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Cowells new principal impressed with school
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Principal Bonnie Bennett listens to the poem read out aloud by second-grade students in teacher Lynne Houfek’s class on Friday. - photo by VINCE REMBULAT
Bonnie Bennett is settling into her role as principal.

She’s the second-ever person to hold that position in the 16-year history at Joshua Cowell School, taking over from the recently retired Harriett Myrick.

On Friday, the longtime employee of the Manteca Unified School District spent the afternoon as a guest of teacher Lynne Houfek’s second-grade class, listening to youngsters read aloud the poems “My Promise” and “Lunchroom Rules.”

She was quick to thank her predecessor for showing her the ropes.

“I learned from Harriett about how the school functions and the programs,” said Bennett, who was afforded the opportunity late last school year to job shadow Myrick.
She completed her first week on the job, getting familiar with the school, meeting with students, and implementing a few changes, including the campus parking in an effort to better control the flow of traffic.

Despite a few kinks, Bennett said, “My first day of school went better than I ever imagined.”

She did spend the summer preparing for her new position in the district, and got better acquainted with teachers, staff and several families during a recent beautification project.

Together, they planted trees, shrubs, and flowers in the quad and other parts of the campus, adding planter boxes to further spruce things up.

In turn, she discovered that Joshua Cowell School has a “wonderful sense of community.”

In particular, Bennett was impressed by the overall support from the children, parents, teachers and staff.

She also praised the school’s Community Club.

Bennett is now thrilled to be part of the mix.

“It’s wonderful being accepted here,” she said while looking forward to her inaugural Back-to-School function scheduled for Tuesday evening.

Bennett started at Manteca Unified in 1979, working as a junior high teacher at Lathrop School. From there, she went to Sequoia School, Manteca High, Sierra High, and the district office, where she helped out beginning teachers.

Along the way, Bennett credited her mentors – retired Sierra High principal Rick Arucan, Assistant Superintendent Don Halseth, and Joe Cook, the retired principal at Nile Garden School – for helping shape her career.

On her first day, she made managed to visit every class at the school.

“I mentioned (to the students) my three expectations – be respectful, responsible, and do your best every day,” Bennett said.

In addition, she credited her office staff consisting of Renee Jacobs and Darcie Boulters for easing her in the transition.

“They’ve been great help (to me) in providing constant support and direction.” Bennett said.