It was a night which was a long time in the making and emotion filled all the same.
Monday evening, Nov. 14 longtime Oakdale Joint Unified School District board member Mike House stood for the flag salute, surrounded by his family and extended family for one final time.
After three decades of serving Oakdale Joint Unified Schools, as well as the community of Oakdale, House has retired.
It was standing room only for the proper send off at the OJUSD Tech Center.
Board member Terri Taylor was first to address House, struggling to speak as she addressed her colleague on the dais for one final time.
“All you have done for this district, really is second to none,” Taylor stated, acknowledging much of the support he had offered throughout the years.
Fellow board member Diane Gilbert prepared a statement in advance, recognizing she knew this would be hard for her as well.
“It is difficult for me to imagine an OJUSD Board without Mike House,” she said. “During the 13 years that we’ve served together, Mike has been a steady, stabilizing force on our board. He is very wise and extremely smart. He has a love of Oakdale and commitment to our district that is second to none.”
Gilbert further noted his three decades of service to the district, his commitment to always remain focused on what is best for the students and she also thanked him for his service to OJUSD students and their families, as well as his leadership.
Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Dave Kline, read statements to the board and audience from an impressive list of former board members, which had been sent in to recognize the retiring board member.
House then took his turn addressing those in attendance, with his family perched right at the front of the room.
The longtime board member noted he first ran at the encouragement of his wife, Judy, who felt the school board then was not listening to the parents, during the time of a year-round school calendar.
“As we were talking over the last few weeks, discussing the changes we’ve seen in the district,” House stated, “I was reminded of what every football player says after receiving an award and that is, “It’s not mine. It’s ours.”
Choking back tears, House continued, “And every improvement and every step forward Oakdale’s made, obviously it’s not mine, it’s ours.”
As he shared wisdom with the room one final time, House, an OHS alum, listed the names of each teacher who taught him from kindergarten through eighth grade. He did this to illustrate a point, further stating while he can recall all of those names, that does not hold true for the acting board members of his youth.
“As a board member, I understand the decisions we make impact every student in this district,” he said. “But the impact the teachers make, impact the lives of every student in this district. What a blessing it’s been to have the teachers of Oakdale we have, to know they love and care for my kids and grandkids and your kids and grandkids and every student in their class. It’s what makes Oakdale such a wonderful place.”
Like a proud parent boasting about a child, he continued on, sharing much of the success throughout the district, as well as his pride to be a part of the OJUSD family.
“I can’t express my love for Oakdale, with the limited words I know,” he stated humbly. “But it is such a special little part of Heaven and we are all so blessed to be here and I hope we remember that and recognize it.”
House also encouraged everyone to find a way to work together and be civil with one another.
“There’s going to be ugly fights ahead, you can see it,” he continued. “You can see the storm clouds building and there are some very, very strong emotions and feelings on both sides. I hope that we’re able to remember, that regardless of which position we take we’re still Oakdale and we have so much more in common than our differences.”
True to his well-known jokester spirit, at the conclusion of his speech, House removed a Mustang windbreaker, revealing a Hawaiian type button front shirt, as well as placing sunglasses on his face. With the room erupting in laughter, House returned the meeting to OJUSD District business.
The overall agenda for the night was light.
General business followed including approval of expansion of the Pole Barn at the School Farm, approval of additional school buses for special needs students and general calendar approval items.
The next meeting will be hosted Monday, Dec. 12 at the OJUSD Tech Center. Open session will begin at 6:30 p.m. and the meeting is open to the public.