Most Viewed Stories
Back to school arrived Monday for students and teachers at Glenn County's oldest school.
While there was a little grumbling from a few third-grade boys on the Plaza Elementary School playground, when the morning bell rang most of the students had big smiles on their faces as eagerly made their way to the classrooms.
If anything was amiss, it was first day of school jitters stemming from the unknown.
"I'm excited to go back to school, but I'm scared the fourth grade is going to be harder," said Bailee Elkin, 8.
Of course, most of Bailee's information about grade advancement has come from her brother, Hunter, now a Plaza sixth-grader, so Bailee plans to embrace the challenge of Jennifer Limberg's class without a preconceived notion.
Plaza Elementary is Glenn County's highest-performing school based API scores, the cornerstone of California's Public Schools Accountability Act of 1999, which measures the academic performance and growth of schools on a variety of academic measures.
Plaza not only met the state's 800 API score target years ago, but has well surpassed it at 880, based on 2011 test results.
Educators use the scores to gauge how well schools and districts are performing academically.
Parents use it for bragging rights, as well they should, according to Plaza Superintendent Grant Sandro.
"Those scores have a lot to do with the parents," Sandro said. "Our parents are committed to sending their children to school ready to learn," Sandro said.
Plaza is quite unique in that the 147-year-old school — in the middle of farming country outside Orland — has taught many of the same families for six generations.
"I went to Plaza with most of the parents in my son's class," said Lisa Garcia, who dropped off son Daniel at Martha Bradshaw's kindergarten class. "That is what I like about Plaza. It's a small community, and we're like a big family."
Sandro said much of the school's success is due to a staff of veteran teachers, which make things a little easier since he is only at the school two days a week.
The retired administrator has filled in six times as superintendent, and, until this year, performed the same duty at Lake Elementary School.
Cuts in education funding have taken its toll across the state, and even Glenn County's best academically performing school isn't immune.
The school has lost three important teacher aide positions, and it is unknown it if will ever again have a full-time superintendent and principal, Sandro said.
Budget impacts, however, were lost on students as they watch their parents sign their names to a list of potential classroom volunteers, with many willing to help out whenever and wherever they can.
While the school has no new teachers and staff this year, Glenn County Office of Education special education instructor Cquenaya Zorrilla-Reddam was excited the first day of school about her job expanding from providing service to a few grades to the entire school.
Zorrilla-Reddam provides service to students with physical and mental disabilities, a job she said it rewarding, especially at Plaza, were the staff and students are exceptional, she said.
"I get to meet new people, new challenges and new kids," Zorrilla-Reddam said. "There are a lot of great things going on in this school and wonderful teachers, which makes it kind of neat."
Although most Plaza students trotted off the school bus or jump from a car with a wave to parents, a few on Monday brought mom, dads or both by their hands into classrooms.
Volunteers provided coffee and doughnuts to parents who chose to linger a while as their children settled in.
Garcia said she expected her son to be a bit shy and nervous at first, but knows he will be fine by the end of the day and used to his new surroundings.
The first day of kindergarten is more traumatic for her, she said, even though Daniel is her fourth (and last) child to start school at Plaza Elementary.
"It never gets any easier," Garcia said with a tear.
CONTACT Susan Meeker at 934-6800 or email@example.com.