New leaders

Jim Johnson, Rebekah Rocha and Deborah Bertoloucci are preparing for next year at the Geyserville Unified School District.

New superintendent, 2 new principals

With summer in full swing and the new school year fast approaching, schools everywhere are a hub of preparation and activity. This is especially true for schools in Geyserville, which attracts a number of Cloverdale students to its small campuses. A lot of change has recently taken place.

Jim Johnson

Interim Superintendent

This past year, the Geyserville Unified School District was greatly saddened by the loss of long-time superintendent Joe Carnation, who served schools in Sonoma County for more than 57 years. Fortunately for the district, however, Carnation knew just the man to take his place.

“Joe and I were friends for years; we worked together many years ago,” said Jim Johnson, interim superintendent at GUSD. “When Joe got sick, he called me up and asked if I’d like to come out of retirement to help. I said, ‘Sure,’ but when I went to meet with him the next day, Joe wasn’t there. He had had a heart attack.”

After Carnation died, Johnson took over as interim superintendent and agreed to stay into the following year. Johnson himself has been a middle and high school teacher in numerous locations — including the Hoopa Indian Reservation, Eureka, Denair, Anderson Valley and Saratoga — as well as been involved with school administration since he graduated from Humboldt University in 1972. When Johnson’s wife was diagnosed with cancer several years ago, the couple decided to go into early retirement at their home in Elk, in Mendocino County, to enjoy what time they thought they had left together. Thankfully, Johnson’s wife eventually beat the cancer while Johnson’s enthusiasm for education remained the same. “I really enjoy being around kids. It’s energizing — there’s always a lot going on.”

Looking forward, Johnson is excited about the coming school year. He has a number of goals, including staying connected with the community and encouraging local students to attend Geyserville schools. “A number of local students choose to attend larger schools elsewhere. We’d like to change this. We want students to feel comfortable coming to our schools and know that they’re getting a great education in a private-like setting. You won’t get as much personal attention from teachers at larger schools. You just won’t.”

Deborah Bertolucci,

principal at New Tech Academy

A new superintendent isn’t the only change Geyserville is going to see this year. At the middle and high school level, long time principal Katherine Hadden retired at the end of last year. In her place, former math teacher Deborah Bertolucci is excited to take the lead and has all kinds of ideas for next year.

“I’m really hoping to continue developing our campus, especially with project-based learning,” said Bertolucci. “In project-based learning, students get involved in their own learning and connect the concepts they learn in school with how they’re used in real life. It’s a lot of fun and so beneficial.”

Bertolucci grew up in Petaluma and earned her B.A. in mathematics and her teaching credential from Sonoma State University in 1995. Since then she’s been teaching math at the high school level — first at Piner High School in Santa Rosa, and then in Geyserville, where she’s been since 1999. Originally Bertolucci wasn’t thinking about going into administration, but when Hadden was planning her retirement, the late Carnation asked Bertolucci if she wouldn’t change her mind. “I told him I’d love to,” said Bertolucci. “It was so nice to have someone mentor me into this role. Both Katherine Hadden and Joe Carnation, as well as my husband, Rick Klug, have been instrumental in helping me take over in this role.”

Rebekah Rocha,

principal at Geyserville Elementary

Geyserville Elementary School welcomes Rebekah Rocha as its new principal and reading teacher this year. Rocha comes to the elementary school from Cali Calmécac in Windsor, where she served as assistant principal for the past five years. Rocha has also taught first, third and fourth grades and middle school in Windsor and says she’s excited at the prospect of being back in the classroom this year.

“I love both the administrative and classroom portions of education, and in this job I get to do both,” said Rocha.

Rocha earned her B.A. from U.C. Riverside in 1997 and went on to get her masters in administration and teaching credential from U.C. Santa Barbara two years later. While in college, she spent a year abroad in Mexico where she worked in orphanages and solidified her Spanish. “Mexico is when I knew I wanted to teach,” she said.

Rocha is originally from Anderson Valley and says that’s a big part of why she’s drawn to Geyserville. “I love Geyserville because it’s so small — just six teachers and 120 students. Compared to a big school like Cali Calmécac, it’s a breath of fresh air.”

As with any new undertaking, Rocha anticipates that she will face challenges this next year. But she is confident that, together with the community, the school and its administration will be ready to handle anything that comes their way. “I want to encourage anyone in the community to come in and contribute. We want to include parents and community members as much as we can. You are welcome here.”

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