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For the first time in 50 years, Bev Rundell is not worried about what she’s going to wear for the first day of school in September.
With her retirement at the end of this school year, the superintendent of the Vernon School District will not be thinking about back-to-school.
“I started school at five and I’ve been in education for 35 years. “Your body gets into a rhythm at the beginning of the school year, so it will be strange,” said Rundell. “You always buy a new outfit and shoes when you start school and I won’t be doing that this year.”
Rundell’s first job with the district was as vice-principal at Vernon secondary school more than 20 years ago. She returned almost eight years ago as assistant superintendent before taking over her current post in 2009. In between, she worked with the B.C. Education Leadership Council.
After spending her childhood in Saskatchewan and her teen years in Dawson Creek, Rundell attended the University of Alberta and Simon Fraser University.
Her first classroom job was high school French in Kamloops. From there, it was off to Howe Sound secondary in Squamish, Heritage Park secondary in Mission and Sentinel secondary in West Vancouver.
Now that her career is winding down, Rundell has plans to accomplish all of those things that get put on the back burner for a busy professional.
As a former French teacher, one of her plans is to spend a few months living in France.
“It’s something I’ve always dreamed of doing,” she said. “I spent time there when I attended university in Brittany.”
Rundell thinks she may spend the first few weeks of the school year travelling, to get over that initial adjustment to not working in education.
“I’m planning on doing some travel, reconnect with friends and family, read, volunteer in the community, hang out with my mom and I’ll probably sleep for a couple of months,” said Rundell, who has recently joined the Silver Star Rotary Club.
When she looks back at what have been challenging years for the district, Rundell said last year was the toughest for her professionally.
“The teachers’ strike meant it was a tough year for anybody in the system, relationships were strained and we’re still working on recovering from that,” she said. “That was the toughest challenge, and then the ongoing budget constraints, the cut in enrolments, how do we balance everything to ensure we’re still offering programs for students, and that will continue to be a struggle in our community?”
Some of Rundell’s favourite memories include the people she has met and the work she has been able to do with the curriculum.
“I always enjoyed doing the work with the principals and vice principals particularly the work we’ve done on literacy,” she said. “And I will miss the people: when you go into classrooms, when you see the kids working, I will miss that.”
Meanwhile, as Rundell’s time as superintendent winds down, she admits there are a few things she won’t miss about the job.
“I won’t miss the long days and sleepless nights, the meetings and trying to balance the needs of the district, making those tough decisions.”
School board chairman Bill Turanski has worked with Rundell for many years and said she brings stability to the district.
“She’s very dedicated, she leads always by example, and has never demanded anything from anyone that she wasn’t prepared to do herself,” he said. “She does have high standards, but she is always encouraging and supporting people.
“We’re in the people business, and she cares about people, whether they are students or adults.”
Turanski said finding a new superintendent is a daunting task, and the district is working with an organization that is an offshoot of the B.C. School Trustees’ Association.
“So they have met with us and developed a profile, but apparently qualified superintendents are in very short supply,” he said. “It won’t be until the end of June before we begin interviewing candidates. It’s such an important task, as this person is the educational leader.”
for the district.”
but we feel it will be worth the effort to get the person who can really do the job for us — he or she will have some big shoes to fill.”
Although her replacement has not yet been hired, Rundell is set to finish up Aug. 1, along with retiring secretary-treasurer Randy Hoffman and director of instruction Don Wilcox.
“All of us have said to the board that we are willing to do the transition work to make sure it’s smooth.”