Valarde, Janssen and students take center stage at Yucaipa school district meeting

George Valarde is honored by current school board trustees and past board member Jim Taylor.

Students, staff and colleagues were all honored at the December school board meeting.

Students who improved by more than 100 points in English Language Arts on last school year’s California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) were recognized, while retiring Assistant Superintendent of Business Services George Velarde was honored along with former Battalion Chief Ron Janssen, who left the Yucaipa Fire Department because of a promotion.

When Superintendent Cali Binks announced the Dec. 11 board meeting was Velarde’s last one, there were notable gasps of surprise from the audience.

“George is a man of few words … but such a contributor,” Binks said as she brought a reluctant Velarde up to the podium to be honored. “I just so appreciate all that you’ve done.”

Former board president and longtime Yucaipa High coach, Jim Taylor, made his first appearance at a board meeting since his retirement last April to recognize Velarde.

Taylor also voiced his appreciation for all of Velarde’s work, especially during the recent recession.

“We had the opportunity early on to hire this guy, George Velarde, to help us through that tough and trying time,” Taylor said. “He did a great job.”

Taylor talked about Velarde’s reaction when the district received a positive budget certification.

“It was a big deal. We could not achieve that for a few years,” Taylor said, before recalling Velarde’s reaction to the announcement. “You could really see it on his face. You could see it in his smile and in his eyes.”

“We appreciate all that you have done for the district. Your friendship and particularly your knowledge in keeping us out of the hole and in good shape,” Taylor said as he presented Velarde with a plaque of recognition.

The interim business services support of Michele McLowry was approved later by the board while the district searches for a replacement for Velarde.

Chief Janssen promoted

District and Yucaipa High staff and students honored former Battalion Chief Janssen, who was instrumental in helping establish the Law and Public Safety Academy, a Linked Learning program at the school.

“To watch you with our kids is just amazing,” Superintendent Binks said to Janssen. “You’re an amazing leader and you’re an amazing teacher, in case you decide firefighting is getting old. … There are no other kids who are getting the opportunities that you have allowed our kids to have.”

“The character of his leadership and the investment he’s made into his team and they make into my students, I am so grateful,” said Lori Harrison, a teacher in the academy. “As a teacher, I could not be more thankful for what you have done for my students.”

About a dozen students were present to thank Janssen, who they cheered and applauded throughout his recognition.

“Together, I think we have thrown out some crazy ideas that have turned into amazing things,” Janssen said as he accepted a small statue of a firefighter from the district. “Honestly, I am so proud to be a part of it. So I thank you for allowing us to be part of this and it is only going to get better.”

Oath of office

With the election results certified, incumbents Sharon Bannister, Patty Ingram and Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh were sworn in by Superintendent Binks. Later, Christie was voted as board president and Ingram as clerk.

CAASPP recognition

Students from Mesa View Middle School and Calimesa and Valley Elementary Schools who improved their English Language Arts scores on last school year’s CAASPP were recognized for their achievement.

“Gains of this type aren’t possible by themselves. It takes incredible support at home, it takes knowledgeable teaching staff as well as support staff at the schools, all working together, pulling the same direction, to make this all possible,” said Tyson Lingenfelter, with Educational Services who presented the certificates.

Students who were honored include:

Calimesa Elementary: Fourth grade, Quentin Hazelett, Jayden Perez, Alyssa Pilgrim, Miguel Sanchez and Dereck Villanueva; Fifth grade, Sebastian Aguilar, Michael Haywood, Jacob Manjarrez, April Shultz and Malik Young.

Valley Elementary: Fourth grade, Ryan Jones, Ruben Quezada and Cameron Williams; Fifth grade, Joanna Landa.

Mesa View Middle School: Sixth grade, Adryana Aguirre, Gavin Carter, Jayden Davidson, Mila Gomez-Ruiz, Kaylee Lozolla, Joseph Taffolla and Odin Wells; Seventh grade, Alexis Avalos, Abraham Fierro-Gonzalez, Jamie Lawrence, Santiago Lopez and Arianna Penaloza; Eighth grade, Lizbeth Barrientos, Devon Carter, Angel Duran Flores, Nathan Lopez-Larios, Madeline Masias-Vela, Alyssa Nunez, Lucas Ramirez and Jose Rubio.

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