It has been a mixed month for advocates of the West Valley School District.
February has included the jubilation of a dual victory at the ballot that saw WVSD earn approval of a maintenance and operations levy and a technology levy with both passing by margins of over 55 percent.
West Valley School District Superintendent Polly Crowley announced her retirement earlier this month, effective June 30. Crowley joined the district in 1995 as an assistant principal at West Valley High School and has served as superintendent since January 2005.
Photo by: Craig Howard
Then, less than two weeks after the special election win, Polly Crowley – West Valley superintendent since 2005 – announced she would retire at the end of June.
“She will certainly be missed,” said WVSD Board President Bob Wentworth. “Polly has been a leader in the community as well as the district.”
On Monday, the West Valley board interviewed Assistant Superintendent Gene Sementi to lead the district beginning July 1. Wentworth said the appointment is pending an official board vote on March 14 and the resolution of contract negotiations.
Crowley, who started in the district as an assistant principal at West Valley High School in 1995, called the transition into retirement “a difficult decision” and said the topic emerged in discussions with the board last autumn. At the time, talk of the two replacement levies was the priority.
“I decided it would be best not to talk about retirement until after the levy was over,” Crowley said.
When former West Valley Superintendent Dave Smith stepped down in December 2004 to become project manager of the West Valley High School renovation, Crowley took over in a mid-year transition. She had served as assistant superintendent since 2000.
With the special election in mid-February, Crowley said she and the board agreed that “the full attention needed to be on getting the levies passed.”
Another factor in the retirement decision, Crowley said, was the retirement of her husband, Tom, as superintendent of the Rosalia School District last year.
A native of Moscow, Idaho, Crowley completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Idaho before earning her master’s from the University of Minnesota. She taught home economics on the high school level before pausing her career to raise three children.
Crowley signed on with Educational School District 101 in 1992 after teaching middle school for seven years in Post Falls. In 1995, she left ESD 101 to become assistant principal at West Valley High School. She recalls the “sense of community” and the top-rate standards of the educators in her new environment.
“You quickly discover the quality of people who work here is amazing,” she said.
Crowley’s tenure at West Valley has included the passage of several key funding votes, including a $35 million capital facilities bond in 2004 that went toward the refurbishing of West Valley High School. The funds also supported upgrades at Valley City School, Centennial Middle School and four grade schools.
The establishment of the West Valley Foundation in 2008 – a citizen-led group that provides money for scholarships and classroom improvements – has also been a vital supplement to the district’s fund-raising efforts.
“We have great support from the community,” Crowley said.
West Valley High School currently maintains a graduation rate of 96 percent, one of the best ratios in the state. The district has also been a leader in innovative programming, in place at sites like City School, Spokane Valley High School and the West Valley Outdoor Learning Center.
Crowley visits classrooms on a consistent basis, but says the emphasis is not about teacher evaluation as much as student success.
“It’s about asking questions like, ‘What’s going on at home?’ or ‘Did you have a good meal today?’” she said. “If students have dropped out, we work on getting them back in the loop to graduate.”