Photo by Nancy Forrest — Atascadero Unified School District welcomes new teachers and other employees to the district during a luncheon Aug. 22 at the district office. Joining the district are, pictured from left, front row, Annie Sharp, Terry Hardman, Denise Winslow, Emilie Holzer, Laurie Tonegato, Jenny Cruz, Debra Kusick, Rebecca Lilley and Tonya DeRose, back row, Kibbe Rubin, Jeff Vose and Matthew Pauls.
Atascadero Unified School District welcomed 15 new certificated and classified employees to the district for the fall semester during a special luncheon at the district office Aug. 22.
The district expects to hire an additional six instructional aides. AUSD Trustees Donn Clickard, Tami Gunther and George Galvan joined Superintendent John Rogers and principals from throughout the district in welcoming the new employees to the district.
Debra Kusick is one of six certificated employees who will join the district this fall. Kusick will serve as a psychology intern at the Learning Center. She is currently completing a master’s degree in school psychology at California State University, Fresno and will serve in her new post with the district for one year.
Kusick is filling in for district psychologist Tara Grant, who will remain on maternity leave until January, said Robin Merrill, AUSD human resources coordinator for certificated personnel.
Kusick said she was excited about her new post and the opportunity to significantly impact the quality of education for children facing a variety of challenges.
“What I like best about what I do is collaborating with other professionals and making a difference for children,” she said. “Much of what I will be doing is working with special education students and consulting with teachers so every student gets the best out of education.”
During the luncheon, Atascadero Junior High School principal Kirk Smith introduced Emilie Holzer, who will teach mathematics at the Lewis Avenue campus beginning in the fall.
Newcomer Jenny Cruz will teach third through sixth grade combination at Carrisa Plains School. Kibbe Rubin joins the district as a fifth-grade teacher at San Gabriel Road Elementary School and Laurie Tonegato will teach second grade at Creston Elementary School.
Denise Winslow will serve as district school nurse at Atascadero High School and will work closely with Mitzi O’Rourke, AUSD coordinator of health and safety. The two nursing professionals will provide nursing services to district students as needed.
Matthew Pauls was among nine classified employees to be hired by the district beginning in the fall. Pauls will serve as a computer technician in the district’s technology services department after having previously served as a summer worker for the district while he was a student at Atascadero High School. In his new post, Pauls will help district employees solve their technology problems, ranging from simple tasks such as getting a printer operating properly to more complex tasks related to fiber optics, he said.
“Matthew was a terrific student summer worker and he did such a good job that we hired him,” said Peggi Carscaden, AUSD human resources coordinator for classified personnel. “It’s nice when you have a great summer student worker because they know the equipment and the programs, especially at the high school, and they already have a great deal of on-the-job experience. We’re glad to have him here.”
Pauls said he works with computers as hobby in his spare time and now will be paid for doing what he loves to do. While attending AHS, he completed two years of instruction in computer service and repair.
“The best part of my new job as computer technician is working with a lot of great people,” he said. “I’ve worked with the district as a summer intern for several years and sometimes during the school year as well. I’m happy to be working for the district.”
Annie Sharp will assume the post of assistant director of support services for transportation and regulatory compliance in the district’s transportation services department as the district reconfigures its bus schedules and implements changes in bus service.
Sharp, who comes to the school district from San Luis Coastal Unified School District, said she has appreciated the warm welcome she has received since arriving at AUSD and noted she looks forward to working closely with colleagues in the district, as well as families whose children ride the bus to school.
Jeff Vose will serve as maintenance trades worker in the district’s maintenance and operations department. Rebecca Lilley joins the district and will serve as administrative secretary for the district’s special services department. Tonya DeRose will serve as a clerical assistant for Associated Study Body accounts at AJHS.
Terry Hardman and Debbie Cooper are new custodians hired by the district. Hardman will serve at San Benito Road Elementary and Del Rio Continuation school campuses and Cooper at Carrisa Plains School. Administrators at each of the schools said their respective campuses have never looked better due largely to the hard work and preparation by Hardman and Cooper.
Joni Payton is one of seven special circumstances instructional aides expected to join the district this year. She will serve at Santa Rosa Academic Academy and the district is expected to fill an additional six positions prior to the start of the school year.
The district has conducted several interviews and continues forward with the selection process for potential employees, Merrill said.
This year, the district will have 312 teachers at school campuses, Merrill said. The district hired 26 new teachers last year but, due to state budget constraints, is hiring fewer teachers this year, Merrill said.
“Because the district offered retirement incentives, there were a lot more retirements,” she said.
During the luncheon, Rogers said the district has been a wonderful place for him and other educators to grow and progress within the profession.
AUSD human resources director Kimberley Spinks agreed with Rogers and said that she too has progressed from high school physical education teacher to high school principal before assuming her current post in July. She said she considers AUSD to be the best district in SLO County and the state and she encouraged the employees to become involved in activities with the district and make it their home.
“Atascadero is a wonderful place to live and work because people in the community care about each other and are very supportive of children and education,” she said. “I can’t think of a better place to work. The community is not interested in the status quo. They always want us to raise the bar.”