When Atascadero resident Donn Clickard heard about his nomination as the California School Board Association Board Member of the Year for 2019, his first thought was, “you’re crazy.” The award was the first of its kind, representing the best of California school boards. Clickard’s tendency toward collaboration meant he shared credit for his accomplishments — an award meant taking credit for things he didn’t do alone.
On Thursday, Clickard stood on stage at the San Diego Convention Center with fellow Atascadero Unified School District trustees — as well by superintendent Tom Butler, and assistant superintendents E.J. Rossi and Jackie Martin. He received the Golden Gavel in front of thousands of attendees with a wall-to-wall video screen backdrop.
Back home on Sunday, rain gently falling outside and his golden retriever Gabriel keeping him company, Clickard celebrated another victory. He just watched his 49ers beat the New Orleans Saints, 48-46, with a game-winning field goal on a 32-inch television tucked tightly inside a wooden entertainment center.
Sitting comfortably in his well-worn brown La-Z-Boy, in jeans and an orange AHS football hoodie, he was enjoying a few wins for his favorite teams.
Atascadero News caught up with Clickard about his induction as the first name in the CSBA Golden Gavel Hall of Fame, and receiving the lifetime achievement award.
Receiving the Golden Gavel
“When Tami [Gunther] came to me about nominating me for this first-ever Trustee of the Year Golden Gavel award, I told her she was crazy,” Clickard said.” I am a school board member who works hard for our kids — we all do that — we have seven really neat people. Each one has their strengths, and there is not one better than another. When she rights this nomination, and you look at all these things we have done … ‘Clickard did this and Clickard did that’… I’m realistic.”
The accomplished district veteran has a storied career, but always recognized those around him.
The first-ever Golden Gavel award for the CSBA Board Member of the Year adds an individual award for CSBA, alongside the Golden Bell and Golden Quill awards, and among several thousand board members and nearly 1,000 school districts in California, is exclusive. Clickard, representing Atascadero, is currently the first-and-only member of the CSBA Golden Gavel Hall of Fame.
“My mom always said, ‘just say thank you,’” Clickard said, “and D.J. called and said, ‘you always make it about somebody else, but just be quiet and let it be you’ because it’s leadership. I’ve had to digest all of this stuff.”
Saying Thank You
Given 60 seconds for a thank-you speech, Clickard noted the support of his fellow school board members, faculty and staff, CSBA, and the Atascadero community.
“I stood up there in front of thousands of people,” Clickard said, “and it got really quiet.”
As Atascadero High School athletic director, Clickard received more than few state and national awards, but this one was special. He took a moment to appreciate the historic moment representing Atascadero as the first-ever recipient of the Golden Gavel — then he began his speech in front of 3,000 of his peers.
“I believe we hold the most important elected position in any community in the state,” Clickard spoke as representative of school board trustees across California.
Clickard is known for saying, “you don’t throw an event just to get it over.” He is one to take advantage of his time with a microphone, but he stayed the course and finished his 60-second speech.
“You could ask anyone who knows me, and they would tell you ‘Clickard can’t even say good morning in 60 seconds,’” Clickard said with a chuckle.
A Unique Community
When Clickard spoke about the uniqueness of his community, a few specific projects stood out.
“Joy Playground is a good example, because of how that happened,” Clickard noted. “Those moms [Sarah Sullivan and Jenelle Allen] had kids with special needs and knew they had to get this done. And Geoff Auslen, and all the people who got involved with that.”
Clickard recognized the value of the teammates he worked in building the Atascadero Greyhound Foundation over the past 25 years.
“We started in 1970, playing basketball at lunch,” Clickard said, “with Stecher and Nelson, then Larry and Dan. It was never the same people. In doing that, you are learning to play together, trust each other, every day, and we did that for 20 years. We did these things together.”
Over the years, that bonding bore fruits for AUSD, and in 1994 was the ground on which the Atascadero Greyhound Foundation formed.
“When we did the foundation in 1994, it was a group that knew each other,” Clickard said. “From building the track and the stadium to forming Lighthouse. We had the foundation in place.”
His quick sentence was the fast-forward version of the Atascadero Greyhound Foundation. The organization now boasts several addiction prevention programs in the form of “productive use of leisure time” and mentorship between high school and middle school students and is most well-known for the Lighthouse program and coffee company run by students at Paloma Creek High School.
I’m Not Done
While Clickard credits teammates past and present, he identified his part in the 50-year career as a member of the AUSD.
“My goal was always to be better,” Clickard said. “Make it the best there is. My job was to lead folks to make these things happen.”
After 50 years of working for and guiding the community through the school district, he still has goals for the road ahead.
“Oh, the next 10 years … gosh, I’m 78,” Clickard said. “We’re not done, for sure. [AGF] is a unique program. It is not supported by a national organization — it is just us. My main objective is to sustain our foundation and bring in youth, so that [AGF] continues to get better. I am not done with what I want to contribute — I’ll be 79 next year, but I’m not done.”