MERCED -- For 22 years, Michael Belluomini has played a major part in the building of three high schools, the remodeling of other campuses and generating revenues to build them. Now he's stepping into semiretirement, but his imprint on local education is likely to remain for some time.
Belluomini, 61, has been the Merced Union High School District's director of facilities planning and guided the construction of Golden Valley and Buhach Colony high schools along with El Capitan High School, which is a little more than a year from completion.
Belluomini deflects praise for his efforts, saying he has been the facilitator who blended efforts from many fronts. At times he has been the bulldog who made sure housing developers paid their fair share for the new construction and added students that their projects generated.
"It takes lots of effort and risk-taking," Belluomini said. "I'm the common thread. Everybody makes it happen; I'm the facilitator."
Belluomini doesn't have any big retirement plans at this point. A tenor, he sings in the Merced College Choir, and enjoys entertaining and cooking French and Italian dishes. His red spaghetti sauce and pesto are family favorites.
A jogger and weightlifter, Belluomini plans to continue working two days a week. He is involved with the St. Patrick's Catholic Church Parish Council. Married for 27 years to Christine Krebs-Belluomini, he has a grown daughter and three grandchildren.
Trustee Ida Johnson said Belluomini's retirement leaves tough shoes to fill.
"That's a loss," Johnson said. "He was outstanding, he was amazing. He made everything so clear. He does his homework. He has been very thorough in anything we asked."
Board President Kurt Kollmann said Belluomini kept everybody on track and has considerable knowledge about what it takes to build a school. He said it's very difficult to coordinate aspects of multimillion- dollar projects.
In his earlier years, Belluomini thought about becoming an architect, since he had always been interested in design. He received a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1972 from UCLA and followed that with a master's degree in urban planning in 1980 from California Polytechnic State University, Pomona.
Belluomini was the community development director from 1986-1990 in the city of Tracy, where 1,200 homes were built during that time. Before that he worked for the Merced County Planning Department from 1980-86, leaving as a senior planner.
From 1976-79, Belluomini was a volunteer for the Peace Corps, doing village planning in Botswana in southern Africa. He maintains friendships with Swedish and English colleagues he worked with there.
Superintendent Scott Scambray said the district has lost a trusted leader, an old friend and a living archive. He said Golden Valley, Buhach Colony and El Capitan high schools will forever bear the evidence of his work.
"Michael's contributions will endure over countless quizzes and tests and our students, staff and families are the eternal beneficiaries of his life's labors," Scambray said.
Overall, $200 million in high school facility improvements have been made, about 250 classrooms have been built and another 200 classrooms were modernized during Belluomini's tenure. From 1995 until 2007, he also served as the district's director of maintenance and operations.
A native of Bakersfield and the son of parents who immigrated to the United States from Lucca, Italy, Belluomini never liked the way Bakersfield looked. This fueled his desire to make developing communities more livable and attractive.
Travis Kirk, the district's capital facilities project manager, said Belluomini's contribution to the completion of El Capitan High will be of great value to the district.
"In an amazing 22-year career with MUHSD, Michael has made an impact that will be realized for generations to come," Kirk said. "From the construction of three comprehensive high schools to countless renovations throughout the district, Michael has always first and foremost put the needs of students and staff as his main priority. He will be missed."
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.