By KRIS REILLY, Editor
As students return from Winter Break this week, Lucerne Valley’s campuses are more or less the same as when they left. But there’s a little something missing: One of the town’s most beloved people will no longer officially be a part of the district.
Julia Bell stepped down from the Lucerne Valley Unified School District Board last month after 43 years as an educator in various capacities.
Holding back tears at last month’s board meeting, district superintendent Suzette Davis presented Bell with a plaque of appreciation for her 13 years on the school board. Davis asked that Bell remain involved with the district in some capacity, and Bell agreed.
“You’ve been there for me, not just as a member of the district but as a friend,” Davis said. “You’re not going anywhere, you’re just not sitting up here (at the board table). … I love you with all my heart.”
As Bell accepted the plaque, she said: “I can’t tell you how much you all mean to me, how much this district and the children of this community mean to me. I have come to know the most resilient people I have ever known in my life, the children of this community. … Thank you for the way you are and for making this district the way it is.”
Student representatives from the Lucerne Valley High School FFA program and the Associated Student Body also presented gifts of appreciation to Bell.
Bell chose not to run for the board this past year due to health issues; she lost one of her legs due to a circulation problem and is gradually learning to walk with a prosthetic. Jodi Collingham ran uncontested for the open board seat and was sworn in last month.
Bell has lived in the area with her husband Chuck Bell since 1968 and became a teacher in the district in 1969. She served as a principal from 1996-1998 before becoming a board member in 1999.
She was a president of Crossroads Little League in the 1980’s and was once voted Citizen of the Year. She’s also a longtime member of the Roadrunners and has taken a leadership role in many of the group’s charitable activities. Bell seems almost universally loved and respected in the community.
“It’s so hard to put into words,” longtime LVHS FFA adviser Troy Van Bavel told Bell at the meeting. “You’re like the mom of Lucerne Valley. … You’re so genuine. One of the nicest people I’ve ever met.”
Kris Reilly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (760)248-7878. Find us on Facebook at facebook.com/LV Leader