Jeanne Pearson, who made the two-mile drive to her final meeting as a trustee on Oak View Union School District board on Nov. 18, will be recognized later this month for her 29 years of service to the students of Acampo.
Despite not being re-elected, Pearson is among those with the longest tenure on a school board in California.
She was a young mother of three sons when her late husband, Paul, moved the family to Acampo in 1979. They founded Pearsons Concrete in 1958 and opened the Galt operations in 1983.
Pearson has served on the Oak View school board since 1981. She still has the flier and other campaign material from when she ran for election the first time.
And, in a closet in her house, three-ring binders filled with every agenda and marked by the year line a shelf.
Concerns with the lack of curriculum first led her to seek a seat on the school board. Her children were enrolled in seventh and eighth grade at Oak View school and only the upper grade had a full set of textbooks — and that was in only one subject, math.
In her first three years on the board, Pearson is most proud of not only enhancing the school's curriculum with up-to-date textbooks, but putting Apple IIe computers in ever classroom, creating a well-stocked, full-size library and building a new classroom wing without raising property taxes.
She spent the next eight years working with her peers to create cohesiveness with the board, administration and staff. During that time, she said, labor relations were stable and positive, and the board worked to maintain district administration accountability with the community.
Pearson was also behind the successful school bond that afforded the district a new multipurpose room. She's seen the school's campus double with the addition of nine new permanent classrooms and worked closely with four superintendents.
And, in her last four-year term, she's proud that the board maintained a balanced budget despite loss of revenue during economic downturn and declining enrollment. It was during this time the district was open to student transfers.
What drives trustees to continue to serve, especially through the rough times?
Longtime Lodi Unified School District trustee Ken Davis said he, personally, takes his civic responsibility very seriously.
"Believe it or not, I still enjoy doing it," he said.
He also says having someone on the school board with a bit of history is valuable.
Davis, who has worked with seven superintendents in his tenure, has said he will not seek re-election in 2012 after 20 years on the board.
"There comes a time when it's time to step down and let someone else serve," he said.
In the last election, a number of local longtime board members decided not to put their names on the ballot, including Donna Settles and Tina Skinner who served on the Galt Joint Union Elementary School District board a combined 45 years.
While the tenure of Pearson and other area trustees is noteworthy, they can't claim the title of the longest tenure in the state, according to California School Boards Association.
That honor goes to Georgie O'Connor who said farewell in November after 49 years on the Lucia Mar Unified School District board. The 88-year-old decided not to run for re-election after successfully snagging her 12th consecutive four-year term in 2006.
And, Oak View's own Stan Seifert has Pearson beat; he's been on the board since 1976, she said.
Trustee Carol Pehl, Pearson's longtime peer on the Acampo school board, said she will miss most being able to bounce ideas off Pearson.
"She's sharp and has a way of seeing things from a different angle," Pehl said, adding that some of her "unique" solutions helped get things done in the district. "She brought organization to the board. She got policies adopted that were made for Oak View, and she brought a validity to negotiations."
Pearson actually recruited Pehl to work for the district in 1986. The two had met five years earlier when Pearson ran against her husband, Chet Pehl, who also secured a board seat that year.
"We would go to soccer games, and I could hear people whispering, 'That's the man that's running against Jeanne,'" Pehl said.
Galt Joint Union High School board trustee Art Oelsner says Pearson and the knowledge she brought to the board table will be a loss to constituents.
"Her tenure is testament to her commitment to the children of our community and her value system of honesty and integrity," he said.
On a personal level, Oelsner said Pearson has been a mentor to him as a board member and taught him the lesson that being fair, firm and consistent were the most important qualities a board member could exhibit.
"The entire Pearson family have given up countless hours serving the children of our community, and Jeanne will be sorely missed on the Oak View board," Oelsner said, adding that hopes she will consider serving on the Galt high district board in the future. Her son, Norm, served one four-year term but was not re-elected.
During the most recent campaign season, Pearson came close to predicting her loss.
When questioned last fall why she thought so many candidates were challenging incumbents, especially in the Oak View race where that was a rarity, she quipped that there seemed to be an anti-incumbent mood at the national and state level that had trickled down to local level.
On Dec. 16, Pearson was formally replaced by John Vermeltfoort, who was elected by voters.
Final election results show Pearson coming in fifth in the six-person race for three seats. She received just 359 of the district's 2,335 votes (15.25 percent) compared to Vermeltfoort's 408 votes (17.47 percent).
Rounding out the election were winners Mark Huft with 450 votes (19.27 percent) and Pehl with 388 votes (16.62 percent). Both are incumbents.
Others not elected include Deborah Ward-Crummey, who received 356 votes (15.25 percent) and Joel Maldonado Jr., with 369 votes (15.80 percent).
Pearson will be recognized at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the beginning of the regular Oak View Union School District board meeting. It is open to the public, and a short reception will follow.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org