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Volunteers making difference in classrooms
pic sequoia-vol-1
Lori Guzman-Alvarez, left, vice principal at Sequoia School, hangs out Friday afternoon in the office of volunteer Glenna Brown. - photo by VINCE REMBULAT
Rachel Godfrey-Stacy was aware that her son, Benjamin, would be in a kindergarten classroom filled with a lot of students.

She decided to do something about it by becoming a Sequoia School volunteer parent.

“I saw a need to help out, especially with 33 students and only one teacher in the classroom (with the elimination of the 20-to-1 ratio class size reduction),” Godfrey-Scott said on Friday.

She’s one of several volunteers at the Manteca Unified campus in transition.

Sequoia has a new principal in Lisa Herrin – she served the past six years as vice principal at Joseph Widmer in Lathrop – and added more students with the closing of the annex.

The site of the old Yosemite School accommodated kindergarten- through- second-grade students. But the recent budget cuts forced the district to shut down both the Sequoia Annex and the Lathrop Annex.

Jacqui Breitenbucher, who was the Sequoia principal for several years, helped in the undertaking of the transition of the main site before moving to the district office to become senior director of business services.

The younger students, for example, were moved closer to the office.

“Everyone had to move,” said Herrin, who is one of seven new principals in the district. “The teachers did so on their own time (before the start of the school year).”

Sequoia’s enrollment after that first week of school was at 798. Herrin, in fact, said the first few days of the new school year went “really well.”

She and Vice Principal Lori Guzman-Alvarez are especially thankful for their core group of volunteers.

“We lost a number of clerical and support staff due to budget cuts,” said Guzman-Alvarez, who had been at the Sequoia Annex for the past four years.

Teresa Burwell, Glenna Brown and Godfrey-Stacy are among the top volunteers at the school.

Burwell was a familiar face for youngsters moving over from the annex to the main site. She’s a yard duty supervisor, plays an active role in PTP, and provides assistance to the office staff.

“Teresa helps out where ever she’s needed,” Herrin said.

Brown is a former employee of the district in charge of handling substitute teachers for certified staff.

She was also used to a busy schedule and had a difficult time adapting to retirement.

“It’s like having everything come to a complete stop,” said Brown, who lives not too far from Sequoia. “I hit a wall.”

She found her calling in volunteer. In turn, her efforts have been greatly appreciated.

“Glenna has been at the school site nearly every day to help fill the needs at our busy school,” Guzman-Alvarez said.

Last year, Brown was a “Tiger Buddy,” mentoring at-risk fifth-grade students on a one-to-one basis.

“When the child did not have the equipment and supplies she needed for science camp, Glenna came through and provided the student with everything she needed,” Alvarez-Guzman said.

Brown also attends the Manteca Unified Student Trust – or MUST – athletic events, sitting with the Sequoia fans while cheering on the athletes.

According to district policy, all volunteers are required to submit an “Information Sheet for Volunteers” at their respective school sites.

Those in the non-supervisory role may serve as a non-teaching aide under the immediate supervision and direction of certified personnel.

“These volunteers are not to be left alone with students nor are they allowed to supervise students outside the presence of a certified employee,” the policy says.

Supervisory volunteers, however, may assist certified personnel in the supervision of students and can be assigned to supervise groups of students outside the presence of a certified employee.

But in order to do so, he or she must be fingerprinted and get criminal record clearance from the district.

The volunteer, in this case, can also be a law enforcement officer.

Supervisory volunteers involved with overnight extended school-sponsored trips are required to have a fingerprinting / criminal record clearance.

Those helping out in a child care and development programs must be fingerprinted for criminal record clearance, particularly if they’re in contact with children unless the volunteer is a relative of the child.

 Brown enjoys working as a volunteer.

“It’s given me a sense of belonging,” she said.

For more information on becoming a volunteer, call any of the school sites or the district office at (209) 832-2500.