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Ballard Bids Coyotes Farewell To Close Out District Service
Ballard front
Giving R&R a little test drive, poolside; Lisa Ballard will soon enjoy it for real, as she has called it quits, retiring following 36 years with OJUSD. Photo Contributed

It’s safe to say 36 years ago Lisa Ballard did not see her career ending this way.

Yet Friday, June 9, will be her last day of school, but not as a student.

The Oakdale native has officially retired from the Oakdale Joint Unified School District following 36 years of service.

Her journey with OJUSD didn’t begin as a career goal or even a long-term plan, yet somehow life often plays out in a way we may not have seen and that is Ballard’s story.

First working for Stanislaus County Office of Education after completing her studies at Modesto Junior College, Ballard’s reputation for grit and hard work found its way to OJUSD. This after first starting a summer job with SCOE that was extended past that summer season.

In July of 1987 Ballard was offered a job in the OJUSD District Office. With a love of math and a business background, she was offered a position in the Business Office initially. In time she also worked within Human Resources.

“It was a great job. Full benefits, full everything and retirement,” Ballard said of initially taking the job. “It was good money and it was a good job.”

Falling in love with an Oakdale boy, her husband of 34 years, Bill Ballard, also didn’t hurt when it came time to make the decision of staying on with the district. Ballard shared that with both of them rooted in the 95361, it just seemed to be the right fit.

During her early tenure, Ballard returned to night school and completed her school finance degree. Something she shared was not required, but was important to her to have that degree to work in the District Office finance department.

Ten years later, Ballard did the reverse of what is now commonplace. She left the District Office and became a “roving” secretary for the Cloverland, Fair Oaks and Magnolia school elementary sites.

“I came out of the district office, the main office, to do year-round,” she said of the former track system, known as year-round schooling once followed by Oakdale schools.

“I did that to go from a 12-month contract to a 10-month contract,” the school secretary said of the change, allowing her a schedule which would give her summers and holiday breaks off.

“There were seven secretaries and they were all on a track,” Ballard explained of the floating position. “I was a floater and that was for year-round. We had a color. So when they would go out, I would go in.”

Yet contrary to popular belief, while Ballard enjoyed the time off from a traditional 12 month a year job, she also did not take vacation time, aside from when school was out. Looking toward retirement she shared she’s excited for the flexibility of her schedule as well as time spent with her husband, who’s been retired the past 10 years.

“It’s time for me just to stay home and for us to enjoy us together. We like to go,” she said. “We like to travel. Working at a school site you don’t get vacation. We get paid vacation days in our contract, but I can’t say I’m going to take a week off and go on vacation.

“I’m still the old school,” she continued, “you get dressed. You don’t wear jeans to work. You don’t wear a ball cap; you don’t wear a T-shirt. That’s how it was.”

In the fall of 2005, Oakdale schools ended year-round schooling and Ballard was one of the pioneer staff to open Sierra View Elementary. No longer a roaming secretary, she became secretary to then-Principal Terri Taylor. She’s been there ever since.

“I was proud to be there and proud to open up that school,” Ballard shared of her time at Sierra View, extending that to include working with the current administration. “Proud to be Mr. Kindred’s secretary. We’ve been a great team. It’s teamwork. May not agree, but it’s teamwork. An office needs to be teamwork.”

Now looking to her future, the longtime Sierra View Coyote shared she’s ready, but will miss being on campus with the students.

“Watching children see you and call them by their name, they just beam,” she said. “That is the biggest, best thing … to see them (in town, at a grocery store). That is why I’ve stayed at a site so long. It’s the kids.”

And while she won’t return to school in August, she doesn’t really plan on slowing down.

“I’ve been blessed to be able to retire at my age, after 36 years. It’s scary, but I’m very involved in the community. I’m very involved in doing things,” Ballard said. “I’m leaving on great terms. I’m leaving on my terms and I’m just so happy for this next chapter and going into it.”

Ballard jump
Scooting off into the setting sun, June 9 marks Lisa Ballard’s final day of employment with the Oakdale Joint Unified School District after more than three decades on the job. Photo Contributed