Board honors Bella Otter, DK Ripel, Linda Campeggi and Rich Johnson

ATASCADERO —  The Atascadero Unified School District recognized four individuals for their outstanding achievements and spirit of volunteerism during a meeting of the board of trustees Tuesday, March 3. 

Those honored included Atascadero High School student representative Bella Otter who recently won a national championship in archery, Deri Kaye “DK” Ripel for winning the Champions program’s Region 51 Quality Achievement Award, and alternative education volunteers Linda Campeggi and Rich Johnson. 

Bella Otter, center, poses for a photo with her parents and the AUSD board of trustees during a school board meeting Tuesday.

As part of her regular report to the board of trustees, Otter recounted winning the top spot for her age group at a nationals archery competition in Sacramento the previous weekend. Asked by the board what it takes to be the national champion, Otter replied that she had to shoot 60 arrows per day over two days, each worth a possible 10 points, at a target about the size of a penny from approximately 20 yards away. 

“So in order to win, I just had to shoot pennies all day,” she said. 

Otter scored 1163 points out of a possible 1200, putting her at the top of her age group out of the entire nation and in ninth place out of all of the age groups competing at the tournament. 

Ripel, Campeggi and Johnson were all honored as part of the district’s new efforts to engage with the community and recognize the outstanding efforts of local citizens, said assistant superintendent Curt Eichperger. 

“We oftentimes seek ways to recognize our employees but there are occasions where we have an opportunity to also recognize volunteers and community partners,” Eichperger said. “It does outline our district goal of community partnership and seeking authentic ways to engage the community.” 

AUSD Assistant Superintendent Curt Eichperger presents DK Ripel with a certificate of recognition Tuesday.

Eichperger said that Ripel was being recognized for “the core value of excellence.” 

Ripel is an employee with the before and after-school child care organization called Champions and recently won the organization’s Region 51 Quality Achievement Award, given to one educator in the combined regions of California, Nevada and Arizona. 

“So she’s being recognized for outstanding quality and caring for educating children and supporting families and our school partners,” Eichperger said. “DK excels in all aspects of this professional recognition and is well-deserved.” 

Ripel manages, schedules, oversees and organizes curriculum for students at Champions and also collaborates with AUSD teachers and staff to align Champions and school district programs. She also acts as an ambassador to parents and children between Champions and the AUSD. 

In recognition of her award, Ripel will receive an all expenses paid trip to Washington, DC to attend the four-day Afterschool Association conference in March as well as an awards banquet hosted by the president of the Champions organization. 

Paloma Creek High School Principal Chris Balogh introduced alternative education volunteers Campeggi and Johnson. 

“These are two very unique and valuable individuals that have donated an amazing amount of time to our students and staff,” Balogh said. 

Campeggi, a retired educator at the learning center at Morro Bay High School, began volunteering for Atascadero’s special education program during the 2015/16 school year. 

“When alternative education moved locations to Paloma Creek High School, we were faced with two completely disassembled schools in piles of boxes and Linda did not run away,” Balogh said. “Linda’s consistent feedback and organizational skills have been an invaluable help. 

Linda has provided background assistance for five alternative education graduations. Linda also supports our English department as a proofreader.”

Balogh said that Johnson started volunteering for the program “many, many years ago,” to help alternative education students explore alternative career paths. 

“He’s been instrumental in organizing our annual career day since 2014,” Balogh said. “Many classes of alternative education students have had the opportunity to explore a variety of careers courtesy of Rich’s connections with the Rotary Club and other Atascadero service organizations.”

Johnson also started the school’s “mobile career days” and has arranged field trips to the electrician’s union, Wild Fields brewery, a technology forum, Paso Robles Steelworks and Twin Cities Hospital.

“Rich strives to show students that there’s a viable alternative to a four-year degree and makes himself available to our students to provide guidance and encouragement along their career paths,” Balogh said.

Getting through this together, Atascadero