Ukiah Unified School District

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The Power of Partnership, Innovation and Learning

School Desk: Community is the cornerstone of safe schools and student learning

The beauty of living in a small community is that you have the opportunity to get to know your neighbor and create strong connections. Schools are very much the same way. Building strong relationships is key to building strong learning communities and improving student learning. Throughout the course of time, all relationships have their ups and downs, whether it is student to student, student to teacher, or parent and school. We need to be intentional in nurturing and developing those relationships. These relationships with communities sometimes take years to build and tend to revolve around being committed, compassionate, and forward-thinking. A person that exemplifies those qualities for the Oak Manor School community is someone we all like to call Mama Carmen. 

It is highly unlikely that you will find a person more committed to education and Oak Manor than Carmen Lopez. She has worked with Ukiah Unified School District and Oak Manor for the better part of 50 years. She began at the River Elementary School in 1962 and began with Ukiah Unified in 1972. During this time, Mama Carmen has helped generations of Ukiahans find their way in school and the community. Recently, Mama Carmen has been our bedrock for support to students that need extra help in reading as well as supporting our afterschool program. If there is a need, then Mama Carmen is the first to volunteer and stands as an exemplar of what hard work and dedication can accomplish.  

Through her many years of work, a common thread through all of Mama Carmen’s interactions is her deep compassion for all members of the Oak Manor School community. She lightens up the office with her humor and her observations on life in general. She provides guidance and perspective to new staff that are beginning new positions. Mama Carmen has also been a strong support for many of our students that are new to the area or country, providing them with academic support as well as advocacy for their needs. Mama Carmen treats every situation and individual as unique, looking at all sides before making a decision. She is ready to support the students in making good choices that will impact their future choices. 

Through the last 50 years, Mama Carmen has made Oak Manor a stronger learning community, and we hope to continue to nurture many positive relationships at school and in our community. In order to maintain a learning culture founded on relationship, collaboration, and inclusion that is a positive and safe environment for all of our students, we need your support. We are looking for the next Mama Carmen to continue her legacy here at Oak Manor School. 

Great educational relationships require multiple partners, and if more people actively engage with students, our community will be healthier. We very much want to engage parents and our community as partners, so I would like to take this opportunity to invite parents and community members to get involved. Please volunteer in any way possible at local schools because your involvement, like Mama Carmen, can make a big difference in the lives of our students. If you would like to volunteer at Oak Manor Elementary, please call us at 707-472-5180.