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LeBlanc retiring as high school principal

ABHUTCHISON, Sierra Sun

When Dennis LeBlanc was 12 years old he announced that he wanted to be a history teacher, a coach and in charge of student activities for a school when he grew up.

And that is almost exactly what he did for 35 years beginning at the age of 23. It’s one of the reasons he considers himself a boring person, and the main reason why so many others consider him a remarkable person.

At the age of 57, LeBlanc will retire from his job as an educator in his 10th year as principal for Tahoe-Truckee High School. This Monday was his last Monday at TTHS and his last day of school officially is Jan. 19.

“All I heard from my mother when I was young was that teaching was the most honorable and respected profession,” LeBlanc said.

In his 35-year career he was a high school government and history teacher, basketball coach for more than 20 years, assistant principal, vice principal and principal, and he was in close contact with more than 50,000 students. Many of those students have done great things with their lives, including some who have become professional ballplayers, one who is an astronaut and one who is an ABC News announcer.

“It’s just been really something to know that maybe I had a little part in their overall development and success,” he said.

For his first 25 years as a high school educator, LeBlanc was at Wilcox High School in Santa Clara. Thirty years ago he and his wife of 35 years, Brenda, bought a cabin in Homewood.

“I always said the only place I’d leave for would be to come here,” he said. So when the principal position opened at TTHS, they packed up and moved to Truckee without skipping a beat.

“It was the best move we could have made,” LeBlanc said. “It got us up to the mountains which we truly love.”

Their two sons and grandchildren live in Reno, and four years ago, Brenda bought the Village Shoppe on Commercial Row. They don’t plan on leaving Truckee when Dennis retires, but they do plan to spend a few months of the year in Mexico, where they own a house in Loretto, about midway down the Baja Peninsula. Seven years ago, the couple decided to drive down to Baja on an adventurous whim.

“We hit Loretto and never drove past there. We just love it,” Dennis said, of the town of approximately 7,000 people and home to five schools. “We plan to do a lot of volunteer work down there. Education is important to them so anything I can do to help them out I will do … Oh, I plan to fish a lot too.”

He also plans to stay involved with community events and service clubs. He is a member of the Truckee Rotary Club as well as a director on the Truckee-Donner Recreation and Park District board.

“I’ll still be involved in the community,” he said.

In September he plans to look for a part-time job as well.

He decided to retire at the beginning of the school year, something he feels he is ready for and something that feels good to be doing.

“I have a lot of anticipation about being able to do some good stuff,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to be able to position myself so I could retire … I like to control my own destiny.”

But more than anything else, LeBlanc will miss the kids when he walks through the high school doors next week for the last time as a school principal.

“I honestly think I can say that for the most part of my life I’ve never gone to work, I’ve only gone to school.”

He keeps in touch with many of his students long after they graduate. He said his philosophy in education included high expectations from his students.

“As a principal, when they come to me asking for something, I always tell them ‘no.’ ‘No – let’s start from there,'” he said. “I would tell them not to come in here with half-baked ideas, but with well-planned and thought-out ideas. They learn how to thoughtfully plan something and that’s what government is all about.”

“As I look at our (TTHS) kids, I think for the most part our kids do feel respected and that they are worthwhile. I think the teachers feel the same. When you realize that, you realize you have a good school.”

He will be missed by many of his colleagues who credit numerous of TTHS’s successes to LeBlanc’s quality leadership.

“Dennis has devoted approximately one-third of his entire career to the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District and he has certainly left a legacy,” TTUSD Superintendent Pat Gemma said. “The positive change that he has ushered in (at TTHS) many schools never will see.”

During his reign as TTHS principal, he helped implement major changes at the school including transitioning from a 7th to 12th grade high school to a 9th to 12th grade configuration as well as changing from traditional to block scheduling.

“Dennis is a textbook example of what a quality coach and leader should be,” Gemma said. “The critical ingredient is he is dedicated to people and he truly cares about the students, the parents, the teachers and the staff.”

The district has not yet found a replacement for LeBlanc but is currently advertising the position. Gemma said he hopes the district will complete the application process before the end of January and present a recommendation for a new TTHS principal to the board at its Feb. 7 meeting.

“We are currently advertising both inside and outside the district for a new high school principal. While we may have very qualified and appropriate applicants within the district, the best candidates possible will be sought.”

Assistant principal Mike Finney will administer all high school leadership during the interim period.


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