District thanks trustee for making a difference

NOV. 23, 2016 1:05 PM PT

Outgoing Ramona Unified board member John Rajcic, Ph.D., took the accolades he received at the end of his last meeting as trustee in stride, peppering his remarks with his trademark humor, storytelling and philosophy — and even singing a portion of Paul
McCartney’s “Yesterday.”

“That’s a heck of a song,” he said before beginning to sing the song he said had been going through his mind all day.

When he reached “Suddenly I’m not half the man I used to be; there’s a shadow hanging over me,” he slowed and appeared emotional.

“You know the problem with being a good sport?” he asked. “You have to lose to prove it. And I’m not a very good sport.”

Rajcic, elected to the board in 2012, lost his bid for re-election on Nov. 8, coming in third to newcomer Daryn Drum and two-term trustee Dawn Perfect.

District trustees and Superintendent Anne Staffieri, Ed.D., ended the Nov. 17 meeting with words of thanks and appreciation for Rajcic and the difference he made.

“I want to thank you for your questions that always seemed to spark thinking and spark discussion,” said Staffieri. “…You do have an abundance of wisdom and a great deal of independence and commitment.”

“It has been an honor and a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with you,” said Kim Lasley, board president. “I for one have learned a great deal over these last four years. You have brought great discussions and debates to the table.”

Early in her prepared remarks to Rajcic, Lasley’s voice broke with emotion.

“You’re going to make me cry,” said Rajcic, quickly changing the mood of the audience with, “I cry when Lassie gets caught in the corn field.”

Lasley said Rajcic will be missed. She thanked him for the care and compassion he showed the district, “especially the students and employees.” He consistently visited all the schools and classrooms, and he and his wife, Connie, attended many school events, “whether it be a concert, dance performance, fundraiser or football game,” she said.

“Look at the district office,” said Lasley. “You were persistent on having it painted and looking better. Now look at it.”

Trustee Rodger Dohm, who made the plaque the board presented Rajcic, said, “In the four years that you’ve been here, you probably single-handedly have made more change in Ramona Unified than any board member.”

Rajcic was willing to question everything, said Dohm, “and in questioning everything, you think about everything different. And it wasn’t just the board that was thinking about everything different, it was the entire community.”

Saying Rajcic is a wealth of information, Trustee Dawn Perfect told him, “You’ve made us grow, you have made us stretch on every single topic that we’ve worked on.”

“Thank you,” Rajcic said to those who spoke.

When trustee Bob Stoody referred to four years of family sacrifice — attending events, worrying about the district and thinking about the board members — the audience assumed he was talking about Rajcic.

“I acknowledge you’ve done all of that, but really all that was mentioned was for Connie (who was in the audience),” said Stoody. “Thank you, Connie, for the sacrifice, because we know what it costs to be on the board and what it costs family members — and thank you, John.”

Rajcic talked about the day he met his wife. While a University of Minnesota student, he was tending bar when she asked for change to use the pay telephone.

“I touched her hand and we were married five weeks later,” he said, adding with emotion, “62 years,” before again changing the mood to laughter with “The point is, she said if we had cell phones, we never would have met.”

Rajcic said he has done many things in his 86 years, “but I’m basically a schoolteacher at heart.” He asked Ramona High School student school board member Jillian Hermes to read his final words, but before she did, she thanked him “for just being my friend, not only the person that just sits next to me (at meetings).” Hermes said she was nervous at her first board meeting, “and you cracked a joke and I just felt so much

In another exchange with Rajcic, he said something and she agreed, “and you said, ‘When two minds think alike, that means one isn’t thinking,'” she added. That inspired her to think things through, she said.

“So this is his last words to the public,” she said: “Outrageous expectations must be the standard for all students. Beware of conformity; conformity leads to mediocrity; mediocrity leads to regression to the mean and therein lies the abyss.”