Never have the words of Lucerne Valley USD’s motto been more meaningful than now: “We are more than a district. We are a family.”
Today, after the school district’s most trying year ever due to the CoVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying restrictions, students are back in class five days a week, and it took all district “family” members to make it happen. The employees — teachers and classified staff alike — are being recognized by the school district for their day-in and day-out dedication and never-ending determination to fully reopen Lucerne Valley schools.
“As we look back and reflect on one of the craziest years in history, I keep reflecting on the quote, ‘If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself,’ says Superintendent Peter Livingston. “Our district has been able to continue to move forward and do what is best for our students. I believe we have lived our district motto this year, We are more than a district. We are a family.”
'HIGH LEVEL OF TEAMWORK'
“I have never seen such a high level of teamwork,” said LVUSD Assistant Superintendent Nate Lambdin. “We have teachers helping sanitize classrooms, security cleaning tables, custodians taking on additional challenges, bus drivers proctoring the lunch area. It’s amazing. It’s teamwork at its best. And most of all, it’s for our kids.”
Ricky Anderson, who has risen to the challenge in just his first year as principal of Lucerne Valley Elementary School, is in awe at how the entire staff came together.
“It really was a collective effort by everyone to make it as successful as possible,” Mr. Anderson says. “This is my 18th year in education, and I have seen a new school come together, but I have never seen a WHOLE district come together the way LVUSD did during the pandemic for the reopening process.”
Mr. Lambdin, a veteran educator who also serves as co-principal of Lucerne Valley Middle High School, says the school faculty always kept their eye on the target: Fostering a sense of normalcy for their students and ultimately reopening the schools.
“Our staff has endured many, many changes in order to prepare for the return of our kids,” according to Mr. Lambdin. “Going above-and-beyond and being flexible has been the mantra of our faculty this year. In over 30 years of education, I have had the opportunity to work with so many excellent people. But, by far, the staff at Lucerne Valley Middle High School is among the best group of people I have ever worked with.”
Mr. Lambdin gave a shout out to several key staff members for their hard work:
• Middle School ASB advisor Mrs. Cyndi McDonough, who spends her lunchtime setting-up games and activities for the kids. “She wanted to make returning to school fun and exciting for our middle school kids — and she has succeeded.”
• The school’s agriculture department staff under the leadership of Troy Van Bavel and Danielle Hickman, has maintained a strong FFA program despite the pandemic. “Their students have been able to raise animals in preparation for the County Fair.”
• New school counselor, Kevin Barda, who created a platform through home room to assist graduating seniors to get matriculated at Victor Valley Community College. “He spends a half an hour a day working with them on the application process and scholarship opportunities.”
• Co-principal Mrs. Kelly Boeing, who Mr. Lambdin says has been a “guardian angel” by seeking to provide students with as many extras as possible. “She worked the United Way to secure a U-haul filled with school supplies, shoes, activity games, backpacks and all sorts of things for our kids. Additionally, she worked Operation School Bell and the Assistance League of Apple Valley to provide every student with pants, sweatshirt, socks, underwear, and a pair of shoes. She has partnered with the local organizations like the Roadrunners and Omya to provide additional support for our kids.”
BOARD MEMBERS CITE COMMITMENT
School board vice-president Jessica Risler completely agrees with the school administrators.
“Without their commitment to providing and fighting for our children, and ensuring their best educational experience, we never could have made this happen this school year,” Mrs. Risler says. “When others around us choose to stay closed or stay on hybrid (model), our District will pave the way, bringing the equity back to our kids, giving them all the best educational experience we have the power to bring.”
Mrs. Risler gives kudos to specific teams:
“Beginning with our teachers standing strong and devoted to the implementation of new tasks and learning platforms they never even imagined they would teach on, we have had a spectacular ‘buy in’ at every turn.
“Our maintenance and janitorial crews jumped on every task with incredible determination and speed, to create a safer and CoVID Compliant state-of-the-art environment for our students to return to, keeping safety and health in the focus of their work.
“Our transportation crew had to completely change their entire way of bussing, becoming the very first line of safety for our students before they even made it to campus, and did so with admirable eagerness without skipping a beat.
“Our office crews answered endless questions and concerns, at times searching out and finding solutions to issues that never existed before. They stayed on point, sharing solutions, empathy and compassion to the needs of the front office.
“Our Proctors and helpers have all taken on extra roles and responsibilities without batting an eye, giving an extra hand at every turn and really supporting the rest of the team.
“The lunch ladies, who, through it all, continually provided nutrition, through food they prepared with love. Every single department, there are so many amazing humans who pushed and fought to get us reopened. Our entire staff, teachers and administration have completely devoted their strengths and energy into returning our children back to in person learning and reopening our schools.”
One team of unsung heroes — the district’s Information Technology Department consisting of Jason Hart and Jacob Rodriguez — deserves special recognition for playing a key role throughout the year. Among their accomplishments: The team installed wireless internet service at various locations on the campuses, helped families get their district-issued mobile hot spots up and running, and upgraded classrooms with state-of-the-art video cameras to provide computer-based learning students with a much improved experience.
“When you think what they’ve contributed during the pandemic, it’s amazing,” Mr. Lambdin said.
Longtime school board member Tom Courtney, who currently has grandchildren in Lucerne Valley schools, is continually struck at how the district’s teachers have stepped up to the plate, again and again.
“The majority of the teachers were 100% on board full reopening,” says Mr. Courtney, who currently serves as president of the Board of Trustees. “When we needed MOU’s (Memorandum of Understanding) we had them in an hour. Without their support we could have never reopened.”