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The News Gallery

May 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, Julie Berk, Alicia Franco, Sarah Hamilton, Tammy Bradford, Joe Martinez, Jennifer Newell, Anjelica Zermeño, Mike Franco, Jennifer Harris, Kelley Petty, Bethany Rader, Kathleen Green-Martins, Nancy Bruce, Paula Terrill and Juliana Davidian.

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.

Slick Rock Student Film Festival

Slick Rock Student Film Festival set for May 11
15th annual event receives over 680 films from 55 Central Valley schools

El Diamante students Yocelin Ledezma, Matt Olea, Cooper Ross and Shelbi Ojeda created an inspirational sports highlight video for the 2018 Slick Rock Student Film Festival, entitled Who Will You Be? In it, a voice asks viewers who will they be when they see failure on the horizon or fall to the ground. As the voice describes the challenges in sports and the motivation it takes to overcome them, footage of El Diamante athletes struggling in competition rolls. When the voice asks again, “So, who will you be?” a series of rapid-fire shots of athletes jumping, diving, throwing and scoring – interspersed with the words “who will you be” – brings the video to a dramatic conclusion.

Slick Rock Student Film Festival The El Diamante video is just one of a record-breaking 682 student-produced films submitted to the annual Slick Rock Student Film Festival. The films were entered by students from 55 middle and high schools in Tulare, Kings, Kern, Fresno, Madera, Mariposa and Merced counties. Over 150 of the top films will be shown at the “Premiere Cut” screening May 11 at the Visalia Fox Theater, from 9:00 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. “Make time on May 11 to support the valley’s young filmmakers by visiting the Fox Theater to see a few of these incredible films,” said Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. A schedule of Premiere Cut showings will be available soon at

For the filmmakers, the awards ceremony will begin at 5:15 p.m. with a limo ride to the Fox Theater. Students will emerge from chauffeur-driven cars to throngs of cheering fans and paparazzi, as they pause in front of the “step and repeat” wall to pose for photos, Hollywood premiere-style. The awards ceremony, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 6:30 p.m. Winners in over 20 film categories, plus several special awards, will be presented.

For more information about the Slick Rock Student Film Festival, call Kathleen Green-Martins at (559) 651-0155.

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Graduates prepared for college & career
Over 150 students ready to graduate from TCOE programs beginning this month

TCOE Program Graduations

Beginning this month, over 150 students will graduate from TCOE programs, including La Sierra Charter School, University Preparatory High School (UPHS), the Special Services AcCEL Programs and Community Based Instruction Classrooms (CBICs), and the Court/Community Schools. To reach this important personal milestone, each graduate has taken a unique pathway with the support of these programs.

Graduates from the 10 Tulare County CBICs have been working to 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, which supports students ages 18-22 with special needs, is to prepare them to live as independently as possible following their graduations.

For the third year in a row, the Court/Community School program will graduate students. Since 2016, the program has partnered with Instructional Access, a widely-used online resource, to enable students to complete needed courses at a pace that meets their learning style and to fulfill their graduation requirements.

This year, La Sierra Charter Schools will graduate 43 students. Three of the graduates have already been accepted to Fresno State University (FSU). Principal Anjelica Zermeño is proud of the cadets’ accomplishments, pointing to advances that the school has made in preparing students for college. “Beginning in 2011-12, La Sierra implemented a 'whole child' approach for social emotional learning, which included utilizing trauma-informed practices,” she said. “Couple this with La Sierra being chosen for the California Academic Partnership Program by California State University and our development of CSU/UC-approved a-g coursework, we are now seeing 80% or more of our students go to college. For La Sierra, the three FSU-bound students will go down in history as the first to directly enter a CSU/UC school and, most importantly, they will be the first in their families to go to college.”

TCOE Program Graduations

For University Preparatory High School’s success in providing dual enrollment opportunities for its students at College of the Sequoias (COS), Visalia, the school was profiled in a recent segment of ABC30’s Children First series. The Children First special, entitled Ready for the Real World, looked at Central Valley programs helping youth transition to adulthood. UPHS was highlighted for providing students with early college experience and the opportunity to be enrolled both in high school and at College of the Sequoias. UPHS seniors Jacqueline Lopez and Nicholas Seechan were interviewed for the segment. Both students credited the school for helping them gain the confidence to navigate college courses and prepare for the day they transfer to a university. “While many schools offer their students the opportunity to be dual enrolled, UPHS is unique because our students attend classes on the COS campus and access the same academic supports as college students,” said Eric Thiessen, UPHS principal. Mr. Thiessen reports that UPHS will graduate 58 students this year, two of them having simultaneously earned their associate’s degree from COS. ABC30’s Ready for the Real World will by re-aired on May 12 at 5:00 p.m., and June 9 at 12:00 p.m.

