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The News Gallery

December 2017 / January 2018

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, Dianne Shew, Katherine Goyette, Ron Pekarek, Tammy Bradford, Charlene Stringham, Nan Arnold, and Beth Wilshire.

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.

Bright Start Parent/Infant Program

Bright Start specialists provide extra support
Speech, behavior, occupational and physical therapists help Bright Start teachers, parents

Three women arrive at a home in northwest Visalia and are warmly welcomed by Tiffany and her son, Luke. The women are from the Special Services Bright Start Parent/Infant Program and they are at Tiffany’s home to work with two-year-old Luke who clings to his mother. As the women encourage him to play with his cars and trucks, Luke becomes very upset.

Megan Hatherley, a behavior specialist, suggests that Kendall Leonard, an occupational therapist, engage Luke in blowing bubbles. Within seconds of finding the bottle of bubbles, Luke is laughing and chasing them around the dining room. Mrs. Leonard segues into a tactile exercise with oatmeal and pudding to familiarize Luke with different textures. Until recently, Luke had refused to eat solid foods except for crackers. He often rejected touching foods that had a wet or gelatin-like texture.

The pair spreads out a plastic sheet on the floor. Mrs. Leonard pours a layer of dried oatmeal onto a cookie sheet and encourages Luke to drive his toy trucks through the oatmeal, which he is happy to do. She then asks Luke to scoop some oatmeal into a cup of pudding, which he also does. She had hoped that he would willingly take some of the oatmeal/pudding mixture to his mouth to taste it. Luke was not yet ready to take that step.

Bright Start Parent/Infant Program

While the pair plays happily on the floor, Tiffany enthusiastically discusses with Megan Hatherley and Bright Start teacher Stephanie Stricklin all the foods that Luke has begun to eat – peanut butter, chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, rice and grilled cheese sandwiches.

At the conclusion of their visit, Tiffany confirms their next appointment, and she and Luke walk the women out to their cars to wave “bye, bye!”

Megan Hatherley and Kendall Leonard are part of a 10-person team of speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy and behavior specialists organized from other Special Services programs to assist Bright Start teachers who serve nearly 1,000 children countywide with early intervention services. Children are referred to the Bright Start program through the Central Valley Regional Center (CVRC) if they are identified as being "at-risk" or have developmental delays or specific conditions (such as deafness, blindness or an orthopedic handicap). Identified infants and toddlers from birth to 36 months are eligible to receive Bright Start’s early intervention services.

“We believe that parents are their child’s best teachers,” said Bright Start Program Manager Ron Pekarek. “With that philosophy in mind, Bright Start staff works collaboratively with parents to identify developmental goals, incorporate effective teaching strategies into daily activities and routines, and monitor success as their child progresses through the program.”

In Tulare, Kendall Leonard visits the home of Roxanna, and her daughter, Rebecca. Mrs. Leonard is working with two-year-old Rebecca on drinking from a cup. Rebecca has mastered the skill of getting the cup to her mouth, but hasn’t quite developed the ability to suck from the straw. Roxanna is thrilled with her daughter’s progress. In the month that Mrs. Leonard has worked with her, Rebecca is drinking 4 ounces daily from a cup. The goal is to have her drinking at least 16 to 24 ounces of fluid each day so that the family can ask their pediatrician to remove Rebecca’s gastrostomy feeding tube. “It’s wonderful to see parents excited about the progress we’re making together,” said Kendall Leonard. The feeding consultations are a recent addition to the services the Bright Start specialists provide.

Bright Start Parent/Infant Program

Mr. Pekarek reports that Bright Start teachers can request the services of a specialist to consult with them. “When they feel they need the additional support of the team in addressing the development of the children they serve, they can request it,” he said. “Specialists can work as consultants to the teachers, or directly with teachers and parents during home visits.” Nearly one-third of Bright Start children are utilizing some type of ongoing support from one or more of the specialists.

In conjunction with a CVRC service coordinator, Bright Start assigns an early childhood special education teacher or child development specialist to the family of each admitted child in order to develop an Individualized Family Service Plan. Early intervention services are agreed upon as a team and provided in the family home, including ongoing developmental assessment, parent coaching and training, community-based activities and workshops, and preschool transition planning. “We know from research and experience that family-centered activities during the first three years of a child's life can make a difference in the child's growth and development process,” said Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. “We are fortunate to have an in-house team of specialists supporting our Bright Start teachers and parents so that their children can reach their fullest potential.”

