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The News Gallery

November 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, Kate Stover, Paula Terrill, Juliana Davidian, Virginia Sepeda, Bethany Rader, Charlotte Garcia Da Rosa, Jennifer Reimer, Tiffany Owens-Stark, Kathleen Green-Martins and Dianne Shew.

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.

Elf the Musical JR

Elf The Musical JR arrives for the holidays
Theatre Company's production of heartwarming musical features cast of 107

The Theatre Company’s upcoming production of Elf The Musical JR is a fitting way to welcome the holiday season to Tulare County. Based on the beloved holiday film starring Will Ferrell, Elf JR is a heartwarming, fish-out-of-water musical that chronicles Buddy the Elf’s quest to find his true identity.

“Following the very dramatic productions we featured in 2016, including The Secret Garden and Les Misérables, I knew that I wanted to direct a feel-good, funny and exciting musical for our fall 2017 show,” said the show’s director and Theatre Company vocal coach Charlotte Garcia Da Rosa. After reading the script and listening to the music for Elf, I knew I had found the show! With a cast of 107 performers, this show offers many kids the chance to be featured in a truly joy-filled, family show!”

The story of Elf begins with Buddy, an orphan toddler, mistakenly crawling into Santa's bag of gifts. Transported to the North Pole, Buddy is raised as an elf, unaware that he is actually a human until his enormous size and poor toy-making abilities cause him to face the truth. With Santa's permission, Buddy embarks on a journey to New York City to find his birth father and discover his true identity. Faced with the harsh reality that his father is on the naughty list and that his half-brother doesn't even believe in Santa, Buddy is determined to win over his new family and help New York remember the true meaning of Christmas.

“A role as well-known as Buddy is as much a challenge as it is a reward,” said Logan Lancaster, who plays the title character. “People already know and love him, which makes my job easy. While on the surface he seems easy to play, my challenge is to add to it and make it unique.”

While in New York, Buddy meets and falls in love with Jovie, a skeptical young woman who works with him in Macy’s Christmas department. “Compared to Buddy, Jovie comes across as mean and cynical, when she’s actually just guarded and a bit quirky,” said Mattie Cole, who plays the character. “Buddy’s honesty gets to her in the end. That’s all Jovie wants – someone she could trust with her heart. My challenge is trying to keep a straight face at some of the things that Logan does onstage.”

Tickets to the November performances of Elf JR are now on sale at the Mooney Boulevard and Doe Avenue offices of the Tulare County Office of Education. Tickets are $12 for general admission and $20 for reserved seating. Evening performances will be held at 7:00 p.m. on November 16, 17 and 18. A 2:00 p.m. matinee is scheduled for November 18. The production also features a backstage character experience entitled “Buddy’s North Pole Adventure.” For an additional $10 ticket, children are invited backstage before each show for a tour of Santa’s workshop with Buddy the Elf. Only 50 backstage tickets are available per show. For more information about the production and tickets, call the Theatre Company at (559) 651-1482.

L.J. Williams Theater, 1001 W. Main St., Visalia

Show Times
Evening Shows (7:00 p.m.): November 16, 17, 18
Matinee Show (2:00 p.m.): November 18

Show Ticket Information
$10 preshow "Buddy's North Pole Adventure" passes
$12 general admission
$20 reserved seating
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
Buddy played by Logan Lancaster
Jovie played by Mattie Cole
Santa played by Eli Adams
Charlie the Elf played by Mason Lalanne
Shawanda the Elf played by Mia Larsen
Walter Hobbs played by Zach Glasgow
Emily Hobbs played by Kaitlyn West
Michael Hobbs played by Luciano Noguera
Deb played by Allison Martin
Chadwick played by Emilie Walker
Matthews played by Paige Ragan
Mr. Greenway played by Parker Chalabian

For information on the upcoming production of Elf The Musical JR, call the Theatre Company at (559) 651-1482.

Photo above:
~ Elf The Musical JR stars Mattie Cole as Jovie and Logan Lancaster as Buddy.

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Special Services hosts College and Career Fair
Nearly 400 high school students learn postsecondary college and career opportunities

Travis, a junior at Visalia Unified’s VTEC High School, has a plan for his future, which he clearly articulated in the crowd of young people at the annual College and Career Fair. “I’m interested in enlisting in the US Army to build my welding skills and learn more about engineering.” The young man shared that he appreciates that the Army may pay for additional studies after his service, saying “I’m glad to serve while gaining skills that will enable me to support myself and help others. I want to be able to contribute to the economy.”

