After more than four decades in education, the past dozen as superintendent of the fast-growing Mead School District, Tom Rockefeller is retiring from his “dream job.”
“I’ve been at it for 41 years and this was the right moment,” said the 62-year-old Rockefeller, who has led the district through unprecedented growth.
Now he plans to spend more time with his wife, Pera.
“She’s given a lot to this job, too, and now it’s time for us to look at some other ventures,” Rockefeller said Thursday.
“We begged him not to retire,” said board president Denny Denholm, who held the same post when the district hired Rockefeller from Pullman in 2006.
“He’s meant so much to this district,” Denholm said. “The energy he’s had in managing the growth, the construction and the levies have been outstanding.”
“And he understands the financial part as well as any superintendent I’ve been around,” said Denholm, who has served on the board for 27 years.
Rockefeller’s retirement was accepted Monday by a reluctant board of directors, which will open a national search on Feb. 7.
A replacement is expected to be named by mid-April, with a starting date of July 1. Rockefeller’s last day is Aug. 31.
Rockefeller has faced numerous challenges at Mead, which, with an enrollment of 10,500, is the third-largest district in the county, behind Spokane and Central Valley.
The biggest was steady growth in north Spokane. Enrollment was 8,100 when Rockefeller took over.
In his retirement letter to the board, Rockefeller mentioned the renovations and new school openings during his tenure, including voters’ approval of bonds used to replace Northwood Middle School.
More recently, Rockefeller and the district won passage last year of a $114 million bond that will add a new middle school, elementary school and football stadium.
The bond was passed with 67 percent approval.
Last year, the district gave hefty pay hikes to its teachers in the wake of the McCleary court decision.
Rockefeller said he’s proud of the “continued quality programs in the Mead School District.”
“As I walk away and retire from my dream job, I do so with confidence the Mead School District is well-positioned to continue its tradition of providing the very best learning opportunities for all students,” Rockefeller told the board.
The board has hired a consulting firm, Northwest Leadership Associates, to aid in the search. Already the board has released an online survey to allow people to identify desired qualities in the next superintendent.
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