JOSEPH — She led the school through such changes as consolidating the elementary school into the junior high and high school complex and gaining charter school status for Joseph.
But now Joseph Charter School Superintendent Rhonda Shirley is retiring, even though her associates believe she’s still at the top of her game.
“Mrs. Shirley is a visionary who will be missed at Joseph Charter School. Luckily, the programs and infrastructure she has implemented are established and will be valued by many to come,” said JCS teacher Laurie Altringer.
Other JCS staff members voice similar sentiments.
“Rhonda has been the backbone of the Joseph School District for many years,” another teacher, Marla Dotson, says. “Her financial expertise, ability to access and manage funding sources, knowledge of educational programs and ability to manage people has made Joseph Charter School an exceptional school. She is a wonderful teacher, administrator and person, and we will miss her very much.”
Reflected Principal Sherri Kilgore, “To leave a 36-year career and still have everyone love, respect and admire you is amazing. I am happy Rhonda can retire on her terms, but I’m selfishly sad. Rhonda has been my boss, mentor, friend and mom. Her leaving will affect me greatly.” Kilgore added, “She is leaving us in a state of financial stability, along with building a charter school and developing the most amazing staff. For her to leave on ‘top’ of her game is the biggest accomplishment that any superintendent can hope for.”
Shirley is a Wallowa County native who attended first and second grade in Enterprise before attending school in Joseph, where she spent the rest of her school years before entering college. Shirley is a graduate of Whitman College in Walla Walla. She started her Joseph career in 1979, teaching both computer science and mathematics to grades 7-12.
After about 15 years in that capacity, Shirley took advantage of a half-time position as school counselor while still teaching math half-time, and it was Shirley’s entrance into an administrative position. She also started taking administrative classes with the encouragement of the school’s administrators and eventually obtained certification.
Shirley’s other positions included high school principal, athletic director and elementary school principal.
Shirley still kept her hand in at teaching even while performing full-time administrative duties. She occasionally taught calculus classes. “Just to stay in touch with it,” she said.
Shirley does not consider her climb to the rank of superintendent as the major achievement of her JCS tenure. “I guess it’s just being a part of the school for as long as I have and seeing the positive changes. Also, having an influence on students’ lives is something I’m also proud of,” Shirley said.
Although Shirley looks forward to retirement, she’ll miss aspects of JCS. “I’ll really miss the people I work with, and the students,” she said.
What will she do with all the spare time on her hands? Not to worry, Shirley has that covered as well. “I’ve got two grandkids and another one on the way to spend time with, and I’ve got a little farm to spend time on, too,” she said.
At least for a time, Shirley will make herself available to answer any questions incoming superintendent, Lance Homan, may have.
Shirley’s inner drive, which led her up the education ladder from schoolteacher to superintendent, never led her away from her Wallowa County home. “I never thought of relocating. I love it here,” Shirley said.