LUSD board says goodbye to two members

School board trustees (from left) Bonnie Cassel, Ron Heberle, George Neely and Daryl Talken are sworn into office by Judge Lauren P. Thomasson of the Superior Court of San Joaquin County.

During their Tuesday night meeting, the Lodi Unified School District Board of Education bid farewell to Bonnie Cassel and Daryl Talken, who are both finishing up their final terms as board members.

First elected in 2006, Cassel represented Area 1, which includes Ansel Adams Elementary, Davis Elementary, Houston School, Live Oak Elementary, Lockeford Elementary, Morada Middle, Turner Academy at Tokay Colony and Victor Elementary schools.

Cassel will be replaced by Susan MacFarlane, a self-employed insurance adjuster and former Science Olympiad coach who won the Nov. 6 general election.

Before she was elected to the board, Cassel taught at the elementary, middle, high school and college levels, board president George Neely said on Tuesday night. She also served as a department chair, mentor teacher, trainer of teachers, master teacher and accreditation chair.

“Bonnie 0has brought a wealth of experience to this board,” Neely said.

During her 12 years as a board member, Cassel attended more than 300 meetings, voted on approximately 3,500 items and approved more than $3.4 billion in budgets, he added.

“You taught me a lot about being a board member,” he said. “You’ve made me a better board member, and you’ve made this board a better board. Thank you for your service, Bonnie.”

One of Cassel’s proudest accomplishments was helping to implement academic interventions, particularly for students who have difficulty reading at their proper grade levels, she said on Wednesday.

“What I knew as a long-term teacher was that if a child could not read at grade level, that was a serious detriment to their education,” she said.

Cassel, a National Parks ranger, plans to spend her retirement working on various programs to provide underprivileged children with opportunities to explore national parks, along with other environmental education programs.

“I’m convinced that progress needs to be made in the stewardship of the Earth, and that young people have to be really involved in that,” she said.

Although she will miss working with her fellow board members, Cassel was grateful for the opportunity to serve on the board, and believes she will always work in education in some way or another.

“It really has been a great privilege to serve the community as a board member, and before that as a teacher,” she said. “I’m very pleased with how that’s worked out for me.”

First elected in 2014, Talken has represented Area 4, which includes Henderson, Independence, Lakewood Elementary, Millswood Middle, Podesta Ranch Elementary and Woodbridge Elementary schools. He decided not to run for re-election, and will be replaced by Tokay High School teacher and water polo coach Courtney Porter.

Before he was elected, Talken worked as a teacher, coach, athletic director and principal of a high school, board member Ron Heberle said on Tuesday night.

“It was easy to tell your passion for doing the right thing. I just love your focus on the students, their families and our employees. That perspective really had an impact,” he told Talken on Tuesday. “On behalf of Lodi Unified School District and this school board, we wand to thank you for your service.”

Board member Ron Freitas offered his own praise and congratulations.

“With Dr. Talken, what you see is what you get,” he said. “He’s a great, big grizzly bear of a guy who fights passionately for public education, and that big grizzly bear is all heart because he loves our kids.”

Talken, a man of few words, offered only four on Tuesday night: “Thank you very much.”

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