Classes start Thursday, Aug. 16 in Yosemite, Bass Lake districts

Fall sports teams began practicing well before the start of the school year, and Yosemite High started its volleyball season this week with a match Tuesday at Reedley. Yosemite varsity volleyball teammates Madison Morris and Kylee Vanvalkenburg, backs to camera, show off their team practice shirts. In the background are Madison Gipson, Kaylee Smith, Ava Gresham and Bailey Hullender still smiling after a three-hour preseason practice.
Fall sports teams began practicing well before the start of the school year, and Yosemite High started its volleyball season this week with a match Tuesday at Reedley. Yosemite varsity volleyball teammates Madison Morris and Kylee Vanvalkenburg, backs to camera, show off their team practice shirts. In the background are Madison Gipson, Kaylee Smith, Ava Gresham and Bailey Hullender still smiling after a three-hour preseason practice.

It’s time for new backpacks, binders, highlighters, pens and pencils. “Your vacation is over,” said Kathleen Murphy, principal of Oakhurst Elementary School, as she reminded students to set their alarm clocks for the first day of school. The 2018-19 school year begins on Thursday, Aug. 16 for the Bass Lake and Yosemite school districts.

The Bass Lake Joint Union Elementary School District includes Fresno Flats Community Day, Oak Creek Intermediate, Oakhurst Elementary and Wasuma Schools. Coarsegold and Rivergold Elementary Schools, the Educational Options Program, Yosemite High School and the Yosemite Adult School are within the Yosemite Unified School District.

Parents also have a chance to “go back to school” on Back to School nights where they can learn about academic and extracurricular programs. “Come and meet teachers, new friends and explore classrooms,” encouraged Heather Archer, principal of Wasuma. Dates and times for back to school nights are:

Oak Creek – 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 21.

Yosemite High – 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 27.

Wasuma – Wednesday, Aug. 22, 5 p.m. pizza followed by classroom visits: 5:30 p.m. for kindergarten, 6 p.m. first-third grades, 6:30 p.m. fourth-fifth grades and 7 p.m. in the cafeteria for sixth-eighth grades.

Rivergold – 6:15-8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug 28 for TK-third grades; 6:15-8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30 for fourth-eighth grades.

Oakhurst Elementary – Thursday, Aug. 30 5:30-6 p.m. for TK-first grades, 6-6:30 p.m. second-third grades, 6:30-7 p.m. fourth-fifth grades and school counselor Sheila Bartsch will be in the library from 5:30-6:30 p.m. to answer parent questions.

Coarsegold – 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30.

Tammy Thacker teaches Badger Academy at Yosemite High School, a class all freshmen take to help them with the transition from middle to high school. Students learn organization, computer, time management, resumé writing and interview skills. During the second semester, the California-approved health curriculum is covered as well as driver training classwork.

Yosemite Unified School District

Even before students arrive, teachers and other staff prepare for the school year. YUSD employees completed three days of professional development prior to the students’ first day of school.

“Research shows that one cannot expect students to learn unless their basic needs have been met,” said YUSD Interim Superintendent Mike Berg about the focus of the professional development. “Beyond meeting their basic needs one must also engage students in the learning process.”

“This approach will chart a new course for what students experience in YUSD classrooms, on the playground, on the athletic fields, in the cafeteria and on the school bus every day,” he said. The goals are:

Ask – Notice every child. Check in – Assess their needs

Make time – Stop and engage students

Involve – Connect students to one another and to school

“AMI is the acronym for these steps,” Berg said. “Ami, in French, means ‘friend.’ Webster’s Dictionary defines the word friend as ‘a person who you like and enjoy being with; a person who helps or supports someone or something (such as a cause or charity).’ YUSD staff is a friend of students. Social media uses ‘friend’ as a verb. One friending another means to engage them or let them into the group. YUSD’s goal is to foster that safe, welcoming, learning-ready environment for every student to ensure their learning foundation is solid.”

“Meeting students’ academic needs, based on their individual ability and goals, is the second major focus for YUSD,” Berg explained. “It is easy to say we have taught, but if students haven’t learned, we have work to do.”

YUSD administrative staff changes include:

▪ Berg, hired as the interim superintendent during the last school year, will continue in that capacity.

