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Ceres readies for school
Ceres Unified School District expects enrollment numbers to increase slightly when the dust settles from the opening of the 2012-13 school on Wednesday, Aug. 15.

CUSD Supt. Scott Siegel said he expects the number of elementary students to increase by about 100 students.

"The community of Ceres is very attractive for families starting out and that leads us to have very high elementary numbers," said Siegel. "The last three years we saw the highest numbers in kindergarten ever. We had about a thousand kindergartners and right now we're pushing over 900."

Siegel said the district is seeing a bubble in elementary enrollment up to the fourth grade.

Ironically, he noted, state budget problems have helped CUSD in accommodating those larger numbers. The district has raised class sizes in the lower elementary grades from 20-to-1 to 23-to-1 which is "helping house all of the kindergarten." Siegel said his hope, however, is to see the economy recover, revenues increase and lower the number of students per class.

Larger class sizes are "not what we want to do but are necessary," said Siegel, who expects schools across California to suffer budget problems for years unless voters pass the tax increases proposed by Gov. Brown on the November ballot.

During this school year CUSD will continue to make progress in restoring the salary cuts inflicted on teachers because of budget revenue losses.

The Ceres School Board issued an 8.5 percent cut in teacher salaries in the 2007-08 school year. The district has been slowly restoring salaries by reducing teacher numbers through attrition and raising class sizes. Siegel said an across-the-board one percent pay increase for all Ceres teachers equals the salaries of about eight teachers at one grade level.

In June, CUSD teachers still were 4.81 percent under what they made before the cuts. Siegel said another 1 percent will be restored this year by raising average class size to 30 or 31.

The new year will see lots of changes at various schools.

Central Valley High School will see the first use of a new 16-classroom wing which includes relief for overcrowded science classrooms and a new computer lab.

Change comes to Cesar Chavez Junior High School where an inaugural eighth-grade class will be introduced. Approximately 497 students, including 228 eighth-graders, are registered for the new school year. By contrast, Chavez housed more than 220 seventh-graders during its first year of operation.

Chavez added 10 new teachers, bringing its total to 25 and increased its support staff to four.

A second lunch period was also added.

"It (growth) allows us to provide more extra-curricular activities for our students," said Principal Jose Beltran. "We'll field both seventh- and eighth-grade sports teams. We're going to expand our after-school club choices. We'll offer rallies. Our kids and staff are excited."

Chavez's gymnasium was completed in January and improvements were also made to the school's track and field facility.

Staff changes at Cesar Chavez Junior High School include a new assistant principal in David Viss. He previously was learning director. Filling that role in Dallas Plaa, who taught at Westport Elementary School.

CUSD has new administrators in place at other campuses.

Over the summer CUSD lost its assistant superintendent of Business Services in Fred Van Vleck. He has been replaced by Steve Fabela who was director of Personnel Services. Filling his old position is Fernando Ureño of Livingston Unified.

Parents at Walter White Elementary School will see a new student drop-off area and a new parking lot. Siegel said the hope is that parents use the Sixth Street drop-off.

Also new at Walter White is a new principal in Dan Pangrazio, formerly a Learning Director at Ceres High School. Leaving White School over the summer was teacher Alfonso Navarro who is now a learning director at Central Valley High School.

Jared Hungerford is the new assistant principal at Blaker-Kinser Junior High School. He was a learning director at Central Valley High School.

New to Ceres High School are learning director Casey Giovannoni, who left a teaching job at Mae Hensley Junior High School; and Rita Srouji who leaves a classroom to become learning director at Ceres High School.

Whitmore Charter Schools has a new learning director in Mary Gonzales. She was a part-time learning director and family advocate.

Mae Hensley Junior High has a new assistant principal in Paul Rutishauser, a former CVHS teacher.

Changes in district personnel include:

• Libby Holmes, a program specialist, has transitioned from Special Education to the Educational Services Division.

• Melissa Adams, previously a district coach, is now a program specialist in Special Education.

• Michele Baker is the new director of Preschool, having served as a preschool site supervisor.

This year marks the first time in recent years that CUSD has no preschool services at the Grandview facility. Siegel said CUSD used the Grandview site for the last five years but slowly been moving classes onto other campuses. Now that the last class has been moved, the building will go back to the Stanislaus County Office of Education, he said.

One of Ceres' oldest schools, Don Pedro Elementary has a new preschool bathroom/ office complex debuting this year.

CVHS registration

Central Valley High School will host its annual "Taking Flight" orientation and registration on Thursday, Aug. 9. The event gives students a chance to pick up school schedules, textbooks and PE clothes as well as take photos for ASB cards.

The CVHS event is organized by students' names. Those with last names ending in A-Di need to attend from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; Do-Lopez meet at 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.; Lor-Rh, 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Ri-Z from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Questions about the orientation may be directed to CVHS at 556-1900.

Ceres High registration

Students attending Ceres High School will get their chance to get a look at class schedules and pick up textbooks today in the CHS cafeteria. Seniors are scheduled for registration from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.; juniors from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; sophomores with last names starting with A through L, between 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.; and sophomores with last names starting with M through Z, between 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Freshmen will have a combined orientation and registration on Friday from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Phil de la Porte Gym. A make-up day event is set for Aug. 13 from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the cafeteria.


School begins at Hughson Elementary School on Tuesday, Aug. 14.

Families will be able to see class placement of students by viewing a list which will be posted in the school window at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 13.

The school office opens today.

A Back to School Night for parents of kindergartners through third-graders is set for Thursday, Aug. 16, which will be a minimum day and school being dismissed at 1 p.m. for first- through third-graders.

A kindergarten "Meet & Greet" will be held from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 13.

The school day will begin at 8:05 a.m. for morning, transitional and extended day kindergartners as well as first-, second- and third-graders. Afternoon kindergarten classes start at 10:30 a.m.

Those Hughson parents who have not registered their children should not hesitate by calling the school at 883-4412.