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New leader for Ripon schools
District moves toward starting Weston upgrades
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Bill Draa took over as Ripon Unified superintendent in 2013. - photo by VINCE REMBULAT/Bulletin file photo

Bill Draa was enjoying his retirement when he was called upon to help out the Ripon Unified School District.

After five years as RUSD superintendent, Louise Johnson accepted a job as superintendent of schools for the Nevada Union High School District effective July 3.

Her decision was based on “the opportunity to lead a geographically vast, high achieving community-wide high school district,” Johnson said back in June, coupled with the opportunity to be with her husband, Jeff, on a full-time basis.

She recommended Manteca resident Draa, who had a facilities background, to help out in the interim. After all, he was instrumental in making the River Island Technology Academy go from a pipe dream to reality before retiring as superintendent for the Banta School District in 2012.

Meanwhile, Ripon voters had just approved a $25 million bond measure for modernization of Weston and Colony Oak schools. Draa had always been impressed with RUSD and its consistent leadership over the years. “There were three superintendents here for the past 50 years,” he said in July.

Draa eased into the position, opening up the new school year while working with the school board on the Weston project and Facilities Master Plan.

In September, he made it official, dropping “interim” from his title by accepting a two-year pact to help guide the district in the future.

What will help pave the way are the developments of the past year, including:

Weston School

The goal is for this kindergarten- through- eighth- grade campus to reopen in July 2015.

But in order for that to happen, RUSD is hoping that the Division of the State Architect agency will have its review done by this April. If all goes accordingly, the district can put the project, as part of the lease / lease back agreement, out to bid for the Guaranteed Maximum Price.

Funds made possible by the voter-approved Measure G are allocated at $10.4 million. Colony Oak School, scheduled for work further down the road, is also part of the reconstruction.

The time tables on Weston calls for board approval of the GMP in May or June, thus, allowing for construction to begin this summer.

While plans for the permanent classrooms appear OK for those involved, the gymnasium has been another story.

The Program Management Integration team, for safety reasons, recently added more space to the dimension of the gym inside the multi-purpose building.

Expansion upped the price tag to about $110,000.

In order to offset costs, PMI reviewed options to value engineer the gym and identified other funding sources that might be available during the construction period.

Facility Master Plan

The Facility Master Plan will serve as a blue print of sort for the future of the school district.

The plan is necessary, in particular, with new housing in the Austin Road area of Manteca expected to impact RUSD, according to Draa.

The proposed 1,049-acre Austin Road Business Park is within the RUSD boundaries and could bring in as many as 1,958 students based on the 4,108 homes.

The FMP is made up of three board-approved subcommittees. One group will be responsible education, instruction growth, joint-use opportunities and school configuration.

Through this subcommittee, RUSD will look at the future grade level configurations at the school sites along with the enrollment system.

Trustee Ernie Tyhurst, who, along with his colleague Kit Oase, helped with the frame work on the FMP. They’re hoping that the board can benefit by later looking at two or more of the configurations when the time comes to drafting a plan.

The second subcommittee will be counted on reviewing the exploring the impact of housing and financing options.

The third subcommittee will further look at the facility needs of RUSD and the impact of bringing in newcomers.

Sports facilities

The Ripon Community Athletic Foundation continues to work on finally installing an all-weather track at Ripon High’s Stouffer Field.

Since 2007, this non-profit group has held various fundraisers, made use of volunteers, and recognized donors who, according to the mission statement, is looking “to help student and community athletes reach their potential by providing safe and state of the arts facilities to compete and build health lifestyles in.”

Phase 1 is nearing completion.

Ripon Christian High has also been talking facilities, most notably, a 1,500-seat sports complex that will tie in the rest of the on-campus venues.

In April, the Ripon Planning Commission studied conceptual drawings of site plan that also included a 3.65 acre field to accommodate the RC Knights’ football and soccer programs.

No time lines are set as of yet. But folks at RC noted that conceptual drawings could be a major piece for future fundraising efforts.

Continuation high school

RUSD opened the district continuation high school this year, providing help to students who may have fallen behind in their curriculum.

Rather than dropping out, students are now able to make up high school credits crucial to earning their diplomas.

Sergie Samborski was hired as new principal / teacher for the start-up Ripon Continuation High.

New principals

RUSD opened the 2013-14 school year with new leadership in place at Colony Oak and Ripona.

Dante Alvarez was hired as principal of Ripona while Marlon Gayle was brought in as principal for Colony Oak.

Gayle was an assistant principal at Bear Creek High in Stockton. He came aboard shortly after former principal Amie Carter announced that she was leaving RUSD to move with her family to Marin County.

Alvarez, who was principal at Capistrano Elementary School of the Empire Union School District in Modesto, filled the vacancy left when Warren Council retired effective April 26 after 19 years at Ripona.