On Friday morning, news broke that Cheryl Jensen-Gerner, principal of Miller-Driscoll School, had announced she will retire at the end of 2015. In a letter sent to M-D parents, Jensen-Gerner made the announcement:

After considerable thought and with mixed feelings I have informed the district of my intention to retire effective December 31, 2015. After nearly forty-two years as an educator it is time to embark on the next phase of my life. It is bittersweet in many ways but I look forward to more time with family and friends and opportunities to engage in leisure activities. [see the entire letter, below]

Jensen-Gerner will remain as principal through the end of December. She will, however, stay on with the district until the end of the school year helping to coordinate and consult on the Miller-Driscoll renovation project, which is due to begin this December.

School officials are thankful that Jensen-Gerner has made herself available not just to help with transitioning a new principal but also with the renovation, given her longstanding experience with the M-D building.

“Cheryl has been at M-D 16 years or so, so she’s been a key part of the planning and logistical operations of the building project. I asked her to stay on to serve in that capacity, because I just don’t think it would be productive or fair to bring in a new person and put that person in charge of logistics of a project he or she knows little or nothing about. Because Cheryl has so much personal history with the building, staff and planning, it makes sense to keep her in that capacity,” explained Wilton schools’ superintendent Dr. Kevin Smith, adding, “I’m deeply grateful that she’s agreed to do that.”

Timing, however, is complicated, with any transition happening mid-school year.

“We do our very best to minimize the transition. When I transitioned from principal to superintendent in my former district, that was a mid-year transition. It actually was very smooth. As long as we are communicating very openly and very regularly, I think we can minimize disruption. At that point of the year, the school is actually in motion and it’s actually a neat opportunity for a new person or person in the new role to get his or her feet wet, to learn the school and the staff. It will actually set you up better for the next school year because you’ve already got background knowledge as you move into summer,” Smith said.

Bruce Likly, chair of the Wilton Bd. of Education, called Jensen-Gerner a “dedicated contributor” and said this about Jensen-Gerner’s announcement:

“Some of her many accomplishments include: the successful merger of the Miller and Driscoll Schools; the transition to Full-Day Kindergarten; the expansion of our pre-school program per state guidelines and oversight of the initiation of the Miller-Driscoll building project. We will miss her smiling face and devotion to our youngest learners and are appreciative that she’s announced her retirement at a time of year that will enable us to conduct a comprehensive search for her replacement.

“There isn’t a child in Wilton that won’t remember her as Glinda the Good Witch in the annual Halloween Parade and while I am sure she’s looking forward to her next chapter in life, we’re appreciative that she’ll be working on a consulting basis from our central offices over the remainder of the school year to help with the progression of the Miller-Driscoll building project.”

Smith agreed:

“Cheryl is a competent, capable principal. She’s had a four-decade career in education, and that kind of experience is not easily replaced. She’s been in the community for over 15 years, so she knows a lot of people and a lot of people know here. She’s had a significant impact, and like everyone else, wish her the best as she moves on to the next chapter in her life. She’s come to the decision that it’s time to pass the baton and that’s a personal decision, and I support her. She’s built a strong legacy the next person will be able to build on,” he said.

Finding a New Principal

Superintendent Smith said he hopes to have a replacement principal on board by the time

“We’re going to proceed with a search almost immediately. We’ll put a committee together and work with our board, and representatives from our parent community, teacher community, our administrator community. We’ll set up a multi-tiered interview and site-visit structure to solicit the best candidates,” he explained.

The possibility exists that the school will promote from within.

“I have a personal philosophy, I like to grow a leadership bench in the district and hire from within whenever possible. It’s a personal interest of mine, because you get a lot of value with that. But at the end of the day, our obligation is to surface the very best candidate. My hope is that some of our internal people will apply and go through the process,” Smith said.

Jensen-Gerber’s Letter in Full

Dear Miller-Driscoll Families,

After considerable thought and with mixed feelings I have informed the district of my intention to retire effective December 31, 2015. After nearly forty-two years as an educator it is time to embark on the next phase of my life. It is bittersweet in many ways but I look forward to more time with family and friends and opportunities to engage in leisure activities.

In December of 1999, I accepted the opportunity to come to Wilton as the principal of Miller School and later was appointed the principal of Miller-Driscoll School. It has been a fascinating professional experience and I can hardly believe sixteen years have flown by! This has been my second home for a long time! We have learned many lessons over the years but the most important is that Wilton is a special community filled with special people and blessed by a dedicated staff who takes pride in a learning community that is warm and nurturing for our students. I am confident that the Miller-Driscoll staff will continue to work tirelessly for the children of Miller-Driscoll School in the years to come. Schools are constantly moving forward with new ideas and initiatives, so whenever one leaves, it is always part way through something! However, I am proud of what we have accomplished and it has been a privilege and honor to have served as the principal of Miller-Driscoll School.

While I am still principal I will continue to work hard to support the students, staff and Miller-Driscoll families as you transition to a new leader. Although I will no longer be the principal of Miller-Driscoll School after December 2015, I have agreed to be involved for a while longer by coordinating the Miller-Driscoll Building project for the remainder of the academic school year, June 2016.

Thank you for your support and commitment to Miller-Driscoll School. I am very proud of what we have accomplished as a school community. I will always treasure my fond memories of the many students who have attended Miller-Driscoll School, the special families I have come to know, the friendships and support of the Miller-Driscoll staff, and all the professionals of the Wilton Public Schools.

Sincerely,

Cheryl Jensen Gerner