Back in Visalia, Dominque Niccoli is at the house of Jayce, a busy and happy nine-month-old boy. Dominque, a Bright Start physical therapist, is working with Jayce to develop his upper body and torso strength so that he can crawl on his hands and knees and continue to develop properly. Dominique shows Jayce’s mom, Sarah, techniques she can do while on the floor to strengthen his arms and core muscles as he reaches for toys. Jayce squeals in delight as he grasps the yellow block in front of him, unaware that all this attention is really part of serious physical development work.

For more information on the Bright Start Parent/Infant Program, call Ron Pekarek at (559) 740-4321.

Photos above:
~ Dominque Niccoli, a Bright Start physical therapist, ...
~ ... and Kendall Leonard, a Bright Start occupational therapist, work with children in their homes.
~ Roxanna, a Bright Start parent, helps her daughter, Rebecca, drink from a cup. Rebecca is receving in-home occupational therapy services to help her learn to drink on her own.

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Employees honored for service milestones
Annual Longevity Awards dinner recognizes 119 employees for 1,825 years of service

TCOE Longevity Awards At the November meeting of the Tulare County Board of Education, County Superintendent Jim Vidak surprised Enid Brinkman with a presentation of a clock to celebrate her 40 years of service to TCOE and Tulare County’s school districts. Ms. Brinkman is the credentials and retirement supervisor for the Human Resources Division. Mr. Vidak praised her for her meticulous attention to reviewing the credentials of teachers and administrators. “Tulare County schools employ 5,000 teachers,” he said. “Thousands more have worked and retired in the past 40 years. We are grateful to have Enid Brinkman ensuring teachers are properly credentialed and assigned.”

Following the board meeting, Human Resources hosted a dinner for the employees who celebrated a service milestone this year. This year, a total of 119 staff members were recognized at the annual TCOE Longevity Awards dinner held November 8 in the Redwood Conference Center. The dinner honored those who had 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40 years of service to the students of Tulare County.

TCOE Longevity Awards

John Rodriguez, director of Human Resources, emceed the event and reported that this year’s group of honorees have dedicated an impressive 1,825 years of service to the Tulare County Office of Education. The following employees celebrated service milestones during 2017:

40 Years
Enid Brinkman

35 Years
Ramona Arevalo

30 Years
Virginia Baiza
Jodi Fortney
Rosa Hernandez
Rosemarie Reyna-Tunin
Maria Silveira

25 Years
Angela Benton
Elisa Boatman
Deborah Braswell
Victoria Contreras
Lillian Donate
Edward Garcia, Jr.
David Kennedy
Deanna Martinez-Gonzalez
Judy Scruggs
Katherine Wills

20 Years
Connie Brassfield
Arlete Cabral
Melody Camarillo
Sandra Campo
Leonor Delgado
Laura Flores-Fielder
Lynne Goodwin
Linda Hamilton
Anna Herrera
Maria Huerta
Francisca Lopez
Gabriela Mendez
Arlene Parreira
Donna Pascual
Virginia Pulido
Maria Ramirez
Susan Winters

15 Years
Shannon Akers-Cox
Jennifer Allen
Margarita Almaraz
Josefina Alvarado
Carmen Arroyo
Sergio Barron
David Bertles
Laurie Bryant
Laura Campos
Irma Ceja
Martha Chavez
Donna Dillard
Christine Garcia
Bobby Gates
Dewayla Glover
Veronica Guerrero
Julie Joseph
Jim Kooler
Maria Lara
Tambara Lomonaco
Lorena Lopez
Marvin Lopez
15 Years (cont.)
Raquel Marquez
Joe Menezes, Jr.
Maria Molina
Alta Penn
Beth Powers
Kimberly Rice
Kathleen Rumelhart
Karen Smalling
Adam Valencia
Rohn Wittwer