“Beyond the academic supports that each of our programs provides, we are equally proud of the added social, ethical and resilience training that puts our students on a path to success in college, if they pursue it, and career,” said Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. “Join us in celebrating the remarkable accomplishments of the class of 2018.”

For a schedule of TCOE graduation ceremonies, visit

Photos above:
~ Three La Sierra Military Academy students have been accepted to Fresno State, (l-r) Brenda Yado, Cadet Sergeant Luis Sanchez and Cadet Captain Noelia Franco, commanding officer.
~ UPHS senior Jacqueline Lopez speaks to ABC30 reporter Brian Johnson about her experience being dual enrolled in high school and in college courses at COS. Jacqueline’s interview was used as part of the station’s latest
Children First special, which will re-air May 12 and June 9.

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New curriculum designed to empower parents
Early Childhood Education pilots Abriendo Puertas program with parents in Richgrove

Parents of children that attend the Child Development Center in Richgrove have begun participating in a new research-based leadership development program called Abriendo Puertas (Opening Doors). The Abriendo Puertas (AP) program, which was developed by and for Latino parents with children ages 0-5, is widely used throughout the nation and supported by the National Head Start Association and United Way Worldwide.

The purpose of the program is to develop parents’ leadership skills through a 10-lesson curriculum. The program builds parents’ abilities to promote school readiness, well-being and positive education outcomes for their children through the study of early childhood development, literacy, numeracy, bilingualism, health, attendance and civic engagement.

Following the first week of the program, Alicia Franco, family/community partnerships manager for the Early Childhood Education Program (ECEP), reported that the Richgrove parents felt, “privileged that they are the first group to go through our AP class.” She added, “They are excited and looking forward to learning skills to build positive relationships with their children that will lead to their school readiness.”

In the first week of their class, the AP curriculum reinforced that parents are their children’s first teachers and that school starts at home. “We also covered the importance of being involved at school, regardless of their native language,” Ms. Franco shared.

Parents graduate from AP empowered with the tools and knowledge to become powerful agents of change in the lives of their children and the community at large.

A study by researchers at UC Berkeley found that parents who completed the AP program made significant gains in knowledge of early learning and development, social-emotional skills, language and literacy, school preparation, healthy parenting and advocacy.

Julie Berk, assistant superintendent of Student Support Services, reports that ECEP hopes to launch AP parent groups in communities throughout Tulare County in the near future.

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Interns support districts with social work needs
Special Services interns work in Behavioral Health and Psychological Services departments

Melissa Ortega is a second-year graduate student at Fresno State. Three days a week, the future social worker gets a taste of her anticipated career helping students and their families by providing counseling sessions and by connecting them to other behavioral therapy services, as needed.

Special Services interns Ms. Ortega is one of seven interns working within the Special Services Division this year. Most of the interns, who have been placed in the Behavioral Health Services and Psychological Services programs, are pursuing their Master of Social Work degrees through CSU Fresno, CSU Bakersfield or Boise State.

In order to earn her degree, Ms. Ortega must complete 600 hours of internship each of her two years in graduate school. She is also working to earn her Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) Credential. Each week, Ms. Ortega receives student referrals from teachers or administrators at the three school sites where she works – Alta Vista School, Oak Valley Union School and Palo Verde Union School. During the referral sessions, Ms. Ortega addresses student absenteeism, behavior issues, bullying, and thoughts of suicide or crisis at home. “If more intensive therapy is needed, I refer students to providers such as Tulare Youth Services,” she said.

Reporting that no two days are ever the same, Melissa Ortega is happiest when she’s able to help families get the services they need. “I am particularly proud of the work I’ve done with one student who experiences anxiety in class and sometimes at home,” she notes. “Through some coping exercises, I’ve seen her make great progress in alleviating her anxiety.”

