The San Ramon Valley school board joined other civic and local education leaders in bidding farewell to district superintendent Mary Shelton during her final board meeting Tuesday night.
Shelton, who led the San Ramon Valley Unified School District since July 2012, announced earlier this year she'd be retiring at the end of the current school year -- which officially wrapped up Thursday -- and moving to Texas to live closer to her grandchildren.
"It has been such an honor and a pleasure to serve here in the San Ramon Valley," Shelton, 65, said during the 30-minute recognition ceremony at the district administrative complex in Danville.
"It is hard to leave everybody, but I tell you: grandchildren are great magnets. They just pull you in. I never really expected to leave as soon as this, but they really just change your heart," she added.
Shelton had worked almost 28 years in education -- but had never been a superintendent -- and was serving as chief accountability officer at the Sacramento City Unified School District when the SRVUSD board selected her as superintendent four years ago.
"You took a chance on me, and that just means the world to me," Shelton said while thanking the board Tuesday night. "This was my professional goal in life, to be a superintendent. I am so pleased that I got to be one, but also more importantly, here in the San Ramon Valley."
The retiring superintendent also commended the commitment of the people across education in the Valley, from students and parents to teachers and other school staff to the community at large.
School board members and local elected leaders offered similar praise to Shelton.
"I have to thank you for your thoughtfulness, for your kindness, for your intelligence, for your compassion, for your willingness to listen ... for taking our phone calls whenever we call you, for coming to whatever meetings we ask you to come to and for being such a true education advocate," board member Denise Jennison said.
"The trajectory that we're on is a good one. You are very responsible for so much of that, and your legacy will be felt for a very long time and you will be deeply missed," Jennison added.
"You put kids first, even when it wasn't the easy decision," board president Greg Marvel said. "You did what was best for kids in every single instance, and you took our money and used it wisely and effectively."
"Mary took the reins and did a phenomenal job in turning this organization to even greater heights and leaving a lasting impact," Marvel said, while also lauding Shelton for selecting a "phenomenal team for your successor."
The district's new superintendent, Rick Schmitt, is set to take over effective Friday. His final day at his San Diego-area school district was also Thursday.
About 20 people were on hand for Shelton's farewell meeting, including Danville Mayor Karen Stepper and Councilman Newell Arnerich, Contra Costa County Supervisor Candace Andersen and staff members for Assemblywoman Catharine Baker and State Senator Steve Glazer. The San Ramon City Council was holding a regular meeting in San Ramon at the same time Tuesday night.
"You made such a difference to Danville because you were so open with everything," Stepper said to Shelton. "It didn't matter if it was the easy questions or the hard questions; you were very poised and very knowledgeable, and we just appreciated all the things you did in partnering with Danville for the schools."
Arnerich added, "The footprints that you've left, that are going to last in our schools and your school board, about how we care for our kids in different ways -- not just pure education, but that whole person."
Shelton received special recognition letters from the Danville council, county Board of Supervisors, State Assembly and State Senate during the meeting.
The Danville proclamation praised Shelton for implementing a robust "Response to Intervention" program, culturally responsive teaching strategies and full integration of inclusive practices in all schools while promoting a district-wide mantra of "all our kids are all our kids."
Shelton also led SRVUSD while it adjusted to new state education standards and funding formula and introduced comprehensive teaching strategies focused on helping all students succeed in the classroom.
District voters also passed a $260 million facilities bond measure and renewed the $144 local education parcel tax during her tenure.
The district also saw its student population continue to grow to unprecedented levels. Enrollment jumped 4.5% during Shelton's four years, rising from 30,757 students in fall 2012 to 32,133 students at the start of her final year.
Shelton's last day in the office was Thursday, but her official retirement date is Sept. 9 because she'll be taking vacation time in the interim. As a parting gift, board members gave Shelton an outdoor kinetic wind-spinner/sculpture since she said she plans to spend quite a bit of her retirement in the garden at her new home in San Antonio.
Schmitt's first day as SRVUSD superintendent is Friday, according to his contract, but his first day in the office won't be until next Tuesday because of his move up from Southern California and the Independence Day holiday weekend.
A Castro Valley native who worked earlier in his education career in Livermore, Schmitt spent the past 17 years as a school administrator in the San Diego area. For the last three years, he served as superintendent of the San Dieguito Union High School District, based in Encinitas in north-coastal San Diego County.