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New CUSD chief: Tough years ahead
Scott Siegel, the next superintendent of the the Ceres Unified School District, delivered a rally call Friday for all teachers and classified personnel to press on in delivering quality service in spite of dwindling finances.

"We will continue to move this district forward," said Siegel.

The successor for retiring Supt. Walt Hanline gave his remarks at an inservice presentation at the Central Valley High School gym. Over 1,000 employees packed the gym.

He started out by relating the war experiences of James Stockdale, the highest-ranking naval officer held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. According to Stockdale, the men who didn't survive the experience of being held in prison camps were the ones who would become disillusioned that time after time their dreams of being released in time to be home for Christmas or Easter would be dashed. They eventually gave up hope and died. The ones who survived accepted the brutal fact that they may not be home for Christmas for years but held onto the hope that they would, indeed, make it home.

He said likewise, teachers in Ceres need to accept the fact that tough budget times will be with us for years.

"As you face the reality you now in the end you will prevail," said Siegel.

The "brutal facts" that Siegel shared were that:

• California was a low funded education state before the economy soured;

• California has been hit harder by the recession than other states with Stanislaus County being hit hard by foreclosures;

• CUSD already made $4 million in cuts to the 2008-09 school year;

• Revenues from the state for the 2008-09 school year were $10 million higher tan this year.

• Additional cuts are very likely as the state faces yet another budget gap next year, probably in the neighborhood of $10 billion.

"This is getting depressing," Siegel but quickly adding, "We're not going to panic about it. We need to face the reality of this."

Relief may not be realized for another six years, he said.

As this is occurring more demands are being placed on staff as the district presses on with a lofty goal: Getting every school to a point where they earn a Similar School Ranking of a 10 on the state's Academic Performance Index (API). He said Ceres has a huge English learners population, a lower socioeconomic class and a growing free lunch student population.

Siegel called on teachers to consult with other teachers on what practices work best in the classroom. "We've got to get you all talking to each other about practices in the classroom."

He stated that CUSD will be "doing everything we can to keep programs in place."

"Kids today shouldn't have programs gutted because they were born in the 1990s," Siegel said.

Hanline introduced Siegel as a man well equipped to run the district and one who is driven by ethics and the desire to see all children receive the best in education.

Siegel started out in the district as a physics teacher at Ceres High School in 1989. He was named assistant principal in 1998 and became principal a year later. In 2002 the district tapped Siegel to become the assistant superintendent of Business Services. Last year the School Board named him as Hanline's successor.

In his last address to the teachers Hanline asked for understanding since being a superintendent is a "very lonely job." He said having to lay off personnel is a "heavy burden."

"Like it or not you are all in the CUSD boat and you are all going forward together," Hanline told the group.

He said as he leaves CUSD his greatest disappointment is failing to building bridges to the union groups and leaving at a time when finances are of grave concern.