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FOSTORIA - Because of a promise she made more than a year ago, Sharon Stannard will end an education career of nearly four decades next week.
Frustrated by three straight levy defeats last year, Fostoria's school superintendent was concerned that residents were using her as an excuse to deny the district operating funds. So in November, 2001, she made voters an offer: Pass the tax in February, and I'll retire by the end of 2002.
The 7.9-mill tax passed easily on its fourth try, and Ms. Stannard was true to her word. Her last day is Dec. 20.
“It was a very difficult decision,” Ms. Stannard, 60, said yesterday. “Basically, I have enjoyed my job very much. I really had not thought about retiring at that particular point. It's what I call bittersweet.”
Ms. Stannard became Fostoria's top education official in October, 1993, and has worked in the district since 1973, starting as an elementary teacher. Her replacement is Cynthia Lemmerman, who has been assistant superintendent since Aug. 1.
The district honored Ms. Stannard yesterday with a reception in the media center at Fostoria Middle School. Teachers, parents, and students stopped by to wish her well.
Mary Brookman, a special education teaching assistant, gave the superintendent a big hug.
“You've done a lot for me over the years, and I appreciate it,” Ms. Brookman said.
“Oh, I'm not sure,” Ms. Stannard said.
“It was nice to have you around,” Ms. Brookman replied.
Ms. Brookman said Ms. Stannard helped prevent her son's expulsion for fighting while he was a high school student in the late 1990s.
“She was hands-on with the kids,” Ms. Brookman said. “She called us in and we did a consultation with the other parent that had a problem. She didn't leave it to the building administrator. ... He could have destroyed his life, but now he's going to college.”
Holly Clouse, director of Connections School, the district's alternative program for students aged 11 to 15, brought a friend with her to wish Ms. Stannard good luck.
“This is Spot. Spot wants to say good-bye to you,” Ms. Clouse said as her giant schnauzer puppy scurried around the superintendent's feet.
“Boy, you're a cutie,” Ms. Stannard replied, patting the dog's furry black head.
Ms. Clouse said the alternative school, a 13-acre farm near West Millgrove, opened three years ago because of Ms. Stannard's support. The program has boosted the district's graduation rate, she added.
“We wouldn't have it if it wasn't for Sharon, so the thought of her retiring is very sad,” Ms. Clouse said.
Ms. Stannard began her education career 39 years ago as a fifth-grade teacher near Cedar Lake, Indiana. Her class had 42 students, a far cry from Fostoria's current student-teacher ratio of 17 to 1.
She recalled that a mother brought in two boys with coloring books. “She said those were their learning materials, because they couldn't read,” Ms. Stannard said.
“By the end of the year, I had them reading at a third-grade reading level,” she said. “I still count that as one of my biggest achievements. By the end of the year, they didn't need to bring coloring books to school anymore.”
As Fostoria superintendent, Ms. Stannard is proud of overseeing construction of a new middle school in 1995, starting a program for gifted students, and winning passage of two operating levies, including the one that triggered her retirement.
The less pleasant memories include difficult decisions like the closing this fall of Lowell Elementary School, part of $1 million in budget cuts made to keep the district out of the red.
“I won't miss the tough decisions to cut programs and staff. And I won't miss those phone calls at 5:15 about bad weather,” she said, chuckling. “I'll just roll over on those days.”