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Principals Review First Weeks Of School
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Riverbank High School's enrolment is "pretty close to that of last year" (715-720 students), principal Christine Facella said Thursday of the first two weeks of school.

"The opening went really smooth. The new teachers are fitting in well. Students are adjusting to their classes. We're off to a good start.

"The students have a strong sense of Bruin pride. There's a good feeling on campus, a very positive feeling. And how about those test scores?" she added, referring to preliminary STAR (Standardized Testing And Reporting) results that were announced Aug. 15 and showed solid academic gains at Riverbank High.

Facella had just one request to parents; to drop off students in the back parking lot, the one with the tennis courts and giving access to the new gym and the football field.

"The first two weeks of school were smooth," said Kim Newton at Cardozo Middle School. "Back to school night was a great success. We drew many more parents than in past years. And the sports tryouts are up and going."

Enrollment at 518 as of Friday, Aug. 19 was slightly up from last year. The new teachers were acclimated and doing well. There is one new teacher Stacey Wilson teaching English arts to the eighth grade, who has joined the district since school started.

"Both students and staff are very proud of the 39 point gain in the API," Newton added, noting she'd had a busy day outdoors with the students at a barbecue instead of pushing papers around in her office.

At the Riverbank Language Academy, located at the former Rio Altura campus on the west side of town, Principal Bill Redford reported the Spanish and English dual language charter school has 445 students and is growing rapidly in the middle grades after graduating its first eighth grade class last year.

"We now have a full sports program, boys and girls basketball, co-ed soccer, softball, volleyball, etc.," he said.

"Our API (Academic Performance Index) scores are up in both Spanish and English. Our PTA has numerous committees and is forming more," he added, indicating the groups selling shirts, programs and popcorn outside the door of the multipurpose room where he had just addressed the parents.

There are three teachers new to the school, Kevin Luman McBride, Linda Lizarraga and Vanessa Rojas, swelling the teaching staff to a total of 20.

"Some teachers have moved and are in new places, teaching different grades, which is good for them," he added.

At California Avenue Elementary School, the new principal Sean Richey said a few words in both English and Spanish to the parents assembled in the multi-purpose building.

He grew up in the Mojave Desert and attended Brigham Young University and San Jose State College so he speaks Spanish, he told the parents. He has four children including a fourth grader and a kindergartner. He has served 10 years in education and been an administrator at the high school, middle and continuation school levels but this is his first post at an elementary school.

With enrollment now at 550 (up on last year's 515 to 529), new students continue to trickle in each day. Every class is full except the second grade, he said.

The school has two new faces among the teachers. They are Charmaine Payne teaching second grade after transferring from Rio Altura and Penny Bartholomew instructing fourth grade after many years teaching and leading the sports program at Cardozo Middle School.

Most of the students from the former Rio Altura campus moved to the new school of Mesa Verde, Richey noted, but a few have stayed in town at California Avenue School.

"It's going really well. We're off to a strong start. Everybody's comfortable in their new homes," said Mesa Verde School's new principal Laurie Sacknitz. "I'm getting to know a new group of teachers and kids. It's exciting. We found out early about the changes (reshuffling of principals between schools). So it was no big surprise."

Sacknitz and her staff are planning to hand out medals for STAR testing to about 200 students this coming Friday afternoon.