College and Career Fair

Travis was among nearly 400 high school seniors and juniors from districts throughout Tulare County who attended the annual College and Career Fair in the Tulare County Office of Education Redwood Conference Center on October 25. Organized by the Tulare County Office of Education Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA), the College and Career Fair is an event designed to provide students with various learning disabilities exposure to post-secondary education and training opportunities as they transition to adult life.

College and Career Fair

The College and Career Fair featured dozens of representatives from area community colleges, adult schools and trade institutes, and military recruiters and local employment supporters, including California Highway Patrol, TCOE’s Services for Education & Employment (SEE), Proteus and the California Department of Rehabilitation. At the beginning of the fair, representatives from each agency gave an overview of their program offerings before heading to their booths to talk with students.

College and Career Fair

“Now that we’ve offered this event for several years, we can see that there is a greater understanding among both students and staff regarding postsecondary services and options,” said Jennifer Reimer, administrator with the Special Services Division’s Mild to Moderate Program. “There are so many quality resources out there for students and it’s important that they know what those are.”

For more information on postsecondary opportunities for students with special needs, contact Jennifer Reimer at (559) 730-2910, extension 5141.

Photos above:
~ Travis, a junior at VTEC High School in Visalia, discusses the programs offered in the US Army with a local recruiter.
~ Students also had the opportunity to speak to representatives from local trade schools, including Estes Institute Of Cosmetology in Visalia.
~ Job developers Mang Chang and Benny Rivera (l-r) share information on TCOE’s A Ticket to Success Program.

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Community partners join, create STEM program
Earlimart students benefit from after school, summer science and engineering activities

The conversation between members of an Earlimart Middle School after school STEM program was a snapshot of quality 21st century learning. The team of students had gathered on the dusty baseball field with their facilitator to assemble and test a trebuchet, a type of catapult they had designed and constructed. All the elements of learning were there: collaboration, critical thinking, communication and creativity. “I think the weight is too low,” Manuel theorized as the team fitted the launching arm with a sling designed to propel a 10-pound exercise ball through the air. For nearly two hours the team worked together, testing and modifying the trebuchet. “We need a lighter ball, maybe a basketball,” said Andrick. Modifications and further testing continued into the early evening. Through the process, the students remained optimistic. “The ball will probably hit the score board,” they joked, looking at the object that sat across the field some 40 yards away.

STEM after school program

There on the baseball field and during the design and construction process weeks before, students learned engineering the empirical way – the process of engineering through observation and experience. To the students, the success of their efforts would have been to see their ball rocketing across the baseball field. While that didn’t happen, they were successful in engaging in the engineering process and thinking about their decisions. “In many ways, the process was the point of the program,” said Virginia Sepeda, Region 7 Expanded Learning Program project coordinator. “We were successful in getting middle school students to think critically, creatively and collaboratively.”

STEM after school program The Earlimart after school STEM program was developed through a partnership between Self-Help Enterprises, the Tulare County Office of Education Region 7 Expanded Learning Programs and CHOICES After School Program, the Earlimart School District and ImagineU Children’s Museum. “Our vision was to broaden the community’s access to expanded learning opportunities by leveraging local resources to their maximum,” said Ms. Sepeda. “We also work to ensure our programs are aligned to the Twelve Quality Standards for Expanded Learning in California. The Earlimart STEM project supported six of these standards.”

The partnership began as a well-received pilot in spring of 2017 for 30 middle school students who explored simple robotics. In May 2017, through a generous grant from Tulare County Board of Supervisors’ Step Up Youth Activities Grant, the pilot evolved into a three-part, year-round course, with each session lasting six weeks.

The first of three sessions kicked off in July, which filled a gap between Earlimart’s summer learning programs and the first day of school in August. Summer content included learning about simple machines and motors, while building and programming robotic mice. “It was important to the partners to harness community resources over the course of the summer so that students had access to an expanded learning opportunity,” said Ms. Sepeda.

STEM after school program

This fall, students began the second phase of the program – the design and construction of the trebuchet. Guided by Enrique Ramirez, a senior docent at ImagineU Children’s Museum, the students worked in the community room of the Washington Plaza Apartments, a Self-Help multifamily development in Earlimart. Students began with research and sketches of the machine, followed by construction using simple tools. Mr. Ramirez explained that he didn’t give the students ideas on constructing the trebuchet. “They are learning as they go,” he said.

