School year under way with plenty of changes
Kindergartners need an up-to-date shot record in order to start school, and all seventh-graders, under a new California law, will need proof of a whooping cough (Tdap) vaccination before classes begin.
Williams junior high and high school students start school today with a new principal — the third in the last year at the combined campus.
Nicholas Richter, a 1994 Live Oak High graduate and former Yuba City High assistant principal, said he is aware of the challenges the frequent administrative changes can cause.
Still, the primary mission of the school has not changed, and that is to educate students. He said that starts in the classroom.
"I have chosen not to do an assembly," said Richter, who comes to Williams from River City High where he was an assistant principal. He lives in Yuba City.
"The conversations I want (students) to have are from the teachers in the classroom."
Richter, who has two bachelor's degrees, a master's and a doctorate, said his first chore is to get to know the faculty, staff, students and community better.
However, he is familiar with Williams, having grown up in the area, and the small town district was one of the attractions of the job.
He said being principal after a couple of stints as assistant principal is definitely different.
"It is like being the captain of the team and not just one of the players," said Richter, noting he is part of all discussions and decisions now.
And he comes to the district as it is reaching out more definitively to parents.
The district will continue its own version of last year's successful PIQE program, in which 190 parents graduated after a nine-week session.
The idea is to empower parents toward helping their children achieve their educational goals, and to instruct them on ways they can work with the schools and the district.
The new program was built in large part around suggestions by parents coming out of that program, and will teach suggested subjects in three, three-week sessions.
"We are calling it the Williams Parent Institute," said Judith Rossi, superintendent of Williams Unified.
It is paid for through categorical and general fund monies. How much will depend on how many parents participate.
Williams Unified was the first district to open classes. Princeton starts Thursday, Pierce on Tuesday and the first bell for Colusa, Maxwell and Our Lady of Lourdes is Aug. 15.
In addition to Richter's arrival, for the first time in 15 years, Williams Elementary will have a new boss — or bosses, as it were.
Williams Upper Elementary School principal Jennifer Foglesong takes over as principal for both campuses, while Denise Conrado will be assistant principal and will have her office at the elementary school.
Conrado has been a teacher and reading specialist with the district for a number of years.
She is married to Ed Conrado, former Egling Middle School principal who now works in the Colusa County Office of Education.
Cyndee Engrahm retired as principal at the end of this past school year, and after 25 years at the district.
There are other new faces around the county, too.
Colusa Unified welcomes a new superintendent, Dwayne Newman, and a new principal at the high school, Darren Brown, replacing Larry Yeghoian and Dave McGrath, respectively.
And perhaps what will be the most novel of changes, Ernest Sopp takes over for Pat Hamilton, who spent 41 years with Pierce Joint Unified, the last eight as superintendent.
One thing that is not new is the school officials general concern over budgets — and what will happen on Nov. 6 when voters will decide on Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiatives, which he said will mean funding for education, or more deep cuts.
Rossi called the situation a "slippery slope."
"The trigger will come in January if the tax initiative fails," she said.
John Green, superintendent at Princeton, said his district is in pretty good shape through the end of the current year, but after that — with tax programs or not — is up in the air.
"Even with the election ... we don't know how it will shake out," Green said. "We are just hoping the state funds the schools like the way they are supposed to."
Despite the uncertainty, Green is excited about the current year.
The high school is coming off a new six-year accreditation and the elementary school was recognized for his improvement in its testing scores.
"We have reasons to believe it is gong to be a really good year," Green said.
And Green said the teaching staff has no changes, so they should be able to build on last year's successes — unlike Maxwell, which has to replace 152 years of combined experience with the retirement of five teachers.
Jill Wright (31 years), Dena Lausten (31 years), Dianna Detlefsen (16 years), Jenifer Schaad (36 years) and Marilyn Hopkins (38 years) left at the end of the 2011-12 year.
Even Princeton has to work through some changes.
The district said goodbye to its business director, Debby Beymer, who is working for Willows Unified. Green said Beymer had a lot to do with the district's financial stability in recent years.