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Riverbank 2013: Year In Review
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City council changes, school issues, community events, all filled the pages of The Riverbank News for 2013. This week, we take a look back at some of the top stories from the first half of the year, January through June.



The romantic, gentleman’s sport of fencing has arrived. Fencing classes are now available at the Riverbank Community Center, 3600 Santa Fe, on Thursdays, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Zoran Djurisic and his wife Maja are certified fencing coaches and nationally rated referees. Certified by the United States Fencing Coaches Association (USFCA), the Djurisic’s teach a beginners class for all ages and provide all the necessary fencing equipment for class use.

An early morning accident on Thursday, Jan. 3 claimed the life of a Sonora woman and left a Riverbank man with major injuries. The crash occurred on Orange Blossom Road near the intersection of Horseshoe Road, between Oakdale and Knights Ferry, just after 6:30 a.m. Thursday.

One arrest was made in connection with a Jan. 10 robbery in Riverbank, and authorities are on the lookout for more suspects. According to the police report, just before 7 p.m. on Thursday Jan. 10, three suspects walked into the Kohl’s Department Store in Riverbank. The three suspects stole over $400 worth of undisclosed merchandise and assaulted a store employee as they were leaving, when the employee tried to stop them. The three suspects were seen leaving the business parking lot in a white early 2000 Hyundai. The vehicle was found a short time later by deputies in the 1300 block of Gargotto Court in Modesto.

With an already packed agenda for their Monday afternoon session, members of the Riverbank City Council were met by an equally packed house at the council chambers. There was one issue in particular that several attendees were waiting to see resolved – the issue labeled on the agenda as: ‘Reconsider Proposed Appointment Options to Fill the Vacant Councilmember Seat.’ As they have in the past, however, the council deadlocked on how to proceed with filling the seat.

The Citizen of the Year for 2012 was Darlene Barber-Martinez, recently elected city council member. She was recognized for her volunteer efforts in several community activities. They include participation in the Senior Meals on Wheels program, Love Riverbank and Sam Jackson Clean-up Day in Riverbank. She has been active in National Night Out for Neighborhood Watch, the Afterschool National Lights On program and has read “Cat in the Hat” for the Read Across America project in Riverbank Elementary Schools.

Tuesday, June 4 is the date set for a special municipal election for the City of Riverbank. That’s when voters will go to the polls to seat a city council member. Multiple attempts to avoid the special election failed, with the current council deadlocking 2-2 each time they tried to resolve the situation.



Chuck Adams puts more English on his pickleball serve than a BBC television drama. The Hughson resident and activities director for Sons In Retirement (SIR) spends his Saturday mornings bending high-velocity serves just centimeters over the net at the tail-end of a wicked dipping motion. He’s joined by a collection five SIR members who welcome players from the surrounding communities to join their pickleball festivities at Zerillo Park.

Some Riverbank students will get to enjoy time at camp, thanks to funding from a local business. Boyett Petroleum ‘Make Dreams Real’ Endowment Fund board member, Ron Emerzian, presented a check for $4,000 to Kevin Bizzini, Principal of Cardozo Middle School to help send sixth graders to Foothill Horizons Outdoor Education camp in Sonora. The check was presented to Bizzini at the Tuesday, Feb. 5 school board meeting at the Riverbank Unified School District office.

After pleading ‘no contest’ to multiple charges, former Riverbank City Council member Jesse James White was sentenced earlier this month to serve a year in jail. He may avoid that jail time if he applies for – and qualifies – for the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department AWP, Alternative Work Program.

Riverbank High School seniors are asked to complete a senior project as part of their graduation requirement and the task is quite extensive. While not every senior has to do one now as in the past, Jackie Hernandez is one senior who decided to try and make a difference, by focusing her project on getting people to stop texting while they drive. Technology continues to change our lives and adds complexity as well as ease. Along with drinking and driving remaining a problem, it seems that texting and driving has become an issue as well.

Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District embattled Fire Chief Steve Mayotte has been placed on paid administrative leave, effective Friday, Feb. 15. Officials are tight lipped regarding the reason, citing personnel confidentiality. The move came after a regular district board meeting on Feb. 14 where the board voted three to one in closed session to place the veteran fire administrator on leave. Board Director Charles Turner dissented on the vote, citing that the action was too premature.

As the students piled into Life Science teacher Marjorie Retzloff’s seventh grade classroom at Cardozo Middle School one day recently, they noticed tables set up with several interesting items. The students selected a seat and patiently waited for a special presentation on fossils to begin. Some of the items may not be very recognizable but they are invaluable treasures, according to presenter, Terry McMillin.



Looking at the need for budget reductions, the move could come in the form of layoffs within the Riverbank Unified School District. School board members met in regular session on Tuesday, Feb. 19 with a full agenda, and tops on the list was the potential for pink slips. District officials indicated it will likely be necessary to reduce the services of several full-time certificated employees at the close of the current school year. They are also looking to reduce staff for the 2013-14 school year and may have to find as much as $1.5 million in budget cuts over the next couple of years.

