Connie Kennedy

CLOVERDALE - Nestucca Valley School District Superintendent Connie Kennedy has announced plans to retire effective June 30.

Kennedy, who joined the district less than three years ago, married in 2009. She said her decision to leave came after discussions between Kennedy and her husband during winter break. The two have been living apart and seeing each other on the weekends.

"Something changed when we put on the wedding rings," Kennedy wrote to the school board in an e-mail dated Jan. 7. "I didn't anticipate this at all. However, it has become very hard to be separated. I have accused Pete of putting magnets in our rings because when they get close together they lock together and it is very hard to pull them apart."

She plans to return to Hood River, where her husband is a special-education teacher.

Kennedy said she was giving her notice early so the district would have time to hire a new superintendent for the 2011-2012 school year. Kennedy began at the district in July 2008 after superintendent Bob Simonson retired. She previously was assistant superintendent of the Hood River School District.

"In my time here, I would have to say that I am most proud of this staff," Kennedy wrote in an e-mail to the Headlight Herald.

"When I began in July 2008, within weeks I discovered a $1.47 million shortfall. We had to make some very difficult choices that included cutting staff, cutting days, moving to a four-day school week and closing the middle school. Through all of that upheaval, this staff never lost sight of their purpose."

Kennedy said she strove to increase each student's achievement level with targeted staff development programs.

The district also was able to use stimulus funds to purchase programs to boost secondary students' reading levels.

The tactics seem to be working. For the 2009-10 school year, the district met all its overall Annual Yearly Progress goals for the first time in three years. "Our test scores are a testament to how hard our staff and students have worked," Kennedy said.

She said she also worked to get the district's finances in order. Kennedy said turning over the district's business services to Northwest Regional Education Service District was "paramount" to turning the situation around.

"We had three years of problems with the audits. The books had not been balanced on a monthly basis and there were not internal controls in place to make sure that things were running smoothly," Kennedy said. "This year's audit results clearly show that we have taken care of those problems."

"Connie has accomplished much in her time with our district," said school board chair Steve Dotson. "She has dealt with a severe budget crisis and the hard choices that go with that with the grace and wisdom of a seasoned pro."

Kennedy said she hoped her successor would continue the work begun in student literacy, and expand it to include writing and math, as well as continue staff development and team planning programs.

She also hoped the district would find the finances to return to a five-day school week.

"The district is on a good track, which should make things a lot easier for Connie's successor," Dotson said.

"At this time, the board is still in the process of deciding the next step. We will be hearing proposals from search firms and also will be considering other options."

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