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The News Gallery

October 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, Amy King, Gay Atmajian, Tammy McKean, Mary Xavier, Kelley Petty, Frank Silveira, Gene Mendes, and Gerald Arellano.

The News Gallery is published monthly with the exception of double issues printed for July/August and December/January. To receive the News Gallery, visit www.tcoe.org/GetTheGallery, or contact Jennifer Fisher at jenniferf@tcoe.org or (559) 733-6172.

Special Services' Mental Wellness Triage Grant

Social workers, training key to new program
Special Services awarded Mental Wellness Triage Grant to implement in over 20 schools

“You see someone sitting alone at lunchtime. What will you do?” Students at Kings River Union School might encounter this question when playing a social skills board game with Mary Xavier, a Tulare County Office of Education (TCOE) social worker assigned to the district. Ms. Xavier might use the board game as part of her support services to the 450-student K-8 district in northern Tulare County. For four years, the district has contracted for social work services through TCOE’s Behavioral Health Services (BHS) – a program within the Special Services division.

Ms. Xavier and Sarah Humason, a TCOE school psychologist, work together to provide district students and their families with behavioral support services and access to community resources. Ms. Xavier meets with families in need of clothing, food, and health services, while checking in with students who have three or more unexcused absences. She also assists Ms. Humason, working with students who exhibit behavioral issues or are in crisis.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, approximately one in five youth (ages 13-18) experiences a severe mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder. Nearly half of these students receive no mental health services. Of those that do, over half receive services at school.

The model that has been in place at Kings River Union School will soon be replicated in over 20 schools throughout Tulare County. To increase the amount of support to students in Tulare County, BHS partnered with Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency (HHSA) to develop a new grant-funded program. The grant, funded for four years by the California Mental Health Services Oversight Commission, was created out of Senate Bill 82 and awarded to only four agencies in the state. The TCOE Mental Wellness Triage Grant Program received a multi-million dollar award to begin implementing these services this fall.

While over 20 partnerships will be included in the first two years of the grant, additional school partnerships will be created in the final two years of the grant, covering the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years.

The partnerships include five main components which participating districts receive at no cost. A key component of the grant is the placement of one Triage Social Worker (TSW) to serve identified school sites one day a week for two years. The TSW provides collaborative student- and family-centered social work services, connecting children and families to all appropriate services. The TSW is also the unifying member of the team of parents, school staff, and regional mental health prevention and early intervention service providers supporting the student. Once the partner schools are identified, Mary Xavier will become a clinical supervisor, using her experience at Kings River to oversee the TSWs funded by the Mental Wellness Triage Grant.

The program also includes the implementation of the Mindful Schools K-12 curriculum, which is delivered for 15 minutes just two to three times per week. The goal of the Mindful Schools curriculum is to help prevent children and adolescents from developing social, emotional, and behavioral problems. Research has found that students who practice mindfulness exercises experience improved attention and focus, better emotional regulation, engagement and behavior in school, more empathy, and an overall reduction in depressive symptoms, stress, and test anxiety.

Through the Triage Grant, schools will also receive trainings regarding student mental wellness. Data on progress and outcomes will be collected to share with school boards and site administrators.

As part of the agreement, partner districts must secure funding to sustain a mental health professional who will fulfill the Triage Social Worker job responsibilities on their school campus for at least 8 hours per week for an additional two years.

“Over the last several years, TCOE has worked alongside districts to serve and support students with increasingly complex mental health needs,” said Tammy McKean, assistant superintendent of Special Services. “We are so pleased to offer an increased level of support through the School-County Collaborative Triage Grant. This grant will raise the standard of mental health service to ensure our students are socially and, ultimately, academically successful.”

For more information on the Triage Grant, contact Dr. Jennifer Newell, director for Behavioral Health Services, at (559) 730-2969, extension 6938, or

Photo above:
~ Mary Xavier, a social worker assigned to Kings River Union School, has been providing support and mental health services to district students and families since 2016. The four-year partnership between TCOE’s Behavioral Health Services and Kings River will be the model for the Mental Wellness Triage Grant, which will serve over 20 Tulare County schools.

