Longtime PEF staff, community and school volunteer retires

For more than 20 years, Piedmont resident Lisa Peters devoted tremendous energy and dedication to the Piedmont Unified School District. She piloted pivotal programs like Scrip, led group projects, administered the annual Spring Gala, and performed with style. As the last of her and husband Jon Peters’ three adult children graduates from high school, Peters herself is “graduating.”

“I chose this time to depart because of that and with an eye on building my 401(k) and securing my future retirement from the workplace,” she says in an interview. “I’m returning to working as an administrative assistant (for Kaiser Permanente); the kind of work I did before I went part-time and worked from home while raising our kids.”

The couple has lived in Piedmont since 1991 and have three adult children; Mitchell, age 27, daughter Gillian, age 24, and 18-year-old Cullen. Prior to volunteering with the Piedmont schools and joining the Piedmont Education Foundation as Operations Officer in 2016, Peters worked as an executive assistant for Booz Allen Hamilton in San Francisco. She has served as an event and travel planner for Reno-based Institute for Management Studies for 24 years and is the co-owner and an instructor at Jazzercise Piedmont.

Peters flanked by family, left to right: Cullen, Gillian, Mitchell and husband Jon

Growing up in San Jose and Escondido, she thought at age seven she’d be a Broadway star. “I loved to sing, dance, act. I’m an extrovert and the camaraderie of a cast and orchestra was fun. People were not afraid to be themselves. In theater, you don’t expect conformity.” At age 20, she was in college studying physiology and chemistry and preparing to become a pediatrician. “It wasn’t right for me and two months after my best friend from kindergarten invited me to move to San Francisco, I did. I worked at IBM and then Booz Allen Hamilton.”

In her role at PEF, Peters demonstrated all the flair one might expect of a theater junkie — plus the acumen and mind for details of a highly skilled executive assistant.

PEF Executive Director Heather Frank says, ”It was a joy to work with Lisa for the past seven years. She turned out a tremendous amount of quality work while letting her personality shine through. She was always the first to dive into a group project and managed to do it while keeping us all laughing.”

PEF staff as gondoliers: Kim Hunter, Andrea Horvath, Lisa Peters, Susannah Underwood, Heather Frank, Heather Meil, Amy Cordani (photo by Catie Osborn)

It was Peters’ idea at the 2024 Spring Fling gala to have staff (above) dress as gondoliers so guests could find them easily during the event. Frank says “she wore the hat and sash with style” and notes the gala’s importance in raising money for Piedmont’s elementary schools.

Another initiative with remarkable impact on PUSD schools was Scrip, a project Peters joined as a volunteer in 2002 and has managed for more than 20 years. Scrip had people buying gift cards (or paper scrip) instead of donating actual cash or writing checks made out to the school district. “I loved it because it was the one fundraiser that didn’t blankly ask for money. I’d buy a Berkeley Bowl card for $96 and receive a card for $100. The schools would get four dollars and at one point we were raising $100,000 per year,” Peters says.

Scrip was phased out in May, largely due to vendors lessening their percentages over time and people shifting to phones for financial transactions. “That Scrip didn’t continue to thrive is a disappointment,” she says. “It became too complicated for people and older people whose kids had graduated didn’t want to bother shifting from the cards to online transactions.”

Frank says that even though Scrip is no longer a part of the programs offered, its history underscores the importance of parents and other volunteers actively supporting the schools. “Scrip was a labor of love. Lisa went from being a volunteer to managing the entire program, which included keeping the volunteers busy, handling orders and inventory, tracking payments, and running all over town to make pickups from local businesses and deliver them to clients. There is no way that Scrip would have lasted this long or raised so much money for our schools without Lisa at the helm.”

Peters (center) at a Giving Campaign Lead Donor party with (left to right) Andrea Horvath, Tonya Antonucci, Catie Osborn and Kim Hunter.

Fortunately, Peters and everyone at PEF had stored up creativity, can-do determination and years of experience when covid hit just a few short weeks prior to the all-important Spring 2020 gala. Although PEF was only seven years old at the time, they knew how to fundraise and quickly adapted. Peters recalls, “We learned the technology as we planned. We knew the event still had to be fun, even though it would happen online. We had a magician do a show and we dropped off boxes with lollipops and popcorn that people could have at home during the show. It was a huge success because it kept the community connected.”

As she departs, Peters appreciates most that Piedmont is growing in diversity. “It reflects what we see in society more than when I moved here. I mean race, age, ethnic diversity and acceptance of people who are LGBTQ+. It’s safe for kids in schools to come out and the few incidences that have happened are the exception, not the rule.”

Peters says the one thing she hopes never changes about Piedmont is the small town atmosphere a person can feel in shops, the parks, and just walking in the commercial areas and residential neighborhoods. “I can stand next to someone I’ve never met, strike up a conversation, and it’s safe. One-on-one during my walks, Piedmont people are friendly, not just to me, to everyone.”

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NOTE: Peters has worked for the Exedra in a bookkeeping capacity.

2 thoughts on “Longtime PEF staff, community and school volunteer retires

  1. I worked with Lisa most of those 20 years at Scrip (I think I got there first, but she actually did the work….), all as a driver, deliverer, sometimes treasurer, sometimes kibbitzer, occasional envelope stuffer, and ever-willing sharer of Cato’s fries. She is truly amazing, and Kaiser is SO lucky!

    One of the things I most appreciate about Lisa is her straightforwardness. Always kind and positive, but always honest. ‘Things are shifting around, so we don’t need you to do this anymore, but this other thing would be really useful.’ No indirect, confusing signals. I always felt my volunteer time was welcomed, useful to the greater project, fit to my skills, and deeply appreciated.

    Thanks, Lisa — and we’ll STILL go get fries at Cato’s whenever you want!!

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