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CUSD prepares for 14,200
•New school year starts Wednesday, Aug. 14
CVHS registration
Alonzo Fernandez attended Tuesday's registration day activities at Central Valley High School with siblings Stephanie and Emilio Fernandez in tow. In the school library, Ginger Geiger handed off a Chromebook to Alonzo for use in this, his junior year. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Make the last week of summer vacation count, families of Ceres Unified School District students. The 2019-20 school year starts a week from today – on Wednesday, Aug. 14 – and CUSD personnel have been scrambling to get ready for the estimated 14,000 K-12 students living within the district.

Teachers have been preparing their classroom, maintenance workers readying facilities and stocking supplies and administrators creating schedules and overseeing teachers and others. 

“Preparing for the new school year is filled with anticipation and excitement,” said Denise Wickham, assistant superintendent of CUSD. “We have been getting ready over the summer to provide students with their electronic devices, up to date curriculum and well prepared teachers.”

She considers the first day of school as her favorite day of the year, adding that “nothing is better than watching our eager students arrive at the sites, ready to meet their teachers and begin learning.”

Students at both Ceres High School and Central Valley High School had a chance last week to pick up schedules and books, buy student body cards, and pose for student photos at registration days held at both campuses. Some students like Alonzo Fernandez acknowledged that summer felt way too short but that the new school year is being cheerfully embraced.

A number of administrative staff changes took place over the summer. Ceres High School lost its principal, Linda Stubbs, who has moved over to become principal of Argus and Endeavor high schools. She replaces Jan Gordon who retired this summer. The new principal of Ceres High is Rita Menezes. Kimberly McNeil is a new assistant principal of Ceres High School

Two elementary schools also have new principals. Stephanie Pimentel is the new principal of Adkison Elementary School. Adkison also has a new assistant principal in Roberto Gil.

Melissa Adams is the principal of Joel Hidahl Elementary School.

Other new associate/assistant principals are:

• Amy Dunn, associate principal of Central Valley High School;

• Matthew Hutsell, assistant principal of Mae Hensley Junior High School, moving over from Whitmore Charter School where he was assistant principal;

• Laura Leon Marshall, assistant principal of Caswell Elementary School;

• Holly Gaylor, assistant principal of Virginia Parks Elementary School;

• Ismael Maldonado Garcia, assistant principal of Walter White Elementary School;

• Marianne Goularte, assistant principal of Whitmore Charter Schools.

The remaining school sites have the same principals from June:

• Carol Lubinsky at Central Valley High School;

• Tami Garcia, Don Pedro Elementary;

• Emily Harry, Carroll Fowler Elementary;

• Alfonso Navarro, Caswell Elementary;

• Lori Mariani, La Rosa Elementary;

• Israel Gonzalez, Lucas Elementary;

• Steven Merchant, Sam Vaughn Elementary;

• Shane Hulin, Sinclear Elementary;

• Jennifer Backman, Virginia Parks Elementary;

• Edith Narayan, Walter White Elementary;

• Jennifer Cervantes, Westport Elementary;

• Danielle Cox, Blaker Kinser Jr. High;

• Rosemary Kloepfer, Cesar Chavez Jr. High;

• Jesse Campbell, Mae Hensley Jr. High;

• Libby Callahan, Patricia “Kay” Beaver Elementary;

• Sarah Olson, Whitmore Charter Schools;

Ceres Unified hired 74 new teachers who have spent days and weeks participating in summer professional development. The district also hired a new Educational Options Coordinator.

The district has upgraded a number of campuses, including LED lighting for the Berryhill School campus which houses the Whitmore Charter Schools paid for by Proposition 39 funding.

The heating and air conditioning system at Walter White Elementary has also been upgraded.

Carroll Fowler has a new four-classroom wing to replace portables.

Virginia Parks Elementary had some remodel work done to its cafeteria and restrooms.

At Caswell Elementary, one of the oldest campuses in Ceres, a new six-classroom wing was added, classified as a partial new construction and replacement of portables.

Two schools have received a fresh coat of paint and several schools’ parking lots have been resurfaced.

New faces in Hughson

In the Hughson Unified School District, where school starts on Monday, new principals are in place at two schools. Hughson High School is getting a new principal with the retirement of Debra Davis, who spent more than three decades in the district as a teacher, coach and administrator.

A block away, Hughson Elementary School will also be getting a new principal when the 2019-20 school year starts on July 1.

Loren Lighthall was hired as the principal of Hughson High School in April. Megan Reisz becomes the new principal of Hughson Elementary School. Reisz succeeds Eric Peterson, who is moving to Fox Road Elementary School.

Lighthall comes to Hughson from Paradise, the Northern California city destroyed by last fall’s tragic Camp Fire. For the past two years Lighthall has been principal of Paradise High School which was fire and smoke damaged. 

Having a place to call home once again – especially in a tight-knit community like Hughson – was a big draw for Lighthall.

“We began to look at several areas in California and knew that we wanted to continue to live in a rural area,” said Lighthall. “Hughson fits that bill and also has big city conveniences very close.”

The native of upstate New York worked in large school districts in Southern California before moving to Paradise.

Hughson Superintendent Brenda Smith said Lighthall’s “passion for students and forming relationships with the school and community” separated him from other contenders during the search process.

“We are confident that he will be a great fit for our community and look forward to the work he and the HHS staff will do together for our students,” she said.

Reisz jumped at the chance to become principal since she and her husband own a ranchette south of Hughson and because all three of their children attend Hughson schools.

“The community has really embraced us when we moved there,” said Reisz, who has been principal at John Muir Elementary School in Modesto for three years. “Our kids have met some great families and made some great friends.”

Reisz previously worked as an elementary teacher in Oakdale and San Jose.

Smith said Reisz is a “a great match for Hughson Elementary” and noted that her background “is in elementary education and she has a strong skill set in early literacy and our adopted curriculum. Being a primary elementary teacher and administrator has given her the ability to lead a staff and school successfully.”

new principals CUSD
These four women have new roles as Ceres Unified School District principals. Left to right are: Melissa Adams, the new principal of Joel Hidahl Elementary School; Linda Stubbs, now principal of Argus and Endeavor high schools; Stephanie Pimentel, new principal of Adkison Elementary School; and Ceres High School Principal Rita Menezes.