On February 5, 2018, the Patagonia Schools lost an admired and cherished school board member, Fred Sang, in a tragic accident on Hwy 82. Fred served on the Patagonia Union High School (PUHS) Governing Board, and in collaboration with members of the
Patagonia Elementary School (PES) Governing Board, from 1992 to 2004, and 2012 to 2018. For many years, these two districts have met and worked jointly to provide a more creative approach to educational service delivery for our community’s children.
Fred served as President of the high school board for several years. He was a planner, an organizer, troubleshooter, and caretaker, all of which contributed to him being an invested and competent leader. The respect and trust Fred had with his colleagues was clear, as he was again elected to the role of President by his fellow board members on January 16, 2018.
In addition to monthly board meetings, Fred participated in administrative meetings, study sessions, and board trainings. Attending school celebrations, band concerts, and sporting events were always a joy for him. He took great pride in presenting the diplomas
to his graduates every school year, many of whom he knew personally, and had seen develop as a student over the years. His rapport with students was evident to family and
friends and demonstrated through the bear hugs and jubilant expressions he gave graduates on their special day.
During his tenure, Fred, his high school board colleagues, and the PES Board members went through several superintendent searches and selections. This is a time when
one gets to know school board colleagues and experience the commitment and dedication each board member contributes. Fred’s service to his team and our community’s students, especially during these crucial times, was an example to others.
Fred had a good relationship with both the elementary and high school boards and the superintendent. Summer Lewton, current PES board member, shared that Fred was going to construct a wall for the school garden, pending the outcome of a grant. Not receiving
the grant, Fred said “Well Sum, let’s get you that wall.” Lewton, the teachers, and Superintendent Rachell Hochheim continued moving forward by creating a team to make
this construction happen. Lewton added, “One of the things I admire about Fred is he
always set the tone of ‘How can we make this happen?’ [He was] a forward thinker. Fred wore so many hats in our community. He was a pillar of strength. He had amazing vision for his own businesses, our school, and town.”
Ron Pitt, PUHS board President (elected on February 12, 2018) stated, “Fred epitomized the definition of the word ‘citizen.’ Everything he did was focused on making our community a better place to live. He was a positive force that made other people better citizens.”
PUHS Board Clerk, Jim Cosbey offered, “I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to serve on the Patagonia High School Governing Board with Fred. He was such a fine giving,
gentle man who truly cared about all our community children. He will be sorely missed.”
Clare Bonelli, former PUHS board colleague, remarked, “Fred was one of the finest people I know. I don’t ever remember hearing him down-talk anyone or anything. He was just plain kind, compassionate, thoughtful. And things didn’t rattle him. Something would come out of left field in a school board meeting and my mind would go blank, but Fred’s never seemed to. May we try to emulate his example.”
“Fred will be greatly missed and we will do everything possible to honor his name by working to make the school the very best possible for the community,” Superintendent Hochheim added.
Fred received much recognition, whether informal or formal, from institutions or individuals, for his many services to our big-hearted, little community. One such recognition was on October 3, 2017 at the annual Arizona School Boards Association’s Santa Cruz County Workshop. For his 20 years of valuable contributions as a Governing Board Member, Fred Sang received a Certificate of Appreciation from Santa Cruz County School Superintendent, Alfredo Velasquez.
In my own interactions with Fred across his 20 years of service on the school board, we faced many challenging issues, many of which were, and continue to be, revolved around school funding and how to promote and maintain the best possible educational experiences for our students. We’ve seen our community’s school system shape and take one form, and we’ve worked together to mold it into another, dealing with trials and tribulations that are now miniscule in retrospect (picking up a bloodynose tissue in not much less than a hazmat suit), to some so significant they shifted and evolved the school system tenfold. The benefit of working together through big challenges is celebrating the
successes that arise from them. Through Fred’s leadership, collaboration, and “what’s best for kids” attitude, our schools and students are nurtured, respected, cared for, inspired, and always seeking more resources for better educational experiences and outcomes.
I would like to close with the thoughts of former PUHS board member, Geoff Millar, who says it best and to which we all can relate: “I was privileged to call Fred my friend.”