By Jennifer Jimenez
Dr. Gail Pletnick recalls 2007, the year she took the reins as Dysart Unified School District superintendent year after serving as assistant superintendent for three years.
For the past 41 years, education has been Ms. Pletnick’s passion, she said.
In her family there were not a lot of opportunities for people to get an education.
Having grown up with a special needs sister, she saw the importance of providing every child the opportunity to do whatever they want to do or be, so education was a natural path where she could help make that happen
“I wanted kids with similar experiences growing up and every child to be whatever they want regardless of where they come from or the challenges they have in life,” Ms. Pletnick said. “So, for me it was as much a passion as a profession.”
Her retirement, announced last July, becomes official when the school calendar year ends June 30.
Ms. Pletnick said she never planned to become a superintendent and will always consider herself a teacher.
“I was fortunate to have incredible mentors during my career and they would point out my qualifications they believed would fit into positions that were opening up and said I could help the organization by doing this or that and it’s really how I ended up down this path to become superintendent,” she said.
Ms. Pletnick said she is proud of the district for continuing to provide expanded options and opportunities for students, so they when leave they are armed with the knowledge, skills and dispositions to move into the ever-changing world of work and life. She said changes and opportunities have contributed to the ever-growing opportunities for students.
“In education, the challenge is also about ensuring that you are driving the changes that need to be made to prepare these students. Think about how the iPhone has changed our lives,” Ms. Pletnick suggested. “When I look at the preschoolers in our system, I have to think about what we need to do to ensure they are prepared for the new challenges and opportunities when they leave us,” Ms. Pletnick said.
The district has worked hard to create the “We are Dysart” culture, she said, which is about every person really knowing what the district’s ultimate goals are and working together to get there. Ms. Pletnick said sometimes she will be driving, while other times the best place for her is in the back seat helping to advise.
“I also believe every person can be a leader. We can’t all be experts at everything, but when we have passion and interest we certainly can lead and that’s every person, including our students, who are leaders and have helped us to create this culture of learning and driving innovative, progressive changes,” Ms. Pletnick said.
She said after retiring she will truly miss all the people, the students and working with an incredible team.
She praised the volunteers and said she is inspired every day when she is out talking with stakeholders about how much passion they have for students and how dedicated and devoted they are.
“I will certainly miss those conversations and opportunities to work side-by-side with such wonderful dedicated people” Ms. Pletnick said.
Her future plans including mentoring and helping other superintendents work on personalized learning, as well as spending time being a grandmother and friend.