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Four assistant principals named for local schools

  • July 17, 2012

By Maddy Houk

Toney Henry, Sara Michelena and Juan Navarro will assist the principals at Creekside Middle, Apricot Valley Elementary and Walnut Grove schools, and Sandra Villasenor will divide her time between Las Palmas and Northmead elementary schools.

Henry is taking the place of Candetta Holdren, who left the district, while Michelena, Navarro and Villasenor are filling positions that were eliminated by budget cuts a few years ago and now with those positions being paid by federal categorical funds. .

Steve Menge, the district’s assistant superintendent of administrative services, said the school board and district leaders agreed on the assistant principals’ value in the everyday running of the schools.

“We looked at things and said to ourselves, ‘You are not helping the kids,’” Menge said. “The assistant principals are needed to help the principals with safety, discipline and help with after-school programs.”

• As assistant principal of curriculum at Creekside, Henry will work on curriculum projects and with special-education students.

Henry has worked in education the past 18 years, including seven years in the local district. She taught at Northmead from 2002 to 2005 before moving with her family to Louisiana. Upon her return to Patterson, she taught special-education students at Apricot Valley from 2008 to 2010. The past two years, she was an instructional coach at Las Palmas.

Henry obtained her teaching credential and master’s degree in special education from Chapman University and her administrative credential from California State University, Stanislaus. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at California State University, East Bay.

“By being an assistant principal, it gives me the opportunity to help students build their self esteem,” Henry said. “I’m going to be providing them with the tools to help them make better decisions in the future. “

She and her husband have two sons who attend Patterson schools.

• Michelena, the new Apricot Valley assistant principal, is part of a team of educators that received a $34,000 professional development grant last year for local teachers to promote college awareness.

Her 12 years of teaching were all in Patterson, the first 11 of them as a kindergarten teacher at Northmead. During the 2011-12 school year, she was an instructional reading coach at Apricot Valley.

“I always say I was born at Northmead and moved on to Apricot,” Michelena said.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in liberal studies at California State University, Chico, and her teaching credential at St. Mary’s College in Moraga. She received her administrative credential from CSU Stanislaus.

Michelena lives in Turlock with her husband, a Modesto Junior College soccer coach. During the summer, the couple runs a soccer camp for children.

• Navarro has been employed by the local school district for 12 of his 15 years in education. Nine of those years were at Las Palmas and three at Walnut Grove, where he will be assistant principal as of July 1.

He began his career as a teacher’s aide in Turlock, where he lives.

Navarro obtained a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies and a teaching credential from CSU Stanislaus, where he is completing work toward a master’s degree in education with an emphasis in educational leadership and an administrative credential.

When Navarro taught at Las Palmas, he was one of the first school employees to work on getting grants for an after-school program there.

Navarro and his wife, who also teaches in the district, have been married 21 years and have four children.

• Villasenor, who will divide her time between Las Palmas and Northmead, has been involved in education for 18 years. She started her career in Fremont Unified School District and moved to Patterson Unified 10 years ago. During the past six years, she was an instructional coach and English-learner coordinator for children in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Villasenor has volunteered with Patterson Recognizing Individuals Determined to Excel, a local scholarship fundraising group, for the past decade.

She has an administrative credential from CSU Stanislaus and received a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from National University. She earned her bachelor’s degree in early-childhood development and her teaching credential at California State University, Fresno.

Villasenor said she wanted local students’ achievement to keep advancing.

“We’re going to continue on the same course, continuing with what the schools are already doing — just moving them forward in academic achievement and different strategies already in place.

Villasenor has two children in Patterson schools, the elder at Patterson High School and the younger at Walnut Grove.

“I’m very excited to be in the (assistant principal) position and to be able to help the schools and the district,” she said.


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