Two Dos Palos High alums and an educator who got her local start at Oro Loma Elementary School were among eight people honored in Firebaugh with district facilities dedicated to them.

Among those honored were the late Valerie Huntington, the late Jo Ann Narbaitz, and Violet Chuck.

“Over the years, these individuals have supported the students, staff and community of Firebaugh through endless hours of their time,” said Roy Mendiola, the superintendent of the Firebaugh-Las Deltas Unified School District.

Valerie Huntington: 42

years in one classroom

The music room at A.E. Mills Intermediate School has been dedicated to Valerie Huntington.

She was born in Dos Palos but raised in Firebaugh by her parents, Buster and Josie. She attended school in Firebaugh and graduated from Dos Palos High in 1968.

After graduation, she attended the University of Nevada in Reno, where she received her BS degree in Education. Valerie began her teaching career at A.E. Mills Elementary School in Firebaugh—two blocks from her home- where she started as a substitute teacher in 1972. She started teaching full-time in 1973 and continued her teaching career in Firebaugh for 42 years as a fourth-grade teacher. Val was a teacher in the same classroom teaching the same grade level her entire career until she retired in 2015.

She was also the ASB Advisor for eight years. She was the Parent Club liaison and was the founder of the student store. Valerie was the District Teacher of the Year and she was also nominated as Fresno County Teacher of the Year in 2001 and 2013. 

Hungtington taught students whose parents were her students.

“It made her light up to think that she was able to impact generations of families who were not only her former students but their children as well. She was fortunate to also be the teacher for her nieces, nephew and her nephew’s children that came through Mills School. She no doubt is glowing because one of her fourth-grade students is now a fourth-grade teacher in the same classroom that Val taught in for over four decades,” said Mendiola.

Jo Ann Narbaitz: A legend

 at two high schools

The new Firebaugh High Choir Room has been dedicated to Jo Ann Narbaitz.

Narbaitz graduated from Dos Palos High School in 1957. After graduation, she attended California State University, Fresno and began her teaching career at Roosevelt High in Fresno. She then worked at Bryant Junior High School in Dos Palos and then Dos Palos High.

When Firebaugh built its high school in 1976, Jo Ann transferred to Firebaugh High where she continued her important mission of education and community service. During her career, Jo Ann taught several subjects, including home economics, sophomore English, and physical education. She also served as the Firebaugh High School library media teacher. She was the pep girl advisor for many years at Dos Palos and Firebaugh. In this role, Jo Ann was active in the schools’ respective marching bands.

After retiring from over 40 years of teaching, Narbaitz became a school board member in Firebaugh where she continued to serve the staff and students of the school district.

“She encouraged teachers and students to be the best they could be. She helped restart the district music program that continues to thrive. She attended many school functions and instilled school pride and spirit by decorating the various school gymnasiums and donating a sculpture of the school mascot for each school. Her leadership while serving on the school board reflected her teaching in the classroom; thoughtful, caring and compassionate,” said Mendiola.

Violet Chuck—Who are you going to call when you need a leader? “Vi”

The Firebaugh School District office has been dedicated to Violet “Vi” Chuck.

Chuck was born and raised in Los Angeles where she helped with the family business. She learned the value of education at an early age and she became a life-long learner. Chuck completed her undergraduate education at UCLA where she studied to be a teacher. She spent a year teaching in the Los Angeles public school system. She then moved with her husband Robert to Firebaugh where he farmed and where they began their family. After having children, Chuck returned to teaching. She worked at Oro Loma Elementary School, west of Firebaugh, where she taught Kindergarten to eighth grade. Because there were so many non-English speaking families, she became a Reading Specialist. She worked with dual language students and was motivated to acquire the necessary skills to help them, so she enrolled in evening classes at Fresno State. She not only earned her reading specialist credential, but she then went on to earn her master’s degree in Educational Administration. As soon as she obtained her administrative credential in 1974 she was offered a position in Firebaugh as a school principal at the primary level. Soon after, the Firebaugh Joint Elementary School District unified with the Las Deltas Elementary School District and became a K-12 unified school district. She was then offered the position of Director of Special Projects and Grants before serving as Assistant Superintendent. She then became the district’s superintendent, a position she held for 10 years.

In 1993, she was recognized with the Administrator of the Year award from the Central Valley Congress of Administrative Women in Education.

Chuck retired from the Firebaugh School District in 2002, but she returned several times to serve as the Interim Superintendent.

She also served as the Interim Superintendent at the Golden Valley School District in Madera Ranchos. In addition, she provided consulting services to the California School Boards Association and Springboard Schools.

David Borboa