School kicks off in Tahoe-Truckee district | SierraSun.com
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School kicks off in Tahoe-Truckee district

SHERRY MAYS

The 1998-99 school year is under way and the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District is off and running with its new superintendent.

Within the first few minutes of the year’s opening, Superintendent Pat Gemma was surveying the ongoing construction at Glenshire Elementary School, making sure open trenches were filled and students and faculty were getting to school with ease.

“The last few weeks have been a race to prepare the sites for the opening,” Gemma said. “But the crews have been working at the break of day to sunset.”

Gemma, who joined the district Aug. 17, has also been working around the clock to ensure good communication with school administrators from Donner Summit to the Lake Tahoe’s West Shore. He said the district is looking “pretty good.”

“At one of the meetings Nick (Santamaria, Sierra Mountain Middle School principal) said that something didn’t need to be sick to fix it,” he said. “I agreed, but after talking with everyone, I’m sure this district is far from ailing.”

He said he is enjoying his entrance plan to meet with the administrators, employees, faculty and parents, and said he is looking forward to more input that will eventually form the district’s goals.

“We need to know what is working, what’s not and what needs changing,” Gemma said. “By meeting with all of the stakeholders, I am learning about issues that need addressing and others that are just great.”

Some pressing issues facing the district’s board are building trust among that groups impacted by the schools and maintaining efficacy of site-based decision making while striving for consistency to ensure equity. Budgets and facility needs also top the district’s list of issues needing addressing.

“We are always going to struggle with the budget,” he said. “It’s always going to be an issue when state funding dictates where funding can be spent.”

Educating communities about the importance of building new and adequate schools is also a major issue that Gemma said needs immediate attention with the upcoming bonds for Truckee and Lake Tahoe’s schools. He said the district is also examining how new and renovated schools can serve the community, as is being witnessed with the new community center at Kings Beach Elementary School.

“I consider myself lucky to be working with the faculty and staff at the district,” he said. “Together we are going to address these issues (to bring the best level of education available to our students).”

Gemma’s entrance plan began with a district-wide meeting at Lake Tahoe with employees and faculty at the end of last week. He said it was successful from his perspective.

“It’s great to work with this staff,” he said. “The sites are well served. (The administrators) are good people, instructional leaders, experienced problem solvers and compassionate, and they take pride in their sites.”

Gemma said he also looks forward to next week’s board retreat, where participants will work to establish goals and good working relationships. He added that he was disappointed by the open board seat representing Area 1 – Tahoe Donner, which is now represented by Debra Darby and up for election in November. He said he expected more interest from the Tahoe Donner area.

“There is definitely going to be an appointment,” he said.

This was scheduled to be one of the topics at last night’s board meeting. Gemma said instructions from the California State Department of Education is confusing as to when the position should be filled. He said guidelines require the position to be filled within 60 days, from which date Gemma was uncertain.

He said he would clarify the timeline, but at press time still had not reported the clarification to the board.

Filing for school board positions was finalized in August, with John Wojcik, the incumbent in Area 4, filing for Area 5 because of geographical adjustments within the area. Mel Cone applied for the board seat representing the “new” Area 4 that once covered Tahoe City, Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley. The new area covers the area from Prosser Lakeview Estates to Olympic Heights and Northstar.

The third opening is Area 1, where an appointment to the board will be sought.

Other issues expected for discussion last night were:

— a public hearing on instruction material compliance.

— a facilities report by Director of Facilities John Britto.

— an update by the Tahoe-Truckee Education Association and California School Employees Association representatives.

SIDEBAR

Back to School Nights

Sept. 16, Tahoe-Truckee High School, 7 p.m.

Sept. 17, Glenshire Elementary School, 6 and 7 p.m. and Sierra Mountain Middle School, 6 to 8 p.m.

Sept. 22 and 23, Truckee Elementary School, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 24, Donner Trail Elementary School, 5:30 p.m.

Sierra Sun E-mail: sun@tahoe.com

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