New goals lead school trustees Edlund, Pierson to Nov. run

It’s really true — if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.

So it’s no surprise that two of the busiest volunteers in the county have decided to run for reelection to the Plumas County Board of Education.

Leslie Edlund and Dwight Pierson, who represent Districts 2 and 3 for East Quincy, Quincy and Meadow Valley, respectively, announced this month that they will seek voters’ support in November to continue as school board members for new four-year terms. Even though they represent specific areas, they are voted upon countywide.

PUSD Trustee Leslie Edlund currently serves as president of the school board and represents District 2 for East Quincy. Photos submitted

The trustees indicated they are running for reelection primarily because they feel the board has made great progress on a number of key fronts and they’d like to keep that successful momentum moving forward.

Current terms for Edlund, Pierson and Trustee Traci Holt, who represents District 5 in the Chester and Lake Almanor area, end in December. Holt has not yet indicated her plans.

Real, meaningful change takes time

“I’m interested in serving another term because I understand that leadership requires not only dedication, but also consistency. Real, meaningful change takes time,” said Edlund, a U.S. Forest Service employee who moved to Quincy in the 1990s and has served on the school board since 2012, most recently as president.

“Having the right team is very important and we’ve made huge strides in our efficiency,” she added. “We have a good working board. We have honest conversations and it’s not about rubber-stamping things. It’s been a godsend having the right staff on board and we really have excellent, quality people at the district. We share a common vision.”

PUSD ‘always had a good future’

PUSD Trustee Dwight Pierson represents District 3 for Meadow Valley and Quincy.

Pierson, who retired to Quincy in 2011 following a 40-year career in school administration and classroom education, immediately went to work

volunteering for the district and was elected to the school board in 2014.

He shared Edlund’s outlook on the value of sustained commitment.

“We’re just hitting our stride and now it’s a matter of getting better,” Pierson said. “This process is a marathon. You don’t train just 2 miles at a time. We always felt this school district had a good future. We just needed to tie the pieces together.”

He added, “I have thoroughly enjoyed serving on the Board of Trustees, but our work is not completed. The present members of the school board are a dedicated, caring group of individuals who are working toward what is best for all of the students enrolled in our schools. We work well together, in a unified effort. We’ve been making good progress with that focus.”

Overseeing many big changes

Edlund and Pierson agreed that it’s an honor to serve on the school board.

They have seen PUSD schools come through some big changes, including hiring a new district superintendent, Terry Oestreich, who is also up for reelection in November. They emphasized that they take these responsibilities very seriously.

“Having fiduciary responsibility for the schools and district has included working toward a balanced budget during a time of uncertainty with regard to both state and federal funding,” Pierson said, explaining that he, Edlund and the other trustees were involved in budget recommendations that amounted to more than $2 million in savings for PUSD programs and sites.

Carrying the Measure B public bond referendum to county voters, the trustees also supported a major effort to address pressing facilities repairs and improvements districtwide —  including roof work at many sites, electrical, heating and safety issues, among other needs.

Edlund and Pierson described feeling connected with their fellow trustees in supporting the school sites in Chester, Greenville, Portola and Quincy, especially teachers, staff, families and students.

Starting with a good foundation

“Public education is the foundation of our democracy and our kids are at the heart of it all,” Edlund commented. “I have watched the district develop into a thriving educational community.”

She observed that PUSD has rectified its budget woes through hard work and belt-tightening, with the help of the Austerity and Budget Committees; bus fees paid by families have been eliminated; one-to-one computers are now offered districtwide; food services have improved; and Measure B support is addressing critical infrastructure needs while ensuring tax dollars are spent where they are most needed.

“I want to see our schools continue to flourish through support of our site leadership, teachers and staff,” Edlund added. “I want to see the continued rollout of our new English, math, science and social studies curricula. We are already increasing our course offerings not only in the classroom, but through independent study, online courses, digital academies and other nontraditional learning models — all while raising expectations for all classrooms.”

Focusing on student achievement

Pierson, too, shares a commitment to seeing through the Measure B facilities projects and more.

“Measure B has been a bit of a curveball, but a good one and worth the big time commitment,” he said. “It takes some time to gain the trust of the school sites, staff, parents and students, and we’re moving forward on that. We really want to focus on student achievement.”

Pierson added that bringing technology into all PUSD school buildings is an important goal and he wants to ensure the district implements technology that brings Plumas closer to 21st century classrooms and learning environments.

“In addition to striving for a balanced budget and safe, well-maintained schools, the board wants to support staff development that results in increased opportunities for students and student achievement,” he explained. “I also strongly believe that we need to support all district efforts to improve the culture and climate in our school facilities.”

Common wellspring of commitment

On the school board, Pierson currently serves as the district’s elected Delegate Assembly member to the California School Boards Association, representing the unique needs of rural districts, including Plumas and Lassen counties.

His commitment to quality schools and education stems from growing up with a mother who was a long-time teacher and a father who served on the local board of education.

“Public education has been, and continues to be, my passion,” Pierson said, smiling

A few years ago, he volunteered with PUSD’s Austerity Committee after chairing the Quincy 7/11 Committee to study and recommend options for closing one elementary school, a tough project.

“Transitioning to serving on the school board wasn’t effortless for me or my fellow trustees, but it was somewhat easier because we saw firsthand, through our committee work, what the needs of the district were,” said Pierson, who is also a dedicated member of the local Rotary Club and the Professional Learning Network sponsored by the statewide school boards association.

Edlund’s mother was a teacher and her father was the mayor of their town.

“So I grew up with the importance of education being talked about at the dinner table,” she said. “My own kids went through Plumas Unified schools and I want the best for ALL of the students in our district. It’s what makes it all worthwhile.”

‘We’ve got a lot of work to do”

“Your passion (for education) doesn’t end just because you don’t have kids in school anymore,” Pierson mused. “On the board, differences of opinion are respected and if we talk about an issue long enough, we do find a consensus. We’ve got a lot of work to do yet, especially in creating a culture where all are welcome and everyone wants to come to school. That’s what we’re shooting for and we’re setting high expectations at the same time.”

Edlund added, “We want to make our school environments warm and welcoming. It’s also amazing the support we receive from the entire community and our businesses. Everyone gives and gives.”

Edlund’s commitment to Plumas schools dates back to the years when her two children attended Quincy Elementary and Pioneer School and she volunteered with the Site Council and parent cooperative organization. She offered high praise for the many like-minded people she has worked with on behalf of local schools.

“I met many people who were smart, capable and joyful, who cared deeply about children,” she said. “These friends have been, and continue to be, an inspiration for me. I feel like I’m part of an amazing team. PUSD is being noticed for doing great things for kids. I would like to continue to be a small part of the growth and achievement of our school district.”