By Jamie Hunt

Exeter students went back to school on Monday, Aug. 7, the first school district to do so.

Strathmore Elementary students start on Thursday, Aug. 10, but Strathmore High School, part of the Porterville District, starts Monday, Aug. 14, along with Farmersville Unified School District. Woodlake students begin school on Wednesday, Aug. 16, while Lindsay students go back to school on Monday, Aug. 28.

A great number of changes have occurred in the Exeter Union School district in both the high, middle, and elementary schools. While a large amount of district employees and administrators retired in June, there have been at least 12 new administrators who have been promoted, hired, or changed their positions within the district. At least 25 to 30 teachers have been hired according to Superintendent Rene Whitson. There is an enrollment of approximately 3,150 students with teaching and support staff of 300.

At Exeter Union High School Magdalena Vazquez, former counselor was promoted to vice principal. Christen Crookshanks from Visalia Unified School District, was hired as a counselor, and Steve Beecher was promoted to a counselor.

Darin Pace, former athletic director, has taken a counselor position. He was replace by Jim Bennett, who was formerly a social science teacher at EUHS.

&#8220My goal this year will be to continue what Darin Pace started, which is to build our athletic program across the board,” Bennett said, &#8220We have always had a lot of success with our girls sports, but we want to build our boys program.”

Ralph De Los Santos, formerly the principal of three schools - Exeter Community Day, Exeter Independent Study and Kaweah Continuation High School- was hired as the district's Director of Alternative Education. Wilson Middle School vice principal Tim Perrotta transferred into the same position at Lincoln Elementary.

Carlos Peralta, was promoted from a Lincoln school kindergarten position to Vice Principal at Rocky Hill school. Frank Silveira, was promoted from Lincoln school vice principal to principal at Wilson Middle School. Denise Akin, the new vice principal at Wilson, was an Intensive Intervention Coordinator with the Woodlake Union School District.

Leangela Garcia, is the new business manager at the Exeter Union School district's office, where she started working on July 14. Garcia replaced Jihad Hemaidan, who is now the business manager for the Lindsay Unified School District.

&#8220Exeter is a great school district. This (job) is a learning curve for me, since I worked at College of the Sequoias as Associate Director of Fiscal Services. Jihad Hemaidan, is mentoring me, and helping me get used to the Exeter district.”

Ken Stovall, was promoted from counselor to director of human resources, technology and state and federal programs. Stovall is also in charge of interviewing and hiring of new teachers.


The Lindsay School district had a large amount of retiree's at the end of last school year and has been overwhelmed with the hiring of new teachers. There are a few new administrators in the district, while others received promotions.

One of the new administrators is Jihad Hemaidan, who moved from Exeter School District's Business Manager to the Lindsay School District's Business Manager, along with Rebecca Mestaz, former Principal of Exeter's Wilson Middle School who is now principal at Steve Garvey Junior High School.

The Lindsay district will not have an idea of it's enrollment until after school has been in session for a number of weeks, said Bobbie Velasquez, administrative assistant to the superintendent. She said that the district office was still working on personnel issues. Tom Rooney, Director of Curriculum and Instruction was promoted to Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. Robert Forbes, Dual Language Program Director, is now the Director of Migrant Region XXVI for LUSD. His Spanish is excellent.

&#8220The migrant region XXIV, is actually the Lindsay School district,” Forbes said, &#8220servicing over 1,700 migrant children from pre K through high school.”

The program director for migrant education oversees instructional and health services for students as well as assisting parents in helping give direction to the program. Forbes said that the program will have instructional assistants/teachers and counselors to help the students succeed academically. &#8220An important development this year has been the creation of an ‘E-health,' program to assess dental needs and provide dental care for migrant students in the area. This exciting project is a three year collaboration between the University of California Los Angeles, Tulare County agencies, and the Lindsay school district. The actual screenings will take place in the Healthy Start Center located in the school district, while doctors from UCLA will diagnose the students needs via web-cam and refer the student to a local dentist for treatment.

&#8220I believe this will allow students to concentrate better on their academic learning in the classroom, when they are free of dental pain,” Forbes said. &#8220There is nothing more heart-rending than seeing a student in pain due to dental issues.” He said that the migrant program would be assisting certain families to procure medical insurance.

