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Phelps is interim Ripon Elementary principal
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Interim Ripon Elementary School Principal Dana Phelps. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

There’s a new face at Ripon Elementary School – Interim Principal Dana Phelps.
Phelps learned she had the position at Ripon Elementary in November. She stepped into the office with Principal Mike Larson for three weeks prior to the Christmas break to learn more about her new school – having already spent Wednesdays at Ripon Elementary in an internship capacity during the year.
The new principal was hired by Ripon Unified in 1994. She taught second grade for six years at Ripona School before switching to the second and first grade levels. 
Hoping to move to Colony Oak when she was expecting her youngest child, she asked to be able to job share with another teacher, Lori Risconi. It allowed her to continue teaching while staying home half days with her small children.  She said she continued in the job share program until Brett went to kindergarten and then she went back to full-time status in a Colony Oak classroom.
While teaching at Colony Oak, she said then Principal Mary Lou Kahl instilled her desire to become a principal.  She also credited Teachers’ Workshop instructor Kathy DeJong for helping inspire her teaching. Phelps said she is planning similar social programs that Colony has employed such as Muffins for Moms, Grandparents’ Day and Donuts for Dads. 
“It is so important to have the community involved,” she said.
Phelps said Ripon Elementary is planning community partnerships this year.  They will include the Ripon Library and Heartland Community Church across Main Street from the school campus.  Chris Feichtmeir, grandson of longtime Ripon Mayor Ed Feichtmeir, represents the church.  He comes over to Ripon Elementary every Friday at the noon recess and plays basketball with the kids on the black top for an hour.
He is also helping in the unpacking and setting up the “Make Your Space Lab” program with an emphasis on Robotics at the school, she added.
Ripon Elementary School has joined the other schools in the district in the Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS), Phelps said, noting that each school is doing something different in the program through an integrated, comprehensive framework that focuses on instruction, differentiated learning, student-centered learning, individualized student needs and the alignment of systems necessary for all students’ academic, behavioral and social successes.
At her school the staff is stressing the importance of being respectful, responsible and safe to the whole school family.  In a recognition of interventions, MTSS is helping the more emotional students, she explained. 
“We try to help those kids with a check-in and check-out system at the beginning and at the end of the school day, asking if they have had their breakfast that morning and asking how their day is going as they leave for home,” Phelps said.
“We have so many awesome things happening in Ripon and MTSS is just one component of that,” she noted.  “I try to make myself visible on the playground and throughout the school and get to know the kids and their parents by name.
“Mike Larson was always very visible,” she said of her predecessor.
“When I am in the cafeteria at lunch time the kids always come up to me and say hello,” she said, welcoming the fact they want to do that.
Growing up in Manteca she fondly remembers her third grade teacher, Patty Munoz, as her favorite in at Nile Garden School where Bill Whiteside was the principal at the time.
“When we came in from recess we would pick a card from the money tree and answer a question to earn play money which we could use in class and she created a culture of thinkers in developing future leaders,” she said.
Phelps and her husband Jed have three children, two girls and a boy.  Kate, 17, who is interested in science, Emma is 14 and Brett, 13, who hopes to go into farming.
Her husband’s mother was a teacher with the Humpty Dumpty Preschool in Manteca at the Lindbergh School site. 

To contact Glenn Kahl, email