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December 09, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, December 09, 2005

Woman of the Year -- Juanita Haugen Woman of the Year -- Juanita Haugen (December 09, 2005)

by Jerri Long

Juanita Haugen, Pleasanton's leading education advocate, has been named Pleasanton Weekly's Woman of the Year for 2005.

The designation follows the Individual Community Service Award Haugen received Tuesday from the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce.

Haugen has made history in our community because no one has served longer as a trustee for local public schools.† She began her school board work in 1979 when she was elected to govern what was then Amador Valley Joint Union High School District.† When voters approved unification of separate Pleasanton and Dublin K-12 school districts in 1988, Haugen was among those first elected to the board of trustees for Pleasanton Unified School District.

"If you're quick at math, you know this means she was elected and then subsequently re-elected a total of six times to four-year terms by Pleasanton voters," noted Jim Ott, master of ceremonies for the Chamber awards luncheon and CEO of UNCLE Credit Union, a co-sponsor of the event.

Haugen won for the "Individual" award, which honors individuals who have contributed to Pleasanton through philanthropic efforts.

"She is the founder of the Pleasanton Youth Collaborative, which later became the steering committee that oversees Pleasanton's Youth Master Plan," Ott said.

From parent volunteer and 4-H leader to school board member was a big step, but only the first of many Haugen has taken since. She broadened her perspective of public education by becoming involved at the county, state, and national levels, holding leadership positions in many education organizations.

Haugen also has been a tireless advocate for school children, frequently visiting state and national legislators to help guide the laws that affect public schools.

"Juanita is recognized as an expert in educational programs and policies not just locally, but in regional, state and national education circles," Ott said. "She is one of three school board members [from the Pacific Region] elected to sit on the board of directors of the National School Board Association. This board helps guide national curriculum and policies on controversial issues that affect schools throughout our nation." This is but one of the way in which Juanitaís volunteer service has brought reflected glory to our local school district.

Pleasanton School Supt. John Casey agreed.

"Because Juanita has such boundless energy and passion about public education, she is involved with organizations and issues across the nation," Casey said. "What that provides for PUSD is a unique perspective. As we celebrate our successes and face our challenges, we can count on Haugen to provide us with the latest information and contacts."

Fellow school board member Gloria Fredette credits Haugen with "keeping Pleasanton schools on the cutting edge" by bringing back ideas from her contacts at the national level. Fredette also is grateful to Haugen for being a mentor to her and other members starting out on the school board.

"Itís totally different from sitting in the audience to sitting on the dais (as a trustee)," said Fredette, who had frequently attended school board meetings before her election to the board in 200l. "You must make decisions for the entire school district, not just for your own child or school. Juanita always says it has to be ëright for everybody.í She really believes in parity among schools."

But it is not only schools that have benefited from Haugenís involvement. "Juanita has been interested and concerned about the health of the business community and how it relates to schools," said Dave Bouchard, President and CEO of the Pleasanton Chamber.

He said Haugen has served on the Chamberís board of directors and also participates on the government relations committee.

"Sheís just a wealth of information -- such a great resource -- because she's so connected at the state and federal levels," he added. "Her view of business focuses on how it affects all our lives. She is a real booster and supporter."

She wanted to include everybody, so she encouraged the Chamber to become involved in the Community of Character Coalition, which Bouchard described as a "win-win situation for everybody."

The coalition referred to is one of Haugenís more recent projects. About six years ago, the school districtís strategic planning identified character education as one of its goals. Six character traits (Responsibility, Compassion, Self-Discipline, Honesty, Respect, and Integrity) were chosen by the community as being the "expected behaviors" for Pleasanton. These traits have been reinforced in every local school, kindergarten through high school senior classes. Individual schools and the entire school district have won national recognition for their programs emphasizing the Community of Character.

What Haugen added was an emphasis on the role adults could play in modeling these behaviors. She brought together a coalition of businesses, service clubs, city government, sports, churches and individuals to help establish ways in which adults could become actively involved in supporting the Community of Character concept. One very tangible result was Police Chief Tim Nealís decision to have the one of the character traits painted onto each of the departmentís patrol cars. Further, the Chamber recently recognized six businesses that it felt exemplify the identified character traits.