Kari Ludvickson, residential services coordinator for Self-Help Enterprises, said, “This program is important to us because we believe in providing access to quality STEM opportunities in the rural communities we serve.” In total, Self-Help Enterprises has 28 multifamily housing developments with community centers in eight Central California counties – developments Ms. Sepeda and Ms. Ludvickson see as potential sites for other community after school program opportunities.

While students failed to launch a ball with their trebuchet, they weren’t too disappointed. Ms. Ludvickson was quick to offer the possibility of extending the program by a couple days if the students would continue their design research. The third session of the Earlimart STEM partnership is scheduled for February 2018 – an event sure to offer students more real-world learning and, hopefully, create ideas for careers of their own.

Photos above:
~ Earlimart Middle School students are participating in a STEM after school program that began this summer and continues into the spring. This fall, the students designed and constructed a trebuchet, a type of catapult.
~ Students Andrick and Edwin (l-r) work on the construction of their trebuchet as part of an after school STEM program in Earlimart. The program was a partnership between Self-Help Enterprises, the Earlimart School District, ImagineU Children’s Museum and the Tulare County Office of Education.
~ Once complete, the team attempts to apply the engineering lessons they learned to launch a basketball.

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Youth Mental Health First Aid training available
CHOICES Prevention Program offers valuable mental health support to local districts

Now in effect, California Assembly Bill 2246 mandates each school district develop a policy on pupil suicide prevention to specifically address the needs of high-risk groups. To assist districts in satisfying their policy requirements and meeting the mental health needs of their students, the CHOICES Prevention Program has created additional Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) training opportunities throughout the 2017-18 school year.

YMHFA is an international program proven to be effective and is part of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices. YMHFA is designed to teach adults how to identify and help adolescents experiencing mental health issues, addiction challenges or personal crisis. The training covers common mental health challenges, reviews typical adolescent development, and teaches a five-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations. Topics covered during the full-day training include anxiety, depression, suicide ideation, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders (including AD/HD) and eating disorders.

In 2015, nearly 39,000 California youth, ages 5 to 19, were admitted to hospitals for mental health issues, most commonly depression. Additionally, data indicates that in 90% of suicides, a mental health condition existed. “Building the capacity of school staff to identify and support students experiencing mental health issues is key to ensuring that they become healthy, productive young adults,” said Jim Vidak, Tulare County Superintendent of Schools. “The Youth Mental Health First Aid training is a valuable first step in this process.”

For more information on upcoming training, contact the CHOICES Prevention Program at (559) 651-0155.

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Spotlight on People The annual Young People’s Concert series began October 24 with performances in Visalia. Since 1959, the Tulare County Office of Education (TCOE) and the Tulare County Symphony have partnered to bring symphonic music to the students of Tulare County. During the concerts, students were treated to a live orchestral performance, coupled with lessons in music history and concert etiquette. Nearly 8,000 elementary and middle school students attended seven separate concerts at three different venues in Visalia, Tulare, and Porterville, making the program one of the oldest and largest youth concert series in the nation. Tulare County Symphony League’s Rita Crandall is pictured presenting Logan Wells, a Redwood High School student, with the Lorraine Burtner Young Artist Competition Award. Logan performed with the symphony during its program entitled Musical Adventures, which featured selections from film and television scores.

Spotlight on People On October 24, the Tulare County Council on Child and Youth Development held its annual Legislative Breakfast. The keynote speaker was Dr. Junlei Li (left photo), a professor and co-director of the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at St. Vincent College in Pennsylvania, who spoke about research on the importance of early childhood teachers and the investment needed to ensure their success. At the breakfast, Visalia Unified’s Goshen State Preschool received the annual Impact Award. The award was given for the preschool’s outstanding service to the children and families it serves. The Goshen State Preschool recently completed TCOE Early Childhood Education’s Quality Rating Improvement System program, receiving a five-star rating and a $40,000 grant. Pictured (right photo, l-r) are Houa Vang and lead teacher Sandra German.

Spotlight on People Over 1,300 students and parents attended the annual Tulare County Red Ribbon Week Celebration on October 18 at the Visalia Convention Center   an event cohosted by the CHOICES Prevention Programs and Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency (HHSA). Thirty-five youth and community agencies were on hand to provide students with safe and healthy activities that are part of productive lives free from drugs, alcohol and gang activity. Among them was the Visalia Judo Club and member Jessica Fung, a TCOE external business services technician. Amanda Timblin, an HHSA health education specialist, is pictured discussing with students lung damage that results from smoking.

