By Paul Myers
FARMERSVILLE – Farmersville’s new superintendent has some big, albeit familiar shoes to fill.
Farmersville Unified is under new direction now that superintendent Randy Degraw has left the district. Filling in the seat now is the former Assistant Superintendent Dr. Paul Sevillano. His goal is to keep doing what is working. And what is working right now is Hester Elementary’s dual language program.
“This closes the gaps for English learners over time, about five to six years,” Sevillano said.
Dr. Sevillano said the learning materials and assessments are 80% in Spanish and 20% in English. The goal is for students to develop literacy in both English and Spanish while demonstrating high levels of academic achievement. Farmersville’s new superintendent has implemented dual language programs before when he was superintendent of Baldwin Park School District in Southern California.
Farmersville Unified is also excited about their GATE program. GATE is a program funded by the California Department of Education for local school district to develop opportunities for high-achieving and underachieving pupils in elementary and secondary schools.
Dr. Sevillano says the Gifted and Talented Education Program has shown strong student progress.
“Student’s benefit from this program in all areas…Students that want to hone their skill to a higher level, we give them the opportunity to elevate their skills in a project-based environment,” Dr. Sevillano said.
He says that as he begins his new endeavor at the head of the district, he has the support of the community and the school district.
“We have a very supportive Board of Education that has the best for our students in mind,” Dr. Sevillano said. And that support will come in handy as several top positions have shifted all over the district.
Former Deep Creek Academy principal, Emily Coop is succeeding Lisa Whitworth as Farmersville High School’s principal. Under Coop, Farmersville Unified promoted athletic director Chris Sanchez to assistant principal. The District also promoted Erica Dela Cruz from assistant principal at Farmersville Junior High School to principal at Deep Creek, and brought in Dr. Dannette Bryson from Delhi Unified School District just south of Turlock to be principal at Farmersville Junior High School.
Not to mention, Dr. Sevillano has simply absorbed the roles of the superintendent into his role and opted to hire Jeff Wimp as Director of Personnel instead of another assistant superintendent.
Despite all the changing faces and leadership, Dr. Sevillano believes things are stable around the District.
“I don’t constitute this as a lot of change…these promotions were well deserved for these folks,” Dr. Sevillano said. “We have a positive district culture and it is supportive for all the work we are doing here.”
Dr. Sevillano noted that there is normally some anxiety when leadership changes hands, particularly after Degraw’s 35-year stay at the District. But he said that his time at Farmersville has helped him create some important relationships that have led to stability. And Farmersville will have at least three years of consistency as the Board offered him a 3-year deal.
“There is some stability. I was offered a 3-year contract so I’ll have been here for five years by the end of it,” Dr. Sevillano said.
Over the last two years he has been improving on his experience from Southern California, where the majority of his career took place. Although he did not walk in trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
“I look at it as, ‘what are they doing well in Farmersville and how can we build on it’,” Dr. Sevillano said.
Making his transition smoother over the last two school years have been the parents of Farmersville. Dr. Sevillano says their Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE) has been a pleasant surprise in terms of participation.
“We have great parents. They are wanting to be more involved with our students,” Dr. Sevillano said.
Their last PIQE event had 300 parents involved.