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CHOICES launches school safety partnership
Crisis Prevention, Preparation, Response Forum brings together schools, first responders

In June, the CHOICES Program organized an advisory committee of law enforcement agencies, school districts, and first responders to help school districts develop a deeper level of understanding on how to best prevent, prepare, and respond to crisis situations.

VPD Lt. Ron Epps at Crisis Prevention, Preparation, Response Forum

On September 6, the CHOICES Program held its first countywide Crisis Prevention, Preparation, Response (CPPR) Forum. The event was attended by over 100 representatives from Tulare County school districts, law enforcement agencies, and first responders. Visalia Police Department Lt. Ron Epps conducted the first part of the forum, presenting a crisis scenario for the participants to discuss with their tablemates. “Today is the first day of classes for the new school year at one of your school sites,” said Lt. Epps. “Dispatch receives a call of a man with a gun in the parking lot of the school. Shortly thereafter, dispatch receives another call of shots fired at the school. At your table, discuss your next steps.”

After a short discussion period, Lt. Epps facilitated conversations with the participants and provided the audience with more details about the crisis. Participants continued to discuss each new set of circumstances as the situation unfolded.

Following Lt. Epps’ presentation, representatives from law enforcement and first responders formed a panel to identify five top priorities for all schools in Tulare County. These priorities addressed actions to take in a possible crisis situation, specifically when it involves an active shooter. The priorities included developing systems for radio communications and staff and student accountability, and having detailed campus maps available.

“From this forum, we have received numerous requests to continue offering trainings and activities on how to best prepare and respond to crisis situations,” said Frank Silveira, CHOICES administrator. “We’re encouraged to see partnerships forming and resources being developed among law enforcement and first responders in support of Tulare County school districts.”

For more information on CHOICES CPPR activities, call Frank Silveira at (559) 651-0155, extension 3611.

Photo above:
~ Visalia Police Department Lt. Ron Epps led table discussions at the Crisis Prevention, Preparation, Response Forum hosted by the CHOICES Program. Lt. Epps provided the audience of over 100 school district and law enforcement representatives with hypothetical scenarios involving an active shooter on a school campus. The forum also included a panel discussion with first responder and law enforcement staff offering tips on preparing for a crisis situation.

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Grant to build parenting skills, self-esteem
CHARACTER COUNTS! receives three-year Proud Parenting Program grant

The CHARACTER COUNTS! program recently received a Proud Parenting Program grant to help build parenting skills in Tulare County young people and to break the intergenerational cycle of violence and delinquency. The purpose of this grant program is to fund support services to young parents or expectant parents who were involved in the criminal/juvenile justice systems and/or involved in the child welfare system. Through an individualized case management approach, program participants will gain knowledge to improve responsible parenting skills and attitudes, build relationships with their children, learn necessary life-skills, and improve their self-esteem.

The Proud Parenting Program, previously known as the “Young Men as Fathers Program,” was established in 1997 under the California Youth Authority. In 2005, the Corrections Standards Authority assumed grant administration responsibility, before passing it to the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) in 2012. This grant program funds parenting services to young parents and expectant parents between the ages of 14 and 25.

“This grant fits well within our CHARACTER COUNTS! Program,” said Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. “Since the beginning of the program and particularly during our US Department of Education study from 2007 to 2011, we have encouraged parents to build their knowledge of the Six Pillars of Character, while giving them tools to teach good character in the home.”

The CHARACTER COUNTS! Program will begin the three-year grant serving students within the Tulare County Office of Education’s programs. The number of students served will grow in subsequent years. “We are looking forward to seeing participants complete their case management plan and report back that their family is functioning well and that they are more confident as parents,” said Kelley Petty, CHARACTER COUNTS! coordinator. Another goal of the grant is to decrease the number of young parents who, after completing the program, have substantiated incidences of child abuse and neglect.

For more information on the Proud Parenting grant, call Kelley Petty at (559) 740-4303.

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Conference to offer dual language resources
ERS coordinates regional conference in partnership with state and area county offices

Educational Resource Services (ERS) is coordinating Region VII’s annual conference dedicated to the achievement of dual language learners entitled Best Results for English Learners – A Road to EL Excellence. Scheduled for November 6 at the Fresno Convention Center, the conference offers a professional learning experience grounded in research and best practices. Presenters will incorporate principles of California’s groundbreaking new EL Roadmap policy, and will highlight system and classroom practices to support the needs of dual language learners and ELD implementation from early childhood into K-16.

