SWANTON - A former Swanton school superintendent is shipping himself off to Siberia this summer.
Kevin McQuade, who was honored this week during a retirement open house at Swanton High School, recently returned from a two-month trip to Hawaii, New Zealand, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, and other far-off destinations. And now he's looking forward to spending time in Russia, where he will teach English to middle school and high school students during a three-week enrichment camp.
It is no surprise then that travel is at the top of Mr. McQuade's to-do list as he settles into retirement after a 30-year career that took him from the classroom to the basketball court to the superintendent's chair. Beyond passports and postcards, he is leaving his options open.
During his tenure at Swanton, Mr. McQuade, 53, was a "real go-getter for the school district," said Chris Wood, secretary to the superintendent, who organized the retirement open house. Nearly 200 people made reservations to attend the event. Guests included some of Mr. McQuade's colleagues from other school districts where he worked.
Mr. McQuade began his career in his hometown of Swanton in 1975 as a language arts teacher and football and basketball coach. He was a teacher and coach at Cardinal Stritch High School in Oregon from 1979 to 1981 and at Sylvania Northview High School from 1986 to 1990 when he became assistant principal at Northview. His other posts included Swanton High School principal in 1996. He was named superintendent here in 1999.
Robin Rayfield, a former Delta High School principal, succeeded Mr. McQuade, 53, who retired effective Dec. 31.
Over the years, many changes occurred in the educational field, but "testing" by far was the most significant, Mr. McQuade said.
"Testing is driving the curriculum," he said, to the point where the emphasis on testing can stifle students' creativity in the classroom. "For the students, there are not a whole lot of options anymore. There needs to be a happy medium in there some place."
Meantime, schools across the state are pinching pennies to survive, and as funding sources, such as grants, dry up, volunteers become increasingly important to districts' attempts to stretch budgets, he said. He pointed to volunteers who support a variety of projects in the Swanton district, such as parents who helped install playground equipment.
"A district cannot survive without volunteers, without parents' groups. More so now than ever, " he said.
As superintendent, Mr. McQuade was a hands-on administrator, said Mrs. Wood. If something needed done - weeding outside the high school or pulling out bleachers - "he was there. He was really dedicated to the district, to the community. He was instrumental in getting the levy passed for the new high school. That was a great accomplishment."
He often visited ill or injured students in the hospital, and if a tragedy occurred - the death of a student or staff member - he would go to the funeral home, staff members said. "He's very family-oriented," Mrs. Wood said. "He always wanted to be there for the students, for the parents. His heart was here."
Mr. McQuade who has attended hundreds, if not thousands, of musicals, commencements, ball games, and band concerts, said that he will miss spending time at the schools. And he will miss the students.
"Schools," he said, "are all about the kids."