Spotlight on People Members of the Cal Water Visalia office straighten a new CHARACTER COUNTS! (CC!) banner that flew on the water tower adjacent to Mineral King Bowl during CC! Week in October. The TCOE CC! Office will wrap up its annual celebration of good student character at the Provident-Salierno Family Foundation Awards event on November 2. Thirty-eight student winners and finalists in the 2017 Kids of Character Awards will be awarded scholarships. Many of these same students will be profiled through weekly news stories on KSEE24’s Your Character Matters, an ongoing character recognition partnership with TCOE.

Spotlight on People In October, Educational Resource Services (ERS) partnered with Tulare County’s small schools to organize its annual Small Schools Conference. This year, ERS helped to bring two nationally-recognized educators to support over 400 teachers with their math and language arts instruction. Dr. Karen Karp (left photo) from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore spoke to teachers about math instruction and assessment tools for struggling learners, while Colleen Cruz (right photo) from the Teachers College at Columbia University in New York presented on using writing to lift reading skills.

Spotlight on People Over 500 students with special needs from high school programs and Community Based Instruction (CBI) classes throughout Tulare County attended the Annual Harvest Festival last month at the Tulare Youth Center, where they were treated to recreation and entertainment.

Spotlight on People On October 28, over 100 high school students attended the Circle J Ecological Research and Restoration Project to work alongside local scientists and researchers on various ongoing field studies. The event will be included in an upcoming ABC30 Children First special, entitled Surrounded by Science. The half-hour program, scheduled to air on Sunday, November 12 at 6:30 p.m., will also include an interview with TCOE’s Jared Marr, the STEM staff development & curriculum specialist. The program will also include a segment on the mobile S.M.A.R.T. Lab operated by Porterville College. On a recent visit to Monson-Sultana Joint Union School, students visiting the S.M.A.R.T. Lab learned about chemical reactions and how seeds become plants.

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Gallery Notes

The TCOE Foster & Homeless Youth Services Program will be hosting its annual Foster Youth Education Summit on November 30 in the Redwood Conference Center at 6200 S. Mooney Blvd. in Visalia. Social workers and educators in all school settings are invited to attend the full-day event, which will include opportunities to hear from foster youth about their needs and concerns, learn about resources the Foster & Homeless Youth Services Program and districts can provide, network with local social workers and educators, and participate in an interactive exercise designed to show conference attendees what it’s like to be in foster care. To register for this free event, visit

On October 10, the California Friday Night Live Partnership coordinated with Friday Night Live (FNL) chapters in 30 counties across California to conduct its annual Roadwatch survey. From 7:00 to 8:00 a.m., FNL student members surveyed 88 intersections near high schools and middle schools and observed 10,252 cases of distracted driving during the one-hour period – an average of 116.5 instances per intersection surveyed. Across the state, students observed drivers distracted by phones, passengers, pets, food and more as they drove past California schools. In Tulare County, FNL students surveyed four intersections, recording nearly 500 instances of distracted driving. Year after year, Roadwatch, which is funded by the Allstate Foundation, proves to be a vital tool for raising awareness about the issue of distracted driving and creating student-led change in traffic safety throughout California.

Registration is now open for the fourth annual Cal Water H2O Challenge – a project-based, environmentally-focused competition for grades 4-6. Aligned with the California State Standards and complimentary to the Next Generation Science Standards, the statewide Cal Water H2O Challenge offers a unique opportunity for upper elementary students to initiate, develop, and implement a 4-8 week-long project focusing on water. This class-based project explores water as a global resource and as a local resource, while tackling a local water problem in an individual- and community-based endeavor. Upon completion of the project, students create a final portfolio documenting their work to submit by the February 28, 2018 deadline. The winning classroom will receive a $3,500 grant and be treated to a camping trip in the Santa Monica Mountains led by NatureBridge. For registration information and resources, visit challenge.calwater.com.

The American Cancer Society Denim Day was held Friday, October 6 and Tulare County Office of Education (TCOE) employees went casual in support of breast cancer awareness. Event coordinator Jennifer Fisher reports that TCOE employees donated $520 to benefit the American Cancer Society’s research, treatment and early detection programs. She extends special thanks to Ivette Lopez at Educational Resource Services for helping collect donations.

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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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