When Patricia "Kay" Beaver Elementary School opens later this year, her youngest daughter, Libby Beaver Holmes, will become its first principal.
Ceres Unified School District officials recently assigned Holmes to lead the start-up of an innovative magnet school program at Beaver Elementary School which is currently under construction on S. Central Avenue just north of Grayson Road. The $20 million campus, which is being funded entirely by state funds and being constructed by Bruns-Belmont, will open on Aug. 15.
District officials say it's only appropriate that the school will emphasize leadership and character development since Beaver herself had a passion to stir students to do their best. Mrs. Beaver, who died at age 49 on Mother's Day in 2001 after battling breast cancer, taught history and social studies at Ceres High for over a decade, beginning in 1990. She was the advisor and teacher for the Cereal yearbook class. At Ceres High School she started up the ‘S' Club, a high school version of the Soroptimist International of Ceres. She was also active in the Ceres Dolphins recreational swim program, PTSA Sober Grad Night and Ceres High Boosters Club. Kay also served on the Miss Ceres Scholarship Pageant Committee.
"A lot of what my mom did as an educator is wrapped into the leadership and character development piece," said Holmes, who called her mother a lifelong learner who went back to school to learn to be a teacher after serving as a legal secretary as her daughters were growing up. "She always loved being a part of education. We continue to hear former students mention how she really helped point them into the right direction ....and she strived to make every student think they can be a success."
Holmes said that being selected as the first principal of a school named after her mother is an honor.
"I want to say it's a once in a lifetime opportunity but it's more than that. It's a huge honor for me to be able to build the school."
As a magnet school, Beaver Elementary will draw from the attendance boundaries of all existing schools, not necessarily its geographical region. Beaver Elementary will be sized for 650 students, mostly because of the inclusion of a science lab. The school will become the district's leadership and character development magnet program.
Assistant Superintendent Debbie Bukko said the district sought the feedback of parents who suggested they would be interested in a magnet school with the theme of leadership and character development.
"It's very easy to infuse into the curriculum," said Bukko. "And it's not leadership like we have high school leadership programs that organize rallies and activities. It's more of a ‘I want my child to be a leader and not a follower' and what are the characteristics of leaders."
Bukko said the school's leadership and character component will seek to develop academic learning with a focus on critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and leadership skills needed for success. Curriculum will also apply academic learning through the study of earth science systems, natural phenomenon, social issues impacted by science, alternative energy, and green living using inquiry and project based learning. There will also be a manufacturing and robotics component that encourages students to develop problem-solving skills, critical thinking, creative and innovative reasoning through application of communication, science, and mathematics learning to real-world engineering and robotics projects.
Beaver will also help foster literacy, imagination, competency and creativity in an academic environment infused with arts and Spanish language instruction.
"The focus will be on critical thinking, communication, collaboration with service groups in the area," said Holmes. "We want to be developing leaders that are cooperative, responsible, risk takers. Want to give kids the opportunity to try new things and learn from those experiences."
The daughters of Patricia and Steve Beaver themselves became leaders. Amy Peterman is the principal of Central Valley High School.
Holmes herself started working for CUSD in 2006 as a special education teacher at Carroll Fowler Elementary School. From there she went to an instructional coach position and then became a special education program specialist. Two years ago she moved over to CUSD's Educational Services Department to work on coaching staff and professional development. She obtained her administrative credentials in 2009.
"It was something I knew I wanted to do at some point," said Holmes of becoming a principal.
CUSD Supt. Scott Siegel said he appoints principals and said that Holmes has been in district cabinet level conversations regarding filling an elementary principal position for a year or two. "She is a highly capable individual who has been a leading candidate for a principal position in the district," said Siegel. "It just happened that the school named after her mother is opening at the same time she has emerged as a strong internal candidate."
Beaver Elementary is being constructed farther south of Ceres in the country because when CUSD was deciding where to build new schools about five years ago, it was believed that Ceres' growth would go in the area south and west of Central Valley High School based on the Copper Trails master plan. However, since the next wave of growth is expected to take place in the West Landing annexation miles to the west, CUSD petitioned the state to move Beaver to the West Landing annexation area but was denied.
City officials believe that West Landing will develop before Copper Trails.