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Ripon Unified boasts parity
Schools, old & new, perform well on state test
COLONYOAK6 8-30-13
Interim Ripon Unified Superintendent Bill Draa, left, and Colony Oaks new principal Marlon Gayle share a laugh at Colony Oaks Back to School Night on Thursday - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

When Bill Draa stepped in and took over the reins at Ripon Unified School District he hit the ground running.

The building industry that was once booming is poised to make a comeback. A new development on the outskirts of the community is expected to provide an influx of students as early as January.

And that means that Draa – the retired Banta Elementary School District Superintendent that agreed to fill the same role in Ripon on an interim basis when Louise Johnson left for a post in the foothills – is readying the district for a new era.

But he won’t have much work to do when it comes to ensuring that the district is up to the standards set forth by the State of California.

On Thursday the district received its grade when the 2013 Academic Performance Index was released, and once again the district scored above the 800-point threshold considered as top marks by administrators.

The district slipped in some areas, and Ripona Elementary even fell below the 800-point mark – the only elementary school in the district to do so.

That doesn’t discourage Draa, who picked up where he left off at Banta – which was preparing to incorporate the massive River Islands development in Lathrop into the relatively rural district.

“There’s quite a bit of growth on the horizon with housing developments that are going to add students to our district, and that is prompting us to talk about the future of education at Ripon Unified and where we want to take it,” Draa said. “But one of the things that I’ve noticed about Ripon is that there’s parity among the schools. The facilities themselves will never be equal – some are older than others and some will have things that others will not.

“But parents know that when they move to Ripon, regardless of which of the five schools their child ends up going to, they’re going to receive a good education. I think that says a lot about how we function as a district, and the reputation that Ripon Unified has.”

On Thursday, just as the API numbers were released, Draa was floating between a pair of back-to-school nights at two elementary schools. While he wasn’t necessarily surprised to find the overwhelming involvement of parents in their children’s education, it did catch him somewhat off-guard – especially when Parent-Teacher Clubs were talking about the various fundraisers they were holding to make sure that programs and offerings weren’t being cut.

“They (parents) understand immediately what has been going on with the budget and the hits that they’ve taken in the last several years,” he said. “They take a great amount of pride in their schools and are willing to come together to make sure that students get everything that they need.”