By Debra Moore
Plumas Unified School District has a new school board member — Quincy resident JoDee Read. She succeeds Dwight Pierson who represented Trustee Area 3 (Quincy/Meadow Valley) before he resigned from the board effective Sept. 4 to spend more time with family.
The board had the option of calling for a special election or appointing someone to serve until the next election, which will be in 2022. They chose the latter option and asked for interested parties to apply and received two applications.
During the school board’s Oct. 14 meeting, the trustees interviewed Read as well as April Gott. Read is the CEO of Plumas District Hospital and the parent of a child in the school district. Gott is a coach, a Sheriff’s Office employee, and a former student in the district, as well as the parent of two daughters who attended school in the district.
The school board asked the candidates a series of eight questions with each given 3 minutes to respond. However, their answers were brief, and the interview process wrapped up in just about a half hour.
The first and most obvious question was “Why?” Given that this is an unprecedented time in public education and the time commitment that is involved, the candidates were asked why they chose to apply now and if any particular issue drove them.
Gott cited her experience as a parent to a student during this challenging time and her ability to bring that to the board. She also wanted the opportunity to bring the community together.
Read cited the desire to emotionally support students and said that “there is no greater gift than to be able to support our children.” (That’s a phrase that resonated with the school board and played into their final decision.)
When asked about the particular skills they bring to the position, Read cited her experience as a CEO and her ability to understand the financial picture, as well as her capacity to build relationships. Gott cited her leadership abilities as demonstrated by her position in the jail and her ability to find solutions to problems. She also cited teamwork as important.
They were also asked what major issue faced the district and education as a whole. “How do we ensure that we don’t come from a place that’s too far behind,” Read responded, citing funding and the pandemic as challenges. Gott said that lack of socialization was an issue and she wanted students to be able to get out of the house and into the fresh air. She also mentioned special education as an issue she would want to be involved in.
Both candidates cited listening to the community as an important part of serving on the school board. Gott also mentioned communication and teamwork, while Read mentioned the responsibility to provide oversight on the budget and policies and procedures.
Each candidate was invited to share a final thought. “I’m very, very pleased you have two qualified candidates,” Read said.
Gott wanted the board to know how committed she was to the community and to the school district, and also acknowledged Read. “I feel honored to be alongside someone who is such a great candidate,” she said.
After a 10-minute recess, during which the school board members gathered their thoughts, they met in open session to discuss the merits of each candidate. They all singled out the appeal of Gott, who not only has coached in the school district, but grew up in Quincy and attended school in the district. That struck a chord with Trustee Joleen Cline who said, “Miss Gott has experience as a student herself and as a parent. I don’t know if we’ve ever had that on the board before.”
Board members also acknowledged Gott’s nod to special education when asked if there were any issues that she would want to focus on. “She mentioned it not once, but twice,” Trustee Dave Keller said.
Trustee Traci Holt said she was impressed with the experience Gott has had in various facets of the schools including as a coach.
Trustee Leslie Edlund liked Gott’s emphasis on teamwork and collaboration, which she described as “essential on the board.”
However what impressed the trustees about Read was her experience as a hospital CEO and her grasp of budgets, policies and working as a team. “She has incredible budget and policy experience; this would be an easy transition for her,” Trustee Edlund said.
Trustee Cline liked that Read addressed the emotional health of students and Trustee Holt referenced her statement regarding “no greater gift than to support out children,” as did Trustee Keller.
“She also had a few stand out comments on student achievement which is a top priority for me,” Trustee Holt said.
Edlund summed up the sentiments of her fellow trustees when she said, “We have two amazing choices; we’re in a really lucky position.”
All of the trustees noted that they scored the candidates extremely close with Keller saying that only 1 point separated the two. “No matter who we select, we can’t go wrong,” he said, before making the recommendation to choose Read. It was a unanimous vote.
Following the vote, Read was sworn into office and served out the remainder of the meeting.