Saying Goodbye to Education After 42 Years

Enjoyed a Fulfilling Career

I will be retiring as South Pasadena’s superintendent at the end of this week. I’d like to take this opportunity to say some thank you’s and to reflect on my time here. I have been an educator for almost 42 years. Three of those years were in a private school setting, and the rest have been in public education in four school districts. I can’t imagine a more fulfilling career than educating young people. Teachers – and those of us who support teachers – truly touch the future. I also can’t imagine a better place to have completed my career than South Pasadena. From my first days here, I could tell that this community is committed to our children and that providing the best possible education for these children is priority number one. The incredible energy that school staff puts into this priority every day is matched by parents’ energy to help children succeed and help our schools thrive. I quickly discovered that when a need becomes evident, parents take action to help schools with the solution. I also quickly discovered that the students in South Pasadena are amazing. My experience in other districts gave me a good basis for comparison. The vast majority of our students are eager to learn every day. They strive to excel. They respect adults and their peers. Beyond that, we have students who care about others and look for ways to make a difference for those who are less fortunate. I’ve been impressed by the fundraisers and service projects that our students conduct to help people around the world. Their generosity and desire to set a positive example are exceptional qualities. My first thank you goes to the members of our Board of Education. They take their obligation to serve the community seriously, and they make decisions based on one driving question: how will this help our children? The success of a superintendent depends on many things. The most important factor is probably the working relationship with the Board of Education. It has been a privilege for me to be part of a team with board members who are supportive and forward-thinking. They are knowledgeable, thoughtful, and genuine. Our board members have challenged me to set high goals, and they have helped to make South Pasadena a place that will attract the best leaders. The proof is our outstanding new superintendent, Dr. Geoff Yantz. Another thank you goes to the District’s team of staff members – teachers, administrators, and support staff. My belief about our district’s mission can be summed up in two words: continuous improvement. South Pasadena has had an excellent record of student achievement for many years. Nevertheless, our staff members understand that we have to continually get better at our work or we will fall behind. They show this dedication through planning, collaboration, reflection, and a commitment to professional growth. Our teachers are eager to learn new instructional strategies to enhance students’ engagement and thinking. Their attitude is, “If this is good for students, we’ll do what it takes to make it work.” I have also appreciated teachers’ warm welcome when I’ve visited their classrooms. They are proud to share their instructional practice. Our administrators handle an ever-increasing list of responsibilities with attention to the details and an understanding of the big picture. They are the strongest group of educational leaders that I’ve been associated with. Our support staff takes pride in everything they do to create the best learning environment for students and keep our schools running efficiently. They do extraordinary work. Finally, I want to thank our parents and community members for being partners in our district’s progress. Our parents trust the professionals to make informed decisions; they don’t second-guess or look for things to criticize. At the same time, they advocate for their children’s needs in a positive way. They join together as part of organizations – SPEF, PTA, Boosters, etc. – and they volunteer their time as individuals to make sure that our schools have what they need. Our citizens, many of whom don’t have children in South Pasadena schools, understand the importance of our schools to the community. The Measure M bond, the Measure S parcel tax (passed by voters twice), the community’s contributions toward the high school track and field – these are examples that prove that the spirit of “it takes a village” is alive and well in South Pasadena. With all of these ingredients in place, I’m pleased that I’ve been able to do my part to help our district move forward. This year our theme has been “Leading the Way.” Our district has been leading the way with many educational innovations for a long time. I’ve been pleased to see our continued growth in academic achievement, and especially a substantial closing of the achievement gap with some underperforming groups. With the common core standards, we have entered a new era, with higher expectations for rigor and relevance. I feel confident that we are off to a strong start, and I believe that South Pasadena will lead the way in providing instruction that focuses on critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity. When I’m asked what I will miss the most when I retire, my answer is simple – the relationships that I’ve been able to establish with so many wonderful people. Those relationships have brought me great joy. My greatest joy has come from spending time with our students. They have made my past four years unforgettable.

  • : Enjoyed a Fulfilling Career
  • : by Joel Shapiro
      • Joel Shapirro