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June 13, 2013
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Looking back and forward: school staff retirements

Graduates are not the only ones who are moving onto another phase of their lives, as retirees from the school districts are also making major life transitions.

Irene Frazier has worked at Nevada Union High School for 32 years and has seen many changes in the educational landscape.

Frazier helped found the Humanities Academy with a group of teachers 20 years ago, as well as the independent study and home-based program 15 years ago.

The Humanities Academy is a way to teach interdisciplinary studies, which was a natural fit since some teachers already taught history and English, Frazier said.

“We found a whole lot of ways to teach English 4 and government and economics,” Frazier said. “Once we made that step, we decided to try an academy with all four years. We had a lot of fun teaching together, teaming and creating activities, and we became an academy known for our activities and performances.”

Frazier also witnessed the rise of home-schooling, which Nevada Union offered in addition to extracurriculars to keep competitive with other home-based programs.

“We were trying to offer a service to parents who were interested in home-schooling their children but found that when they got to the high school level, there were a lot of challenges that specialized classes required,” Frazier said.

“It was huge, and we really understood that movement. People would start out in the home-based program and realize all of a sudden that NU is a great place to be where students could play in sports, dance, art, so many things.”

Frazier spoke of her initial move from the Bay Area to Nevada County, where she lived in the mountains and snow for the first time in her life, and the changes she has seen in the school, from the development of the advanced placement, arts, drama, dance and choir programs to the emphasis on standards-based teaching.

“When we started teaching, there were very few teacher materials, so we worked in teams to create materials and had staff development time to do that back then,” Frazier said.

Frazier went to college and became a teacher as it was one of the few jobs available at the time.

“I thought to myself, ‘OK, this is what I have to do, and if I love it this much, I’m going to have to make it work,’” she said.

Frazier said she was horrified by the lack of funding schools were provided, though she realized those were the glory days in comparison to current funding.

“People who work in the private industry have no idea what teachers do and how little they have to do it with,” she said. “We get every vacation to correct papers we have to grade and every summer to do the newest training and plan for the following year.”

She also witnessed the passage of Prop. 13, which reduced property taxes and school funding.

The changes in the reduction were evidenced by the removal of pay for teacher planning days and the struggle for available materials, she said.

“You’re asked to do an impossible task without the resources,” Frazier said. “I feel really bad watching the funding kind of fizzle out for schools. I think we absolutely have to turn that around if we are going to stay competitive in the world.”

Despite the challenges, Frazier said the job has been rewarding, and she is grateful for her time in the district.

“I got very lucky to get a job here at this school, and it has been a wonderful place to work for many years,” she said. “The students we have are a blessing. We grow wonderful kids in Nevada County.”

Bitney College Prep expects new principal this summer

Bitney College Prep High School principal Bruce Herring is retiring after 10 years with the school.

He was a multi-purpose part of the campus, having taught world and U.S. history, government, music and economics, the latter of which he taught for 10 years while serving as principal for the last four.

“I considered myself fortunate to be the principal and keep a hand teaching,” Herring said, though he is looking forward to new experiences. “It feels good. I’m ready to move on.”

During his time at Bitney, Herring noticed the changes in enrollment and the renewed energy with the move to the current location at 135 Joerschke Drive in Grass Valley.

“We’ll be twice the population as it was when it started,” Herring said. “That’s the biggest, most positive thing.”

“We have an outstanding teaching staff, and one of the best things I’ve done is put the right people in the right places to do the right things. I’m proud to be considered a colleague of theirs.”

Herring will still be involved and plans to perhaps teach an elective class one day. He said he will pursue other projects, however.

“‘Retire’ is a strange word. I have a lot to do still, and I just don’t know at this point,” he said. “The sky is the limit. I’m not committing to anything major just yet.”

Herring will be replaced by Ron Handel, who has experience as a vice principal, principal and English teacher at a private school is Seoul, South Korea.

Handel wanted to work for a charter school when he moves back to California in July, Herring said.

“He believes in the charter school movement, so I leave with great confidence.”

Nevada Union assistant principal

Nevada Union Assistant Principal Bruce Kinseth is also retiring after 38 years in the Nevada Joint Union High School district.

Kinseth began his teaching career at Bella Vista High School in the San Juan School District in 1975. He loved the Nevada County area and moved to Nevada Union in 1980, where he worked ever since.

He was a science teacher in the classroom for a total of 27 years between the two schools, and he was also a coach for 20 years before he became an administrator 11 years ago.

The thing he will miss the most is the interaction with students, he said, though he is looking forward to his retirement.

“It’s not without some lingering memories, and a lot of great things have happened over my career,” Kinseth said. “So I’m leaving a lot of great friends and students behind.”

On his last day, Kinseth said the experience “feels surreal. But it feels good, and I’m looking forward to retirement.”

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email jterman@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.


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The Union Updated Jun 25, 2013 05:33PM Published Jun 17, 2013 06:37AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.