Don Remley helped drive engagement and membership in Region 2’s retirement charter during the pandemic.
Remley continues to model leadership in retirement
May 30, 2022
Name: Don Remley Award: Retired Administrator of the Year ACSA highlights: Member since 1975; President, Inyo County Administrators’ Association, 1983-1984; President, Baldwin Park Organization of Supervisors and Administrators, 1980-1981; Member, State Legislation Committee, 1991-1997; Superintendent of the Year, Region 2, 1998; President of Region 2 Retired Leaders and Managers Charter, 2019-2021.
Although he retired as superintendent of Oroville City Elementary School District in 2007, Don Remley continues to model leadership, ethics and service in education.
Remley was president of Retired Leaders and Managers Charter at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unable to meet in person, he encouraged retirees to embrace a new format for their meetings on a platform called Zoom.
“Members participated and enjoyed the time together while learning new technological skills,” said Judith Rossi, past president of ACSA Region 2. “Throughout his two years as charter president, COVID-19 restrictions prevented public gatherings, yet Don was successful in sustaining charter membership and interest in ACSA programs.”
Remley is known for personally contacting members and prospective members by phone, e-mail and letter to increase engagement in the retirement charter, which is one of the largest in the state at 60-70 members.
He has also called upon those members to help communities devastated by wildfire. In 2020, nearly all of the students and staff at Berry Creek School lost their homes in the North Complex Fire, which also destroyed their school. Remley engaged the charter to donate gift cards to every Berry Creek student for Christmas.
With extensive contributions to the association both before and after his retirement, ACSA has benefited from more than four decades of Remley’s leadership.
What’s your favorite book or quote on leadership? Although I have read many books on leadership, I often turn to the Book of Proverbs for wisdom and guidance. In Chapter Three, King Solomon gives the following advice: “How blessed is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding, for its profit is better than the profit of silver, and its gain than fine gold.” Leadership in public schools today requires more than simply good administrative skills. It requires a heart that is sensitive to the needs of others and a willingness to extend grace and love to those who appear to be unlovely and unworthy. Today’s leader needs to exhibit a wise behavior which reflects justice, equity and righteousness in decision making.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given? I give credit to Dr. Leonard Murdy, former professor at the University of Southern California, who often reminded his students to not ignore the importance of the secretary. A school secretary often becomes the “face of the school.” He or she can become the school principal’s best partner in building school spirit and morale. As a principal and later as superintendent, I was blessed with having excellent support from strong secretaries who alerted me to issues I might have overlooked or in helping me to be sensitive to human needs which escaped my attention.
What’s your best strategy for work/life balance? When I was teaching a graduate class at California State University, Chico, one of my students informed me that she did not desire to become a school administrator because she observed too many divorces in the administrative ranks. I found that it was very important that I get involved in the activities of my three daughters. I coached girls’ soccer for 13 years, with my final team being the under-19 age girls’ team. I also was very active in the Girl Scout cookie drives every year and, on one occasion, was honored with a Girl Scout T-shirt for my efforts! Our family was also involved in church youth activities. Balancing family and work is critical in sustaining a successful career and a healthy family! My wife and I will celebrate 54 years of marriage this year.
What are some life hacks that you would recommend for a new administrator? Remember to thank others as they assist you in your new administrative role. In our society today, we all receive too few “thank you” acknowledgments. Therefore, when we do receive a heartfelt “thank you” we are impressed and feel appreciated.
What would people be surprised to learn about you? When I was young, learning to read was a very difficult task for me. In fact, my reading skills were so poor that I was not put into a reading group when I was in fifth and sixth grade. However, eventually, I overcame this learning difficulty and was a successful student in high school. What would be surprising to my elementary teachers is that I later earned a Learning Specialist Certification, developed a reading center for under-performing students, was hired as a Reading Consultant and trained teachers in effective teaching techniques. We have many boys within our public schools who share my early frustration with learning to read. Do not give up on them, but provide the resources and properly trained staff to support the “late bloomers.”
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome to get where you are? During my 40-year career in the California public schools, I worked in five different school systems. I found that “challenges” are actually opportunities to display your best administrative skills. As school administrators, we are most successful when we are able to change a negative school climate and instill spirit and hope in others. In the 1990s, Oroville City Schools had two schools which gained the status as State Demonstration Schools. Both schools represented low-income communities, yet the two schools gained notoriety as schools of quality instruction! Turn your “challenges” into opportunities!
What are you proudest of accomplishing? As school administrators, we are in the “people business.” I value the people with whom I worked. I tried to never forget that relationships are more important than issues or positions we may take during negotiations or during a crisis. I also believe that each employee within the school system is as important as the next employee in helping the system reach its goals. Thus, I made every effort to treat the classified employees as well as the certificated employees and management team. I am most proud of the non-adversarial/CFIER negotiations process which was used in Oroville during my tenure as superintendent.
How has ACSA supported you? I have been an ACSA member for nearly 50 years. During that time, ACSA has afforded me opportunities to grow in my administrative duties through attendance at several workshops and conferences. ACSA has also given me opportunities to serve the organization. When I retired, I did not hesitate to become an Emeritus Member of ACSA as I have continued to be actively involved in promoting ACSA and California public schools.
2022 Retired Administrator of the Year Don Remley.
2022 Retired Administrator of the Year Don Remley.
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