For anyone not in the know, Monday night’s school board meeting made it evident. The community of Oakdale holds strong to its agriculture roots, as the Oakdale City Council Chambers hosted a sea of blue corduroy jackets and standing room only occupancy.
Following a prompt 6:30 p.m. call to order for the Nov. 9 school board meeting by OJUSD Board President Diane Gilbert, the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Cloverland students Ian Ridge, Vince Peltier and Ellie Fox.
Students of Oakdale High School FFA were acknowledged by the board for their recent success at the Stanislaus/Tuolumne FFA Opening and Closing Ceremony Contest.
“As the years go on Oakdale becomes more and more competitive,” OHS FFA instructor Rebecca Mendonza stated following the student recognition. “These kids work really hard. They devoted lunches and after school time for about a month to work on this competition. So it’s a lot of work on their part and we’re just really proud of them.”
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, Kristi Rapinchuk offered an implementation update on Curriculum Aligned to New California State Standards.
Rapinchuk also presented the board with a discussion/action item in the area of Physical Education and an expansion opportunity allowing students to select Marching Band for PE credit.
The California Department of Education requires all students, at the high school level, take two years of PE. Often, this causes incoming freshmen to give up the elective of Marching Band to fulfill the physical education requirement.
Band Director Ross McGinnis addressed the board making note of the challenges ‘band kids’ are faced with as they transition into high school. McGinnis shared with the board that many band students forego the marching band opportunity for elective AP (Advanced Placement) Classes.
“We have a drumline now that started with eight people, we have 22 or 23 enrolled now,” the instructor said of when he first came on staff six years ago.
“This is also for the kids, who have invested four years and the parents’ ears who invested four years from fifth grade to eighth grade,” he continued, “and then right as they’re getting the hang of it, ‘eh, maybe I’ll join later again.”
In open discussion, McGinnis shared with the board the physical aspect of the music students as members of Marching Band.
“As far as marching there’s a 50 minute period and we’ll spend 45 marching,” the band director stated. “The physical exercise is there, but there’s also a lot of body awareness that has to happen. You have to know the air is going and control that air.”
The discussion resulted in a unanimous decision by the board to offer Marching Band as an OHS PE course effective January, 2016.
At the conclusion of the meeting, President Gilbert made acknowledgement of this being the final meeting for Trustee Mike Tozzi. Multiple board members made tribute to the knowledge and growth they gained as peers to Tozzi, acknowledging his legal savvy as a true value to OJUSD.
“I’ve been impressed with several things,” trustee Michael House said of Tozzi. “Mr. Tozzi is largely responsible for the Junior High Gymnasium. For years we were told we couldn’t use developer fees to build the gymnasium. Mike said that doesn’t sound right and lo and behold, we have a junior high gymnasium.
“Mike was very vocal in insisting we have a Strategic Plan and so we put it together and we have a Strategic Plan now,” House continued. “I don’t think we can begin to count the benefits the district has seen, because we have a strategic plan. When we first initiated it, it brought the community in. I think there was a bit of a separation between the district and the community, but through this strategic plan the community was able to buy in to what the district was doing. And also the district was able to hear a little better on what the community wanted.”
“Your contributions to this district have been significant,” President Gilbert stated to Tozzi, “and the leadership that you have shown has been unparalleled.”
“I would like to add to those comments,” Superintendent Marc Malone said, “sixteen years as a board member. Think about that for a minute … 16 years as a board member, that’s a pretty impressive run. Especially when you recall when we unified that was not necessarily a nice smooth process. People forget that we were a high school district and an elementary district.”
That was a time which Malone shared resulted in a Civil Grand Jury investigation during the unification of the districts.
“Mike Tozzi became a board member right in the middle of that investigation,” Malone continued. “Mike through his leadership was able to help us navigate through that grand jury investigation.
“Mike was a champion of character education,” Malone shared, “and with character education, that’s been an ongoing belief of his and it will continue to be a lasting legacy for Mike Tozzi. There’s more to being a student than just getting an A on that math test. There’s more to being a good student than that. You need to be a good human being. You need to be compassionate. You need to be those things that we would want our children to be in regards to what their character is.”
Following a standing ovation by the board and those in attendance, Tozzi addressed the group.
“Our new member is here tonight,” Tozzi graciously said, gesturing to newly elected board member Larry Betschart. “I think he is going to be an excellent addition to this board. He cares a lot about education and that’s great. All I can tell you is that my 16 years were wonderful, because we have great teachers. We have great administrators and we’ve got a great community and it was easy being up here because all of you, everybody here made this 16 year trip just a wonderful trip. I appreciate all the wonderful things you’ve done for the community, all the wonderful things you’ve done for education, all the things you’ve done for the students. Thank you very much.”
The next school board meeting is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 14 at Oakdale City Council Chambers, 277 N. Second Ave., Oakdale. Open Session will begin at 6:30 p.m.