Superintendent Rummer retires to a round of applause

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

Superintendent Rummer retires to a round of applauseFor a solid decade, Joanna “Jody” Rummer served as superintendent of schools at Sierra Sands Unified School District. She is the longest-serving superintendent in the history of the district. During that time, she has been able to keep the district in the black during one of the most challenging fiscal environments since the Great Depression.

Rummer will retire this June 30. Her replacement will be Ernie Bell, currently assistant superintendent for human resources.

The team of people who have worked with Rummer — including state consultants and legislators who advocated for education with her in Sacramento — surrounded her to wish her a happy retirement.

State Sen. Jean Fuller, in paying her respects at?Rummer’s May 17 retirement party, recalled the local superintendant’s first meeting with other Kern County educators — back when Fuller herself was a superintendent in Bakersfield.

“I?just remember this woman who had so much energy and enthusiasm for her job. I was already tired at that point, but you couldn’t help but get caught up in her optimism,” said Fuller.

Also on hand was Rob Bennett of School Services — a firm that Rummer credited with helping the district survive devastating cuts that followed the economic crash.

A common theme in the reflections of her peers was that one of Rummer’s defining characteristics was leadership by example — that the reason the school district was one of only a handful in the state that remained solvent through those devastating years was because her willingness to work harder inspired the same from her entire team.

Rummer’s career with SSUSD began 26 years ago when she was a science teacher at Murray Middle School — where her sisters reminded her that on her first day she showed up with unmatched shoes.

Her notable accomplishments include passing a $50.5-million public bond for school facility modernization, the only one ever passed in the history of SSUSD. She also instituted the latest academic programs in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). She concluded educational partnership agreements with the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division and Cerro Coso Community College to facilitate advanced learning opportunities. She obtained a California state facilities grant to build a state-of-the-art $7-million classroom and lab building at Burroughs High School to house a landmark pre-engineering program. She negotiated two grants from the Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment for school facilities modernization and construction grants, totaling some $70 million, to modernize Burroughs and build a replacement campus for Murray Middle School, which will be in Ridgecrest instead of on the base.

All 11 school sites in SSUSD have been recognized for academic excellence as California Distinguished Schools, California Blue Ribbon Schools, Model Schools, or Title 1 Achieving School. Burroughs has been cited for its award-winning co- and extracurricular programs in music, art, drama and athletics, as well as for its exemplary Career Technical Education Program, with major emphasis on STEM. James Monroe and Murray Middle schools have both been recognized for their excellence in STEM programs as well as their extracurricular programs.

In recognition of all this, she was honored by the Association of California School Administrators Region XI as Administrator of the Year in 2004 and 2007. And now ACSA has named her Superintendent of the Year for California for 2014.

On May 9 Rep. Kevin McCarthy read a speech noting Rummer’s accomplishments, to be read into the Congressional Record on the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. He also presented her with a flag that flew over the Capitol.

“A relentless advocate for her students, I was honored to work recently with her to secure federal defense funds to replace Murray Middle School and modernize Burroughs High School. Many of the parents of Sierra Sands students work at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in state-of-the-art facilities and laboratories while their children attend class in 1940s and 1950s-era buildings. Jody was instrumental in securing these funds and worked tirelessly with the Department of Defense through a competitive process to ensure her students can learn in modern buildings in today’s digital society,” said McCarthy.

“Jody has tirelessly represented her students, school district and our Ridgecrest community’s interest while providing sound, objective and to-the-point advice. When I visit Jody in Ridgecrest and speak to students, she is always quick to laud her staff, teachers and students’ achievements and hard work that have made Sierra Sands one of the best school districts in Kern County and the state of California.

“I would like to wish a happy retirement to Jody Rummer, who has devoted so much of her life to the success of the students and community she holds so close to her heart.”

Joanna Rummer enjoys staff comments at her retirement party.

Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2014-05-28