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The News Gallery

March 2019

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, Kelley Petty, Paula Terrill, Ariel Barrios, Dianne Shew, Nancy Bruce, Kate Stover, Lorena Castillo, Tony Cavanagh, and Gene Mendes.

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.

CHOICES, law enforcement work in community
Prop 56 grant supports tobacco use prevention education and tobacco sales enforcement

CHOICES Proposition 56 Grant Program

Fifth- and eighth-grade students in Buena Vista, Oak Valley Union, Palo Verde Union, Sundale Union, Waukena Joint Union, and Exeter Unified schools are learning about the dangers of drugs and alcohol and, in the process, speaking up for themselves. Thanks to a large grant awarded to the Tulare County Office of Education (TCOE) last year, the CHOICES Program and its partner law enforcement agencies – the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office and the Exeter Police Department – are spreading tobacco use prevention education (TUPE) to students while enforcing the laws about the sale of these products to minors.

CHOICES Proposition 56 Grant Program

The grant awarded to TCOE in July by the California Department of Justice (DOJ) originated from the Proposition 56 Tobacco Tax Increase Initiative, which was passed by voters in November 2016. Beginning April 1, 2017, tax on all tobacco and electronic cigarettes was increased by $2.00. Revenues from this tax helped to fund the grant being implemented by the CHOICES Program.

CHOICES Proposition 56 Grant Program This semester, hundreds of Tulare County students are receiving intensive TUPE training. At Sundale Union, K.C. Pearce, a prevention/ intervention education specialist with the CHOICES Program, draws from the Botvin LifeSkills curriculum to talk to students about ways that people can pressure them into trying tobacco or other drugs. Students reflect on instances in their lives when they have felt pressured to do something that they knew was wrong, or made them feel uncomfortable – recognizing various coercing techniques people often use in these situations. The curriculum is grade-level appropriate as it explores the short- and long-term effects of tobacco use and how the advertising companies target youth to buy and use their products. “The curriculum also helps students develop the communication, assertiveness and conflict resolution skills to say no in high pressure situations,” said Tony Cavanagh, prevention/intervention education manager for CHOICES.

The 25-month grant includes two full-time law enforcement officers to help with school presentations and to meet with tobacco retailers in the county. “We appreciate tremendously the commitment of these two law enforcement agencies to work with our CHOICES staff on classroom lessons and to work with local vendors to reduce tobacco sales to minors,” said Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Tim Hire. “I especially appreciate Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux and Exeter Police Chief John Hall for allowing us to train and utilize staff for this important work.”

CHOICES Proposition 56 Grant Program

Law enforcement officers and CHOICES specialists assess businesses and their placement of tobacco and vaping products and advertisements. In addition, the program uses a minor decoy to attempt to purchase tobacco products from a retailer, or to get an adult to buy the products for them.

“While the use of traditional nicotine products is declining with young people, the use of vaping devices is increasing,” said Mr. Cavanagh. “Parents and school staff should understand how these new products are being designed for, and marketed to, kids.” Mr. Cavanagh reports that all Tulare County schools served by the TUPE Program and Proposition 56 Grants are entitled to a staff and parent presentation on the dangers and prevalence of vaping among young people.

For more information about the CHOICES tobacco education programs, call Tony Cavanagh at (559) 651-0155.

Photos above:
~ Tulare Western student Chloe Guerrero is helping distribute tobacco sales notifications to staff at Jack’s Git N Go in Tulare.
~ Sheriff’s Deputy Janae Reyes presents an anti-tobacco and anti-drug curriculum to eighth-grade students at Buena Vista School as part of a Proposition 56-funded partnership between law enforcement and the CHOICES Program. Deputy Reyes reports that the curriculum has already empowered students to talk to officers about their own experiences.
~ Alice Flores (l), a prevention/intervention education specialist with the CHOICES Program and Officer Curtis Hayes (r) of the Exeter Police Department prepare for a presentation to local retailers regarding tobacco and vaping product displays and sales to minors.
~ K.C. Pearce, a prevention/intervention education specialist with the CHOICES Program, conducts a lesson on peer pressure and tobacco use for students at Sundale Union School.

