Tahoe-Truckee schools superintendent to retire
TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; He led the school district through a politically charged elementary reconfiguration, through hard budget cuts, teacher layoffs and#8212; and most recently, the renewal of the Measure A parcel tax.
But after 39 years in education, Steve Jennings will retire as superintendent of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, effective Feb. 29, 2012.
Jennings announced his retirement Wednesday evening at TTUSD’s June board meeting. He said he’d been thinking about it for some time and#8212; especially since last fall when the state of California approved legislation to decrease retirement benefits to senior officials. It was legislation ultimately vetoed by the governor, but Jennings said it influenced his decision.
and#8220;That kind of planted the seed,and#8221; Jennings said in a Thursday interview. and#8220;But my biggest concern was to give the district plenty of time to make the transition to find a new superintendent.and#8221;
A February retirement was chosen, Jennings said, to coincide with his birthday on Feb. 5, when he’ll turn 63.
Jennings said he will help the district with its search for a new superintendent but plans to move back to Montana eventually after his wife, a lobbyist in Sacramento, decides to retire.
The news Wednesday took many by surprise, especially school board President Kirsten Livak, who said and#8212; through tears and#8212; she would miss Jennings greatly for the sense of calm he brought to the district during tough times and for his steadfast leadership.
and#8220;I am really without words,and#8221; Livak said. and#8220;I didn’t plan on turning this into a soap box, but we’ve been through a lot. He’s brought to us so much stability.and#8221;
Jennings, who was hired by TTUSD in March 2008, worked as a teacher and principal in Montana before coming to California in 1988. He served as principal, deputy superintendent and superintendent in Paradise, Calif., for 20 years before coming to Truckee/Tahoe.
He faced numerous challenges during his stint as superintendent, varying in nature from political, financial and administrative.
In 2009, the district dealt with a $3.7 million budget cut for the 2009-10 school year and accompanying teacher layoffs and#8212; the majority of whom Jennings helped to hire back.
Also in 2009, the district went through the politically turbulent reconfiguration decision (enacted in the 2009-10 school year), turning Tahoe Lake Elementary into a K-3 English-only school and Kings Beach Elementary into a K-3 two-way Spanish immersion-only program, with North Tahoe Middle School compensating as a 4-8 school site.
Then in 2010, there was an English-learner complaint from parents to the California State Board of Education, alleging a lack of communication from the district, which nearly blocked more than $1 million in state funding.
That year also saw another $2.25 million in budget cuts.
This year, Jennings led the district through the successful renewal of the Measure A parcel tax, passing by a mere 2 percentage points and securing the district roughly $4 million each year (starting in 2012) to maintain funding for Advanced Placement programs, libraries, music education and teaching supplies, among other school items.
On top of it all, these challenges were coupled with the transition to a completely new school board in 2011, save for Livak.
and#8220;(Jennings) never pressed the panic button, no matter what was thrown his way. Despite many complex challenges, Steve’s ability to stay focused established a sense of stability, continuity and reliability among his staff,and#8221; Livak said in a statement released Wednesday night.
Livak said Jennings would be hard to replace, but the board would work to develop a plan with the community for the transition and hire a recruitment firm to find a new leader.
Jennings said before he leaves he will firmly establish Professional Learning Communities within the district and#8212; PLCs are collaborative teacher groups focused on student achievement. He said PLCs are a staple of good schools.
and#8220;When I came into the district, we were just coming into PLCs. When I leave, I want to make sure PLCs are well under way,and#8221; Jennings said.
While Jennings said he intends to work diligently to ensure all district needs are met until his last day, he looks forward to the eventual rest and enjoying Montana’s blue skies, outdoors and especially his hobby of choice: fishing.
and#8220;There are a few trout up there that have my name on them,and#8221; Jennings said.