“This conference will be filled with many valuable resources shared from the CDE, local districts, and county offices to empower educators at all levels to provide high quality learning for dual language learners,” said Dr. Jen Francone, ERS administrator. “Whether participants are classroom teachers, principals, coordinators, or district leaders, they will learn valuable information they can take back to their districts and use right away.”

EL Conference Keynote speaker Tonya Ward Singer The conference will open with a keynote presentation by Tonya Ward Singer (pictured right), an author, poet, educator, and international consultant dedicated to helping K-12 educators transform teaching for equity and EL achievement. Tonya is the author of EL Excellence Every Day: The Flip-to Guide for Differentiating Academic Literacy and Opening Doors to Equity.

To register for the Region VII Conference, visit
tulare.k12oms.org/147-157105. For more information about the conference, contact Sandi Cahill at (559) 651-0562, or sandi.cahill@tcoe.org. The Best Results Conference is a collaboration between the California Department of Education (CDE) and the county offices of education in Region VII (Fresno, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced and Tulare).

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Spotlight on People On September 19, the CHOICES Program hosted its annual T.U.P.E. (Tobacco Use Prevention Education) Leadership Training. Over 200 middle school students from 24 Tulare County schools participated in the leadership skills development event. Advisors Jackie Alvarado and Lisa Coorough (top photo, l-r) participated in an activity with attendees from Springville School. After the activity, students were invited to comment on what they did wrong in trying to lower the hoop to the floor. The activity was designed to illustrate that one trait of a good leader is admitting when they were wrong. Saleen Mariscal, a student at La Joya Middle School, (lower photo) shared one of the three projects fellow ASB students developed to align with the Six Pillars of Character. The La Joya students were part of a CHARACTER COUNTS! leadership training session. Spotlight on People

Spotlight on People Three Tulare County teachers were honored at the 25th Annual Confucius’ Birthday/Educators of the Year event held September 20 at the Central California Chinese Cultural Center in Visalia. Pictured (top photo, l-r) are Educators of the Year Zilda Hilliard, an English teacher and English Language Development department chair at Mission Oak High School in Tulare; Omar Lopez, an eighth-grade math teacher at Burton Middle School in Porterville; and Paul Meadors, a fifth-grade teacher at Traver Joint Elementary School. To see a video tribute to the winners, visit
tcoe.org/eoty. At the conclusion of the ceremony, Wayne Chun Wong, president of the center’s board of directors, (lower photo, l) honored County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak for his partnership with the Chinese Cultural Center over the past 25 years. He presented Mr. Vidak with a $5,000 check to support the new UC Merced/SCICON Field Station. Spotlight on People

Spotlight on People On September 20, educator and author Dave Burgess spoke to district and county school administrators on topics from his book, Teach Like a Pirate. Mr. Burgess, a middle school history teacher from San Diego, was the recipient of the 2014 Secondary School Teacher of the Year “Bammy” Award from the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences. Following his lunchtime presentation at the Tulare County Office of Education, Mr. Burgess spoke to hundreds of Tulare and Kings county teachers at the annual dinner hosted by the local California Teachers Association.

Spotlight on People Twenty-four teams of middle and high school students gathered at the Visalia Convention Center on September 25 to kick off the annual Step Up Youth Challenge. Students that attended the annual summit learned best practices and leadership skills to help them create projects that will make positive impacts on their campuses and communities. The teams will work to develop their projects in partnership with other community organizations through early March 2019, submitting a report to Step Up evaluators evidencing their success. On April 11, the County of Tulare will award $13,000 in grants to the winning teams at the annual Red Carpet Awards.

Spotlight on People Anjelica Zermeño, administrator at La Sierra Charter Schools, helped organize the second annual Breaking Barriers and Transforming Education Conference. The conference was a product of the school’s original California Academic Partnership Program (CAPP) grant awarded by California State University to support collaboration with postsecondary institutions and dissemination of successful “best practices” throughout the state. The conference featured breakout presentations on programs throughout the region that have been successful in removing barriers to student success, including topics on social/emotional supports, dual enrollment, and career technical education. The keynote presentation was delivered by Robyn Fisher, Ed.D. (pictured), who serves as the project director for the CAPP Demonstration Project. For more information on future Breaking Barriers conferences or resources, contact Anjelica Zermeño at (559) 733-6963.

