Although construction of a new Clovis Unified elementary school — set to open for the 2016-17 school year — is still underway on Temperance and Clinton avenues, the former principal at Freedom Elementary School has been put in charge of opening the campus.
“Erin Gage will be the one to lead efforts to prepare the new, unnamed school for opening next year,” said Clovis Unified spokeswoman Kelly Avants. “(She) is handling myriad detail work about the school, like decisions on desks, furniture and equipment.”
Here’s a closer look at Gage, the woman leading the charge:
Lifelong Clovis resident
Gage attended Mickey Cox Elementary, Clark Intermediate and Clovis High School before earning her degree in psychology from Chico State. She went to Fresno State and National University, where she earned her master’s degree in counseling and got her teaching credential after substitute teaching.
When she taught sixth grade at Clovis Elementary “I fell in love with being in the classroom,” she said. “I was looking for additional experience in different things, so I ended up going to teach English at Clovis East.”
She then got involved in administration, doing professional development and then the San Joaquin Valley Writing Project. She earned her administrative credential and then was the GIS at Fancher Creek for one year. She was a learning director at Clovis East for three years and then served as principal of Freedom Elementary for four years.
Clovis East enthusiast
“I love the Clovis East area, the community the kids, it really feels like home,” Gage said. “I knew (the area) would be growing and I knew there would be opportunities. I was honored that they selected me (to be principal of the newest campus) and felt that I would be a good person for this role. I loved Freedom Elementary; it was hard to leave, but I sometimes feel that things work out the way they should. I feel like I’m meant to be there.”
Looking toward the future
The new elementary school, still under construction, is set to open in the 2016-17 school year. It will have an agriculture and technology focus, Gage said.
“I think of the first day of school 2016, all of the things that go into that, all the things that take place at a school that is up and running,” she said. “I have to think about that, but right now it’s just me.”
She can still form a picture in her mind of what the first day might look like.
“I’m excited about seeing that entire student body, the staff, the parents meeting out on the blacktop first thing in the morning to start our day. I can’t wait to see it, I can’t wait to hear it. It’s the excitement of a first day of school, but it’s the first for everyone,” she said.
“Then I think about getting through that whole first year and creating a special bond as an entire community and establishing our identity as the newest school in Clovis Unified.”
“I have to think about staffing. Other than that I’ll be doing a lot of community outreach,” Gage said. “It’s very important to be visible and out there and approachable. Once we know which students will attend, we’ll establish ourselves as a community. Boundaries haven’t been finalized, as we move forward with that, we have to make the right decisions for what’s best for our kids.”
Gage plans to hold meetings at every elementary school to answer parents’ questions.
“Once we get closer and I have a staff, we will do a lot of different things … like outreach to kids who are coming in to see what their opinions are on the mascot, what colors they like, and what things they love about their current school.”
Following a pattern
Gage’s mother, Cheryl Thompson, has taught in the district for more than 20 years. She was part of the first staff at Cedar Wood Elementary when it opened. Gage’s stepfather, Ted Thompson, is also a Clovis teacher and was part of the opening of Bud Rank Elementary.
Gage and her husband of 12 years, Kris — a Clovis High graduate — have a 9-year-old son, Bradley, and a 6-year-old daughter, Brenna, who attend Freedom Elementary. As a family they enjoy swimming, playing games, barbecuing and being active.