10 Years
Mirna Acosta
Ronni Aguilar
Gerald Arellano
Mary Baltazar
Debbie Betita
Nidia Branson
Andrew Chandler
Denise Cifuentez
Elizabeth Cochran
Brenda Cox
Rhonda Day
Daniel Del Villar
Teresa Demacabalin
Amanda Diaz
Nani Dodson
Norma Erwin
Arturo Figueroa
Gema Figueroa
Maria Garcia
Benjamin Gimlin
Kathleen Green-Martins
Carrie Hampton
Rhonda Hash
Janet Hernandez
Juan Ibarra
Laura Lawrence
Angelina Magaña
René Moncada
Teresa Muñoz
Irma Nanez
Regina Nieto
Diana Oliver
Helen Padilla
Cynthia Ramirez
Delma Rios
Maria Rivera
Laura Rodriguez
Norma Rodriguez
Linda Salmeron
Virginia Sepeda
Victoria Sequeira
Elizabeth Sisk
Isabel Southern
Brenda Stevens
Guadalupe Stevens
Karon Valdivieso
Phillip Valencia
Fredna Van Dellen
Elizabeth Vargas
Ana Velasquez
Maria Velasquez
Stephanie Walters
Rachel Weaver

Photos above:
~ Enid Brinkman, Credentials and Retirement Supervisor with the Human Resources Division, was recognized for her 40 years of service to TCOE.
~ Employees who received honors for 30 years of service at the annual Longevity Dinner included (l-r) Manuela Silveira (Special Services), Rosemary Reyna-Tunin (Special Services), Rosa Hernandez (Early Childhood Education), Jodi Fortney (Special Services) and Virginia Baiza (Educational Resource Services).

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SCICON's 28th cabin finished in time for spring
New cabin enables program to place three schools weekly in the Eagle Creek Village

In May of this year, the Tulare County Board of Education authorized the construction of a new cabin for SCICON’s Eagle Point Village. Last month, the outdoor education program’s 28th cabin was completed.

SCICON's new Bear Cub Den cabin

Named “Bear Cub Den” and dedicated to the Tulare County Small Schools Association in honor of its significant and long-running contribution to the SCICON program, the new cabin allows the program to now place three schools in Eagle Point Village each week.

“The mix of students from three schools will enhance the social aspect of our program,” said Dianne Shew, SCICON administrator, who reports that students will begin staying in Bear Cub Den in January. “I appreciate the vision and generosity of Mr. Vidak to ensure that as our student population grows, Tulare County sixth graders will continue to enjoy the SCICON experience for years to come.”

Photo above:
~ SCICON’s newest cabin has been named Bear Cub Den in honor of the Tulare County Small Schools Association for its significant contribution to the outdoor education program. The new cabin is located in Eagle Creek Village.

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Annual Tech Rodeo scheduled for January 13
Conference to feature authors of The LAUNCH Cycle, plus other engaging presenters

On January 13, Central Valley educators will have the opportunity to meet for a day of technology-driven inspiration. The second annual Tech Rodeo will be held from 8:00 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. at Visalia Unified’s new Ridgeview Middle School. Hosted by the EdTech Integration Department of TCOE’s Educational Resource Services, the conference will include a powerful keynote session, robotics exhibition corral, and inspiring presentation sessions on school site technology integration; creating student access to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics); and building a professional learning network outside school walls.

One of the exciting new aspects of the Tech Rodeo is student-led technology sessions. “In the spirit of empowering students, this year Tech Rodeo will feature opportunities for student leaders to present interactive sessions,” said Katherine Goyette, TCOE educational technology & integrated studies specialist. “This new ‘Students Teaching Teachers’ strand allows students themselves to impact education in the Central Valley and beyond."

This year, the keynote presentation will be conducted by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani – authors of The LAUNCH Cycle. In their presentation and in subsequent breakout sessions, the authors will discuss “design thinking” – a creative process that can be incorporated into every class at every grade level. Design thinking begins with the premise of tapping into student curiosity and allowing them to create, test and re-create as a way to solve problems, take risks and think creatively.

"Tech Rodeo is designed to inspire educators of all levels to meet the needs of today's students, with presenters that teach technology integration skills within the context of instruction guided by content standards,” said Ms. Goyette. “At Tech Rodeo, learning is key and technology is the way to accelerate it!”

To register for Tech Rodeo, visit
edtech.k12oms.org/164-130259. For more information, contact Katherine Goyette at (559) 651-3008 or katherine.goyette@tcoe.org.

