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Back to the books for 14,088
• Carroll Fowler School rolls out red carpet on the first day of school
Carroll Fowler Elementary School welcomed back students last week with a red carpet amid hugs and high-fives. First grade teacher Liz Rossini was among those who were ready with a hug and a smile as students returned to school for the 2018-19 school year. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Jitters on the first day of school are normal for anyone, but Carroll Fowler Elementary School’s new principal Emily Harry was cool, calm and collected on Wednesday morning as Ceres Unified School District students — her students included — made their way to their desks for the start of the 2018-2019 school year. 

As CUSD schools started on the same morning, Carroll Fowler Elementary School offered a high-energy welcoming ceremony for all the students as a red carpet was rolled out leading from the parking lot to the front entrance. There teachers, staff were joined by Mayor Chris Vierra and several Ceres firefighters gave hugs and high-fives to students ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade. Most of the students wore grins while other smaller kids sport pouting lips at the prospect that summer was over and they were about to be separated from their parents.

Harry, who will oversee students at Fowler this school year after serving as the assistant principal of Caswell Elementary, said her staff wanted to give students a memorable welcome to the school on opening day.

“The red carpet event was amazing for our 640 students,” said Harry. “I explained the idea with my team and everyone couldn’t wait for it to happen. The teachers and staff shared that the energy of the morning was electric. We wanted to go the extra mile for our students and make it a very special morning.  They are the reason we do what we do. Both the students and parents said that they loved how special they felt. I think this event really showed how much we care for our students and how genuinely excited we are for them to be back.”

Harry is among five new principals at various Ceres schools. Others are:

• Danielle Cox who is now principal of Blaker-Kinser Junior High. She had been an assistant principal at Central Valley High School;

• A new principal for Mae Hensley Junior High School in Jesse Campbell, the former principal of Sam Vaughn Elementary School;

• Shane Hulin who took over for Connie Stark as principal of Sinclear Elementary School. Hulin was Sinclear Elementary’s assistant principal;

• Steve Merchant, new principal of Sam Vaughn Elementary School. He was formerly the assistant principal.

CUSD reported 14,088 students enrolled in all of its schools, up slightly from 14,004 last year. They included freshmen just beginning their high school journey, seniors celebrating the end of their own and kindergarteners getting used to the idea of saying goodbye to their family for the day.

Central Valley High School has two new assistant principals in Brian Cooke and Rogelio Adame. Cooke was the assistant principal at Carroll Fowler Elementary while Adame was assistant principal at Virginia Parks Elementary.

Other new to the district are assistant principals Roberto Gil at Caswell Elementary, Reid Volk at Carroll Fowler Elementary, Ryan Schwartz at Virginia Parks Elementary and Tonya Shuford at Sinclear Elementary.

Kristin Lilly-Porter, the former Central Valley High assistant principal and activities director, is now assistant principal at Sam Vaughn Elementary School.

Nate Diamantine is a new learning director at Cesar Chavez Junior High School, having formerly been a teacher at Blaker Kinser Junior High.

Lucia Hernandez is the new learning director at Mae Hensley Jr. High. She formerly was an administrative assistant at Argus High School.

Paul Rutishauser is the district’s new Director of Secondary Education in the Educational Services Department. He had been the principal of Blaker Kinser Junior High.

Andrew Lopshire is now CUSD’s new assistant director of Transportation.

Also new to the district for the 2018-19 academic year are 97 teachers.

“This number has been fairly consistent over the past four years,” said CUSD Assistant Superintendent Denise Wickham. 

This year CUSD has added an intervention program at each site, a direct result of assessing student needs and receiving input from the various stakeholders as part of the Local Control Accountability Plan.

“We are excited about this implementation and because these teachers are additional, it did increase hiring numbers this year by about 18 teachers.”

Teacher recruitment and retention has been an issue throughout California over the past several years as enrollment in teacher training programs declined during the recession. But the state’s economic recovery and increased public school funding are driving demand for more qualified and trained teachers, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), special education and career technical education, according to the state department of education.

The nonprofit Learning Policy Institute surveyed more than 200 California districts and reported that 75 percent were experiencing teacher shortages, and the vast majority of districts said those shortages were getting worse.

New California teaching credentials have remained constant at 11,500 since 2013-14, while projected annual new hires have grown and now exceed 20,000.

CUSD uses a number of teacher recruitment techniques including local education recruitment fairs, posting positions on statewide education employment website Edjoin, through county office support and work with Stanislaus State.

New hires CUSD
Last week’s School Board meeting, Ceres Unified School District welcomed new employees for the 2018-19 school year. - photo by Contributed