ATWATER — School Superintendent Melinda Hennes is retiring at the end of June.
Hennes, 59, announced her retirement Tuesday night to trustees at their monthly board meeting. She has spent 36 years in education, the last eight as superintendent of the Atwater Elementary School District.
Last May, trustees voted 3-2 to fire Hennes but would not state a reason.
In July, the board changed its 3-2 vote and reinstated Hennes, who returned to work in August. One board member resigned in July and another was recalled in October.
"It's time for me to let go of my work here so someone new can take charge and lead this great district into the future," Hennes said. "One of life's greatest joys is to be part of a child's learning, to be present as the world unfolds before them. I'll truly miss the many dear friends I've come to know and to respect for their work with children."
Hennes said it's time for new leadership to take the district to the next level of excellence. She said when she leaves the district in June, there is no doubt its students will continue to thrive and achieve their dreams.
Trustee Joe Hoffar said he is happy for Hennes but said it will be "really tough" to replace her.
"It's a huge loss for our district and the kids," Hoffar said. "In just a few months, I have learned so much from her. She's such a hard worker."
Board President Kelly Fincher said that Hennes' tenure she has elevated the district to a higher level in all respects. Under her leadership the district has become financially sound and student achievement has never been higher.
"It took a tremendous amount of courage and character for her to return as superintendent for this school year after what occurred last year," Fincher said. "I have a tremendous respect and admiration for her. I will truly miss working with her."
Trustee Scott Lee wished Hennes well in whatever endeavor she pursues.
"I'm going to miss her," Lee said. "She has done a lot of good things for the school district."
Hennes was principal at Atwater's Elmer Wood Elementary School for a year, a principal with the Hilmar Unified School District for 17 years and a Hilmar teacher for 11 years.
Picking a replacement
Hennes said trustees will meet at 6:30 p.m. March 19 to discuss how to proceed in choosing her replacement. She said she hopes to continue working with children, but she's not sure in what capacity.
She credits the new board for working well together, with a common vision. She said she is glad to have been part of the healing process following her reinstatement.
"It is very clear that the citizens of this community, the board of trustees and the staff place great importance on their educational system," Hennes said. "By working together they have overcome tremendous trials and challenges, always placing the needs of the students as their highest priority.
"I will forever be grateful for the many opportunities to learn and to serve these students, this dedicated staff and this very courageous board of trustees. My life has been truly blessed by my work in Atwater," she said.
Fincher said the board has a very difficult task ahead.
"It will not be easy to replace Mindy," Fincher said. "We will be seeking community input and involvement in the process. The board is committed to finding a superintendent who is the right fit for our district and the community."
Fincher said that while it is hard to see her leave, she is glad Hennes is retiring on her own terms.
Hennes' husband Rick is retiring this summer from his position as superintendent of the River Delta School District in Rio Vista.