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Chawanakee Unified signs principal and 5 teachers to its newest school

The inaugural staff of Chawanakee Unified's Hillside Elementary School signed their employment contracts on May 2, inspired by the tradition of National Signing Day for college-bound athletes. The new staff includes (pictured left to right) custodian Baltazar Mata and teachers Brooklyn Fuson, Samantha Alvarez, Lisa Lorenzana, Kristi DeBernardi and Amalia Cutts.
The inaugural staff of Chawanakee Unified's Hillside Elementary School signed their employment contracts on May 2, inspired by the tradition of National Signing Day for college-bound athletes. The new staff includes (pictured left to right) custodian Baltazar Mata and teachers Brooklyn Fuson, Samantha Alvarez, Lisa Lorenzana, Kristi DeBernardi and Amalia Cutts. Special to the Sierra Star

It's a rare event when school staff are celebrated like athletes, but thanks to Chawanakee Unified School District superintendent Darren Sylvia, seven new staff members were honored May 2 at a "signing day" for the opening of Hillside Elementary School.

“This is an exciting day as we welcome this talented group of professionals to the Chawanakee Unified family,” said Sylvia. “We have assembled a talented team that has the passion and experience to deliver an outstanding education for our students.”

Hillside Elementary is the newest school in the Chawanakee Unified School District and it will support the population of the planned community of Tesoro Viejo, situated at the foot of Little Table Mountain. The community will sprawl over 1,600 acres in Madera County, with 400 acres permanently reserved outdoor space.

The school is opening well ahead of families moving into the development. An estimated number of 80 students will be coming from other areas in the district and surrounding districts. Teachers will teach combination classes – transitional kindergarten-first grade, grades 2-3, grades 4-5 and grades 6-8. As the population of the school increases, more teachers will be hired.

The goal of Hillside is to have a strong focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and will also include outdoor learning in the surrounding area, as well as a college and career exploration program that gives students opportunities to learn about careers in the medical field and biotechnologies.

Hillside principal Jared Pierce discussed the school's vision.

“With this team, we are building an instructional program with tech-based and app-based instruction for the basics, direct instruction for new concepts and skills, and project-based, hands-on learning for application,” said Pierce. “Project-based learning is meant to be unscripted when done right, and planning is key in order for students to produce unique outcomes – something our new instructional team understands, and for students, this means deeper learning and most importantly, lots of fun."

The inaugural staff of Hillside Elementary School includes Pierce, teachers Samanth Alverez, Amalia Cutts, Kristi De Bernardi, Brooklyn Fuson and Lisa Lorenzana and custodian Baltazar Mata.

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