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Draa aims for even better Ripon schools

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Draa aims for even better Ripon schools

Ripon’s Superintendent of Schools Bill Draa came out of retirement last year after a successful career as an educator and an administrator.

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

POSTED August 5, 2014 1:41 a.m.

Manteca resident William “Bill” Draa has been at the helm of Ripon public schools for the past year and is eager to keep building an even better education experience.

Debate and public speaking are just two of the needs he sees in the high school curriculum along with an increase in Advanced Placement (AP) class offerings to keep the students more interested in their education. With a state crime lab within a block of the high school, Draa is emphatic about the need to offer a forensics class — an attraction to high school students looking for a hands-on career as a crime scene investigator.

“Everything you see on CSI (on TV) they will cover here in Ripon,” he said of the forensics’ curriculum. 

An AP Spanish class has already been added for the coming school year.

Draa came out of retirement to take the superintendent’s post after the resignation of Louise Johnson. He brought with him a heralded list of accomplishments for the betterment of children in other California districts. Holding a doctorate in education, he has penned his own bucket list of some four to five areas he feels need his attention and that of the school board.

The top demand for his expertise was his accumulated facilities management history that will be used in the remodeling of Weston and Colony Oak elementary schools including the question of where to place the students during construction. 

“We had an emergency situation here with facilities’ issues when Dr. Johnson moved on and I felt I could do this for three months,” he said. “When I got here I realized the really tremendous people here at the district office, the staff, the principals and I really enjoyed the board and I didn’t have to be there but they had issues.” 

More specifically there wasn’t a plan for the deployment of what we were facing with 450 kids being dispersed, no busing priorities, no cafeteria plans, where Ripon was going to house them and how they were going to house them. Those are issues he has already addressed. 

Two major issues that highlight his list of his early concerns are Special Education and the Ripon school busing system. Draa said Special Education has already made a positive turn in its direction and he is currently involved in preliminary queries with the First Student commercial school bus operation to bus Ripon students. He said the new Meritage Homes residential development planned for Austin Road and Highway 99 is going to make additional demands for the transporting of those students to Ripon schools.

“We are not big enough to do our own busing, especially with Meritage Homes coming in,” he said. “With new routes and drivers who are going to be on the road longer and longer, it is going to be more of a challenge for the drivers. For the bus drivers it is so hard to maintain (the rigors of the job) and I understand why.”

Currently the district’s bus drivers often double as custodians who work an on-call basis and are often referred to as “bustodians.” They are required to keep updated with the California Highway Patrol’s demands of greater expertise,

Draa was quick to reflect on his early education when queried pointing to his second grade teacher in Oakland’s Redwood Heights Elementary School — Mrs. Jablonski.

“She got me going on reading,” he said. “It was so I wouldn’t be pestering the other students. Redwood Heights still has an awesome API score over 800 after all these years.”

A teacher at Fremont High School, Merle Howard, set the standards for him and called him on the carpet one time urging him to do better with a school project. Howard went on to teach at Stanford. He added that several of his high school teachers went on to teach at the college level.

The Ripon superintendent is also on three state educational boards and is involved with developing a suggested $9 billion statewide school bond that is tied to an upcoming water funding effort — both part of the same bill that has passed the Assembly. It is now expected to be less than $9 billion but more than $2 billion, he noted. 

The state board involvements Draa says he enjoys are with the Association of California School Administrators, California’s Coalition for Adequate School Housing, the state’s Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, and the State Superintendents’ Council. He has been lauded for his proficiencies in Curriculum Design, Educational Leadership, Educational Technology, Staff Development, Curriculum Development, Instructional Design, Grant Writing, Program Development and Technology Integration

Draa said he toured the new Mountain House high school last week with its $92 million price tag. He said it was absolutely awesome in its state-of-the art design and construction — an expectation of what may be to come in new school building and costs.

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