a statewide interactive website that will be a one-stop source of information, referral, recruitment and advancement. Once developed, the website will allow candidates to create a profile, which will become their personalized digital resource at any stage in their career – from their initial interest as early as high school through their retirement.

The center will additionally scale up best practices for recruitment and retention with universities, districts and county offices throughout the state. “We have had great success with recruiting a diverse teaching force in our past initiatives. We look forward to recreating and developing new strategies with our next generation website to place effective teachers in the areas of STEM, special education and career and technical education in classrooms throughout California,” said Marvin Lopez, recruitment coordinator.

For more information on the California Center on Teaching Careers, contact Donna Glassman-Sommer at (559) 730-2549 or

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TCOE Foundation supports Circle J with grant
Foundation invites administrators to apply for grants supporting increased student access

The decline in honeybee hives has resulted in a surge of interest in developing other pollinator species for commercial crops, such as the Blue Orchard Bee (BOB). Circle J-Norris Ranch lead teacher Nancy Bruce reports that entomologist Dr. Steve Peterson of Foothill Bee Ranch approached her about installing several BOB nesting boxes in locations at Circle J as part of a scientific study. “Providing good nesting sites has been shown to bolster populations of the Blue Orchard Bees,” said Ms. Bruce. Excess bees, which are active in March and April, can be relocated to almond, cherry or apple orchards for pollination.

Circle J

“With the addition of the new nesting boxes this month, we plan to install colorful interpretive signs in order to engage students and teachers in this scientific research,” explained Ms. Bruce. “Students and teachers will follow the path, stopping to read the signs. They will then record the number of bee nests in the boxes and observe any pollinators active on nearby flower blooms.”

To support the cost of Circle J’s outdoor interpretive signs, Nancy Bruce applied for and will receive a $500 grant from the Tulare County Office of Education Foundation. “Dr. Peterson’s request to place the bee nesting boxes at Circle J was a delightful surprise,” she said. “Thanks to the support of the TCOE Foundation, we can take this gift and turn it into a learning opportunity for our teachers and students.”

Since 2000, the Tulare County Office of Education Foundation has served as a nonprofit organization receiving donations from employees, community members and other foundations in support of TCOE programs and special events. This month, the Foundation encourages TCOE program managers and Tulare County district administrators to submit their grant requests to support student access to TCOE events and programs.

The Foundation board has a two-tier grant application process. For grants up to $500 (Tier 1), applicants should send a cover letter and complete a one-page request form explaining how funds will be used. For amounts over $500 and up to $2,500 (Tier 2), the Foundation has created a more comprehensive application form. Copies of the application packets are available by contacting Marlene Moreno at (559) 733-6302 or

“The Foundation board is excited about annually funding worthy projects,” said County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. “The board is open to requests from within the Tulare County Office of Education and from schools within Tulare County.” Applications must describe how funds will be used to increase student participation in any of the Tulare County Office of Education’s 50 student events and programs, including special education classes, SCICON, Circle J-Norris Ranch, Theatre Company and the Planetarium & Science Center. “The board is looking forward to receiving some creative grant applications,” added Mr. Vidak.

TCOE employees are reminded that they can support the work of the Foundation by completing the voluntary deduction form found at tcoe.org/FoundationVolDed. Employees can establish an amount – large or small – to be deducted monthly from their paycheck. Funds will be transferred directly into the Foundation.

Photo above:
~ Students visiting Circle J will be able to assist Dr. Steve Peterson of Foothill Bee Ranch with his research by monitoring the bee nesting boxes weekly to determine if Blue Orchard Bees have nested in the boxes. At the end of the nesting season, Dr. Peterson will open the nests to inspect them. Circle J is planning to video his examination so that classes can hear his explanation and see the process.

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Sycamore Valley Academy charter joins TCOE
Popular Visalia charter, approved by county board of education, plans to open new school

Opened in August 2012, Sycamore Valley Academy (SVA) in west Visalia has become a thriving K-8 charter school with nearly 380 students. Originally chartered by Visalia Unified School District, SVA has gained a reputation for its rich academic programs – programs that earned the school a Gold Ribbon School designation from the California Department of Education in 2016.

In February 2016, the board of SVA created a charter management organization (CMO) – a nonprofit organization that allows the school to operate two or more charter schools. The CMO is known as The Academies CMO. Looking to expand its operations to include a new K-8 school, SVA petitioned the Tulare County Board of Education to accept its current charter and to approve the creation of Blue Oak Academy. On Wednesday, December 7, the county board of education approved the school’s two requests to the delight of SVA administrators, teachers and parents. “All of my experiences with TCOE staff over the last five years I’ve directed SVA have been positive. I am looking forward to deepening the relationships between our staff and TCOE’s,” said Ruth Dutton, SVA Superintendent/Principal. “I believe our organizations share a vision for moving toward student-centered, experiential learning, and empowering students as learners who will navigate the complexity of the 21st century.”

