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The passing of a school board legend

Posted: December 4, 2008 9:59 p.m.
Updated: December 5, 2008 4:30 a.m.

Board rooms were never dull or lifeless when John Hassel was in the room.

His sharp wit and unconventional levity would bring even the most heated discussion to its knees as tensions took a momentary pause to consider the wisdom of his remarks.

More than the occasional one-liners and well-timed zingers, John brought a large dose of sense and sensibility to every school-centered discussion.

Above all else, John Hassel was an advocate for students and always looked out for their best interests.

Dennis King put it best recently when he said, "John was a true maverick if ever there was one. He didn't mind going against the status quo to do what he felt was right for students. His heart was always with the kids."

John Hassel served two terms on the William S. Hart Union High School District Governing Board from 1991-1999.

As board president in 1998-99, John, along with his fellow board trustees, was instrumental in establishing the Santa Clarita Valley Facilities Foundation.

He served 10 years as a founding member and treasurer of our organization.

With John there was no fluff. We always knew exactly where he stood on the issues. His priorities were absolutely clear and crisp, and always at the top of his list was the question, "What is best for our students?"

He was a visionary and believed that the work of the Facilities Foundation was a way to provide something beyond the norm for students in the Hart District.

Along with many others who shared that same vision and determination, it led to the creation of Golden Valley High School.

The benefits of the Foundation's work and the contributions made by John to that end will extend well into the future.

At times John prodded our local media to uphold their duty for vigilance and truth.

He often mentioned the freedoms prescribed in the Bill of Rights and consistently reminded us of the importance of promoting and protecting them, especially our First Amendment rights.

John was a retired law enforcement officer and had been involved in a number of capital projects for Los Angeles County and the aerospace industry.

Although John served eight years as an elected Trustee and then his last 10 years on the board of a nonprofit public benefit corporation, he never became a bureaucrat.

He was efficient and direct, and his opinions were often served up with a heaping dose of good humor.

I think John would like to be remembered as someone who protected the taxpayer's dollar.

Undoubtedly he will, but as tough as his law enforcement exterior may have seemed to the casual observer, I think I'll remember him best as the gentle soul who lived to serve the children of this community.

John, you will be missed. Thank you for your service to others.

Richard A. Patterson is the president of the Santa Clarita Valley Facilities Foundation. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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