close
close

Badges of Honor all over the Hart District

During last week’s William S. Hart Union High School District board meeting, teachers, administrators and classified employees from across the district were honored in a retirement ceremony.

The district also honored Oluwadara Falodun, a senior at Golden Valley High School and student board member this past year, as well as College of the Canyons Chancellor Dianne Van Hook and Santa Clarita Community College District trustee Joan MacGregor for their longtime service to the community.

Retirement ceremony

A total of 26 teachers, a principal and a district administrator were honored for their service to the district.

Collyn Nielsen, assistant superintendent of human resources, said in a prepared statement that these people have helped “shape the structure of our school district.”

“Today we gather not only to express our deepest gratitude, but also to say goodbye to these extraordinary professionals who have become an integral part of our family,” said Nielsen. “To our retirees: Please know that your incredible contributions have left a lasting mark on the hearts and minds of everyone you touched. You have shaped the future, inspired greatness and transformed countless lives.”

Dan Cota receives his certificate from the Hart District Board of Directors in honor of his retirement after 35 years with the district.  Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.
Dan Cota receives his certificate from the Hart District Board of Directors in honor of his retirement after 35 years with the district. Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.

The longest-serving teacher to retire is Dan Cota, who spent 35 years with the district, including 34 years as a physical education teacher at Placerita Canyon Junior High. He said the best part of teaching is interacting with the students and building relationships.

“I had one of my ex-students come to me today, he lives in North Carolina and now trains American weightlifters. And he came up and just wanted to congratulate me on my retirement,” Cota said. “What he does now, he trains American weightlifters, it all started 22 years ago in the weight room at Placerita. So just the relationships that you have with these kids are amazing. I just loved every minute of it. And I am blessed.”

John Minkus, president of the Hart District Teachers Association, thanked all employees for their contributions. He also thanked Kathy Hunter, who is retiring as assistant superintendent of student services, safety and well-being after 25 years with the district.

“I have known you since our first days in Valencia, and you have been a great educational partner and a friend, so thank you,” Minkus said. “Next, I would like to express our appreciation to all the retirees who have contributed their time, knowledge and passion to our school community. Your legacy will always remain part of the fabric of the Hart neighborhood.”

Kathy Hunter, the Hart District's assistant superintendent of student services, safety and well-being, will receive her certificate from the board after announcing her retirement earlier this year.  Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.Kathy Hunter, the Hart District's assistant superintendent of student services, safety and well-being, will receive her certificate from the board after announcing her retirement earlier this year.  Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.
Kathy Hunter, the Hart District’s assistant superintendent of student services, safety and well-being, will receive her certificate from the board after announcing her retirement earlier this year. Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.

Mia Reed, president of the California School Employees Association Chapter 349, which represents classified employees in the district, congratulated the retirees and thanked them for their service. A total of 21 classified employees will retire at the end of the school year.

“I would also like to congratulate all of the 2024 retirees for their service to our students,” Reed said. “Thanks to them, we have prepared for every student opportunity.”

Board President Linda Storli taught in the district for 30 years before taking on a role on the board after her retirement. She said it was great to see teachers who have been with the district for so long moving on.

“I taught here for 30 years, and now it’s almost 40 years,” Storli said. “It’s a great school district to work for, and I think our retirees will do well.”

COC awards

Joan MacGregor has served on local school boards for more than 51 years, including the last 31 years managing the COC. She and Van Hook, who took over as chancellor of the college 36 years ago Thursday, were honored as the newest recipients of the One Hart Award.

Erin Wilson (left), Hart County Board member, presented College of the Canyon Chancellor Dianne Van Hook with the One Hart Award during last week's meeting.  Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.Erin Wilson (left), Hart County Board member, presented College of the Canyon Chancellor Dianne Van Hook with the One Hart Award during last week's meeting.  Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.
Erin Wilson (left), Hart County Board member, presented College of the Canyon Chancellor Dianne Van Hook with the One Hart Award during last week’s meeting. Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.
Hart District Board Chair Linda Storli (right) presented the One Hart Award to retiring COC board member Joan MacGregor during last week's meeting.  Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.Hart District Board Chair Linda Storli (right) presented the One Hart Award to retiring COC board member Joan MacGregor during last week's meeting.  Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.
Hart District Board Chair Linda Storli (right) presented the One Hart Award to retiring COC board member Joan MacGregor during last week’s meeting. Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.