Ms. Dutton reports that recruitment for Blue Oak Academy is in full swing. “We are expecting to make an announcement about the location of Blue Oak Academy early in February,” she said of the school, which will open in the fall for students in grades K-2. “Both schools will offer gifted education pedagogy to all students, and feature project-based learning, community engagement and service learning as their centerpieces,” said Ms. Dutton. “We expect, however, that each school will possess a bit of its own personality, in time.”

“We are delighted to welcome Sycamore Valley Academy and Blue Oak Academy to TCOE,” said Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. “We look forward to good things to come from the addition of their expertise within our Instructional Services division and other charter schools under our umbrella.” The Tulare County Office of Education operates both La Sierra Charter Schools and University Preparatory High School. SVA and Blue Oak Academy will join Eleanor Roosevelt Community Learning Center and Valley Life Charter Schools which were chartered by the Tulare County Board of Education and operate under the direction of their own boards with ongoing oversight from TCOE.

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Spotlight on People Twenty-five years ago, Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak envisioned an event that would celebrate the dedication of school support staff and provide opportunities for their professional growth. Today, the event is known as the Tulare County Support Staff Conference – an event attended by over 600 school and municipal employees from around the Valley. In celebration of the event’s 25th anniversary, Mr. Vidak has invited Joel Zeff to be the keynote speaker. Mr. Zeff, a national workplace expert, speaker, author and humorist, captivates audiences with a unique blend of hilarious improvisational comedy and essential ideas on work and life. His presentation delivers a combination of inspiration, essential knowledge and significant ideas to help attendees reconnect with their own passion and success. The Tulare County Support Staff Conference will be held Wednesday, April 26, at the Visalia Convention Center. For registration information, visit

Spotlight on People Samuel Pina, a senior in a special day class operated by TCOE at Mission Oak High School in Tulare, received the school’s runner of the year award for the cross country team. Samuel also won a third-place medal in the Monache Invitational Meet. Samuel’s teacher, Toby Soto, reports that his dream is to run for College of the Sequoias. In addition, Samuel competes each spring in the Special Olympics track meet.

Spotlight on People In January, physical therapist Jonna Schengel, Ed.D. was the presenter at the first Lunch & Learn event organized by TCOE’s Wellness Committee. Dr. Schengel spoke on the health risks of sitting for extended periods of time and offered many simple exercises employees can perform at work to relieve stiffness. The Wellness Committee was established in 2016 to support and enhance the health of TCOE employees. Chaired by School Health Program Manager Nan Arnold, the committee's goal is to share timely tools, tips, and advice on various health and wellness topics in a variety of formats throughout the year. For more information on the Wellness Committee, contact Nan Arnold at narnold@tcoe.org. To see a video of Dr. Schengel’s presentation and view handouts presented that day, visit tcoe.org/wellness.

Spotlight on People Misael Ramos, an eighth-grade student at Woodville Union School, was the winner from Migrant Education Region VIII (Tulare and Kings counties) in a contest to design artwork for the annual State Migrant Parent Conference. Misael chose to depict an apple, the symbol of education, and a brain saying, “they both are rooted together and need each other to survive.” While Misael’s artwork wasn’t selected for the state conference, he will be recognized by the Migrant Education Program for his achievement.

Spotlight on People Last month, representatives from the state’s leading arts education and advocacy organizations – Create CA, California Alliance for Arts Education, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) Arts Initiative, and California Department of Education – visited Tulare County for a two-day event entitled The State of Arts Education in California. Among the representatives was Pat Wayne, program director for Create CA, who demonstrated the new California Arts Education Data Project. The project provides important online information to education leaders, teachers and parents about levels of access to and enrollment in middle and high school arts programming in schools throughout the state. The project’s dashboard allows users to review school, district, county and statewide data and presents the statewide averages as the baseline for comparison. The dashboard includes data from 2013–2014 and 2014–2015 from 3,719 schools, covering more than 3 million students in grades 6 through 12. For more information on the Create CA data project (createca.net) or any of the other state arts initiatives, contact Kate Stover at (559) 741-0809 or kstover@tcoe.org.

