If you asked any of the 656 students at Woodlake High School, who returned from summer break Tuesday, Aug. 14, if they were happy to be back in class, you might be surprised at their answers. Many said they were indeed glad to be back taking new classes and seeing old friends. 
Among staff, the consensus is that summer recess is way too short. But there is an obvious sense of anticipation and enthusiasm to see what the new school year will bring. 
Rick Rodriguez, now in his sixth year as principal, said he couldn’t be more pleased with his six new hires.
“We’re fortunate this year to add some great staff to an already great staff,” said Rodriguez. “At the high school we have four new teachers, a new athletic director, and a new counselor.”
Rodriguez, who taught math at Woodlake High before he became principal, said he is looking forward to implementing a $1 million grant program called GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs). It’s a six-year Department of Education grant to help low-income students prepare and succeed in post-secondary education.
“Here at Woodlake, GEAR UP will help us provide intensive training for our math teachers to work collaboratively with the middle school,” Rodriguez said. “The program will train our teachers to be better teachers and have these kids ready to succeed in math at an earlier grade level.”
The program kicks off with a dinner for all participants on Sunday evening, Aug. 19, followed by three days of intensive work-study sessions at TCOVE in Visalia. Consultants will conduct the sessions and also be available to provide classroom-to-coaching-to-work on specific
problems for up to 25 days throughout the school year.
Rodriguez said he is excited at the GEAR UP prospects, and as a principal will attend the training sessions. The math classes will also be using the Chromebooks, interactive technology that began at WHS a few years ago.
“Ninety-five percent of all our classrooms now have the interactive display panels [big screens], and we plan to have the capability in all classrooms by the end of the school year,” Rodriguez said.           
Also new this year, in addition to hiring Shannon Taylor as the new athletic director, is the implementation of a WUSD athletic action plan.
“The athletic action plan is designed to improve all our sports programs,” Rodriguez said. “This gives us focus and a new direction for community outreach and, of course, it starts with hiring the best coaches.” 

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