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Liz Vbarra, left, the principal of Mary Casey Black Elementary School in Brentwood, talks with the school librarian Rosie Camacho about the new library and the school which will finally open July 30th in Brentwood, Calif., on Thursday June 6, 2013. The Brentwood school was named after former teacher, administrator and art enthusiast Mary Casey Black, who has been a strong advocate for education in Brentwood over the years; and, was also Vbarra's second grade teacher when she was in elementary school. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group)

BRENTWOOD -- Mary Casey Black first met Liz Ybarra as a smart, bubbly and bright-eyed second-grader in her classroom. Black noted that the new principal of the campus named in her honor is the same outgoing person today.

Years after their first encounters as teacher and student, Black and Ybarra are collaborating on the anticipated opening of Mary Casey Black Elementary School on July 30.

"She made each one of us feel special," said Ybarra of Black's teaching style.

Ybarra is a Brentwood native who attended Brentwood Elementary, Garin Elementary, Edna Hill Middle and Liberty High schools.

"You blossom where you are planted," Black said of Ybarra's journey in local education from student to administrator.

Working in the Brentwood Union School District for more than a dozen years, Ybarra was a teacher for eight years, vice principal of Garin and recently served as the district's English language coordinator.

Ybarra credits her skills as an organized administrator to Black's influence on her as a teacher at Edna Hill during its makeover into a fifth- and sixth-grade campus. Over 37 years in education, Black was the principal of Edna Hill for three years after opening Ron Nunn Elementary as its principal and working as a teacher at both Brentwood Elementary and Garin.

During their time together at Edna Hill, Ybarra said that she learned about creating procedures and traditions on a campus. According to Ybarra, Black is talented at organizing large groups and inspiring them to contribute to a common cause.


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"She gets people excited," Ybarra said. "All of that planning made my work easier as a teacher."

Since January, Ybarra has been working diligently to recruit parent volunteers for the art docent program, stock the campus library's collection, hire teachers and staff and build excitement in the community for the new neighborhood school.

"They think of it as an adventure. There is a sense of anticipation," Ybarra said of her future students. "I want to create wonderful memories for them."

The student body will consist of more than 100 students from Marsh Creek Elementary, 200 students from Garin, 100 from Brentwood Elementary and additional students due to an attendance boundary shift. It will open with less than 500 students and 18 teachers, which includes seasoned educators from other Brentwood schools and substitute teachers who have secured positions there.

At a Family Welcome Day on July 19, students and their families will tour the campus and learn what the school mascot and colors will be. The school's dedication and back to school night are tentatively scheduled for Aug. 20.

Mary Casey Black is in need of parent volunteers and books for the limited library collection, according to Ybarra. Books have been donated from other schools in the district.

Like its namesake, the school will have strong ties to Brentwood's art and history scenes. Black's presence as a volunteer on campus will strengthen the art docent program and local history curriculum, according to Ybarra.

"I'm just gearing up," Ybarra said. "We want it to be exciting and special."

Reach Paula King at 925-779-7174 or pking@bayareanewsgroup.com.

NEW school opening
The Mary Casey Black Elementary School office opens July 15 and the first day of school is July 30. The campus is located at 480 Farmington Drive, Brentwood. For more information, call 925-513-6430.