He said the district has major focus on staff development this year which would focus on the needs of all students, but especially the English language learners. Forbes said that two individuals, Suzanna Dutro, and Bea McGarvey, who are outstanding educators in the United States, would be working in the district this year.

&#8220They have incredible depths of understanding for how students learn and can be successful with a world-class curriculum. We want to have a world-class curriculum accessible to all students.”

Russell Ernst is the new principal at J.J.Cairns Continuation School/Adult School in Lindsay, while Cinnamon Scheufele, Director of Preschools.

At Lindsay High School, Jeff Munter is now Assistant Principal and Larry Buenafe and Jaime Robles are counselors.


Two new administrators were hired in the Farmersville Unified School District.

Superintendent Janet Jones said Ernie Flores, principal of Farmersville High School, and Myra Trevino, vice principal of FHS, both came over from the Orosi school district.

As of July 27, FUSD had hired 11 certificated personnel, teachers and administrators, but they still had three teaching positions to fill.

&#8220We are projecting an enrollment of 2,515 for 2006-07, up 110 students from last year's 2,405 students,” Jones said.

Flores has been in the education field for 14 years, nine of those years as an administrator. He was principal of Alternative Education in four schools in the Orosi school district: Lovell School, Yettem School, Orosi Community Day School and Esperanza Independent Study School.

Flores is very upbeat about the coming school year and said the year would be filled with opportunities.

&#8220Our motto is going to be ‘A commitment to excellence,'” Flores said. &#8220There is so much potential with the students here. Everyone, the students, administrators and staff need to be committed to excellence. The bar has been raised.”

Flores said that school administration and staff would work on the school environment, and help the students believe in themselves.

&#8220It's going to be a fun ride this year,” Flores said. &#8220Taking a look at the staff, the community as a whole, there will always be challenges. If we get everyone to head in the same direction, the successes will far outweigh the challenges.”

Flores said that his assistant principal, Myra Trevino, who came from Orosi, was an outstanding educator. He said she has a lot of experience and knowledge, especially working with limited English students.

Flores said that he hopes to start a fun Fridays at lunchtime for students at the high school. He said there would be different radio stations that would play music during lunchtime, and there will be a public address system, which parents could tune into the radio station and hear what their children are doing at school. Flores wants to start the fun Fridays during the second semester.

Flores said he wants to support the students more at school, and said that they will be having intensive after school tutorials in all subjects to help students.


Superintendent Steve Tietjen said that the district has hired six new teachers and they have one position still vacant and a counseling position vacant.

Tietjen said that the high school district is up by about 50 students this year while the elementary district is in a small decline in numbers of students.

Carmita Pena has taken the head counselor position at Woodlake Union High School, where she has been a counselor for the past two years.

Tony Casares was hired as the new athletic director. Casares has worked at Golden West High School since 1981.

&#8220I was a social science teacher for 22 years at the High School, as well as being a football coach for 22 years, a baseball coach and a basketball coach. I was also activities director at Golden West High School and an administrator, as well as basketball referee for high school and college for 15 years.”

Casares said he was hired in May, but has been working in Woodlake since July. He said that he has been working on facility issues with the field maintenance and operations department of the school. He has also been coordinating sport schedules for the high school teams.

&#8220When I get the scheduling system running, parents will be able to access this computer system and they will be able to download the schedule of events, or even access photographs of games. Parents can even receive notifications of schedule changes to their palm pilots or text messaging with this new computer system. We will also be able to notify newspapers of events.”

Casares said he has been trying to contact all the coaches, to get to know them. He said that the school and district is much smaller than what he is used to. At Golden West there were 2,200 students and over 120 staff members. &#8220I've been able to meet everyone. It's more intimate, and I'm able to get to know everyone. You get to meet people and be more personal, and the kids are going to be the same, where ever you go.”

Bernadine Landeros, an Exeter District administrative assistant, was hired as secretary to the Woodlake Superintendent on July 3.

Landeros is in charge of some of the personnel at the Woodlake district office, as well as handling job postings, revising salary schedules, and correspondence for the superintendent. She also oversees all of the district's staff secretaries at the various schools, student inter-district transfers, compile board meeting agendas and schedule the superintendent's meetings.

Landeros said that she loves working in Woodlake, &#8220It is really nice to work here. The staff has been really great.”


At Strathmore Elementary district, District Secretary Sheila Sanchez said there were no new administrators hired for the district, but seven new classified teachers had been hired.

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