Riverbank Unified School District (RUSD) recently invited 12th Assembly District Representative Heath Flora to tour Riverbank High School (RHS) and Mesa Verde Elementary. RUSD Superintendent Christine Facella and Assistant Superintendent Laura Granger, along with school staff, escorted Flora around both facilities for an intimate view of where federal and state funds that they have received are being used.
“So the questions about accountability will be there and we can say hey this is what we have done with these funds,” said Facella about inviting Flora to tour the school sites. “I would say that we have been pretty successful in using them to maximize and support students. Whether it was state or federal funds I think we really wanted to maximize our use so that we could really have the kids back on track.”
Flora is a member of the California State Assembly and represents District 12 which includes cities in San Joaquin County and Stanislaus County like Riverbank, Oakdale, Turlock, Manteca, Ripon and Escalon.
The tour began at the RHS campus last Friday where he saw the Food and Nutrition class in action that is led by Instructor Emily Cowdrey. The room was filled with a delightful smell as the students were working on Frito Pie and had previously made vegetarian chili.
Flora mentioned that he noticed several guys in the Food and Nutrition class and thought that was great as that is one of the reasons Cal Fire hired him.
“One of the reasons I got hired at Cal Fire was in my interview I said I could cook,” noted Flora. “In the fire service people like guys that can cook, it is awesome to see dudes cooking. I think it is a cool skill set.”
Career Technology Education Incentive Grant (CTEIG) dollars assisted the school in upgrading the kitchen, certifications for students and new equipment in the agriculture class.
“It’s (CTEIG) a grant that is year to year and performance-based funding,” remarked Ed Vaca, Adelante High School Principal. “These funds are new to schools and they have rejuvenated classrooms and allowed teachers to certify students for jobs and careers.”
The next class that was visited was the Agriculture Mechanics class with Instructor Michael Thomas where he showed Flora some of their equipment.
The tour made its way to Mesa Verde where they were greeted by Mesa Verde Principal Lupe Velazquez and Student Council President Keylee Heiskell and Vice President Alexandra Bermudez.
They visited two Learning Recovery classes. Mrs. Richey’s class had students improving their reading skills and Mrs. Nold’s class had students working on math.
“We chose to visit two learning recovery classrooms so that we could highlight how we are using resources to meet student needs as we returned to in-person instruction this year,” said Velazquez. “We have a great staff here at Mesa Verde. I appreciate that Assemblyman Heath Flora took the time from his busy schedule to visit our school.”
The assemblyman also extended an invitation to the young leadership students.
“I am being serious when I say I want them to come to the assembly and I will walk around with them,” stated Flora. “We need the next generation to get involved in government. Government is not for the other person; you need to get involved and it is cool to see these kids at this young age take a liking to it and meet with people.”
With the COVID funds the district was able to hire Ms. Granger for a two-year contract and other teachers although Facella noted that staffing is a struggle. They have several positions open but not enough people to fill them.
“Riverbank as a whole is such a special community,” expressed Flora. “Riverbank just needs to stay engaged in their local government. Our region is vastly growing. I am excited about that so the more community engagement the better.”