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Retirement looming for long-time Penticton school district administrator
Faced with the unenviable task of guiding the school district through years of budget cuts, Ron Shongrunden regrets he won’t be there to see the day when finances finally stabilize.
The Okanagan Skaha School District announced Wednesday that Shongrunden, its secretary-treasurer, will retire this spring.
“I would have liked to have seen us eliminate all our structural deficits before I left. I don’t know if that’s even possible, but it would have been nice to one year… go back to the board and say we have a few extra dollars to spend,” Shongrunden said.
Nonetheless, the 58-year-old is proud of what he’s accomplished during his career in the education sector, which began in 1980 when he was hired as an accountant with the then-Penticton School District. He rose through the ranks and was appointed to his current position in 2010.
In addition to his financial duties, he also helped plan the sprawling fibre-optic network that now provides phone and data service to school facilities, local government buildings and other community centres in Penticton and Summerland.
“He’s certainly a leader in the province, if not North America, in the technology world for the innovations that have happened here, said Ginny Manning, chair of the school board. “What’s been built here is second to none in terms of technology.”
Manning said Shongrunden, whose total compensation package totalled $131,537 for the 2011 fiscal year, phoned her to deliver the news of his retirement, then made it official with a letter to the board last week.
The district has already begun advertising the position and Manning is uncertain if the search will include any internal candidates. She said Shongrunden is a “highly valued leader” who will leave behind a ““very fiscally responsible district.”
Leslea Pryde, president of the Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union, said her members will also be sorry to see Shongrunden go.
“The teachers respect him, so he’s leaving big shoes to fill,” she said.
Pryde added that she hopes his replacement will focus on the big picture and not just the numbers.
“I hope there’s not somebody who’s just worried about the almighty dollar, but is worried about the people who are in the system,” she said.
Shongrunden said he’s proud of the way the district has put people first as it grappled with budget challenges.
“We’re still hard on the issues but we’re trying to be softer on the people and make it easier for the cuts to happen,” he said.
Shongrunden, who has three adult sons with his wife, Kit, said once he does leave work, he hopes to spend time renovating their home, travelling and developing an early literacy project, all while he’s still young enough and healthy enough to do so.
When he finishes clearing out his office, Shongrunden said he’ll leave his successor with a simple piece of advice: “Do the right thing.”