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Eleanor Roosevelt expands to support families
Project includes modern offices, collaboration areas, amphitheater, and recreation spaces

Eleanor Roosevelt Community Learning Center

On February 11, hundreds of parents and children gathered with staff members at Eleanor Roosevelt Community Learning Center (ERCLC) to celebrate the completion of a building project that connects the past with the school’s future. Sitting on ERCLC’s picturesque seven-acre site in east Visalia are a pair of new modern buildings, an amphitheater, a basketball court, and a playground. The new light-filled, warm gray buildings contrast, but don’t compete, with the charming 100+-year-old Venice Hill School building, which serves as ERCLC’s library. Gone from the site are the numerous temporary buildings that served as office and classroom space since ERCLC acquired the site in 2002.

Eleanor Roosevelt Community Learning Center Eleanor Roosevelt Community Learning Center was authorized by the Tulare County Board of Education in 2001 as the county’s first independent charter school. Throughout its history, the school has supported and empowered parents in Tulare and surrounding counties who homeschool their children. ERCLC provides credentialed teachers to work alongside parents in creating individualized study programs for their children and offers a myriad of educational resources and curriculum, enrichment classes, activities, and field trips throughout the school year. Today, the school serves 270 K-12 students.

ERCLC Director and Superintendent Daniel Huecker reports that the new buildings include 9,000 square feet of staff, parent, and student meeting space to better serve homeschooling families. The interiors of the buildings have a residential feeling – like a home away from home. One building features a living room with an open kitchen and a large dining table for meals or events. The building also features a classroom for kindergarten students. The other building is home to the school’s staff offices, which are arranged off a broad central corridor. The space in this building is also flexible, allowing teachers and parents to work in offices, lounges, or around a central table.

Eleanor Roosevelt Community Learning Center

In addition to the outdoor amphitheater which incorporates two bright yellow shipping containers for prop and set storage, the project also includes a renovated Maker Studio featuring laser cutters, 3-D printers, and additional tools used to support student STEM projects. ERCLC also upgraded site utilities to support and preserve the Venice Hill schoolhouse at the heart of the campus. The new buildings are arranged to form a central play space with brightly colored climbing equipment for children. In all, the project transforms the campus into a blend of old and new, while creating a warm family atmosphere that feels like home.

For more information about Eleanor Roosevelt Community Learning Center, contact Daniel Huecker at (559) 737-8508.

Photos above:
~ New facilities contrast with the school’s historic library.
~ Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Tim Hire (l) talks with ERCLC director Daniel Huecker in the light-filled corridor of the staff building.
~ The two new buildings at Eleanor Roosevelt Community Learning Center were placed around a central playground for students.

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Circle J hosts BioBlitz event for students
Students identified species, planted native habitat to increase biodiversity at research site

On Saturday, February 23, student naturalists gathered early at Monache High School to board the Tulare County Step Up Loop Bus bound for the annual Circle J-Norris Ranch BioBlitz event. BioBlitz is an intense effort to discover and document all the living organisms in an area. Students, teachers and scientists worked together to photograph living things and create a record of Circle J’s biodiversity. Circle J Lead Teacher Nancy Bruce said, “I rely on student observations during BioBlitz to grow the list of species documented at the program.” Ms. Bruce was aided by two naturalists/scientists from partner organizations at the event: Sam Weiser, education coordinator with Sequoia Riverlands Trust, and Heather Dumais, natural resources specialist park ranger at Lake Kaweah.

BioBlitz at Circle J/Norris Ranch As the students arrived, sunshine sparkled on the pond and birdsong filled the air. Bumblebees buzzed around and turtles sunbathed on rocks near the pond, making it a glorious day for research. Students formed small teams, then learned how to record their observations using the iNaturalist app. Each team had one smart device – a phone or tablet – with the iNaturalist app installed. Mr. Weiser advised teams to take three good photographs, then enter the name of the organism in the app. Once an observation is uploaded into iNaturalist, the community of people using the app help with the specific identification. “One bee we observed was a Yellow-faced Bumblebee,” said Ms. Bruce. “When two other people can confirm that the bee pictured is a Yellow-faced Bumblebee, then the observation can be considered ‘research grade.’ In this way, student naturalists participating in Circle J’s BioBlitz have contributed to science, aiding future researchers!”

