New adult school principal seeks to fill community learning needs

Bettencourt has diverse adult education experience
By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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A new principal is at the helm as Placer School for Adults moves into the fall semester. Bill Bettencourt has replaced Judy McCoy.
Bettencourt has worked in adult education for 24 years, the past 16 with the San Juan District. Prior to that he was with the Sacramento City School District for eight years.
“I’ve been an administrator and teacher in adult education over the years and I’ve been part of different statewide committees and organizations representing adult education,” he said this week.
Although not an Auburn native, taking the job was sort of a homecoming for him.
“Years and years ago I came from a small town similar to Auburn so I have a real passion for the small-town community and pride of ownership of entrepreneurs,” he said.
Before becoming an educator, Bettencourt owned a neighborhood grocery store in Tracy — which was a much smaller town in those days.
“I began working at night to see what it was like to teach and found that I loved it,” he said. “So I sold the business and moved to Rocklin and began teaching in Sacramento adult education.”
Then as a teacher, he began to think about what he could do to support not just a classroom but an entire site, which brought him into administration.
One thing that impresses him about the Auburn program is the range of courses.
“There are so many more community interest and enrichment courses,” he said. “It’s great to see that going on.”
Continuing to expand course offerings is high on his list of priorities.
“I’d like to see us grow more in medical programs,” he said. “There’s a real need for expansion in the health care field. We want to continue to support our district. We have some online courses — what we call blended online courses where students can work in classrooms and also work at home. It helps them accelerate the courses and do them quicker.”
The blended online program is for adult students on the high school diploma track and concurrent students who have enrolled at the adult school because they are deficient in credits to graduate. It is spearheaded by Vice Principal Jennifer Barrett Grove, who is very enthusiastic about its future.
“We’re able to serve so many more of our students than we were able to in the past under a traditional format,” she said. “Now we are able to combine classroom and instruction online so that students don’t feel they are just out there on their own doing independent work. They have teacher support to keep them on target.”
As the school continues to expand the curriculum, enrollment is increasing, too. 
“Last year we served almost 8,500 students and that’s noteworthy,” Bettencourt said. “(The school) really serves a county-wide interest. People are coming from all over the county.”
Those thousands of students range in age from teens to seniors. Class sizes vary but tend to be small, “so it helps people feel connected and gives students a better ratio,” he said.
The teaching staff ranges from 50 to 60 personnel and classes are held at various locations, most of them in the Auburn area, plus more 300 online classes through
The catalog is distributed to 50,000 or 60,000 households in Placer County, he said.
One of the things he is looking forward to most in the job is being part of the community and “seeing what I can do to offer new or different courses that would be valuable to the community,” he said.
Barrett Grove is looking forward to working with Bettencourt.
“Bill brings with him (many) years of adult education leadership. … He understands the world of adult education,” she said. “He’s positive and excited about being here and that’s great.”
Arij Mousa, computer program director, agrees.
“For me upgrading business owner skills and community members’ education skills to meet the needs of business (is important),” she said. “Working with Bill will complement that in terms of bringing new ideas and sharing his business expertise from the past with us. He’s very supportive and pleasant to work with.”
In his free time, Bettencourt and his wife of 37 years enjoy their three dogs. He also plays the guitar. The couple has two grown sons.
Reach Gloria Young at


Placer School for Adults
390 Finley St., Auburn
Phone: (530) 885-8585
On the Web:


These are a few of the new courses being offered this fall at Placer School for Adults
Tungsten Inert Gas welding
— Six sessions learning the fundamentals of TIG. Cost is $124 plus a $105 lab fee
Photoshop Elements Special — Attend Level I and 2 and get Level 3 free
Love your Space — One session on using Feng Shui elements in home décor. The catalog lists the time as 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Instead, it will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. on Sept. 8. Cost is $29 (not $37 as shown)
Self defense — Six sessions covering self-defense law, types of violence, how criminals choose a victim, avoidance/de-escalation, counter-ambush techniques and more. Instructor is long-time staff member Bob Davis. Cost is $74
Linkedin and Facebook for Business — How to use these social networking sites to market your business. Cost is $49.