Area school board has new trustees

-- Carmen George / Sierra StarOctober 26, 2012 

Two community members have been selected for the Bass Lake Joint Union Elementary School District's Board of Trustees.

Stella Pizelo, whose worked in education for almost 40 years, joined the board Oct. 10.

Pizelo is representing Trustee Area #2, which encompasses many areas off of Crane Valley Road (426), Thornberry Road (420) and Fresno Flats Road (425B).

Ronda Clarke, a former PTA president for Wasuma Elementary School, will join the board in December.

Clarke will represent Trustee Area #5, which encompasses Goldside and many areas between Ahwahnee and Oakhurst.

The board serves the district by helping make decisions which affect Oakhurst Elementary, Oak Creek Intermediate and Wasuma Elementary School.

Superintendent Glenn Reid said he's looking forward to working with both of them and that Pizelo is definitely "no stranger to the educational field" and Clarke has attended district board meetings for years.

Pizelo replaces Janna Christensen, who served on the board since Dec. 15 and resigned due to a move out of the area.

Ronda Clarke fills a new trustee area that was created when the trustee boundaries were recently redrawn. Clarke is the only name on the upcoming November ballot for that area.

Pizelo was appointed to the board after applying and interviewing for the position. Christensen's resignment came too late for her position to be placed on the November ballot, and a special election would have cost the district too much money, said Superintendent Glenn Reid.

Starting in December, the board will have reduced its members from seven to five to help save money and also because the district has decreased in size over the years, Reid said. Trustee area boundaries are periodically redrawn so board members are representing an equal number of people who are all demographically alike.

Stella Pizelo

Following 37 years working in education, Stella Pizelo isn't letting retirement keep her from continuing to help children.

Her impressive résumé includes eight years as superintendent/principal at Raymond/Knowles Elementary School and six years as director of Educational Services for Mariposa County -- along with serving on the state's Curriculum and Instruction Steering Committee. She was also a regular teacher and later a principal for 13 years at Woodland Elementary School.

She also worked as a special education teacher, consultant, coordinator and principal at a Gould Center -- a school for special education students.

"I believe in public education and giving our children a strong foundation for their future," Pizelo said. "As a former teacher and administrator, I understand the rigor of today's curriculum based on the state and national standards, yet the 'whole child' is so important to nurture. The fiscal situation that schools face today is very challenging ... Definitely there is a strong emphasis on the academic, but the other areas of the curriculum are very important to having a well-rounded educational experience."

"I am absolutely thrilled Stella Pizelo will be on the Bass Lake School Board," said board member Joe Smith, who is joining Yosemite Unified's board in December after a new Oakhurst trustee area was created recently. "She just comes with a world of talent and experience that will really be helpful. She's really a great lady and she loves kids and education and she just fits really well there. Lots of people care, but not all that many will step up, and she's really one of those step-up people."

"As dollars shrink, programs tend to shrink, and so then often times, it leaves it up to community sponsorship to help pick up the effort," said Pizelo of the increasing need for community involvement. "When people come together to see the community do even bigger things for the whole greater good of the community, that's pretty neat."

Pizelo has lived in the area since the mid-70s and has two daughters in their 30s. She's the vice president of Sierra Lions Club of Oakhurst and has been active with Special Olympics. She also has a minister's license, and sometimes speaks at the Positive Living Center in Oakhurst.

Pizelo's term will expire in November, 2014. At that time, she can run again as an incumbent for a four-year term.

Ronda Clarke

Clarke is a past president for Wasuma Elementary School's PTA, and she has two children who attend the Wasuma: Chandler, 14 on Tuesday, and Lexi, 11.

"I'm just excited about having her on the board," Reid said. "She has been coming to board meetings for several years now and has a perspective that's very unique for kids and education."

Clarke has lived in Oakhurst for 18 years and is an on-call licensed vocational nurse for Kaiser Permanente when they need extra help.

"I went from being a working person to a stay-at-home mom," Clarke said. "I had more time, and so I volunteered at school and helped in my children's classrooms. I've never worked in education. I'm just a parent that has a passion for education I guess ... I want to help get involved and make it better for all kids. It's not like I had a strong desire to be on the school board, but I am a parent and I am at the school a lot, and if there is something I can do to try and help be an advocate for education, I want to do that ... Especially for many low socioeconomic families, the only way they are ever going to get anywhere in life is if they get an education. It's more important for those children then my own children (to get a good education) and I see these children in school and see there is no other option for them, and we especially need to make it good them, that's how I feel."

The new configuration of the now five-person board (after the November elections) will look like this: Area 1 -- Diane Peterson, Area 2 -- Stella Pizelo, Area 3 -- Ron Bucheger, Area 4 -- David Read, and Area 5 -- Ronda Clarke.

Board members are offered medical and dental insurance, but they do not receive a pay check for their volunteer service.

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