It was a who’s who of familiar faces as former teachers, administrators and superintendents came out to honour longtime Vernon School District trustee Bill Turanski.
Turanski’s 21 years of service was recognized during a reception attended by retired superintendents Bev Rundell, Bob Peacock and Mike McAvoy; retired secretary-treasurers Randy Hoffman and Dave Greenan; past board member Sam Banducci; as well as retired and current teachers, trustees and administrators from throughout the district.
“It’s wonderful to see everyone and I’m very touched by the support,” said Turanski, who was not successful in his re-election bid in November’s civic election.
Turanski has spent most of his life in public education, and was just 20 when he started teaching.
“In those days you could get out of high school and take one year of training, I took first-year university — what used to be Grade 13 — and got my degree from UBC during the summer,” he said.
Turanski’s first teaching post was in Surrey, but wanting to return to the Okanagan, he applied for a position in Kelowna.
“I got there and was met by the superintendent, who told me, ‘by the way, you’re also the principal,’” said Turanski, of his job at Ellison school.
The following year he applied for a teaching position in Vernon and was given the principal’s job in Lavington and then moved on to BX, where he was principal for close to 20 years.
“I’ve met people who were students when I was there and they now have grandchildren, so I’ve been at this a long time,” said Turanski, who is a graduate of Vernon High School.
Executive assistant Lynn Jameson has worked with Turanski for many years and said she will miss working with the man she calls a true gentleman.
“He is a master of the English language when composing correspondence on behalf of the board,” she said. “He had a strong commitment to the board and to the public education system, attending numerous meetings and events over the past 21 years. And he was always gracious and appreciative of others.
“I will also miss his dried cinnamon apple pieces and his canned salmon.”
While looking forward to Christmas with his wife Terry and their family, Turanski said he hasn’t yet made any concrete plans for the future.
At his last meeting on the board, chairman Turanski conducted business as usual, overseeing PAC meeting reports, bylaw readings and fielding questions from the public.
But before calling time on his last ever meeting Nov. 26, Turanski was asked to listen as his co-chair Kelly Smith sung his praises.
“This is a historical day and I would like to thank you, Bill, for being our chairperson. I understand that you have had quite a history in this district,” she said. “You had several newbies three years ago and you gave us gentle direction and I very much appreciate the work you did with us.”
When Turanski began his career in 1957, A. Seymour Towell was Inspector of Schools.
Current district superintendent Joe Rogers is the ninth for Turanski.
“Bill has been great to work with, and the board will miss his patience and wisdom,” said Rogers. “He has been asked by Jami Tonasket (chairperson) of the Aboriginal Education Committee to stay on.
“I want to thank you for your service, Bill.”
Turanski would be the first to admit that what he has put into his job as trustee has been returned to him 10-fold.
“Nobody owes me anything because I have got as much out of it as I have put into it and I will miss you all,” he said.
“You don’t know how much I appreciate working with you people. Those who were new came along really quickly and you have contributed a great deal in the three years I worked with you.”