2016-11-18 / Front Page

District says goodbye to outgoing trustees

SVUSD Debbie Sandland and Rob Collins step down from board
By Michael Aushenker


DECADES OF SERVICE—Mayor Bob Huber, center, presented longtime SVUSD trustees Rob Collins and Debbie Sandland with certificates of commendation on behalf of the City of Simi Valley during the Nov. 15 board meeting. 
Photo courtesy of Jake Finch DECADES OF SERVICE—Mayor Bob Huber, center, presented longtime SVUSD trustees Rob Collins and Debbie Sandland with certificates of commendation on behalf of the City of Simi Valley during the Nov. 15 board meeting. Photo courtesy of Jake Finch Tuesday’s regular Simi Valley Unified School District Board of Education meeting proved emotional as district staff and leaders said goodbye to longtime trustees Debbie Sandland and Rob Collins.

Originally elected to the school board in November 1992, Sandland was reelected in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012, serving a total of five terms across two decades.

Collins was first elected in November 2004 and won again in 2008 and 2012, for a total of three terms over the past dozen years.

Neither trustee ran for reelection this year. Taking their seats on the board Dec. 6 will be newly elected Eric Lundstrom, a former trustee, and Bob LaBelle, a retired teacher and administrator.

Superintendent Jason Peplinski and the other members of the school board — Scott Blough, Bill Daniels and newly reelected Dan White — presented the two outgoing trustees with resolutions commending them on their many years of service during the Nov. 15 meeting.

Mayor Bob Huber also appeared at the meeting to present Sandland and Collins with words of gratitude and certificates of commendation from the City Council for their contributions.

A registered nurse and descendant of the Gillibrands — a pioneer family who helped settle Simi Valley in 1888 — Sandland fought back tears as she expressed how she will miss hearing presentations from the students, like the kids from Katherine Elementary who attended the Nov. 15 meeting to promote the school’s recently launched Medical Health Academy.

Sandland wrapped up her final term this week with one last plea to the board regarding its ongoing efforts to sell off of the district’s surplus property. She called listing district property for sale a mistake, since SVUSD may one day need the land.

“(School property) only increases in value over time,” she said. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Still, she thanked Simi Valley citizens for supporting the schools.

“I have no regrets as I leave a labor of love that I have truly enjoyed,” Sandland said in closing.

Collins, an educator for more than 35 years, was SVUSD’s first academic decathlon coach. He ran the district’s first mock trial and launched the Teachers of Tomorrow program.

During the meeting he shared the story of how he came to Simi Valley in 1969 from Los Angeles, where he worked as a substitute teacher at Cal State L.A.

Phil Stephens, principal at Sinaloa Middle School at the time, was impressed with Collins’ resume, the outgoing board member said. But a hiring freeze due to a weak economy prevented him from joining the district.

A few months later, however, as Collins began teaching in Montebello, Stephens called and asked him whether he preferred to teach geography or English. Collins chose geography and the rest is history.

Decades later, while teaching government at Simi Valley High School, Collins served as a mentor to student Scott Blough, now president of the school board. Back in 1996, Collins had urged an 18-year-old Blough, a senior at the time, to register to vote.

“While we haven’t always agreed on board items, we’ve known each other a long time and I like to think there is mutual respect and collegiality,” Blough told his former teacher.

Trustee Daniels echoed Blough’s sentiment.

“We’ve had our disagreements, (but) we’re all looking out for what’s best for the kids in the school district,” he said to Collins and Sandland.

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