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Smiles, high-fives – some tears – greet Ceres Unified’s first day of 2022-23 school year
Yvonne Gonzalez
Carroll Fowler Elementary School student Yvonne Gonzalez gives a big smile during a first day of school hug from teacher Loran Davis. The school rolled out the red carpet on Wednesday morning as the traditional welcome back to campus. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Sofia Madrigal clung to her dad amid the excitement of the first day of her Transitional Kindergarten class at Carroll Fowler Elementary School.

The young girl and her parents had just walked down a red carpet lined by teachers and staff members shaking pom-poms and sending up celebratory whoops and offering hugs here and there. Sofia stopped in her tracks, overwhelmed by the momentary focus on her.

“She doesn’t like the attention,” said Sofia’s dad, Rene. “She was like, ‘No way, it’s not happening.’”

Carroll Fowler was just one of the numerous Ceres Unified schools that opened for the 2022-23 school year on Wednesday.

Staff members like Loran Davis probably gave out the most hugs for those students who sought them out, including former students of hers.

“It’s a gift,” said Davis of the hugs. “I need it more than they do.”

Ceres Unified School District reported that 13,910 students registered, which is a drop from 14,179 at the start of the 2021-22 school year. Ceres Unified hired 57 new teachers for the 2022-23 school year.

A host of administrative staff changes took place over the summer. 

New principals are Casey Giovannoni (Central Valley High School), Steve Merchant (Whitmore Charter Schools), Rogelio Adame (Cesar Chavez Junior High), Alfonso Navarro (Mae Hensley Junior High) and Ismael Maldonado (Caswell Elementary).

Carol Lubinsky, Giovannoni’s predecessor, retired following a 37-year career in education.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention required students and adults to wear face masks while inside classrooms and school buildings during the 2021-22 academic year. CUSD resumed face-to-face learning after nearly a year of distance and hybrid education because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It comes with a sigh of relief doing school the way it was designed,” Giovannoni said. “The truth is kids learn best in-person.”

Justin Tate (Central Valley High School) was named associate principal.

Efrain Ulloa (Adkison Elementary) and Veronica Villa (Sam Vaughn Elementary) and Michelle Madrigal (Walter White Elementary) were named assistant principals.

Assuming new roles with Ceres Unified are:

• Kristi Britton (Assistant Superintendent – Business Services);

• Dan Pangrazio (Assistant Superintendent – Student Support Services);

• Aneta Mikhael (Director – Special Education);

• Terry Crumpacker (Program Specialist – Special Education);

• Aubrie Smith (Program Specialist – Special Education);

• Maria Nuno (Assistant Director – Child Nutrition Services);

• Zachary Nyquist (Assistant Director – Technology Services;

• Yesenia Dominguez (Data Systems Manager – Technology Services);

• Jessica Artea (Learning Director – Endeavor Alternative).

Sofia Alpizar
Sofia Alpizar grins with glee as she speaks to teacher Loran Davis on opening day of school. - photo by Jeff Benziger