WATSONVILLE — Ivan Alcaraz spent the entirety of his childhood education in Pajaro Valley Unified School District.
He attended Alianza, E.A. Hall Middle and Watsonville High School, where he graduated in 2005.
Alcaraz returned to his alma mater in 2013 to serve as an intervention counselor and then assistant principal. He started this year as principal at Rolling Hills Middle School.
Alcaraz is not the only homegrown educator to start a new administrative role as the 2019/20 school year begins.
Joe Gregorio, who has through the years served as a history teacher, P.E. teacher, coach and athletic director at several local schools, has returned to Watsonville High School, where he graduated in 1992, as assistant principal.
PVUSD is also welcoming Marwa Yousofzoy who, as PVUSD’s new Coordinator of English Learner Programs, will help implement the district’s new English Learner Master Plan.
Selene Muñoz Casas, who has worked as a behavior technician and a special education teacher, and who was named as the district’s educator of the year for the 2013/14 school year, is Rolling Hills Middle School’s new assistant principal.
Alcaraz earned a bachelor’s degree in business management economics from UC Santa Cruz. He has also earned his master of education in counseling and student personnel, and a master’s of education in administration and supervision.
He is currently finishing a Ph.D in educational leadership.
“I’m a homegrown kid, and I’ve been part of this community for some time,” he said. “I’m super excited that I’m going to get to work with the amazing staff and students at Rolling Hills.”
Rolling Hills Middle School Principal Ivan Alcaraz. — Todd Guild/The Pajaronian
Selene Muñoz Casas
New Rolling Hills Middle School Assistant Principal Selene Muñoz Casas said she can relate to many of the students in the district.
“I understand the concerns and the challenges of the community,” she said.
Casas migrated to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 10 and settled in Castroville, where her parents worked in the agricultural industry. She attended WHS during her junior year.
She served in a classified position with PVUSD in 2006 as a behavior technician. She was promoted in 2009 to special education teacher at Pajaro Valley High School.
In 2017, Casas became assistant principal at PVHS, where she oversaw Special Education, Extended Learning and directed Saturday Academy and advanced placement testing.
Casas has an education specialist credential from CSU Monterey Bay, and a bachelor’s in history from UC Santa Cruz.
Among other things, Casas will run the school’s International Academy, which is an intensive language program for newcomer migrant students designed to help them integrate into the community.
Casas was the first in her family to attend college. Three of her siblings now also work for PVUSD in Special Education.
At PVHS, Casas said that she worked to ready Special Education students for mainstream classes.
“I have a passion for integrating them, making sure they are included,” she said.
Rolling Hills Middle School Assistant Principal Selene Muñoz Casas. — Contributed
Joe Gregorio said he found his life’s passion when he became an educator.
“I got into teaching and never looked back,” he said.
Gregorio started his teaching career at Cesar Chavez Middle School as a PE teacher. He spent five years as a world history and PE teacher at St. Francis Central Coast High, while also serving as social studies Department Chair, head football coach, facilities and maintenance director and assistant athletic director.
He then moved to Pajaro Valley High School to serve as the PE department chair and head football coach.
Gregorio’s first administrative position was as this year’s summer school principal at Watsonville High School.
Gregorio earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Cal State Northridge and his teaching and administrative credentials from National University. He said he wanted to shift his career to the administrative side to have a larger impact on students’ lives. This, he said, began during his time as a coach.
“I knew how much I could help kids,” he said. “The students know what they have to do, but sometimes they don’t know how to do it. All they need is the guidance, then they just take off.”
Gregorio had praise for WHS Principal Elaine Legoretta and PVUSD Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez, who he said have acted as mentors and effective leaders.
“They have been great role models for me,” he said.
Joseph Gregorio has been named Assistant Principal at Watsonville High School. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian
When the PVUSD Board of Trustees approved the district’s English Learner Master Plan in the spring, the decision included hiring someone to guide the process.
The plan is the district’s five-year roadmap for educators and administrators to help teach the district’s 8,415 English learners, who are students who speak a language other than English at home.
Marwa Yousofzoy, PVUSD’s new Coordinator of English Learner Programs, has been in education since 2007 when she worked as an elementary teacher in Gilroy Unified School District.
She received her bachelor’s in liberal studies, master’s in education and her multiple subject teaching credential from UC Riverside. She earned her administrative service credential from National University.
Most recently, Yousofzoy was working in Oak Grove School District as an instructional coach, and as a curriculum developer for the Silicon Valley Education Foundation.
Yousofzoy said the move to PVUSD will help her follow her passion to work with English learners.
“This is a new position, and I thought it would make a great impact with the students,” she said.
Under the plan, teachers receive specialized training, and students’ progress is monitored every year. The plan also includes outreach to parents and caretakers to help them be more involved.
Michael Berman, PVUSD Director of State and Federal Programs and Accountability, described the program as an “ambitious manifesto of what we envision our job as educators to be.”
Berman said the plan was created with an “asset-based” mindset, which values the strengths that different cultures and languages add to the district.
“(The district) saw that in order to implement the change they are calling for, they needed a dedicated champion to lead it,” Berman said.
Yousofzoy is also charged with creating the professional development curriculum that teachers will use for the next five years.
“(Yousofzoy) is fantastic,” Berman said. “She came on and dove in, and she immediately championed the document, and she has already put her stamp on it.”
Marwa Yousofzoy is the new coordinator of English Learner Programs for the Pajaro Valley Unified School District. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian