Parker announces retirement as Unionville superintendent

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Cites family needs, desire to spend more time with family in opting to end her five-year at helm of school district

Updated 9:35 a.m., 4/26/11: adds quotes, more details

By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com

Superintendent of Schools Sharon Parker receives an ovation from the Unionville-Chadds Ford Board of Education — and some flowers at the close of Monday night's meeting.

EAST MARLBOROUGH — Unionville-Chadds Ford Superintendent of Schools Sharon Parker announced Monday night she would be retiring from her position and has asked the Board of Education to let her out of her contract.

Parker made her announcement Monday night during the Board of Education meeting, shortly after informing the board of her decision — after months of efforts by the board to dissuade her from taking retirement.

Although some in the audience were pointing the finger at some board members — including former board member Kathleen Brown — Parker said he motivation was primarily being able to spend time with her family, her sons and grandchildren.

“It’s time for me to serve my family,” she said. “The board has been kind and understanding.”

Apparently, Parker broached the subject some months ago, but the board was able to convince her to stay on, but she told the more than 200 gathered at Unionville Elementary School that she began to wonder how many years she might have left to spend with her family and whether it might make sense to slow down and focus more on being a mother and a grandmother instead of the high-pressure of running a school district.

Parker said she plans to use her full energy — especially in light of the challenges facing the district — until her final day.

“I don’t plan to be a lame duck superintendent,” she said.

Board members and community members were quick to offer praise — and that they were reluctant to see her retire.

“Sharon Parker’s dedication is incredible,” board president Timotha Trigg said, citing her energy and ability to seemingly be everywhere, all of the time — a visible symbol of the schools, both to students and parents, but the larger Unionville community, as well.

“Words cannot express how we feel,” said member Holly Manzone. With that, she got up and presented Parker with a customized sash — with the superintendent wore for rest of the meeting, with a certain amount amusement. Mazone suggested that if she agreed to stay on, she could still keep the sash.

Although most of the comments from the community and board were in praise of Parker,  a couple of community members suggested that some members of the Board of Education and their focus on fiscal matters, rather than educational ones, were a key factor in Parker’s decision to retire.

“I’m very sad our district is losing its leader,” Brown said, specifically excepting member Corrine Sweeney from her comments. “Our board is full of CFO (chief financial officer) wanna-bes and it’s good to have someone who is focused on education. I see this (the retirement) as reflecting the will of a majority of the board.”

“Superintendent Parker’s decision has nothing to do with any member of the board,” said board member Paul Price. “Everybody here was as shocked as you.”

While there is no timetable for Parker to finalize her retirement, she suggested after the meeting that Aug. 31 or when the board finds her replacement might be a good timeframe, but that ultimately it would be up to the board to decide. That process will likely start next Monday night, as the board’s Communication Committee meets to discuss the process and get input from the community on how the process for hiring Parker’s replacement should be managed.

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