May 2, 2018

Signing day for inaugural Hillside School Staff

‘Signing day’ held for inaugural staff of Chawanakee Unified’s newest school in southeastern Madera County

MADERA COUNTY, CA — Today the inaugural staff of Chawanakee Unified’s newest school signed their official contracts to serve students and families at Hillside Elementary School.  Similar to national signing day for athletes, the seven new members signed their contracts and donned Hillside shirts.  Planned to open in August for the 2018-19 school year in the Tesoro Viejo master-planned community, Hillside Elementary School is the district’s third transitional kindergarten through 8th grade school.

“This is an exciting day as we welcome this talented group of professionals to the Chawanakee Unified family,” said Chawanakee Unified School District Superintendent Darren Sylvia.  “We have assembled a talented team that has the passion and experience to deliver an outstanding education for our students.”

Hillside Elementary School will have a strong focus on science and technology.  Students will benefit from the district’s technology program where students have access to a dual-platform program equipped with iPads, Chromebooks, and MacBook air computers.  Hillside will feature a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum, as well as a college and career exploration program that gives students an opportunity to learn about careers in the medical field and biotechnologies.  The school will feature state-of-the-art facilities, including a library/media center, music room, outdoor learning spaces, and athletic facilities with gymnasium.

“With this team, we are building an instructional program with tech-based and app-based instruction for the basics, direct instruction for new concepts and skills, and project-based, hands-on learning for application,” said Hillside Elementary School Principal Jared Pierce.

Because the school is opening well ahead of families moving into Tesoro Viejo, students will be coming from other areas in the district, as well as from surrounding districts.  The anticipated opening day enrollment of 80 students will be served by four teachers who will teach combination classes – transitional kindergarten -1st grade, grades 2-3, grades 4-5, and grades 6-8.  As the population of the school increases, more teachers will be hired to meet the needs of the community.

Chawanakee Unified is an award-winning school district, serving 1,200 students in eastern Madera County at seven schools and prides itself in delivering a rigorous educational program in a small learning environment with a student-teacher ratio of 25 students to one teacher.  The district has a strong tradition of excellence with a focus on project-based learning to be sure students can demonstrate mastery of skills.

“Project-based learning is meant to be unscripted when done right, and planning is key in order for students to produce unique outcomes – something our new instructional team understands,” Pierce said. “For students, this means deeper learning and most importantly, lots of fun.”

Situated at the foot of Little Table Mountain, Tesoro Viejo is an award-winning, 1,600-acre master-planned community located in southeastern Madera County.  The community will be a vibrant hub with a walkable town center, a Madera County fire station, Madera County Sheriff substation, schools, and 400 acres of permanently preserved natural open space, parks, recreational areas and miles of trails. Tesoro Viejo was designed to be the heart of economic growth with 3 million square feet of non-residential opportunities for commercial, retail, professional office and light industrial.  Recognized for its innovative design and sustainable living, the community is approved for up to 5190 homes in nine walkable, residential villages.

“Because of its unique location with access to the community’s natural resources, Hillside students will have opportunities to learn in an ‘outdoor classroom’ environment, interacting with the community’s natural landscape,” Pierce said.  “Hillside was planned to be a central piece of Tesoro Viejo’s culture. Miles of walking and biking paths will provide students the opportunity to safely walk or ride to school.”

Hillside Elementary School Inaugural Staff

Jared Pierce – Principal – Mr. Pierce is an exceptional leader who has extensive school leadership experience and a passion that is unmatched. He has been a classroom teacher, assistant principal and principal at two elementary schools.  His innovation and collaborative leadership will serve the Hillside community well.

Samantha Alvarez, teacher – Ms. Alvarez began her teaching career in Sanger Unified in 2014 after her graduation from the Fresno State credential program.  While at Sanger, she was the grade level lead in her Professional Learning Community at Sanger Academy.  In 2017 she moved to Yosemite USD and is a first grade teacher.

Amalia Cutts, teacher – Ms. Cutts is a graduate of Fresno Pacific University, with a Bachelor and Masters degree in education.  She began her teaching career in Kingsburg and was there for five years before moving to Mendota in 2017.  She has also been a Professional Learning Community Lead teacher and brings a wealth of knowledge, and technical skills to Hillside Elementary.

Kristi DeBernardi, teacher – Ms. DeBernardi is a graduate of the Fresno State credential program and also has an Administrative Services credential.  She has assisted in developing a hybrid classroom model to assist struggling students, and she is currently the Lead Teacher in a program that has students from K-8 grade.

Brooklynn Fuson, teacher – Ms. Fuson is a graduate of the Cal State San Marcos school of education and in her second year of teaching.  She brings excellent teaching skills to Hillside and an abundance of energy.  According to her current principal, Brooklynn tries new ideas that strengthens student learning and improves her own teaching skills.

Lisa Lorenzana – Hillside School Secretary – Ms. Lorenzana brings seven years of school site experience and has excellent rapport with parents, students, and staff.  She will help build a school culture that welcomes every person who walks in the door.

Baltazar Mata – Custodian — Mr. Baltazar has worked within Chawanakee USD for the past two years and has done an outstanding job.  He is a professional in his work ethic, his pride in doing the best job possible, and in his working relationship with all staff.


CONTACT:  Samantha Bauer, 559.977.8196

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