Four new administrators have joined the district that covers Mountain House and the community of Lammersville as assistant superintendent, principal and vice principals.
Khushwinder Gill will oversee all development and support for Lammerville after serving as principal of Kelly School in the Tracy Unified District from 2008 to the end of the 2011-12 school year.
While she misses her former post, the new role has Gill excited.
“I do miss my students at Kelly, because they were so great to me,” she said. “When you are an educator, the focus is on the kids. This gives me an opportunity to help kids everywhere at the district level.”
Leading at Lammersville
Gill’s role is vast. The district is seeing rising school populations as more homes are sold in Mountain House, and a new $96 million high school is projected to open in the community in June 2014.
“You have to be patient by listening to what people what and what they need,” she said. “I try to touch as many lives as I can by meeting people in the schools. You can only service the students if you meet the staff, parents and students and know their needs.”
A district-wide issue that Gill will monitor is the health and fitness of students.
While at Kelly School, she received the Principal of the Year gold medal for the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Spotlight.
She has already encouraged students in Lammersville Unified to begin gardens on school campuses.
She also will concentrate on the safety of staff, students and visitors at all district campuses.
“Everyone needs to feel safe at school, because it’s a place of learning where bad things shouldn’t happen,” she said. “I want to create positive relationships and take the district to the next level by meeting the academic needs of the students and support them with things like desks and supplies.”
Other new hires in the district include administrators at Wicklund, Questa and Bethany schools, which educate kindergarten through eighth-grade students.
During the summer of 2009, Chantell Tarver, a Mountain House resident, said that when she saw an opening at Bethany Elementary for a vice principal, she “jumped all over it.”
“It was great, because it’s right here where I live,” she said. “I went right for it, and I’m so happy I did.”
After three years in the school district, Tarver has ascended the ranks to become principal of Wicklund. Since 2009, she has split time as vice principal at Wicklund, Bethany and Questa elementary schools, and says the experience has prepared her for her new top role.
“I love the diversity and culture that our community and district have,” said the 35-year-old. “I’ve been groomed here, and it’s exciting to grow with the staff.”
Tarver — who has a passion for bilingual education — is helping spearhead a new district effort to centralize special education classes, with Wicklund being chosen as the first site.
She also established a Professional Learning Committee, which includes teachers at Wicklund, to define the school’s goals, values, vision and mission.
“We want the school to have direction — where are we going and how are we going to get there,” Tarver said.
A self-proclaimed advocate for attendance, Tarver said she started “A+ Attendance” program as a “positive competition” among grades. Each month, the class with the best attendance gets to display a celebratory banner and gas an ice-cream party with Tarver.
“Our attendance is awesome,” she said. “It’s so important to reach these kids and teach them the importance of going to class and learning.”
Questa, Bethany vice principal
Michael Bunch was hired by the Lammersville school district in 2005 to teach at Wickland Elementary. Since becoming an educator in 2004 in Southern California, where he was a substitute and a middle school football coach, Bunch said, "I knew I wanted to be an administrator pretty early on, because I had undertaken leadership roles in previous jobs."
He chose Lammersville because "I like the small district and its potential for growth."
His new role includes serving as vice principal for Questa and Bethany schools.
"I like the community and the notion of being in an area where I feel like I can impact policy change," he said. "It's not so developed that shaping the community is no longer an option. I consciously didn't seek administrative jobs in other districts because I knew that, as we grew as a district, there is a lot of potential here."
Bunch said the biggest challenge has been simply fitting into his new role. His colleagues have already asked what kind of administrator he will be.
"I thought it was an awkward question, and my response, and I stand by this, was, 'I don't actually know how to do it, so I'll have to get back to you,'" he said. "I also told them that I ably know how to be myself, and to be anything other than that would be so disingenuous that people would see right though that."
As a leader in the community, Bunch said he will maintain an open-door policy so he can connect with students, staff and parents.
With most of his teaching experience at the middle school level, Bunch is enjoying the difference in attitudes with elementary school students.
"When I come to work, it's all about the sheer joy the young kids get when they finally get something or they know they've done a task well," he said. "It's pure. And it's still new to me, so it's very exciting."
Wicklund vice principal
Jennifer Tilton joined Wicklund Elementary as vice principal after serving in the same capacity at a high school in San Ramon.
She began her education career with a small district, and said that experience attracted her to the smaller Lammersville district.
"I think it’s because there is a family atmosphere here, and you really get to connect with your staff," she said. "You get to know your students and their families, and the families at other schools because it's small and we all work together."
Tilton, a Livermore resident, said she is in continual contact with other administrators as she gets comfortable in her new role. Meeting with her staff has also been a priority.
"We consult with each other and work together to maintain consistency between all the schools," she said. "A lot of my staff have been here a long time, so I'm trying to meet with them and learn about the school and the district, where they've come from and where we want them to go."
Tilton also wants to provide new technologies for teachers in the classroom so "they can provide new and exciting ways to teach the kids."
The feedback Tilton receives will help her make such decisions.
"I very much like to have everyone's input and make everyone feel like they have a voice at the school," she said. "I like to talk with all the different groups and even the students, so I know what they need and how I can support them."
WHAT: Assistant superintendent of educational services, Lammersville School District
EDUCATION: Bachelor degree in home economics from Punjab Agricultural University in India, as well as a master’s in clothing and textiles; master’s degree in education, administration and administration credential and a doctorate degree in education administration and leadership from the University of Pacific.
WHAT: Principal, Wicklund Elementary
EDUCATION: Earned a bachelor degree in elementary education with a minor in Spanish from Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta. Also received a master’s degree in education leadership from Kennesaw State University in Georgia.
WHAT: Vice principal, Wicklund Elementary School
EDUCATION: Bachelor degree from California State University, Chico, in liberal studies and a masters’ in education and administrative credential from Chapman University in Orange County.
WHAT: Vice principal, Bethany and Questa elementary schools
EDUCATION: Bachelor degree in history from California State University, Los Angeles. Received a master’s degree in education leadership and his administrative credential from University of the Pacific and is working on a doctorate in education at UOP.