Three longtime school board directors exit
A changing of the guard was what the people sought at November’s Lake Tahoe Unified School District board of directors election, and so those whose positions were up for grabs are bidding farewell to a combined 38 years of involvement.
“It was much like a career – it pretty much developed a life of its own,” said David Kurtzman, who spent 16 years as a board member. Also departing are board president Linda Mendizabal, who did not run for re-election, and Eric Schafer.
Perhaps the most significant accomplishments of the board as a group, according to Kurtzman, were the passing of bond issues.
“We accomplished construction of new buildings and set the money in place for the future. It took the teamwork of the board and a commitment to see them pass,” Kurtzman said.
A bond election in 1992 gave the district the ability to ease overcrowding. Its passing provided for a new science wing at South Tahoe High School and a new multipurpose room at South Tahoe Middle School. And most recently, last year’s bond election secured the finances for a new science wing at the middle school and projected renovation of all school facilities by 2006.
Implementing a state-mandated, class-size reduction program in kindergarten through third grade was another milestone. Its effects have been felt throughout the district.
“I can’t imagine trying to supervise, much less teach, 32 young children, so I believe the class-size reduction program in K-3 has improved both teaching and learning conditions at the elementary level,” said Mendizabal, who served on the board for 10 years.
“Class-size reduction changed the face of what we’re doing here,” Schafer agreed. “It’s providing some good, solid opportunities of educational growth for our beginning students.”
The most controversial of issues departing board members faced – ongoing teacher salary negotiations – left strong feelings on both sides of the district fence.
“I am sorry this board was not able to conclude negotiations,” Mendizabal said. “Our employees are dedicated, and they deserve to be paid fairly. However, one need only look as far as Tahoe Truckee School District to see what happens when the board reallocates funds without identifying the source.”
Mendizabal said she’s discouraged by the rift the impasse in negotiations has caused between members of both groups, but said she hopes the friendships and associations can be mended.
Schafer, who concludes 12 years of service on the board, offered words of advice for new board members concerning teacher salary negotiations: “They have to really look deep and understand what kind of commitment they’re making with taxpayer money.”
Kurtzman said he would have liked to see negotiations through, “but it wasn’t my decision. But I do feel good about leaving the district with excellent facilities, excellent teachers, excellent programs and in an excellent financial position. That’s what I’m most proud of.”
Kurtzman, owner of Aspen Realty, said he won’t have trouble keeping busy. He’s been in the community since 1972 and said he plans to become involved in the South Tahoe Alliance for Recreation with hopes of helping to pass a bond on recreation facilities.
Mendizabal looks forward to attending classes at Lake Tahoe Community College. “I decided not to seek re-election because the time commitment is substantial and 10 years was enough,” she said, adding that she feels like a kid in a candy store trying to decide what to do next. “I have always found great satisfaction in community service and will no doubt find another venue to serve.”
Schafer, who’s involved in the Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis Sunrisers, the Tahoe Heritage Foundation and is owner of an accounting practice, said he won’t long for something to do. “I’ll spend more time with my wife,” he said, “and probably be in a better mood.”
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