BioBlitz at Circle J/Norris Ranch

During their two-hour exploration of the Circle J site, one of the teams, guided by Heather Dumais, immediately recorded gray colored lichen, Sierran Tree Frogs and Western Pond Turtles. Other teams recorded Slender Salamander, Blue Oak, Live Oak, Wavy-leaved Soaproot, Audubon’s Cottontail, California Ground Squirrels, and numerous mushrooms, including one they identified as Lion’s Mane. “When they returned, the student naturalists reported that they loved the opportunity to explore and be a part of Circle J’s BioBlitz,” said Ms. Bruce. “Each student shared their story of finding a favorite life form. Dalia Gonzales, a junior at Monache High School exclaimed, “I had seen pictures of Lion’s Mane and I have always wanted to see one, so I was so excited when we found one growing out of a dead oak tree!”

For more information about BioBlitz, or the ongoing research opportunities available to elementary, secondary and post-secondary classes at Circle J-Norris Ranch, contact Nancy Bruce at (559) 539-2263.

Photos above:
~ Following a morning of exploring the Circle J campus to identify species, students planted native oaks with wire baskets to protect the roots of the young trees from gophers and squirrels. Once mature, these trees will become habitat for other species, helping to increase the biodiversity of the ranch.
~ Students at the BioBlitz used the iNaturalist app to identify dozens of plant and animal species, including the Yellow-faced Bumblebee.

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20th annual Spelling Championship held
Kayla Barnes of George McCann School wins competition, advances to nationals May 27

On March 27, 2000, parents and teachers packed the ballroom at the Lamp Liter Inn in Visalia to see 62 students from 33 Tulare County schools compete in the first annual Tulare County Spelling Championship. The year before, then Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak invited retired instructional consultant Nancy Bellin to create a spelling championship in partnership with the Visalia Times-Delta/Tulare Advance-Register. To help with the event, Ms. Bellin recruited agri-businessman and word enthusiast Scot Hillman to be the spelling master. At this year’s 20th annual Spelling Championship, held February 20, Ms. Bellin, Mr. Hillman and longtime judges Dr. Pansy Ceballos and Carlyn Lambert, guided 227 spellers from throughout the county through hundreds of words.

Tulare County Spelling Championship

Over the years, the competition grew in size with students participating from an increasing number of Tulare County elementary and middle schools. In the 10th year of the competition, the event, having outgrown the Lamp Liter Inn and the former Holiday Inn locations, relocated to the Visalia Convention Center, where it has remained since. Today, the Tulare County Spelling Championship is the largest regional spelling bee in the network of competitions throughout the nation that feed into the Scripps National Spelling Bee. “Over the years, participation in this program has given thousands of Tulare County students increased oral language skills and self confidence that leads to success in all areas of life,” said Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Tim Hire.

At the beginning of the event, Mr. Hire took a moment to thank the judges and to recognize Nancy Bellin with a special plaque for her years of service to the students who participate in the Spelling Championship. “From day one, our fearless special events coordinator Nancy Bellin has been at the helm. Truly one of our most enthusiastic, dedicated, and thoughtful team members, we gratefully present her with this token of our esteem.”

Tulare County Spelling Championship Five and a half hours later, the competition had dwindled to two spellers – Kayla Barnes, a seventh-grade student at George McCann School in Visalia and Manroop Turna, an eighth-grade student at Woodlake Valley Middle School. In the seventh round, Kayla spelled “plumeria” correctly, while Manroop misspelled “cuisinier.” This advanced Kayla to the eighth round, where she spelled “ballistic” correctly to win the championship. As part of the Visalia Times-Delta/Tulare Advance-Register sponsorship of the competition, Kayla is eligible to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee beginning May 27 in National Harbor, Maryland.

This year, six students tied for third place. They include: Trey Amundson, a seventh grader from Cherry Avenue Middle School in Tulare; J.T. Amaral, a seventh grader from Sequoia Union School in Lemon Cove; Juliet Prosser, a seventh grader from Green Acres Middle School in Visalia; Luis Mendoza, a seventh grader from Carl F. Smith Middle School in Terra Bella; Mikhael Duquette, a sixth grader from Cottonwood Creek Elementary School in Visalia; and Arlyn Pagtama, an eighth grader from Summit Charter Collegiate Academy in Porterville.

