Head of schools to step down | TheUnion.com

Head of schools to step down

Terry McAteer is stepping down from his position as Nevada County superintendent of schools after being elected to the post four times, he told The Union on Tuesday in a surprise announcement.

But the 50-year-old isn’t aiming for a higher position. Instead, he’s following his heart and returning full time to the job he started with – that of a high school teacher.

“I leave my position with no regrets and with a genuine excitement towards returning to the classroom to relive the magic that takes place every day in the most important job in our society,” McAteer said in a letter he personally delivered Tuesday morning to The Union.

He will officially leave the post he’s held for 13 years at the August meeting of the Nevada County Board of Education, he said. Also in August, McAteer will become a full-time teacher at Bear River High School, teaching government, economics and journalism.

He will recommend the appointment of Assistant Superintendent Holly Hermansen – a former teacher, principal and school superintendent – as his successor, McAteer said.

The Nevada County superintendent of schools oversees the allocation of government money to the county’s 10 school districts, monitors the spending of those dollars, and coordinates health, transportation and food services, McAteer said. The superintendent also serves the at-risk student population with special education programs for kindergarten through eighth grade in nine districts.

McAteer said his mother’s death last September made him re-evaluate his goals.

“I think it’s one of those lifetime experiences that make you think,” he said. “I thought, what do I really want to do in life? My passion lies in the classroom, so I’m going back to the classroom.”

McAteer has faced difficult issues including declining enrollment at most area schools, drug problems at local high schools, financial issues at Twin Ridges School District and replacing large numbers of teachers who are expected to retire this year and in coming years.

In addition, he faced criticism after his wife, Liz McAteer, was appointed as a long-term substitute teacher at Nevada Union late last year.

His new job will slash McAteer’s pay in half, taking him from earning $120,000 to $60,000 yearly, McAteer said.

But teaching will be a familiar role. For the past 17 years – including his 13-year-tenure as the elected leader of county schools – McAteer taught advanced placement government and A.P. U.S. history at Bear River.


When asked what he hoped people would say about his tenure, McAteer replied: “He worked his tail off for kids. He was creative and innovative.”

Starting the Imaginarium experiential science museum, realigning special education and bringing in a university-level teacher training program are some of his achievements McAteer said he hoped would form his legacy in Nevada County.

During his tenure, the county superintendent of schools office budget has increased from $1.2 million to $35.6 million.

The increase in budget is due to his office offering several new services, including two statewide charters that cater to high school dropouts continuing their education and getting work experience. The superintendent’s office also provides special education at nine of the county’s 10 school districts and oversees special schools for at-risk children at the middle school and high school levels.

“I’ve really worked hard for the citizenry,” he said. “And when I felt I could not be effective, I felt it was time to seek my real passion.”

McAteer emphasized a need for a private life – something he hadn’t been able to enjoy as the superintendent of schools, McAteer said.

“I love Nevada County,” McAteer said. “I love living here, but I look forward to being a private citizen.”


To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail soumitros@theunion.com or call 477-4229.

Read Terry McAteer’s letter with this story online at:


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