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Back to the books with Bass Lake Joint Union

Speech Pathologist Sarah Zimmer prepares her room at Wasuma Elementary for the upcoming school year. Here Zimmer holds one of her summer purchases, the book Chalk, a wordless picture book to help students create sentences based on the photos. This is Zimmer’s third year as a speech pathologist. Along with Wasuma, she works with students at Mountain Home School, Oak Creek Intermediate, Oakhurst Head Start, as well as in a program for preschoolers.
Speech Pathologist Sarah Zimmer prepares her room at Wasuma Elementary for the upcoming school year. Here Zimmer holds one of her summer purchases, the book Chalk, a wordless picture book to help students create sentences based on the photos. This is Zimmer’s third year as a speech pathologist. Along with Wasuma, she works with students at Mountain Home School, Oak Creek Intermediate, Oakhurst Head Start, as well as in a program for preschoolers. Sierra Star

As those long summer days slowly fade into fall, a new school year has arrived, with about 4,300 foothill and Mountain Area students returning to classrooms today (Aug. 17).

More than 870 students within the Bass Lake Joint Union School District (BLJUSD) will see many familiar faces, along with a new principal and four new teachers at Wasuma Elementary, as well as a new district superintendent.

After serving as principal of Yosemite High School these past four years, Randy Seals was recently named BLJUSD superintendent, replacing Glenn Reid, who announced his retirement in March of this year.

“I’m excited about being superintendent of the Bass Lake School District,” Seals said. “We have an outstanding leadership team, a group that includes our site principals, program directors, and our new Director of Business Services, Tara Campanella. We are dedicated to continuous improvement and lifelong learning for all.”

Seals explained that his philosophy will follow three simple principles: make decisions in the best interests of students, take actions that are in the best interest of schools and the district, and consider decisions that are in the best interest of the community.

He added that making decisions that negatively impact the students in the best interests of staff is simply not an option. The welfare of the students will always come first.

“Our Board of Trustees members are truly informed and very much engaged in our district’s children and schools,” Seals continued. “We will continue to enhance what is already considered to be outstanding.”

The board and district leadership have given Seals a list of areas that need to be emphasized during the coming school year, including:

Nurture a positive school culture and climate at all school sites as evidenced by PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports) data;

Support professional development for all staff;

Increase student attendance;

Modify classified employee evaluation forms to enable improved feedback on job performance;

and continue to provide periodic financial and budget updates to the Board of Trustees.

At the same time, Seals will keep in mind the focused goals laid out in the Local Control Accountability Plan:

High quality instruction for all students;

Provide caring and secure learning environments;

Individualizing academic challenges for all students;

and engage highly-involved stakeholders.

“As your superintendent, you can plan on seeing me engaged in our schools,” Seals said. “I will do whatever is necessary to provide our community’s children with a first-class educational experience.”

New at Wasuma

Heather Archer will take the helm as Wasuma’s new principal.

“Wasuma has been my home for 20 years,” Archer said. “It seems inconceivable that two decades in the classroom have passed so quickly and now I am sitting here in the principal’s office. This offers me the opportunity to take care of my Wasuma family on a different level and I can’t wait to get started.”

With an already diverse elective program for middle school students, Archer looks forward to the completion of the new EMC SPCA shelter, planned on property across Highway 49 from the school. She sees it as an opportunity to expand the elective program to include student volunteers, canine reading buddies for struggling readers, as well as possibly sparking an interest in real world science and medicine.

Other changes include composting for the school’s community garden, hydro-seeding the main sports field, and a parking lot revamp.

“Many changes have been proposed and discarded as we work with the goals of safety and efficiency in mind,” Archer continued. “Schools are always buzzing with activity this time of year ... and we are moving with a renewed sense of excitement and energy. It’s going to be a great year.”

“Heather has the dedication, enthusiasm and energy to rally the students, parents, staff, and community, uniting all in the effort to take Wasuma to new heights,” Seals explained. “She has impacted the lives of countless students and their families during her teaching career at Wasuma. Now, she will do the same on a grander scale as the school’s principal. She has long been a rock-star teacher, and I have every confidence that she will be an outstanding principal, too.”

Four new teachers will join the Wasuma staff - Heather Moulton, Ali Ozeta, Laura Galleano and Angela Ginter.

Fifth-grade teacher Heather Moulton has relocated with her family from Valley Center, a small town outside San Diego County. She has an environmental science and geology degree, and loves spending most of her time outdoors. A teacher for 20 years, Moulton said she’s excited to begin her journey at Wasuma, adding, “Go Wildcats.”

Ali Ozeta relocated to the area from Los Angeles. A UC Berkeley graduate in 2011, she earned a Masters in Special Education through Teach for America, and taught for three years at a high-needs low-performing middle school in South L.A, where she learned the importance of teaching with the whole child in mind. She said she is incredibly excited to teach a Special Day Class for kindergarteners through fifth graders, and to be able to raise her 17-month-old daughter, who loves everything physical and outdoors, in such a nurturing environment.

A 48-year-old mother of two adult daughters, Laura Galleano has been credentialed since 2003. Galleano, who will teach fourth-graders, has been looking for a position in the Mountain Area for the past few years, and called this her “dream job.” She looks forward to getting her hands dirty in the school garden and meeting her new Wasuma family. So far, her best experiences include all her children, their families, and her time as a greenhouse instructor.

“’Welcome aboard has been my greeting thus far,” Galleano said. “I pray I soon hear ‘Welcome home.’”

Angela Ginter is a 39-year-old mother of two active girls (9 and 7) who keep her on her toes. She has been married 19 years to her high school sweetheart - the school nurse for both the Bass Lake and Yosemite school districts. A U.S. Coast Guard veteran, she has taught a moderate/severe special education class, as well as second graders. At Wasuma, she will teach a combination of second-third grade classes. Ginter, who enjoys outdoor activities, especially camping with family, said she can’t wait for the school year to begin.

“Our staff is really more like extended family than co-workers,” Archer explained. “When you cry, sweat, celebrate, and encourage the same kids for years, you are bound together in ways that are deep and lasting. Teaching can be exhausting, but the teachers I know wouldn’t give it up for anything.”

OCI & OES

While there are no changes at Oak Creek Intermediate, Connie Collins, former Wasuma special education teacher has transferred to Oakhurst Elementary, where she will serve as the new resource specialist teacher. Collins said the teachers and staff at OES have welcomed her like family, and that her goal is to help students become successful and work to their highest potential, not only academically, but socially and emotionally, as well.

OES Principal Kathleen Murphy called Collins, who has has worked with special ed students for a decade, a welcome addition to the OES team. Other than that, OES remains status quo.

BLJUSD, a kindergarten to eighth grade district, includes Oakhurst and Wasuma elementary schools, Oak Creek Intermediate, and Fresno Flats Day School.

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