Longtime Oakdale teacher Veronica Patron was found on the floor in her classroom unconscious and not breathing by a fellow staff member at Oakdale High School on the morning of Monday, Aug. 9.
Oakdale Joint Unified School District Coordinator of Pupil Services Larry Mendonca said that Aug. 9 was the first day for teachers to report to school. There was a morning high school staff meeting scheduled but Patron was not present at the meeting.
Mendonca relayed that a staff member had gone by Patron’s classroom prior to the meeting and didn’t see her, so just continued on to the meeting. Following the meeting, shortly after 9 a.m., the same staff member went by her classroom again and discovered her. Emergency services were called and efforts were made to try to revive her as CPR was administered to Patron until medical help arrived. She was transported to Oak Valley Hospital where she was pronounced dead.
Patron had been with the Oakdale school district for 24 years. She was a SDC (Special Day Class) special education teacher and taught learning handicapped students. She taught special education at Oakdale Junior High School and had spent the past 10 years teaching at OHS. Due to the nature of her classes, Mendonca verified that she would have had some students for multiple years.
“She was a very personable person and had formed some close bonds with students,” Mendonca said.
He added that she was known to be a world traveler and would help students with Social Studies and government class work, especially the upper grade levels.
On Aug. 9, Mendonca said that Human Resources was working to find someone who can teach her classes and that they may have a substitute for when school starts today, Aug. 11, and for a short term.
OHS Principal Mike Moore described Patron as “a very outgoing and friendly person” and that while her passing was a shock to staff members, they are trying to keep her upbeat “spirit” in mind.
“Obviously, some staff (that day) were pretty distraught,” Mendonca said. “They were released for the day to go home to work things out … She was very outgoing, very vivacious. I’m sure it will hit a number of people on that staff.”
District Superintendent Fred Rich added that Patron was a very valued employee and that her death was very devastating to staff.
“She was a great lady, a great staff member,” Moore added.
Mendonca reported that he is coordinating with the county’s Behavioral Health Services to offer counseling to staff and to students. He said that counseling for students will be available to them when school starts on Wednesday, as some students will not find out about what happened until they go to school.
Moore reported that Patron’s fellow SDC teachers Tim Meyer and Clyde Stevenson will also help Patron’s students in making the transition and will be doing her students’ IEPs (Individual Education Plans).
At the OJUSD Board of Trustees regular meeting held Aug. 10, the meeting began with a moment of silence for Patron and recently deceased family members of board member Rick W. Jones and high school staffers Denise and Dennis Hitch.
Superintendent Rich commented that it is an extremely somber way of starting the school year.