The internships were developed through partnerships between Special Services, the universities the students attend and Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency. “We’re delighted to help these young people gain real-world experience as they begin their careers, whether it’s in social work or behavioral therapy,” said Tammy McKean, assistant superintendent for Special Services. “The small school districts are also delighted to have the support the interns provide on their campuses.”

For more information on Psychological Services or Behavioral Health Services, call (559) 730-2910.

Photo above:
~ Melissa Ortega is one of seven social work interns providing support services through Special Services’ Behavioral Health and Psychological Services departments.

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Theatre Company to offer June summer camp
Elementary students invited to build performance skills at three-week workshop

Disney's 101 Dalmations Kids Young actors and singers will have an opportunity to learn and perform the adventure story of Disney’s 101 Dalmatians Kids during the Theatre Company’s third annual Summer Camp. Open to students grades 1-6, the Summer Camp program will help young performers develop their stage skills through three weeks of performance training.

“The Theatre Company is very excited to once again create a summer camp, this time featuring 101 Dalmatians Kids,” said Theatre Company Director Bethany Rader. “This show has been part of our OnStage touring production for many years, so we’re looking forward to taking a fresh new perspective with it here at home. We hope the kids who come to join us look forward to having fun exploring a beloved Disney classic.”

The Summer Camp will be conducted by Bethany Rader and Theatre Company On-Stage directors Andres Garcia and Karly Butler-Shirk. The team will work with the participants on refining their voice, dance and acting skills.

The Theatre Company Summer Camp will be held Monday-Friday, June 11-29 from 9:00 until 11:00 a.m. The program will culminate with a performance of 101 Dalmatians Kids on June 29 at 7:00 p.m. The Summer Camp will be held in the Elderwood Room at Tulare County Office of Education’s Doe Avenue complex. The cost of the Summer Camp is $100 per student. Registration is due June 4. For registration information, visit
tcoe.org/TheatreCo, or contact the Theatre Company at (559) 651-1482.

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Spotlight on People The annual Arbor Day Celebration was held at Mooney Grove Park on April 19. Over 150 elementary students attended the event to participate in a variety of environmental lessons, including presentations on insects, mulch, water and the importance of trees. At the conclusion of the event, students worked with Neil Pilegard, Tulare County Parks & Recreation manager, to plant several trees in Mooney Grove Park.

Spotlight on People Over 650 seventh and eighth graders participated in the 45th annual Math Super Bowl on April 11. The students, from Kings and Tulare county schools, competed in three events – working independently, in teams with their classmates and with students from other schools. Pictured are the top five eighth-grade students in the Power Bowl competition, Small School Category: Martin Feranec (Oak Grove School, Visalia), Kiersten Moshier (Oak Grove School, Visalia), Jordan Nicholls (Sundale Union School, Tulare), Sean Nickell (Oak Grove School, Visalia), and Carl Cellan (St. Anne's School, Porterville). For a complete list of winners, visit

Spotlight on People Students and educators that participated in the annual Circle J-Norris Ranch BioBlitz Program on April 21 were able to help document 97 species of plants, fungi and animals living at the field science site by utilizing the iNaturalist app. Carlos (left), a junior in the Environmental Sciences Academy at Monache High School in Porterville, is pictured leading students from Carl Smith Middle School in Terra Bella on their quest to identify and document species.

Spotlight on People Beginning May 1, over 300 pieces of student artwork will be displayed in the lobby of the TCOE Administration Building at 6200 South Mooney Boulevard in Visalia. The exhibition of paintings, drawings, sculpture and mixed-media art was organized by Special Services Division’s AcCEL Programs. Among the artwork created by students from AcCEL special day classes throughout the county is a sculpture entitled “Kevin” (pictured) by Fernando Ruiz, an 11-year-old student from Alila School in Earlimart. The exhibition will remain on display in the lobby through May 31.

Spotlight on People Nearly 700 elementary and middle school students developed books that were displayed at the annual Young Authors’ Faire. The students worked alone or in groups to produce over 420 print and digital books this year. At a reception on April 12, many students shared their books with the audience, including Talitha Ruiz who read from her book The Floss That Was Stuck.

