A group of Oakdale Junior High School staff members were recognized for saving the life of seventh grade science teacher Fred Yerzy in early March during the public comments portion of the Oakdale Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees regular meeting on April 14.
The five staff members stood before the members of the board as OJUSD Assistant Superintendent Terri Taylor read a statement, recounting the details of a dramatic morning in early March on the junior high campus.
“When they came to work on March 6, these employees had no idea what the day had in store for them. OJHS teacher, Fred Yerzy, was in the staff room before school making copies. Rosaura Contreras and Rachel Walsh-Ponce were working in the adjacent staff lunch room when they heard Fred fall. They found Fred unconscious and called 911 and the office. Beth Crowley responded and radioed the office to call 911 and send Karen Hart, the health clerk. Karen, Jon Webb, and Denise Bianchi responded to the call for help and performed CPR until the ambulance crew arrived. The quick actions of these staff members literally saved Fred’s life.
“We are so grateful that each of you was there and able to help – on behalf of the board, please accept our sincerest ‘thank you,’” Taylor said.
Yerzy was in attendance at the meeting, greeting and hugging colleagues. Many OJHS staff members and Oakdale teachers were present, and he received a standing ovation when he stepped up to the podium.
“These guys are wonderful. They were there at the right time, when I needed someone most,” Yerzy said of the five people next to him, his gratitude evident. “…I am so blessed to be able to be here and stand before all of you.”
He also spoke about what other people in the school did to help him, mentioning that Principal John Simons had the “horrible duty” of calling Yerzy’s wife to let her know. He also spoke about the outpouring of support from the community and how he felt and saw the love.
“I was unconscious for four days. I somehow could sense all the prayers, the thoughts. It was like a tsunami of support,” Yerzy added. “…Not everybody gets a second chance.”
He thanked all of the people there and said he realized that he’s not on the trail of life all by himself. He briefly mentioned how the event has changed him and his priorities.
“You guys will always be in my heart – no pun intended,” Yerzy said to his lifesavers, eliciting laughter from the audience.
He reported that he’s started walking around the block, that some of his colleagues even come by and walk with him, and some people honk their car horns in support when they see him walking. He said that Oakdale Junior High is a family, composed of “pretty neat” people.
Board member Mike Tozzi commented that it takes courage to do CPR on an actual person and praised the staff members for saving Yerzy’s life.
Yerzy had stated prior to the meeting that he’s not back in the classroom yet, noting that he couldn’t imagine teaching one class period at this point, but he’s getting stronger and improving.
In business, a public hearing was held regarding an increase of Level I school facilities fees. Assistant Superintendent Larry Mendonca said OJUSD is justified in raising developer fees according to the state. The board unanimously approved adopting the increase. Fees for residential units will go up to $3.36 per square foot, and commercial units will go up to 54 cents per square foot.
In organization reports, Oakdale Teachers Association President Linda Kraus said that school nurse Diane Stevenson and OHS teacher Pete Simoncini were selected for School Bell awards.
Later in reports, Mendonca provided an update on the district’s facilities projects. He said that the Central Kitchen’s “guaranteed maximum price” to construct it is in development. He noted that the GMP will be finalized and will come before the board at the May meeting. He said that they are about one month behind on the plans but plan to break ground on the Central Kitchen in the summer.
The next regular meeting of the OJUSD Board of Trustees will be at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, May 12 at the OJUSD Technology and Staff Development Center, 331 Hinkley Ave., near Oakdale High School.