Photos above:
~ Nancy Bellin shares a special recognition presented by Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Tim Hire in appreciation of her 20 years coordinating the Spelling Championship.
~ Kayla Barnes of George McCann School is the 2019 Spelling Champion.

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National History Day explores triumph, tragedy
Students develop over 100 exhibits, papers, documentaries, websites, and performances

National History Day - Tulare County

Triumph and Tragedy in History was the theme of National History Day – Tulare County, held February 15. Tulare County elementary, middle and high school students worked together or alone to enter 105 projects this year. Through two-dimensional posters, historical papers, exhibits, performances, documentaries, and historical websites, students explored the annual theme in the context of local, state, national, and world history. Their projects included analysis of events including the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the U.S. polio epidemic, the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and the Berlin Wall.

Following the presentation of projects, students gathered in the Redwood Conference Center to hear some of the “best of event” presentations from students chosen by the judges. Following these presentations, keynote speaker Terry Ommen, Visalia’s historian laureate, spoke to students about local history.

National History Day - Tulare County

At the end of the day, event coordinator Gay Atmajian announced the names of 40 projects that were selected as finalists. Among these projects were 34 middle and high school projects that are eligible to advance to the state competition at William Jessup University in Rocklin on May 10-12. Six scholarships were given to help students with the expenses of attending the California NHD competition. For a complete list of the scholarship winners and the finalists eligible to advance to the state competition, visit

Photos above:
~ Dinuba High School students Gabby Baeza, Clarissa Barajas, Alissa Baza, and Lilly Thomason were finalists in the senior group performance category for their project
The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire: The Triumphs that Arose from the Tragedy. The team was chosen as finalists in the National History Day program and is eligible to compete at the state competition in May.
~ Charvi Reddy, a student at University Preparatory High School, talks with judges about her documentary
The Quest for a Polio Vaccine: A Medical Triumph. Charvi was chosen as an alternate in the senior individual documentary category.

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Spotlight on People The Early Childhood Education Program will host its 31st annual Child Development Conference on Saturday, March 16, at the International Agri-Center in Tulare. Entitled Childhood Trauma: What Every Person Needs to Know, the full-day conference will include breakout sessions on a variety of topics conducted in English and Spanish. Scheduled sessions include Understanding Why Some Children Use Challenging Behaviors and Impact of Stress on the Developing Brain. The keynote presentation will be given by Dr. Chandra Ghosh Ippen (pictured), the associate director of the Child Trauma Research Program at the University of California, San Francisco and the director of Dissemination and Implementation for Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP). Dr. Ghosh Ippen is an author and researcher with 26 years of experience in the area of early childhood trauma. To register for the Child Development Conference, visit
tulare.k12oms.org/158-162968 by March 4.

Spotlight on People Gabrielle Trapse, a sophomore at Tulare Union High School, was the winner in the fourth annual Poetry Out Loud competition held February 6 in the Redwood Conference Center. Gabrielle, who was last year’s winner, will represent Tulare County at the state competition in Sacramento March 10-11. Poetry Out Loud is a national competition for high school students who prepare recitations from a lexicon of over 900 classic and contemporary poems.

Spotlight on People In the annual Mock Trial competition, Redwood High School Team A (photo above), coached by attorneys Andre Gaston, Chris Gomez and Bryce Hatakeyama, successfully defeated challenger Mission Oak High School to earn a spot at the state competition beginning March 16 in Santa Ana. Caleb Rodriguez (photo below, left), who presented Redwood’s pretrial motion, was voted “most valuable player” by the Mission Oak team. In appreciation for her coordination of Mock Trial for the past 14 years, Special Event Coordinator Paula Terrill (photo below, right) received a Certificate of Recognition from Assemblyman Devon Mathis on behalf of the Tulare County Bar Association. Pictured to the right of Ms. Terrill is Assemblyman Mathis’ field representative, Rachael Ray. Spotlight on People