▪ Marcia Miller, starting her second year with the district. Last year she served as director of special education and student services and was given a new title, interim chief academic officer, in May.

“I am thrilled to be a part of the exciting things that are happening in YUSD,” said Miller. “Not only are we taking care of things on the business end, like balancing our budget, but we are growing in ways we didn’t think possible a year ago. For example, this year we have added three intervention specialist positions and we added two staff professional development days to our calendar. These are big wins for our kids.”

▪ Ron Johnson will be the Coarsegold Elementary principal. He has been with YUSD for three years and served as an administrator at the district level last year.

“Coarsegold Elementary School will be focusing on increasing rigor in the curriculum and strengthening relationships with students and their families,” Johnson said. “In addition, we will be working with other district schools in developing a multi-tiered system of supports that will focus on matching appropriate supports for each student based on their needs.”

▪ Charlotte Kelsey was hired June 25 as the chief business officer for YUSD. Previously, she worked for the Mariposa County Office of Education/Mariposa County Unified School District. “My husband and I have raised two children in this wonderful mountain community,” she said. “My son graduated from Mariposa County High School and my daughter, who will be a senior this year, has made the decision to transfer to Yosemite High School.”

“My goal this year is to continue the amazing work started by administration and to keep the district fiscally solvent moving forward, making sure that all students’ needs are met and supporting the staff who make that happen.”

▪ Also new to the district: David Naranjo, hired as the YHS/Alternative Education vice principal; Amy Baimanno, who will serve as the school psychologist; and Ken Hardin, who will be the campus security supervisor and the criminology class teacher.

Hardin comes to the district following a law enforcement career. “In my law enforcement career, I worked in undercover narcotics, gangs and was a training coordinator and the senior field training officer for my department,” he said. I was also a gang and narcotic expert and have provided expert testimony in those areas at court.”

Having worked for multiple police departments, he was medically retired after 12 years due to an injury that required multiple surgeries. He and his wife have two children, an 8-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter. Both he and his wife are Central High School graduates.

“I am a Western movie, muscle car, motorcycle enthusiast and a descendant of a famous Old West outlaw named John Wesley Hardin,” Hardin said. “I listen to country music – not this new pop-country nonsense. I’m talking Cash, Waylon, Hank Jr., Garth, George, you know, the good stuff, and hard rock exclusively unless my kids are in the truck with me then I listen to Disney and other kids music. I put on quite a performance of “You’re Welcome” from Moana, if I do say so myself. In fact, I myself am quite the Disney movie enthusiast now that I think of it. Years ago, before it became the popular thing to do, I trained in mixed martial arts but I rarely watch UFC or any other sports.”

Bass Lake Joint Union Elementary School District

Three new teachers have been hired at Wasuma Elementary. John Sloas will be teaching first grade, Courtney Slayter fifth grade and Nadine Wright sixth-eighth grade math. Leslie Peterson will be moving from first grade to kindergarten/first grade to replace Vivien Cooley who retired last year, Gabby Franck is returning to Wasuma to teach first grade after a year at Mountain Home School and Kelli Seals is moving from middle school to teach a fourth/fifth grade combination class.

New after-school programs are being offered at both Wasuma and Oak Creek. California Cadet Corps will be offered on both campuses and Oak Creek is adding an after-school robotics program.

“Our site principals and school staffs are already working on surveying students and families about potential after-school programs that will enrich and supplement daily instruction,” said Randy Seals, Bass Lake superintendent. “These programs are likely to incorporate the assistance of community partners and stakeholders. Staff members are excited about the possibility of creating new partnerships with community stakeholders and parents to provide meaningful programs for our community’s children.”

At the district level, Kris Barnes will serve, this year, as a teacher on special assignment, assuming the duties and responsibilities of district technology coach. She replaces David Eicholtz, who resigned at the conclusion of the 2017-18 school year.

“She will be responsible for assisting classroom teachers and instructional aides in their efforts to more fully incorporate technology-based instructional practices with more traditional approaches to teaching and learning, including hands-on learning experiences for students,” Seals said. “Our district was able to purchase additional Chromebooks last year to fully become 1:1 from transitional kindergarten/kindergarten through eighth grade.”