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Spotlight on People On November 7, the Migrant Education Program held a parent conference which was attended by over 100 Tulare and Kings county parents. The conference featured a variety of speakers, including Dr. Luz Gonzales, dean of Fresno State’s Visalia campus, who is pictured with Migrant Education Area Administrator Ermelinda Ozuna (l) and Administrator Tony Velásquez (r). The conference was designed to empower parents to understand and help prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century.

Spotlight on People Cynthia Bartlett, a registered nurse with School Health Programs, has been given the Excellence in School Nursing Award by the Central Valley Chapter of the California School Nurses Organization (CSNO). Ms. Bartlett currently serves on the Central Valley CSNO Board of Directors as awards and scholarships chairperson for the 11-county region. As a nurse with TCOE’s School Health Programs, Ms. Bartlett cares for over 2000 students in the Earlimart and Saucelito school districts and supervises three licensed vocational nurses. She has also been actively involved in the school-based health clinic in Earlimart and works in the community.

Spotlight on People This month, visitors to the TCOE Administration Building will be treated to the second annual A Holiday in the City – an exhibition of donated porcelain buildings, figures, plazas and parks depicting a delightful holiday cityscape of the past. Dozens of illuminated homes, civic buildings, businesses, churches and restaurants will be featured in the 50-foot long display. Dotted among the buildings are hundreds of figures – carolers, ice skaters, shoppers and diners – all bundled up for the holidays. New this year is the addition of the North Pole – a holiday theme park for residents of the city. The exhibition will be open to the public Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. through December 29 with the exception of December 25 and 26 when the building is closed. The TCOE Administration Building and Conference Center is located at 6200 S. Mooney Blvd. in Visalia. No reservations are required and admission is free.

Spotlight on People The Access to Higher Education Summit is an event designed to encourage foster youth to attend college. Now in its eleventh year, Access to Higher Education will be held at the Visalia campus of College of the Sequoias on Saturday, January 27. High school-age foster youth who attend the event will have the opportunity to speak to former foster youth who are now attending college, complete a career inventory survey, learn about support they can receive while attending college and visit with representatives from area colleges and universities. This year, Jimmy Cha will be the event's keynote speaker. A former Los Angeles gang member, Mr. Cha spent his youth committing numerous crimes. By the time he was 24, his brother convinced him to go back to school. He went to community college, received a partial scholarship from UCLA and then attended law school. Mr. Cha is now a highly successful criminal defense attorney and a certified gang expert who consults with other attorneys regarding gang crimes. For more information about Access to Higher Education, call Beth Wilshire at (559) 730-2910, ext. 5131.

Spotlight on People On November 2, 38 students were honored at the annual CHARACTER COUNTS! Provident/Salierno Family Foundation Awards. The students were selected from nearly 6,500 nominations received from 133 schools throughout Tulare County during CHARACTER COUNTS! Week. Among them was Alejandro “Alex” Valdivia-Aceves (r), a junior at Mission Oak High School in Tulare. Alex was nominated by Oddie Lambert and Shannon Hernandez-Harrow for sacrificing his place in the school’s drumline for a fellow student, Brennon Harrow (l), who has a disability that prevents him from fulfilling all of the mandatory band practices and performances. Alex said, “This way Brennon could have a chance to feel like I do when I’m in drumline.” To read the stories of all the students honored at the Provident/Salierno Family Foundation Awards, visit

Spotlight on People On November 1, over 300 educators and community members gathered at the Visalia Convention Center to honor the nominees, finalists and winners in the 23rd Annual Excellence in Education Awards program. The winners in the three awards categories are pictured with Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak (r) and include (l-r) School Employee of the Year Naomi Schuler, a workforce-based learning coordinator with Porterville Unified School District; Teacher of the Year Kathleen Jarvis, a first-grade teacher at Alpine Vista School in Tulare; and Administrator of the Year John Pendleton, principal at Wilson Elementary School in Tulare. To see a complete list of the finalists and nominees and to watch the video created in honor of the award winners, visit tcoe.org/ExcellenceinEducation.

Spotlight on People Over 900 young women, grades 4-10, attended the annual Expanding Your Horizons conference at College of the Sequoias (COS) Visalia campus on Saturday, November 4. The conference is held to introduce young women to career opportunities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Students visited dozens of breakout sessions conducted by women working in STEM fields, including Nancy Kimura, a registered nurse who serves students through TCOE’s School Health Programs. Nancy presented with nurses Sandy Dutch, Jamie Garrett and Tamara Cochran a session entitled “Exploring Careers in Nursing.”

