Winters educators receive funding for professional development

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Photo by Crystal Apilado/Winters Express

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The Winters Joint Unified School Board approved a grant to fund teacher education opportunities and approved construction plans for the Measure W bond project at their meeting on Dec. 16.

Due to COVID, there has been an influx of one-time funding opportunities for school boards. Phoebe Girmonte, Assistant Superintendent/Director of Educational Services, presented a plan for such funding dedicated to staff development at the Nov. 16 meeting. Winters Joint Unified School District will focus their funding on three of the possible areas identified by the state: mentoring for new teachers, language acquisition programs, and “positive school climate.”

The district earmarked the majority of the funds in the Educator Effectiveness Block Grant — $312,000 to be spent over five years — for coaching and mentorship programs. With 19 new teachers across the district this year, Winters JUSD is focusing on “induction” for first and second year teachers.

“This year we have what I call a ‘bumper crop’ of new teachers,” said Girimonte. She said that investment in early-career training will help improve teacher retention rates. 

“By partnering (new teachers) with a local mentor who understands their school site and understands the challenges that they are facing and well-poised to support them,” teachers are more likely to stay in Winters, said Girmonte. 

In addition, the plan dedicates approximately $7,500 dollars per year for further training on teaching English as a second language. Nearly 400 students across the district are language learners, said Girmonte. 

Roughly the same amount will go towards implementing Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS) training. PBIS is a a prevention-based strategy to promote good behavior at school. Rather than relying on punishments to improve behavior, PBIS primarily relies on teaching students expectations 

“Right now we’re really seeing that students need to re-learn the expectations of school after two years of interrupted learning,” said Girmonte. “PBIS is a researched backed way to do that.” 

Responding to a board member question, Girmonte clarified that teachers may use the funds to attend trainings they found themselves as well. 

Trustees approved Educator Effectiveness Block Grant supplemental funds in the amount of $387,567. Any funds not expended by June 30, 2026, must be returned to the California Department of Education.

School construction plans
Trustees unanimously approved conceptual plans for bond-funded construction at Waggoner Elementary and Winters High schools at the Nov. 18 meeting. 

Mary Fitzpatrick, Senior Project Manager with Van Pelt Construction Services, and Brian Whitmore, President & CEO, Studio W Architects, presented the conceptual plans.

The kindergarten building will be across from the existing multipurpose building. The plan also includes a new playground to be constructed behind the kindergarten building.

Fitzpatrick confirmed that the WHS security camera project was completed and is in full operation.

A bid is out for the high school gym floor replacement project. Fitzpatrick said they anticipate brining a bid back to Trustees for approval at the Feb. 3. meeting.

At the high school, the Measure W project funds a 2007 plan for the Music Facility and Pool Legacy Project was approved to move forward using Measure W Bond funds. The original legacy project’s momentum to continue had been disrupted over the years due to multiple occurrences, including the pandemic.

Trustees heard an update to the agreement with Studio W Architects on Dec. 16. Fitzpatrick said all parties agreed to amend the agreement to cover the scope of services and fee for the approved projects to move forward. Under the proposed Amendment No. 001 to the Agreement, Studio W Architects will perform the services for the legacy project in exchange for a fee of $391,143.

Crystal Apilado contributed to this article.

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