GUSTINE - A new administrative team is in place at Gustine Middle School.

Dr. Bryan Ballenger, superintendent of the Gustine Unified School District, told Mattos Newspapers Monday that Manuel Bettencourt has been assigned to serve as acting principal at the middle school and Tawnya Coffey has been assigned assistant principal.

Bettencourt had been assistant principal at Gustine High, while Coffey previously served as assistant principal at Gustine Elementary.

Former GMS Principal Peter Duenas was reassigned to become assistant principal at the elementary school, while Samia Merza-Fillpot, who was the assistant principal at the middle school, was reassigned to the assistant principal position at Gustine High.

Ballenger said that the administrative change was made because “the middle school was not progressing at the rate we had expected. We felt that a leadership change would help the school move forward.”

A mid-year administrative shakeup is not ideal, Ballenger acknowledged. But, he emphasized, “the decision was made in the best interest of students.”

Ballenger said Bettencourt and Coffey are eager to join the middle school and begin working with students and staff.

Bettencourt is a former GMS assistant principal and principal, he noted, who was “very much on board” to return to the grades 6-8 campus.

“He will bring a lot of energy and knowledge,” Ballenger commented.