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School Board honors student, staff standouts
The Ceres Unified School District Board moved Thursday's meeting to Central Valley High School's cafeteria to accommodate a large crowd to celebrate the accomplishments of students, employees and school sites.

The commendations lasted an hour.

Ceres High won 31 individual medals on its way to a runner-up finish at the Stanislaus County Academic Decathlon, held Feb. 4-5 at Gregori High School.

The Bulldogs also took second last year. Ceres High finished fourth in 2008-09 and ninth in 2007-08.

"We're really proud of them," Ceres High principal Linda Stubbs said. "We thought it was going to be a rebuilding year because there are a lot of young kids on the team. We're really looking forward to the next four years. They've already started to prepare for next year's curriculum. It's very time intensive."

Trevor Brazil, Nicholas Butrica, Marie Carroll, Andrew Carter, David Cisneros, Julia Conchas, Sormi Davila, Kedrina Garcia, Nicholas Gomes, Daejione Jones, Sean Lo, Ritu Malhorta, Jesus Maximiliano, Ariana Paz, Tyler Ray, Nathan Turner, Dylan Van Wagoner and Ariana Vasquez all contributed this year.

The Academic Decathlon tests students' knowledge in 10 areas.

"The kids deserve all the credit," said Toni Rouse, Ceres High's coach. "They won 31 medals. Each one represents hours and hours of study and preparation. Hopefully one day, we'll beat Oakdale. They've won 11 years in a row. The biggest thing Oakdale has on us is depth."

Ceres High plans to establish a feeder program at Mae Hensley Jr. High in the near future. Mae Hensley used to have an academic pentathlon team in the past.

"That's what we need to build ourselves up," Rouse said. "Our students have already volunteered to help."

The district recognized the following employees: Sharon DeGreek (Adkison), Miriam Vela (Caswell), Cheryl Gallo (Don Pedro), Veronica Cubillo (Fowler), Maria Hernandez (Hidahl), Marleta Yost (La Rosa), Jessica Estrella (Sam Vaughn), Linda Herfurth (Sinclear), Laura Peirce (Virginia Parks), Melissa Crocker (Walter White), Sergio Cuarenta (Westport), Carmen Rivas (Whitmore), Hector Mendez (Blaker-Kinser), Angelica Mariscal (Mae Hensley), Jessica Ramirez (Argus), Diana Wood (CVHS), Tammy Govaer (CHS), Gail Roberts (Child Nutrition), Tammy Wilcoxson (SSS-Ed Options), Monica Yialouris (Ed Services), Charlene Betschart (Fiscal Services), Juan Hernandez (Maintenance), Kyle Morris (Transportation), Elizabeth Mott (Tech/Media Center) and Cheryl Combs (Personnel).

"The choice is always difficult because we have so many quality people," said Denise Wickham, assistant superintendent of Personnel Services.

Herfurth, library media clerk for Sinclear Elementary, was named Classified Employee of the Year. She's worked for Ceres Unified for 22 years.

"The staff and students love Linda," Wickham said. "She's retiring this year. She'll be missed."

Combs was selected Confidential Employee of the Year.

Three students from Don Pedro Elementary garnered recognition for placing fifth overall at the state-wide Future City Engineering Competition. Ritu Raj, Jazmin Gudino and Henry Garcia won Excellence in Accessibility Design Awards.

Ceres High's Nick Serratos, Jamie Beck and Marifer Ochoa were honored for their athletic achievement during the fall sports season.

Serratos, Ceres High's all-time leading scorer in water polo, won the Valley Foothill League MVP Award.

Jamie Beck, a 6-foot-2 volleyball star, was voted Western Athletic Conference MVP.

Ochoa, a freshman girls tennis standout, captured the WAC singles championship.

Principals from Adkison, Argus/Endeavor, Blaker-Kinser, Caswell, Ceres High, Don Pedro, Carroll Fowler, Mae Hensley, Hidahl, La Rosa, Virginia Parks, Sinclear, Sam Vaughn, Westport, Walter White and Whitmore Charter accepted Energy Star Awards on behalf of their respective school sites.

In other district news, the Ceres School Board approved a resolution supporting Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to place a measure on the June ballot for tax extensions.

"There's two hurdles to get through before it's passed," CUSD Supt. Scott Siegel said. "The California State Assembly and Senate will decide whether it goes on the ballot or not. Then it has to be approved by the voters."

The measure would help prevent deeper cuts to schools and students according to Brown.

Ceres Unified could lose as much as $3.5 million a year in funding if the governor's tax-extension plan fails.

"No one knows what's going to happen if its doesn't pass," Siegel said. "We do have reserve levels that should get us through the 2011-12 school year."