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Gallery Notes

The TCOE Health & Wellness Committee is planning an Employee Health Fair October 3 in the lobby of the Mooney Boulevard building from 3:30 until 6:30 p.m. Several organizations that provide support services to TCOE employees – including gyms participating in the new Active & Fit program, Elite Wellness, Buckman-Mitchell Insurance, SISC, Vision Service Plan (VSP), Delta Dental, Keenan  Associates, American Fidelity Assurance, and Anthem Blue Cross – will be on hand with useful information. TCOE employees and their covered dependents can receive free flu shots in Conference Room H from 3:00 until 6:00 p.m. Employees will also have the opportunity to purchase healthy tacos from Tacos Lucha. A drawing for prizes provided by the vendors will be held following the Health Fair for those who attend the event.

The Tulare County Office of Education was recently selected to be the regional lead in providing professional learning, resources, and targeted support for K-12 history-social science (HSS) teachers, administrators, and para-professionals to implement the state’s new HSS Framework. To kick off these efforts, HSS curriculum specialist Gay Atmajian has organized a professional learning and networking conference on November 9 at the Doe Avenue complex. The event, entitled The Content, Literacy, Inquiry and Citizenship (CLIC) Project, will include resources related to the new framework and strategies to help teachers promote student civic engagement. Throughout the 2018-19 school year, CLIC participants will have opportunities to network with one another and learn from best practices presented by local HSS experts. To register for the event, visit

The Tulare County Museum has organized the Armistice Day Project to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the treaty that ended World War I. Working with Gay Atmajian, the museum has developed teacher resources to help create lessons about World War I, with local veterans available as classroom presenters. The culminating activity for every lesson will be the creation of a paper poppy with a handwritten note of appreciation to a person in the military service. The museum will collect and display the poppies from each participating class and will forward them to military service members through the A Million Thanks organization. On Sunday, November 11, the museum will hold an Armistice Day Centennial in Mooney Grove Park, which will feature the unveiling of the poppy display at the museum, presentations by local veterans, student poetry, patriotic music, and more. For more information on participating in the Armistice Day Project, contact museum curator Amy King at (559) 624-7326, or aking1@co.tulare.ca.us.

Event tickets to The Vision & the Visionary: a Night to Celebrate Science & Service are now available. Scheduled for Saturday, November 17, the fundraising event is designed to celebrate the creation of the UC Merced/SCICON Field Station and to honor Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak for his vision to create the field station and to celebrate his career as an educator. Mr. Vidak is currently serving the final year of his seventh term – making him Tulare County’s longest-serving county superintendent. In total, Mr. Vidak has served 28 years as Tulare County Superintendent of Schools, as part of a 57-year career as a teacher, principal, SCICON director, and Visalia Unified administrator. The event will be held at the International Agri-Center in Tulare and will feature a social hour with farm-to-fork hors d’oeuvres from UC Merced Executive Chef Mitch Vanagten, a hearty dinner by Ruiz Catering, a chance raffle, and live entertainment. The event will also include a live auction featuring a 7-day stay at a beautiful Maui condo, four collectible cars, and more. All proceeds from the event will benefit the UC Merced/SCICON Field Station. All TCOE employees are invited to attend. For ticket information, visit tcoe.org/FieldStation and click on the “November 17 Event” link.

The annual Tulare County Office of Education Red Ribbon Week will be held October 22-26 with the theme of Life is Your Journey, Travel Drug Free. All proceeds from this year’s event will benefit the new UC Merced/SCICON Field Station. To see updates on the week’s activities, visit tcoe.org/RedRibbon. The annual Tulare County Red Ribbon Celebration for students will be held from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. October 18 at the Visalia Convention Center. The event is a partnership between the TCOE CHOICES Program, the Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency and a myriad of other county and city resources. The event emphasizes the importance of making positive life choices without the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. It also showcases many positive extracurricular opportunities for local youth.

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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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