Friday, March 1 was the kick off for Read Across America at California Avenue Elementary School from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. The campaign, which is a national reading event, puts the focus on reading for fun and Riverbank schools have been participating in it for the past six years. To get a local feel for the celebration of reading in the month of March, the afterschool program calls the event Read Across Riverbank (RAR).

Riverbank City Council members gathered for a special meeting recently to amend an earlier adopted resolution and to clarify that by law they were defaulted into a special election to fill a vacant council seat. At the end of the day on Friday, Feb. 8 the time period expired to fill the seat by appointment, so by default, the council made the ‘de facto determination’ the vacancy should be filled by special election. That meant the city would need to hold a special election. Monday, Feb. 11 was the next business day and the city passed a resolution on their agenda that day, indicating they would request the services from Stanislaus County to hold a special election on June 4. The resolution did not adequately communicate that the special election was being held by default, said Riverbank City Manager Jill Anderson.

Riverbank Mayor Richard O’Brien delivered his speech to a full house at the State of the City Address on Thursday, March 7 at the Galaxy Theatre in Riverbank. O’Brien discussed the city’s accomplishments over the last year and outlined the plan for the upcoming year. He also addressed how the city can continue to make progress with the help from the community.

Friday, March 15 was bleak for many teachers in the Riverbank Unified School District, RUSD. There were 12 teachers throughout the school district that received lay-off notices. By law, the district had to issue the ‘pink slips’ by the March 15 deadline, even if the teachers don’t actually lose their jobs. Among the teachers, officials said some of them may have a reduction in their assignments and there is a possibility of recalling teachers in the future, with hopes of not having to let go all 12 that received the required notices.

With a high-profile win at the fourth annual San Joaquin Entrepreneur Challenge, local firm NX Stage Security hope to get a little more name recognition. The business is located at the industrial complex in Riverbank, site of the former Army Ammunition Plant on Claus Road, and manufactures security doors and windows. They have a patent pending and security doors and window guards are installed directly over the surface of the existing doors and windows. They manufacture the doors and windows with galvanized steel. The business was declared the winner of the recent ‘challenge’ – topping, among others, Riverbank’s Sandra Sanchez and her soup-in-a-tea-bag idea – and picked up some cash for the victory.

A veteran with over 34 years of firefighting and emergency service experience has temporarily taken over as interim Fire Chief for the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District. Appointed earlier this month by the district’s board of directors, Brian Kelly comes to the district after serving as San Mateo’s fire chief from 2003 to 2007. Kelly previously served as the fire chief in the city of Millbrae from 1988 to 2000 and was the leader for Union City’s fire department from 2000 to 2003.



Riverbank High School hosted a pageant to discover Mr. Bruin 2013 on Tuesday, March 26. Festivities in this first ever ‘Mr. Bruin’ pageant started at 6:30 p.m. RHS teacher Christine Perez and a few others helped organize the competition that was filled with continuous entertainment.

After more than four years at the helm of the Riverbank Police Department, Bill Pooley is moving to a new post, accepting the job of Undersheriff with the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Department.

Two suspects were taken into custody after a recent car chase turned into a foot pursuit and unexpected swim. Police report the arrest of Bill Lee Norris, 20, and Marcus Wayne Baldridge, 19, out of San Joaquin County, booked on suspicion of evading arrest, auto theft and burglary.

There were only a couple of items on the agenda for a special Riverbank City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 9 at the Riverbank Industrial Complex. Those items included an evaluation of the city manager and a team building workshop. The city council conducts an evaluation annually for the city manager, which was held in closed session. There was no ‘reportable action’ out of the closed session but the evaluation was held in private because it did involve a personnel matter. Officials indicate the review was a way for council members to offer some insight for City Manager Jill Anderson regarding job performance and reaching goals.

Eight members of the FFA (Future Farmers of America) will be representing Riverbank High School at the 2013 Cal Poly State FFA Judging Finals in San Luis Obispo on Saturday, May 4. Riverbank High School ag teacher, Isaac Robles, has been preparing since December with his two teams for the competition.

Riverbank Beyond Earth Day was hosted at Jacob Myers Park on Saturday, April 27 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event is held annually to encourage an Earth-friendly community and inform people of their responsibility as caretakers of the planet. Earth Day Coordinator, Dotty Nygard stayed busy making the announcements for the popular rubber duck race and keeping everyone informed about the ongoing festivities.



Students from Big Valley Christian High School in Modesto were out in force once again for the weekend Relay For Life of Oakdale, with Riverbank teen Megan Ibanez serving as team captain. It’s a role she has played the past few years, after taking over the team from her older brother when he graduated. She served as co-captain with him, then took the lead.