Pleasanton Community of Character Coalition meets monthly at the Chamber of Commerce office, 777 Peters Avenue. Those wishing to be included in e-mail announcements of meetings can contact Haugen at

"Juanita is one of the most dynamic people I know," said the Rev. Ron Culmer of St. Clareís Episcopal Church, where Haugen is a member. "I know her to be a sound voice of reason and a leader in this congregation. What she has done with the Community of Character Coalition is to focus on the way in which we live and treat one another. Juanita to me embodies ëthe good societyí [as described by Robert Bellah of UC Berkeley in a book of that title]. Her life is anything but inert!

A prayer for Haugen: Don't slow down!

That prayer seems to have been answered, so far, because Haugen has kept up her amazing pace despite health challenges. This month she will return home after nearly two months of cancer treatment in Southern California. Finishing her last round of radiation and chemotherapy, Haugen went almost immediately to San Diego for the annual meeting of the California School Boards Association. She interrupted her committee meeting schedule to fly north to attend the awards ceremony of the Chamber of Commerce, then continued on to National School Boards Association meetings in Washington, D.C.

Even during the time Haugen was getting daily radiation and chemotherapy treatments, she prepared for school board meetings, which she participated in by telephone. "Juanita was able to keep up with the materials and issues the whole time she was away," said Superintendent Casey. "About the only thing she missed were her visits to schools."

Despite her state and national obligations, Haugen is well known for her regular visits to local classrooms. She particularly enjoys reading aloud to younger students, living up to her role as a California Steering Committee member for the "America Reads" program, which encourages literacy by having community members share their enthusiasm for reading and tell how they use this skill in their everyday adult lives.


She lives to serve

"When you look at Juanita, what you see is ëPleasantonian Extraodinaire,í" said Gloria Fredette. "She is so proud of this community! She believes in our town and wants to make it the best that it can be. Juanita knows that a community is only as vibrant and healthy as those who lead and get involved -- and sheís always recruiting people she knows who can make a difference.

"Juanita serves Pleasanton every single day ñ- through her church, the Community of Character Coalition, the school board, or volunteering for things like the Fourth of July celebration," Fredette added.

Juanita Sakajian was introduced to Gil Haugen by her college roommate (Dr. Willa Olsen) and married him Nov. 22, 1961. They moved to Pleasanton in 1970 when Gil became a chemist for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Their four daughters - Heidi, Hilary, Holly and Heather - are all graduates of Amador Valley High School. Gil died in 1990.

Heather is the educational director for the Amador-Livermore Valley Historical Society's Museum On Main; Heidi teaches biology and earth sciences in the Elk Grove School District; Hilary is a physics teacher in the El Cajon School District; and Holly teaches special day classes in the Brentwood School District.

Haugen is famous for her cooking in her neighborhood. She creates jams from home-grown fruit that she gives out as holiday gifts. She adds the personal touch to the growing school district by regularly thanking all staff members for their service to youth. And she keeps up an e-mail exchange of jokes and letters with hundreds of friends across town and across the nation, and lately relating the treatments she has endured and the progress she is making in battling cancer.


Partial Listing of Haugen Haugenís Accomplishments:

* Board of directors, National School Boards Association

* Governing board, National Assessment of Educational Programs

* Education Commission of the States (Governorís appointment ñ- since 1996; now on steering committee)

* Current President, California Elected Women

* Steering Committee member, State Civic mission of Education

* President, California School Boards Association (1997)

* President, California Suburban School Districts Association (1991-93)

* Member, California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (1992-96)

* Charter board member, Pleasanton Partnerships in Education (PPIE) Foundation

* Chairman, University of Southern California Alumni Scholarship Committee (since 1965)

* Trustee, Amador Valley Joint Union High School District (1979-88)

* Trustee, Pleasanton Unified School District (since 1988)

* Board representative, PUSD Strategic Planning Team

* Founder, Pleasanton Youth Collaborative (which evolved into Youth Master Plan)

* Founder, Pleasanton Community of Character Coalition

* Board of directors, Tri-Valley YMCA (since 1984)

* Board of Directors, Classical Philharmonic

* Board of directors, Valley Community Health Care Center (1991-97)


A sampling of Juanita Haugen's awards

* Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce Community Service Award (2005)

* Association of California School Administrators "Friend of Public Education" award for Alameda and Contra Costa Counties (1999)

* University of Southern California "Outstanding Alumni" (1997)

* Soroptimist International of Pleasanton "Woman of Distinction" (1990)

* California 15th Legislative Assembly District "Woman of the Year" (1989)

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