April Meeting: Linda Schlenz, Samantha Kerestessy Named Employees of the Month

By Peter Day
Lucerne Valley Middle High School teacher Linda Schlenz and Lucerne Valley Elementary School custodian Samantha Kerestessy were named certificated and classified Employees of the Month, respectively, during the monthly meeting of the LVUSD’s governing board on Thursday, April 11.
Superintendent Peter Livingston, who presented the awards, quoted from the nomination letter: “Linda Schlenz is truly a teacher-leader who makes students want to learn,” the superintendent said. “With her passion for education and for teaching English and AVID, she is able to capture the students’ imaginations and evoke a sense of excitement, inspiring students to question, discover and anticipate the future with an exhilarating sense of potential.”
Furthermore, Mrs. Schlenz tries to engage the whole class, leaving no one behind, and keep students motivated with variety, humor, multimedia and fresh approaches, he added.
Kerestessy, Mr. Livingston said, has done an amazing job since she came aboard the elementary school as full-time custodian.
“The normal day at an elementary school is filled with many student issues. Frankly, you never know what to expect next. Sam is always gracious with students and staff no matter what the issue may be,” according to the nomination letter.
“Sam has taken on many roles as well as custodian. There are many needs that come up at the spur of the moment. She is always able to drop what she is doing and come help wherever she is needed. Sam helps set up and take down the many events we have here at school to support our students. Sam has the unique ability to build relationships with our students and the entire school community. She always wants what is best for school. Sam has done a yeoman s job filling and developing this newer position at our school.”
The meeting room was packed, mostly with friends, family and supporters of the district’s four Destination Imagination teams, which received board commendations for a successful and pivotal 2018-19 season. Three of the DI teams recently returned from state competition in Clovis. All DI team members received certificates of appreciation and shook hands, or bumped fists, with all board members and Mr. Livingston.

The Middle High School’s AVID teachers gave a report on how the program is making a positive impact on today’s students and beyond. AVID site coordinator Naomi Oyadomari, who also teaches middle school history, introduced all instructors and led the presentation. Other Lucerne Valley AVID teachers present: Cindy Lazenby, Kelli Papiernik, Linda Schlenz and Matthew Roehl. Assistant Principal Kelly Boeing and counselor Rebecca Rubio also assist with the AVID program.
“We have a very strong AVID team,” Oyadomari said.
The local AVID program has grown to 86 students, and the program will expand to 11th grade next school year. According to Roehl, small groups of students with one peer or college tutor discuss students’ schoolwork. The college tutors are paid; the high school tutors are non-paid volunteers.
On Wednesday, April 17, a regional AVID professional will visit the site to review the program’s accomplishments and goals. “Our site team is dedicated to continue to grow,” Oyadomari said.
The program also received a huge endorsement from school administration.
“This group of educators are among the most dedicated out there,” said Principal Nate Lambdin. “The numbers show the AVID students are successful in all their classes.”
Other presentations included the LVES report by student representative Zoey Davis, who talked about the upcoming Great American Worm Race, the Walk Through The Ancient World and other future and past LVES events. A student representative presented the Middle/High School report and spoke about the upcoming blood drive on April 26, a Knotts Berry Farm field trip and pancake breakfast hosted by the Lions Club. Lucerne Valley FFA Vice-President Katelyn Miller gave a slide presentation that highlighted the many activities occurring at the local chapter. The Lucerne Valley FFA is celebrating 25 years as a chapter. Later this month many members will attending the annual state event, which is expected to attract 7,000 members from around California. The day prior to the state conference FFA member Liliana Velasco will come in the Creed speech competition.
During the Board, Superintendent and Administrator Reports section of the meeting, Mr. Livingston shared the good news about the district’s healthy enrollment numbers, which currently are 771 students.
“It’s exciting to see our enrollment grow,” he said.
A representative for Gorman Learning Center gave an update on the charter school.
“All five charters have solid financials,” Mr. Livingston added.
Burt Umstead, who serves as both LVES principal and the district’s assistant superintendent, talked about the recent site collaboration meeting, the Mitsubishi Cement Corporation. Educational Foundation barbecue at the high school, Social Emotional Learning and “Thinking Maps.”
LVMHS Principal Nate Lambdin also was impressed with the collaboration session. “It will be a work in progress, but we’re working together.”
He also complemented the Mitsubishi foundation for all they have done for Lucerne Valley students.
“The impact the foundation has on our kids and community is amazing.”
Lambdin also said the school is looking forward to the upcoming Cyber Security Assembly and mentioned that the spring middle school sports season was coming to a close.
Board member Tom Courtney commended the Small School District’s Association of which the LVUSD is a member.
In discussion/action items, the board voted unanimously to hire Ricky Anderson as an Assistant Administrator of Instructional Improvement and Academic Coaching for the elementary school. Anderson, who the superintendent said had “outstanding references,” brings 16 years of experience in the field.
“He’s matching our initiatives,” Livingston said. “It’s a perfect fit.”
Anderson was joined by his wife Sandra, a kindergarten teacher, and his 4th-grader daughter Alexandria.
The board also approved an AERIES hosting services proposal, a student intern agreement between the district and the University of Southern California, and the retainer agreement with Margaret A. Chidester & Associates Legal Services in the 2019-20 school year. The board voted to deny a retroactive medical leave of absence for a classified employee.
The school board also approved the participation in the All-Electric School Bus Project, which will provide one electric school bus to the Lucerne Valley Unified School District.
Following the public portion of Thursday’s meeting, the school board and Livingston discussed the current status of the negotiations with the Lucerne Valley Teachers’ Association in closed session. Chelsea LaGrange, the board’s newest member, conducted the board meeting. Since last year, the LVUSD has been rotating board meeting leadership duties as a suggested by Board President Jim Harvey.
Local Control and Accountability Plan meetings will be held on April 22 at 3:30 p.m. for staff and April 25 at 9 a.m. for parents.
Peter Day currently is a social media advisor for the Lucerne Valley Unified School District.