Spotlight on People On February 2, the Tulare County Academic Decathlon championship title was captured by El Diamante High School of Visalia. This year, the El Diamante team earned the top prize in the Super Quiz competition, and won the large school category and overall honors to represent Tulare County in the state finals beginning March 22 in Sacramento. El Diamante team members include (photo above, l-r) Ying Yan, Manuel Hernandez, Yibo Liang, Beth Contreras, Micario Rodriguez, Maegan Fiskin, Miguel Rodriguez, Emily Figueroa and coach Mikk Jolly. All Academic Decathlon teams are comprised of 2-3 students in each of three grade categories: Honors (GPA 3.75-4), Scholastic (GPA 3-3.74), and Varsity (GPA 0-2.99). The top students in the three categories are (photo below, l-r) Gwenyth English, Granite Hills High School, Porterville (Varsity); Manuel Hernandez, El Diamante High School, Visalia (Scholastic), and Ying Yan, El Diamante High School, Visalia (Honors). Harmony Magnet Academy captured the small school division title. For a complete list of results, visit tcoe.org/AcademicDecathlon. Spotlight on People

Spotlight on People In March, visitors to the Administration Building and Conference Center can enjoy 250 drawings, paintings and sculptures from Tulare County schools in the "Best of Show" Student Art Exhibition. Among the artwork in the exhibition is “Big Beak” by Milo Pennington, an eighth-grade student from Sycamore Valley Academy in Visalia. The exhibition, is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. A public reception honoring the artists will be held in the lobby of the Mooney Boulevard building from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 6.

Spotlight on People Dr. Rob Hudson, superintendent of Alta Vista School District, recently invited Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Tim Hire as a guest reader at the school’s Read Across America Week. Mr. Hire is pictured reading A Friend Like Simon – a story about a boy with autism – to a fourth-grade class in celebration of Dr. Suess’ birthday.

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Gallery Notes

Student athletes are invited to apply for the annual Pursuing Victory With Honor (PVWH) scholarships. With support from the Provident/Salierno Family Foundation, the CHARACTER COUNTS! program awards $500 scholarships to up to four graduating seniors who best exemplify sportsmanship, leadership, and school and community service. An application form, which includes detailed eligibility requirements, is available at
tcoe.org/pvwhscholarship. Applications are due by April 4. For more information, call the CHARACTER COUNTS! program at (559) 740-4303.

Coaches, athletic directors, administrators, officials and other youth leaders are invited to register for the Tulare County Office of Education's Pursuing Victory With Honor sportsmanship workshop. This in-service will help attendees build better character through their coaching efforts. The workshop takes place on March 14 from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. in the Redwood Conference Center. To register to attend this free workshop, please visit tulare.k12oms.org/1530-162280, or call Kelley Petty, CHARACTER COUNTS! program coordinator, at (559) 740-4303.

Building on the success of its statewide virtual teacher recruitment fair held last fall, the California Center on Teaching Careers is holding four regional fairs this spring. The Central California Virtual Job Fair was held February 6-7 with 170 candidates visiting 23 Central California education agencies and universities online. The Los Angeles Area Virtual Job Fair will be held March 13-14, followed by the Southern California Virtual Job Fair April 10-11. A Northern California Virtual Job Fair is planned for May 8-9. For more information on registering for one of the three upcoming online events, visit californiateach.org, or contact Marvin Lopez at marvinl@tcoe.org.

Essays for the annual Foundations for Life competition are due April 10. Foundations for Life is a national, maxim-based essay contest for middle and high school students to reflect upon, express, and commit to profound and enduring truths. Locally, schools enter their students’ best essays in the annual Tulare County competition. One Tulare County student in each grade level will receive a cash prize. For more information on the competition, contact Jenean Bray, English Language Arts/ELD staff development and curriculum specialist, at (559) 651-3046.

On February 25, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced the winners in the 2019 Distinguished Schools Program. Among the 162 California middle and high schools to receive the award was University Preparatory High School (UPHS), a charter school of the Tulare County Office of Education. The Distinguished Schools Program recognizes outstanding education programs and practices. Schools are awarded for achieving exceptional student performance for two consecutive school years or closing the achievement gap between two school years. UPHS had been a recipient of the state’s Gold Ribbon Award in 2015.

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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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