Spotlight on People Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak is pictured with Paula Vinzant, district director for Senator Andy Vidak. At the annual dinner meeting of the Central Valley Education Coalition (CVEC), Mr. Vidak was honored with a Senate Proclamation for his service as the founding chairman of the organization – a position he has held for 13 years. CVEC is a coalition of over 120 Central Valley school districts and county offices of education in Tulare, Kings, Fresno, Madera, Mariposa and Merced counties represented by the legislative advocacy firm of Ball/Frost Group in Sacramento. Ball/Frost advocates for issues unique to Central Valley schools, including school finance, home-to-school transportation, legislation related to English as a second language, and Career Technical Education.

Spotlight on People Nearly 3,000 people visited the annual SCICON Barbecue and Wildflower Festival on Sunday, April 15. Visitors were able to tour the campus and participate in a multitude of projects, including building birdhouses. The annual barbecue event is organized by the Friends of SCICON to benefit the outdoor education program.

Spotlight on People A dance team from Monson-Sultana School’s FUEL Expanded Learning Program that included David Camarillo, Ryley Clark, Ronald Ramos, Jaymee Carlin, Dianna Quintero and Nadeen Shami is pictured performing to Footloose at the 29th Annual Friday Night Live Lip Sync Competition held April 13. The Monson-Sultana team took first place in the event’s dance category. Lip Sync is hosted by the CHOICES Programs as an opportunity for young people to celebrate leading lives free from drugs, alcohol and gangs. This year, 33 teams competed. For a complete list of winners, visit tcoe.org/LipSync.

Spotlight on People The annual College and Career EXPO was held at the College of the Sequoias campuses in Visalia and Tulare on Friday, April 6. Hundreds of students from Tulare and Kings County high schools participated in more than 20 career-themed competitions, ranging from Anatomy and Architectural Design to Video Production and Website Development. As part of the Automotive Technology competition (pictured), students diagnosed problems with headlights, taillights and signals. To view the competition results, visit tcoe.org/CollegeCareerEXPO.

Spotlight on People Nearly 50 examples of Project Based Learning were on display at the annual Night at the 21st Century Museum event April 17. Elementary, middle and high school students displayed projects involving engineering, medicine, history, robotics, agriculture, business and technology applications. Students from Sycamore Valley Academy (pictured) display a board game they developed from their project The Impact of the Mission System on the Natives of California.

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Gallery Notes

As a follow-up to the Healthy Tulare County Week activities held April 3-6, the TCOE Health & Wellness Committee is planning to email a voluntary employee wellness survey on May 3. The easy-to-complete, online survey includes 12 questions about employees’ personal fitness, nutrition and their participation in Health & Wellness Committee activities. The information gathered from the survey will help to inform the committee how employees prefer to learn about health topics. Employees who complete the survey will be entered into a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card donated by the committee. For more information on the Health & Wellness Committee, contact Nan Arnold at (559) 651-0130.

On May 17, 10 middle school and 6 high school teams from throughout the county will attend the annual Step Up Youth Challenge Awards in hopes of receiving grants for their work in developing community service projects. The awards ceremony, which begins at 6:00 p.m. at the Fox Theater, is open to the public. The top five projects in both the middle and high school categories will receive grant funding totaling $13,000. The grants are provided by the County of Tulare's Gang Prevention Task Force and the Tulare County Youth Commission.

For the fifth year, the Tulare County Office of Education CHARACTER COUNTS! Program recognized high school senior student athletes with a Pursuing Victory With Honor college scholarship for their exemplary character on and off the field. Thanks to additional support from the Provident-Salierno Family Foundation, the number of $500 scholarships given to the students was increased from four to eight awards this year. The recipients, who possess exceptional traits in sportsmanship, leadership and initiative, are: Rhegan Fernandes (Mission Oak High School, Tulare), Brianna Gomez (El Diamante High School, Visalia), Cooper Henry (Redwood High School, Visalia), Heather Hutchinson (Golden West High School, Visalia), Dax Korenwinder (Tulare Western High School), Seth Lippincott (Tulare Union High School), Lindsey Swall (Mission Oak High School, Tulare) and Kallista Wales (Tulare Western High School).

On June 21, Educational Resource Services will host a forum for administrators interested in developing dual language education programs at their school sites. Dr. Kathryn Lindholm-Leary and Rosa Molina will be the presenters. Dr. Lindholm-Leary and Ms. Molina, who are widely respected experts in the field of two-way/dual language bilingual programs, will present information on research, model programs, and leadership and implementation practices. The cost of the forum, which will be held from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., is $125 per person. To register, visit

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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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