Tuolumne County elementary schools will welcome four new superintendents for the 2021-22 school year, each with long careers in education throughout the state.
Each of them will face the unique challenges of their communities, but they share in the circumstance of taking over stewardship of districts which faced shutdown and hybrid learning programs in the year prior.
At all schools, masks are required indoors and outdoors for all, even the vaccinated.
As of this week, each of the schools expects to return to full in-person learning.
Tami Beall - Sonora Elementary School District
Beall has roots in Tuolumne County, but only recently moved back to Sonora after years of teaching farther north.
"I've never felt more support as an educator than the support I feel from the county office,” she said. “All the neighboring superintendents have been overwhelmingly positive and welcoming and I'm super appreciative of their support.”
Beall began her education at Twain Harte Elementary School.
She had a largely transitory childhood, she said, because her father was in the Forest Service, and later graduated from Casa Grande High School in Petaluma. From there she joined Humboldt State University and earned her teaching credential there as well.
She's taught at Weed Elementary School in Siskiyou County and Pine Hill Elementary School in Humboldt County, serving as principal at the latter for five years.
After two years as principal at Washington Elementary School in Eureka, she took the job as superintendent of the Sonora Elementary School District now that her youngest child went off to college.
She began the position on July 1.
"I already feel like I'm part of the community. Everyone is welcoming," she said.
Her primary goal is to unify the district team to follow a common mission.
"The families, the students and the community, they can feel that," she said. "It's important we publicize the good things we are doing at our school."
Beall signalled that she would adhere to guidelines from the Board of Trustees and the CDPH to determine if in-person schooling needed to be reexamined. She commended the adaptability of educators in the previous school year, but reinforced that "there's no place like school for our students, making sure the health and safety of our staff is being taken care of."
"You can't replace in-person instruction," she said.
Beall has also indicated that a committee has been established of various district stakeholders to guide the disposition of COVID-19 funds the district received.
Sonora Elementary School begins on Aug. 25.
Sarah Gillum - Columbia Elementary School District
Gillum remembered coming to Columbia State Historic Park as a child from Modesto and envisioning Columbia Elementary as "the most beautiful school."
"I always thought those kids are so lucky,” she said. “All the time I have longingly looked at the school and wanted to work there. We’re all in and we are so, so excited. This is literally my dream come true.”
Gillum grew up in Modesto and earned her Bachelor's degree and teaching credential from Cal State University, Stanislaus. Later, she traveled with her husband to Chile, Cape Verde in Africa, the Republic of the Marshall Islands to teach in various capacities. She has a master's degree in educational administration from the University of the Pacific and is earning her Doctorate.
Gillum has taught at charter schools in Stockton and Keyes, and taught at a public school in Sylvan for one year before being laid off during the 2007-08 school year.
She later taught at St. Stanislaus Parish School in Modesto and was Principal at St. Anne's School in Lodi, and then for five years at Mary Lou Dieterich Elementary in Modesto before taking the job with Columbia Elementary School.
She started on the job on July 12.
"Our motto is, excellence starts here,” she said. “My goal for all of us is to highlight the heart I've already seen.”
She characterized her COVID-19 philosophy as "keep keeping-on," noting that previous assumptions about the pandemic receding away may have been premature.
"My bottom line, the number one thing I’m concerned about is student safety," she said. "I can’t see the virus and I’m certainly not a doctor or virologist, so I will absolutely listen to all the CDPH recommendations."
She indicated that the district budget was "doing well," and expected coverage for the upcoming year.
"I just really want our entire community to see the heart of Columbia," she said.
Columbia Elementary School begins on Aug. 30.
Gabe Wingo - Twain Harte Elementary School District
Wingo will not be an unfamiliar face among staff at Twain Harte Elementary School, having served as their principal for the last four years.
"I am excited for the coming school year and look forward to continuing to work with our families, staff and students to improve the educational opportunities for our students in our district," he said in an email.
Wingo is a graduate of Twain Harte Elementary School, Summerville High School and Columbia College. He received a bachelor's degree from Manchester University in North Manchester, Indiana, and a master's degree in education from CSU Stanislaus.
He taught at Soledad Unified School District for two years, Soulsbyville Elementary for nine years, was assistant principal at Soulsbyville School for one year and was principal at Twain Harte Elementary School since 2017.
"We plan to continue to provide the quality instruction needed to improve academic achievement while increasing our support systems to provide the necessary academic, behavioral, and social/emotional support our students need at this time," he said. "We plan to continue to provide the quality instruction needed to improve academic achievement while increasing our support systems to provide the necessary academic, behavioral, and social/emotional support our students need at this time," he said.
Wingo said he was committed to in-person instruction throughout the pandemic.
"We will continue this focus as we follow CDPH requirements and work with TCPH to develop the necessary COVID-19 policies to maintain the health and safety of our students, staff, and community," he said.
Twain Harte Elementary begins on Aug. 23.
Dawn Mori - Curtis Creek Elementary School District
Mori left her position as director of special education in Sylvan Union School District to come to Tuolumne County.
"I am honored to have the opportunity to begin working with the highly dedicated staff in the Curtis Creek School District,” she said. “During my time on campus I have already witnessed dedicated staff members hard at work preparing for the next school year.”
In an email, Mori said she was looking forward to a "fantastic year" at Curtis Creek.
She said her work in education administration includes the roles of assistant principal, principal, director of alternative and special education, director of student services, and director of special education in elementary and high school settings. She has taught in Lassen and Calaveras counties.
"Right now my plans are to settle in and continue to get to know and work with the dedicated staff in Curtis Creek,” she said. “I know we are going to do amazing things.”
Mori acknowledged the "unique challenges" posed by COVID-19 and indicated her plan to monitor those changes and make plans accordingly.
Curtis Creek Elementary begins on August 18.
Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 588-4526.