By Debra Moore
“First and foremost, I stand for kids.”
That’s how William “Bill” Roderick describes his approach to his new position as Plumas Unified School District Superintendent.
Seated behind his desk in the historic school district headquarters on Church Street, Roderick is wearing a Carhartt shirt with the PUSD insignia sewn to the front. “I had a few of these made,” Roderick said of his khaki-colored shirt; wearing a suit and tie isn’t part of his daily attire.
It becomes clear quickly, that Roderick plans to take a hands-on approach to leading the district. “I have been to every campus, every week,” he said. He also hand signs birthday cards for all employees, diplomas and certificates. “That’s important to me.”
Roderick began his tenure in July, succeeding Terry Oestreich who retired from the position. Roderick, who most recently was the Senior Director of Student Services at the Lake County Office of Education, said he had heard that Oestreich planned to retire, and he thought he could help Plumas Unified with his unique skill set — he had been through a devastating fire and the aftermath of the rebuilding process.
“I didn’t need a job; I liked my job,” he said, “but I knew I could help.” He added that there is no instructional manual to lead a school district through a crisis such as the Dixie Fire; you learn it by living through it.
“We were at a volleyball tournament out of town,” he said of when the 2015 Valley Fire consumed the Roderick family home. He, and his wife and two daughters lost everything, except the family pet. “I called a former student and he kicked in the door and rescued our dog,” he said.
Roderick can empathize with those who lost their homes as well as their school. “I know how frustrating the recovery process is,” he said.
Roderick lauded Oestreich and her team for their work in ensuring the school situation stabilized and laid the groundwork for the students to return to their classrooms in Greenville. “I firmly believe that community-based schools make rural communities,” he said.
“I knew that I was coming into a very good team,” Roderick said and named several administrators including Lisa Cavin, Kristy Warren, Kevin Bean, and his administrative assistant Patty McCutcheon.
While the doors are open in Greenville, there are still challenges, including providing stable Internet access. “It’s a challenge for staff right now,” he said and recognized the dedication of the teachers there. That evening he planned to attend Greenville High School’s first home game. (He keeps a calendar of all school sports and will attend as many as he can.)
That’s partially because he is a former football, wrestling and track and field coach. He thinks athletics and other extracurricular activities are critical to keeping students in school. “Anything we can do to keep kids engaged in school,” he said, of his support of student activities.
When asked about the challenges facing the school district, Roderick said it’s the ability to hire and retain employees. “I’m committed to adding to the whole compensation package,” he said. “People do come here looking for a way of life, but we are competing with surrounding communities,” he said, who can offer the same sort of lifestyle but a more competitive salary.
One of the steps that the district had already taken to attract employees — purchasing a four-unit apartment building in East Quincy — has paid off. Roderick said that a new teacher is moving up from the Santa Cruz area and will be the building’s first tenant.
Roderick and his wife, who works for the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District, are living in Graeagle, which makes a nice midpoint for their respective commutes. Their two daughters are in college — one is a fourth-year accounting major at Long Beach State, while the other is a fourth-year med student in Michigan. Roderick plans to make Plumas Unified the final stop in his career.
At the conclusion of our interview, Roderick was heading to Greenville and Chester distribute popsicles to the students before the start of the Labor Day weekend, and making good on his plan to visit every community each week.