Victoria superintendent closes her books after 19 years
By JUDY SHERARD
VICTORIA -- USD 432 Superintendent Linda Kenne believes it takes time to make a school superintendent a good, strong leader.
Crafting a school district into an image -- delineating a vision and letting people know how ones plans to get there -- takes time.
Kenne, who is retiring June 30, has spent 19 years in the Victoria school system, four years as K-8 principal before becoming superintendent.
"I like teaching in the small towns because kids do not fall through the cracks in Victoria," she said. "We know everybody's name, where they live, their parents. ... I think that's the secret in education to try to get down to that level. (There's) intrinsic value in getting to know your students and having your students get to know you."
Maintaining high test scores, the district's technology plan and its upgraded facilities are a source of pride for Kenne.
"We're well ahead of many places with our technology," she said. "For us, it's not just that we have the stuff (technology). ... It's what you do with the stuff that matters most. Allowing the teachers to build the capacity to integrate technology into their every-day lessons and their every-day work is far more satisfying than just being able to say we have a one-to-one laptop initiative or we have a 24-hour iPad."
A voter approved $3.5 million bond in 2008 funded the facility upgrade.
"We're here, our facilities are solid, and (we're) ready to educate your children," Kenne said.
An addition to Victoria High School made room for the middle school students. Kenne's office and the board room also moved to the high school in 2011, and the district closed the former middle school building.
With a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the district also added a safe room during the high school addition construction.
Kenne said the district made cuts five years ago.
"We're not thinking about cutting any more," she said. "We're trying now to expand and grow. ... We're in a good place financially."
Kenne has been in the education field since 1970, teaching for nearly 25 years before coming to Victoria as an administrator.
The biggest change she's seen is "a loss of respect for the people in education," Kenee said. "When I went into education, teachers were respected. Education was respected. Public education was looked on as a valuable institution.
"Unfortunately today, I see almost an assault on people who sacrifice to educate our kids."
Not surprisingly, it's the kids she'll miss most.
"Any time you're not feeling good, any time you're feeling frustrated, any time you're feeling sorry for yourself, all you have to do is walk outside your door and walk down the hall during passing period and all of a sudden, it all gets put into perspective. And you feel just fine," she said.
David Ottley, who has worked in the Victoria district since 1984, most recently serving as Victoria Grade School principal, has been hired to replace Kenne.
"He's well-positioned to just step right in. I don't think anybody's going to notice much of a difference," Kenne said.
Kenne grew up in southern California and has lived in several states, but retirement won't mean a move anytime soon.
She's "looking forward to being able to do what I like to do. I like to quilt, and I'll be able to spend more time doing that. And I'll be able to sneak away and see my grandkids when I want," she said.