The Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees on Dec. 12 said farewell to members Willie Yahiro, Leslie De Rose and Jeff Ursino during the annual organizational meeting, which also was a time to swear in three new trustees.
The district boardroom was packed with teachers, administrators and community members, who came to pay tribute to Ursino, who has sat on the board for eight years, and De Rose, who has served for 12.
But the biggest accolades were reserved for Yahiro, who has served continuously since he was elected in 1990.
PVUSD Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez called Yahiro a “cornerstone of the community.”
“He has done a great job, and we are so appreciative of all his work,” Rodriguez said.
Trustee Kim De Serpa, who was appointed to her seat in lieu of election, gave a short speech in honor of De Rose.
“I’ve always been impressed by your calm demeanor and your commitment,” De Serpa said. “It is sometimes a thankless job, and you did it beautifully.”
De Rose said her departure was “bittersweet.”
“But I’m very excited about spending more time with my family,” De Rose said.
In his farewell speech, Ursino praised the district teachers.
“It’s a lot of work to educate the youth of this district,” he said.
Ursino added that he is excited about the direction in which the district is going.
“We’re all rooting for you,” he told the new trustees.
A 1959 Watsonville High School graduate, Yahiro served continuously on the board of trustees since he was elected in 1990.
He taught at his alma mater for 12 years and coached athletics.
In an interview Tuesday with this newspaper, Yahiro said he was “a little sad” about his loss, but said he is excited about the future of the district.
He said that the new board is taking leadership of a district that has been rebuilt from the layoffs and cutbacks of the 2008 recession.
“We’re leaving the district in a fine financial shape,” he said. “Good things are happening everywhere. Music and art are coming back.”
Yahiro lost his Trustee Area 4 seat to Daniel Dodge Jr. by just 50 votes in the Nov. 6 election, a victory that came largely thanks to the endorsements of the Pajaro Valley Federation of Teachers and the California School Employees Association.
Those unions also endorsed Jennifer Schacher, who beat incumbent Leslie De Rose with more than 68 percent of the vote, and Jennifer Holm, who bested Bill Beecher with more than 72 percent.
Yahiro said that the new trustees publicly stated during the campaign that they favored giving teachers raises, and accused the incumbents of opposing them.
“Everything else really didn’t matter,” Yahiro said.
Yahiro, 77, who owns Yahiro Insurance, said he plans to cut back his time there and eventually turn the business over to Blanca Medrano, who has worked with him for 27 years.
The Dec. 12 meeting marked Yahiro’s retirement from community service. He plans to travel locally to places such as Monterey, Carmel and Salinas.
“You can be busy and be a tourist for a while,” he said. “I’m excited about that.”
Looking back on his time as a trustee, Yahiro said he is proud of the new senior requirement for one year of career and vocational classes, a move he said will serve the 30 percent of students who choose not to go to college.
But in talking about the impending end of his time as a trustee, Yahiro said he didn’t want to talk about his past accomplishments.
“Campaigns are not about the past,” he said. “It’s about the future. One of the reasons I like to be around young people is that they are excited about what’s coming up tomorrow.
“It’s wonderful to build schools and all that, but the thing is, what are we going to do now that’s going to impact kids’ futures?”
“I just want to thank the voters for many, many years of giving me the opportunity,” he said.