East Valley School District Superintendent Chuck Stocker will retire in June.
His announcement comes weeks after the 4,600-student district passed a levy with 72.97 percent support, weeks before his birthday - he’ll turn 60 in April - and after 34 years as an educator.
He picked his time carefully.
“I think the district is in fairly good shape,” Stocker said.
The building projects from a 1996 bond election are complete or, in the case of the Trent Elementary School renovation, well on their way.
With East Valley High School’s enrollment projected to top 1,600 next September, a new phase of long-term planning is on the horizon for the district. If the growth keeps up, the district will need to find more space for high school students.
“I could certainly do that (planning). But that could take several years and then I would have to hand it off to the new person to carry out,” Stocker said.
He’s choosing to go now, while he’s young enough for another challenge. What that might be, he’s not saying.
“I don’t profess to be another Colonel Sanders, who started his chicken business at 69,” Stocker said. “But there’s another adventure out there.”
For the East Valley School Board, there is the challenge of selecting a new superintendent. The board has set a work session for Tuesday to discuss the steps of their superintendent search.
Stocker and his wife, Lulubelle, raised four children in the Valley. Born in Snohomish, Wash., Stocker grew up on a dairy farm. He gained a strong work ethic, and started his teaching career in 1964 as a vocational-agricultural teacher at Central Valley High School.
He remained in the Central Valley School District for 22 years: six years as a teacher, and 16 as an administrator. When the job of Central Valley superintendent came up in 1986, Stocker applied.
In a Spokesman-Review interview at the time, Stocker said “We are becoming more of a global society. We are looking towards Japan as a trading partner. I think we have to be aware of the languages we teach.”
Today, the only school in the Valley teaching Japanese is East Valley High School.
The Central Valley job went to another man, and Stocker moved to the Freeman School District as its superintendent. He led that district for four years, before taking the East Valley superintendency in 1991.
Stocker mixes the practical and the visionary. He grew from the first, toward the second, he said.
He knows how to make the right deal. At the central office, just off North Pines, he covered a parking lot with gravel just days before Spokane County nixed gravel parking lots.
When a headline pointed out that the parking lot was “barely legal,” he heard from senior citizens who cheered his dollar-watching ways.
Yet under Stocker, the district took on a grass-roots approach to pass its 1996 bond, after three or four earlier bond failures.
The district started up its own alternative schools for high school and middle schools, as well as its innovative modified-calendar school.
Also under Stocker, a cooperative program started linking home school parents to the district.
Last year, Stocker’s doctor found he had a kidney stone. The superintendent calls it a wake-up call. Former colleague Chuck Hafner said that he and another retired educator have urged Stocker to think about retiring.
“We told him, ‘It’s time to get out of the circus,”’ Hafner said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo