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LVUSD Board Travels to Johnson Valley

Piano man
The Lucerne Valley USD's Board of Trustees presented the Johnson Valley Improvement Association with an award for their donation of a piano to the LVMHS Music Program. Pictured, from left, are Superintendent Peter Livingston, board members Tom Courtney and Jessica Risler, Johnson Valley Improvement Association Vice-President Reiner Kruger, Board President Chelsea LaGrange, Board Vice-President Jason Hansen and longtime school board member Jim Harvey. Photo by Peter Day
By Peter Day
LVUSD Social Media
JOHNSON VALLEY — The five-member Board of Trustees of the Lucerne Valley Unified School District, administrators and a student representative trekked to the Johnson Valley Community Center on the evening of Thursday, January 11th for the board’s monthly meeting. The board, which regularly meets at its Aliento Road district board room in Lucerne Valley, previously gathered for a meeting in Johnson Valley several years ago and was invited back to give the district’s easternmost constituents an opportunity to see the board in action, hear about the district’s many improvements and ask questions.
“This is part of our community, and we are so glad to be here,” Assistant Superintendent Nate Lambdin said. 
The centerpiece item on the board’s agenda was an award to the Johnson Valley Improvement Association, which donated a piano to the Lucerne Valley Middle High School Music Program. Association Vice-President Reiner Kruger accepted the award on behalf of the association.
“We’re so glad it’s found a good home,” Mr. Kruger said.
Johnson valley man
Association Vice-President Reiner Kruger addresses the attendees as Superintendent Peter Livingston presents the plaque. Photo by Peter Day
While most student representatives shared their monthly updates via pre-recorded video, LVMS ASB Student Representative Aurora Berlitech gave hers in person. The audience expressed gratitude for Aurora coming all the way out to the Johnson Valley meeting.
The Eagle Leadership Representatives (LVES) gave a video report that featured singing along with photos to show what’s been happening at the school. There were also video reports by the High School’s FFA and the High School ASB.
Board members
The Lucerne Valley USD Board of Trustees made themselves at home during their on-the-road board meeting at the Johnson Valley Community Center. Photo by Peter Day


In the Discussion/Action portion of the meeting, the board unanimously approved becoming a member of the National Rural Education Association (NREA).  Based in Chattanooga, Tenn., the NREA works to maintain the vitality of rural school systems across the country. Founded in 1907, its members are made up of rural school administrators, teachers, education agencies and rural school district boards, such as the Lucerne Valley USD.
Several LVUSD representatives were first introduced to the NREA while attending an education conference in Texas a few years ago. Joining the organization comes after the LVUSD, and other rural California school districts, have experienced a “one size fits all” mentality prevalent with state legislators and education-based representatives in Sacramento, according to longtime school board member Tom Courtney.
“Rural kids matter too,” Mr. Courtney said. “We think rural schools do a better job.”
Jason Hansen, the newest on the board, agreed. “We don’t need city values like L.A.,” he said, adding, “I’m really excited about this (new membership).”
Of Courtney, School Board Member Jim Harvey said, “I’ve never met anyone who has worked harder for kids.”
school board
The 2024 Lucerne Valley USD School Board: From left, Superintendent Peter Livingston, board members Jessica Risler and Tom Courtney, Board President Chelsea LaGrange, Vice-President Jason Hansen and Board Member Jim Harvey. Photo by Peter Day

COP Pay Off Continues

The school board also approved the depositing of $250,000 into the district account to be utilized in the Certificate of Participation (COP) loan repayment in 2026. The school district took out the COPs in 2007 when faced with a dire economic situation. However, several years ago the district decided to pay off the loans early and become debt-free. Originally scheduled to be paid off in 2036, the faster COP pay off will enable the district to spend that money “on the classroom,” Mr. Harvey said.
According to Superintendent Peter Livingston, Lucerne Valley USD may be the only school district in the state to pay off its loans when the COPs are paid off in two years. 
In other action, the school board approved a 1.5 cent boost in the the mileage rate to 67 cents per mile for business use, increasing the Classified Substitute Rate to $16 an hour ($17 for substitutes with additional skills), acceptance of the 2026-2027 Student Calendar, and purchase of a Blue Bird school bus additional surveillance cameras for the school sites. 

Administrator/Board Member Reports

During the reports section of the meeting, Superintendent Peter Livingston talked about how since 2016-17 the school district’s enrollment has steadily increased from about 660 students to its current 1,100. “The community likes the conservative approach we take at the district,” he said.
Mr. Courtney spoke of the improvements made over the past few years with the current board and administrator team. “You’d be amazed at all the improvements we’ve made.”
Lucerne Valley Elementary School administrators Joanna Mora (Principal) and Suzie Manley (Assistant Principal) talked about the fun, interesting and educational activities going on at their school. During December the school had a themed dress-up day nearly every school day. “The kids are just loving it,” Mrs. Manley said. Mrs. Mora is excited that a musician who weaves their music with an anti-bullying message will soon perform an assembly at the school. She also said a new school nurse is now at the school.
Middle/High School administrators Jason Story (Principal) and Jessica Haecker (Assistant Principal) gave their reports. “We’re just really proud of all the things happening in our schools,” said Ms. Haecker, who has sought and obtained grants for the school’s Career Technical Education (CTE) programs to the tune of $700,000. 
Mr. Story gave an update and talked about how the high school’s boys soccer team and girls basketball team are in the hunt for league titles. He also said, “It’s nice to be part of a school district that cares about the kids.”
Board member Jessica Risler, who previously served as board president for two years, said that the Senior Basket Program will once again begin. Community volunteers create custom made baskets for every high school senior. The 2024 event will culminate in May at a spirited gathering in the Sgt. Brian Walker Gymnasium. Emotions will be high as each senior opens their basket containing personalized gifts.
Peter Day writes content for the Lucerne Valley USD’s web and social media pages. He can be reached at [email protected].