School changes in store
As students pour through school doors Monday morning for the start of the 1999-2000 school year, they will be greeted by new administrators, teachers and school building improvements while Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District officials anxiously await to see if they meet their projected enrollment of 4,935 students.
“The theme for me for the year is change,” said TTUSD Superintendent Pat Gemma. “Almost one-third of the administration in our district is new and because of classroom sizes being lowered, we’ve hired new staff. We’re very excited about the quality of the new teachers we’ve hired and we are especially lucky with the new administration we’ve hired.”
Fourth and fifth grade classrooms sizes have been reduced to a 28 to one student/teacher ratio at all schools and new teachers have been hired to make those changes.
District officials will not know until next week if they will meet their budgeted enrollment of 4,935 students, a number which includes special education students.
Gemma said administrators from each site will give their first
enrollment count by Wednesday of next week.
If the projected enrollment is not met, Gemma will meet with the Fiscal Review Committee to determine what budget cuts to make.
Although there is no way to determine if the projected enrollment will be met, Gemma said district officials are shocked at the drop of enrollment at Tahoe Lake Elementary School. Enrollment for kindergarten at that school has dropped by half – last year 80 kindergartners were enrolled, this year only 40 have enrolled. He suspects a number of these students will go to the charter school opening in Forest Hill.
Gemma also said, however, that principals from all of the other schools in the district are reporting they believe they will hit or exceed their projected enrollments.
Enrollment projections are largely based on how many students are expected to move out of the area or return to school again after the summer.
“The question mark is those kids who we have expected to return who have moved,” said Gemma.
TTUSD boardmember Karen Van Epps said the school district has projected losing 50 students from last year in enrollment, and is worried about what will happen if school opens next week with fewer children.
“No one’s coming back with any contingencies,” she said.
She highlighted the districts two primary goals to be a program-rich school district and to maintain a good student to teacher ratio.
“We set our goals and I believe we achieve them,” Van Epps said.
If enrollment drops, the district needs to figure out how to stay program-rich, she said. She mentioned revenue-generating ideas such as a national Script fund-raising program or donations from casinos need to be considered. Or else the district should look seriously at charging for busing, she said.
“It’s not about charging for transportation, it’s about keeping programs,” she said. “We need to examine all our options.”
The 1999/2000 school year jump starts in Truckee schools on Monday, Aug. 30 after a summer that “flew by” according to many students and staff. New administrators and teachers will be present on almost all Truckee campuses.
The newest addition to the administration staff is Kathleen Gauthier, the new assistant vice principal at Truckee Elementary. Gauthier will replace Danny Hyde who is the new principal at Glenshire Elementary.
Gauthier, coming from Glenshire Elementary where she worked as a kindergarten teacher for five years, has worked in the district since 1977. In 1977 she worked at Truckee Elementary as a special education instructional aide.
She has worked with four of the five Truckee Elementary principals, teaching the co-op preschool, first second, and third grades. She also taught special education classes in Washoe County Schools at the middle and high school level.
“I’m really happy to be here, it feels like home,” said Gauthier of her new position. “I’m really looking forward to helping people understand that Truckee Elementary is their school. I’d like to make the school welcoming and invitational to the community and the parents and teachers.”
Gauthier said she also plans to spend a lot of time in the classroom, something she feels is the sign of a good administrator.
She has plans to organize more in-house assemblies to bring enhance a sense of community in the school.
“Even though we’re a big school doesn’t mean we can’t be connected by a strong sense of community,” she said.
Gauthier grew up in upstate New York, but has lived in the Tahoe area since she was 19-years old. She has two sons, ages 18 and 20, both of who attend San Francisco State University. She is the oldest of six girls, and both her mother and grandmother were teachers.
Gauthier will introduce herself to her new students on Monday during an assembly.
Glenshire Elementary welcomes their new principal, Hyde, as well as a new fully credentialed music teacher, Susan Thomas, who will teach developmental music to grades kindergarten through five. Glenshire also has a new kindergarten teacher and a new fourth grade teacher. Students will also go back to a traditional lunch schedule and will eat in the cafeteria instead of their classrooms, said Hyde.
Sierra Mountain Middle School also has a new principal, Don Beno, who was the former principal of North Tahoe High, who is excited about working with the middle school-aged students and a new staff. Beno said SMMS will continue to focus and curriculum review to be sure they are aligning themselves to state standards.
Tahoe-Truckee High School will start at 7:30 a.m. this year instead of 7:20 a.m and students will be dismissed at 2:30 p.m. instead of 2:25 p.m.
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