Spotlight on People The annual Student Art Exhibition is on display in the lobby of the TCOE Administration Building at 6200 South Mooney Boulevard in Visalia through March 31. Through the end of December, the exhibition features artwork from schools in Tulare County districts R-W, including an untitled piece by Jiselle Peña, an eighth grader at Cherry Avenue Middle School in Tulare. From January 22 through February 23, visitors will be treated to artwork from schools in Tulare County districts A-P. In March, pieces selected as "Best of Show" from the November-December and January-February exhibitions will be displayed. A public open house honoring the “Best of Show” student artists will be held 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. on March 1 in the lobby. For more information, contact Kate Stover, visual and performing arts staff development and curriculum specialist, at (559) 741-0809.

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Gallery Notes

University Preparatory High School (UPHS) will hold its annual Music Showcase in the College of the Sequoias Theater in Visalia, December 20 at 6:00 p.m. Students in all choir and instrumental classes will perform, including those in the school’s popular handbell ensemble. For more information on attending the Music Showcase, call UPHS at (559) 730-2529.

The 2017 Red Ribbon committee is pleased to report that $4,800 was raised from activities held during the annual event in October. Red Ribbon Committee chairperson Jennifer Fisher would like to thank the committee members, generous donors and staff who participated in the week’s activities. The proceeds from the event will be donated to CASA of Tulare County, which advocates for abused, neglected, and abandoned children. More information, including a list of raffle winners, can be found at

A partnership of the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) Program of Tulare & Kings Counties, the Kings County Breastfeeding Coalition and the Tulare County Breastfeeding Coalition will honor the Tulare County Office of Education (TCOE) with its Family Friendly Employer Award at the annual Society for Human Resource Management of Tulare/Kings County awards luncheon on December 12. TCOE was chosen for the award for including a lactation room as part of the new TCOE Mooney Boulevard Administration Building and Conference Center. The room, which is adjacent to Redwood Conference Room E, provides a private area for nursing mothers.

Last month, the Special Services Division announced that it would change the name of its Severely Handicapped Program to AcCEL. The acronym stands for Academic Collaboration for Exceptional Learners. AcCEL serves qualifying students in all districts within the Tulare County SELPA through four centers, dozens of elementary, middle and high school special day classes at comprehensive sites, and 11 Community Based Instruction Classrooms for young adults ages 18-22.

In November, Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak received the annual Champions Award from the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA). The Champions Award is selected by the past presidents of the association and is the highest honor conferred by the organization on a county superintendent. Mr. Vidak is California’s longest-serving county superintendent currently in office. He was first elected as Tulare County Superintendent of Schools in 1990.

The Tulare County Farm Bureau has announced “Tulare County Agriculture...Growing Good Things” as the theme of its annual Student Calendar Art Contest. Students have until February 15 to complete and submit their artwork for the 2018-19 Calendar. Details of the competition are posted on the Bulletin Board section of www.tulcofb.org. The contest is annually sponsored by the Tulare County Farm Bureau and the Tulare County Office of Education.

The Early Childhood Education Program (ECEP) has organized a toy drive for Toys for Tots. TCOE employees are encouraged to purchase new, unwrapped toys to be distributed to local children for the holidays. Toys for Tots drop-off boxes are available at the following locations: ECEP Main Office (7000 Doe Ave., Suite C, Visalia), Educational Resource Services (7000 Doe Ave., Suite A, Visalia) the TCOE Administration Building (6200 S. Mooney Blvd., Visalia) and the TCOE Liberty Campus (11535 Avenue 264, Visalia). Last year, TCOE employees donated over 600 toys, which benefitted many children served by ECEP. This year, toys will be accepted until Tuesday, December 19. For more information, please contact Alicia Franco at (559) 651-3022.

The Special Services Division is hosting the Annual Holiday Tea, scheduled for December 18, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. The event will be held in Room GH in the TCOE Redwood Conference Center on Mooney Boulevard. Members of the Special Services Division will present a beautiful array of holiday refreshments and sweets for employees and retirees. Employees who attend the tea are encouraged to bring new, unwrapped toys to donate to Toys for Tots. For more information, contact Special Services at (559) 730-2910.

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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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