Spotlight on People Joseph Chance is an 18-year-old former foster youth and now, thanks to a degree completion program offered by TCOE’s Foster Youth Services (FYS), he’s also a high school graduate. Joseph began an online degree completion program with Project Grad/Instructional Access while attending a TCOE Community School. Unable to complete the program before leaving the foster care system, he reached out to his social worker who contacted FYS. Through FYS’s Instructional Access program, Joseph was able to complete his high school degree in December 2016 and celebrate with family, friends and TCOE staff, including (l-r) Nicole Rocha, administrator for Court/Community Schools; Beth Wilshire, coordinator for Foster Youth Services; and Tammy Bradford, assistant superintendent of Special Services. Joseph shared that he had heard the saying “it takes a village to raise a child.” He said, “You are all my village. I would not have made it without you.”

Spotlight on People On December 16, the first annual Foster Youth Education Summit was organized to provide district personnel with information about the resources and services available to students and families. Representatives from Child Welfare Services made presentations on commercial exploitation of children and community care reform, while TCOE’s Jennifer Biagio discussed the basics of IEP and 504 Plans. The highlight of the day was the foster youth panel, four current and former foster youth, who shared their educational experiences with the audience. For more information on foster youth services, contact Beth Wilshire at bethw@tcoe.org.

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Gallery Notes

The public is invited to watch nine Tulare County high school teams compete in the annual Tulare County Mock Trial Competition this month. The preliminary rounds conclude on February 2, followed by the semifinal round February 9. The preliminary and semifinal rounds begin at 5:00 p.m. at the Tulare County Courthouse. The finals will take place in the TCOE Redwood Conference Center (6200 S. Mooney Blvd., Visalia) on February 16 at 5:00 p.m. The teams competing in the 2017 Tulare County Mock Trial Competition represent Dinuba High School, El Diamante High School (Visalia), Exeter Union High School, Mission Oak High School (Tulare), Mt. Whitney High School (Visalia), Orosi High School, Redwood High School (Visalia), Tulare Western High School, and University Preparatory High School (Visalia).

Registration is open for high school students interested in participating in the 2017 College and Career EXPO, being held at College of the Sequoias on Friday, March 24. A collaborative effort of Tulare and Kings County Offices of Education, College of the Sequoias, Tulare Joint Union High School District and Visalia Unified School District, EXPO includes 30 competitions for local Tulare-Kings high school students. Students compete with their peers for cash prizes and are judged by faculty, staff and industry experts for their proficiency. Some of the areas of competition include anatomy, culinary arts, job interview, social media challenge, and videogame design. This year, EXPO will include opportunities for students to bring their best business ideas to compete in the annual Gas Company Entrepreneurship Challenge and the TUCOEMAS STEM Challenge. For registration information, visit

Video entries for the 2017 Slick Rock Student Film Festival are due before midnight on March 14. Middle and high school students living in Kern, Kings, Tulare, Fresno, Madera, Merced or Mariposa counties may enter videos in a total of 18 categories. Visit tcoe.org/SlickRock for information on film categories, deadlines and the awards ceremony, which will be held at the Visalia Fox Theater on May 12.

Last month, the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) honored two Tulare County Office of Education employees with Administrator of the Year awards. Tony Velásquez, administrator for Migrant Education Region VIII, won the award in the Central Office Administrator category. Sarah Hamilton, administrator for the Severely Handicapped Program, was honored in the Special Education Administrator category. Mr. Velásquez won both the Tulare County and regional awards. He will now represent the region, which includes Inyo, Kern, Kings, Mono and Tulare Counties, at the statewide honors competition this month in Sacramento.

Students from eight local high schools will compete in the second annual Tulare County Poetry Out Loud competition from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. February 1 in the TCOE Conference Center at 6200 South Mooney Boulevard. Poetry Out Loud is the nation’s largest youth poetry recitation competition, which promotes the development of public speaking skills, improved English-fluency and comprehension, and self-confidence. In California, over 40,000 students from 40 counties compete annually. In Tulare County, participating students represent Dinuba High School, El Diamante High School (Visalia), Mission Oak High School (Tulare), Monache High School (Porterville), Porterville High School, Summit Charter Collegiate Academy (Porterville), Tulare Western High School and Tulare Union High School. The winner of the competition will represent Tulare County at the California state finals in Sacramento. For more information on Poetry Out Loud or upcoming spoken word programs, call Kate Stover at (559) 741-0809.

On Saturday, February 11 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., the Tulare County History of Farm Labor and Agriculture Museum in Mooney Grove Park will host a reception for its new exhibition, Happiness, Prosperity, Longevity: Celebrating Chinese Experiences in Tulare County. The reception will feature local guest speakers and traditional foods. The exhibition has been planned to showcase the rich contributions made to Tulare County agriculture by Chinese immigrants and their descendants. Several local families have shared their stories with museum staff to help develop the exhibition. Included in the exhibition is a video about Tulare County’s Chinese-Americans developed by TCOE’s Planetarium & Science Center staff. Teachers can arrange a visit to the museum and view the video by calling (559) 733-6616.

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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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