MacGregor served as a board member of the Sulfur Springs Union School District for 20 years before moving to the COC board.

“I want to thank the Hart District,” MacGregor said. “I have enjoyed the partnerships we have had with the university and with Sulfur Springs.”

Storli said MacGregor first helped the Hart District by working with one of the elementary nutrition districts before helping Hart District graduates.

“Joan MacGregor, a friend of mine for years, not always for the school board, but for other things we’ve done,” Storli said. “She also created the SCV Trustees Association, which allows the trustees in this area from both the elementary school districts and the college district and the Hart district to come together and share and help each other with something that someone has already solved. So it’s a great way for us to come together and move forward with our students in this district.”

COC Chancellor Dianne Van Hook addresses attendees at last week's Hart District board meeting after being honored with the One Hart Award.  Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.COC Chancellor Dianne Van Hook addresses attendees at last week's Hart District board meeting after being honored with the One Hart Award.  Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.
COC Chancellor Dianne Van Hook addresses attendees at last week’s Hart District board meeting after being honored with the One Hart Award. Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.
COC board member Joan MacGregor addresses attendees at last week's Hart district board meeting after being honored with the One Hart Award.  Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.COC board member Joan MacGregor addresses attendees at last week's Hart district board meeting after being honored with the One Hart Award.  Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.
COC board member Joan MacGregor addresses attendees at last week’s Hart district board meeting after being honored with the One Hart Award. Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.

Van Hook talked about the many partnerships that the COC and the Hart district have had over the years. One of the better known partnerships is Academy of the Canyons, a high school where students can earn an associate degree while in high school.

“There is nothing better than whatever we can do individually, as districts, or together, to help students believe they can do it,” Van Hook said. “And when you give students the opportunity to put one foot in college and one foot in high school and realize that they can simultaneously ride that wave and still stay afloat, they build a confidence that empowers them against themselves to say that it is possible. And I’m so excited to be able to do that with our district.”

Hart District Board Member Erin Wilson said she originally wanted to honor Van Hook in March as part of International Women’s Month, but it worked out just fine to do that on the eve of Van Hook’s anniversary, along with honoring MacGregor.

“Dr. Van Hook is committed to fostering a hopeful and positive environment within the community college system,” said Wilson. “Whether it concerns students, employees, friends, colleagues or people with a dream, she invests in people.”

Edel Alonso, the chairman of the COC board of directors who attended the awards ceremony, said both Van Hook and MacGregor have been great assets to the community.

“I am so proud of our university district, and most proud of how well we work with the Hart (district),” Alonso said.

Student board member honored

The final honor of the evening went to Falodun, who has worked with the board for the past year as a representative of the district’s student body.

Falodun, together with her family, received a plaque with her official portrait and a certificate of recognition for her services. The incoming UCLA Bruin has also served as president of the Golden Valley Associated Student Body.

Golden Valley High School senior Oluwadara Falodun (center) was honored by the Hart District Board of Directors after serving as a student representative for the 2023-2024 school year.  Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.Golden Valley High School senior Oluwadara Falodun (center) was honored by the Hart District Board of Directors after serving as a student representative for the 2023-2024 school year.  Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.
Golden Valley High School senior Oluwadara Falodun (center) was honored by the Hart District Board of Directors after serving as a student representative for the 2023-2024 school year. Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.

Board member Joe Messina said Falodun has not only attended meetings but has played an active role, particularly in helping him and board member Cherise Moore revise some of the district’s board and administrative policies.

“Every meeting we go over the policy, and she reads it and understands it, and she gives us input on how to handle it,” Messina said. “So it’s fun, it’s refreshing… She’s really doing the work and that’s really impressive.”

Superintendent Mike Kuhlman joined the board in thanking Falodun for her service.

“I think you have been an excellent example of a student government member,” Kuhlman said. ‘I know how seriously you took your job. I know you spent time gathering input from your peers and I think you did a fantastic job.”