Two teachers and a Food Service Manager will be retiring from Cardozo Middle School this month after several years of service. Science Teacher, Marjorie Retzloff, will be retiring after 38 years, Art and English Teacher, Jeri O’Neal will be retiring after 28 years, and Carol Cantwell, Food Service Manager for the Riverbank Unified School District, will be retiring after 35 years.

It was a busy Saturday outside the Riverbank Christian Food Sharing site in Riverbank, with a smooth-working crew serving up a ‘tri tip’ to go fundraiser at the Scout Hall on High Street. Motorists pulled up curbside, turned in or purchased tickets, then had the meal delivered to their vehicle. A crew of volunteers manned each station, some taking the tickets, others serving up the beans or packing the coleslaw in the ‘to go’ containers, others wrapping up the fresh, hot tri tip sandwiches.

A decision by the Riverbank Unified School District Board of Trustees recently saw them vote to move away from at-large school board elections toward trustee area elections. In an attempt to avoid potential legal costs and in order to ensure voter representation equity, the board of trustees voluntarily decided to move toward the trustee area elections and also expressed a desire to move toward even year elections.

The California Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Monday, May 6, that cities are allowed to determine whether or not they can regulate or restrict medicinal marijuana dispensaries within the city limits. The court ruled that Proposition 215, known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, didn’t require cities to consent to having the marijuana dispensaries in their jurisdiction.

Riverbank High School will be losing four teachers to retirement at the end of the 2012-13 school year. The Riverbank Unified School District (RUSD) honored those retirees and others from throughout the district on Tuesday, May 7 at the school board meeting.

Consideration of a seasonal parking fee reduction or waiver at Jacob Myers Park for residents age 65 or older was brought to the Riverbank City Council at its Monday, May 13 meeting. The Friends of Jacob Myers Park have recommended reducing the parking fees from $5 to $3 for Riverbank residents age 65 or older.

Funding – which in turn provided for some more library books placed on the shelves – recently arrived at Cardozo Middle School. Patricia O’Brien, field representative for Senator Tom Berryhill, was at Cardozo this past week to present school librarian Jackie George with the Barona Education Grant. Each grant awarded through the Barona Education Grant Program is $5,000.

Students and staff were lined up in the old Bruin Gym filled with anticipation for the Graduation Ceremony to commence on Friday, May 24 at 6:30 p.m. in the Ray Fauria Memorial Gym. As friends and family gathered in the new Fauria gym waiting for their graduate to walk in, they had their cameras ready and flowers in hand.

Candidates for Riverbank City Council gathered for a special forum on Thursday, hosted by the League of Women Voters. The May 23 candidate forum was hosted in the Riverbank City Council Chambers. Council hopefuls Cal Campbell, Jeremy Fennell and Diana Gonzalez all participated in the forum, answering questions and taking advantage of the chance to speak to the public about their intentions, should they win election.



The USDA and the Riverbank Unified School District (RUSD) are providing meals at Cardozo Middle School and Riverbank High School at no cost to all area youngsters, between the ages of one and 18. The lunches are offered Monday through Friday from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.

Entertainment, fresh fruits and vegetables, crafts, merchandise and the chance for youngsters to plant their own seeds to grow at home, all made for a successful first of the season Riverbank Farmer’s Market on Saturday. Set up in the parking lot at Cool Hand Luke’s adjacent to the Galaxy 12 Theatres, there was something to do every way you turned.

Newly elected Riverbank City Councilmember Cal Campbell won the June 4 special election with 1,124 votes. Campbell has been fighting for a seat on the Riverbank City Council since July 2012. Eleven months of hard work has finally paid off for the retired teacher.

Despite triple digit heat that peaked at 108 degrees during the afternoon, the American Cancer Society hosted a Relay For Life of Riverbank event on Saturday, June 8 at Cardozo Middle School in Riverbank. Opening ceremonies started at 8:30 a.m. Saturday to bring everyone together to celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer and the 24-hour event ran into Sunday, June 9.

A 27-year-old Riverbank man was arrested earlier this month for carjacking a victim in the city. A female victim pulled into a gas station around 2 a.m. in her vehicle to meet an acquaintance. Police said the male acquaintance then unexpectedly pulled her out of her vehicle by force and drove off with the vehicle.

Riverbank High School did not seem like it was closed for the summer with all the students on campus on the morning of Tuesday, June 11. Principal Christine Facella, Vice Principal Rebecca Evans, teacher Al Scoles, counselor Norma Ramirez and a parent volunteer, Mrs. Harvey took a group of high school students on a field trip to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for passing the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) on their first try.

The youth are out of school for the summer and the City of Action has plenty of activities to keep them busy. The week long Outdoor Adventure Camp at Jacob Myers Park wrapped up on Friday, June 21 for campers between the ages of six to 12 with a BBQ.


Next week, the second half of the Year in Review will feature stories from July through December.