After 22 years as an administrator, Hamilton School District Superintendent Duby Santee is retiring at the end of this school year.
Santee served as principal of Grantsdale Elementary School for nine years, then took over as principal of Washington Primary School for eight years before spending the past five years as the district superintendent.
"It has been my good fortune to have served with the outstanding staff of the Hamilton School District," he said. "Simply stated, they are the best of the best. The time has come for me to find a new trail to explore."
Santee has overseen many changes in the district, from the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act to the construction of new buildings to drastic budget deficits last year.
He said the changes caused by NCLB were not always positive.
"I think the emphasis on accountability and testing became such a big item with the passage NCLB, and although we were doing it on our own, it pressed a lot of changes," he said. "There has been more of a concentration on reading and math. I think that there's been some good things, and part of that is that we have to pay attention to the needs of individual students. We were already doing that, of course. But there has been too much emphasis on reading and math scores, and those are just a snapshot of the what we do. We focus on the whole child."
Santee said he looks back on a long list of accomplishments during his time serving Hamilton schools, despite never having enough money to go around.
"I'm proud of the fact that we were able to maintain the integrity of our educational program with the decline in funding that we've had," he said. "We were able to improve our facilities through grant writing and various other ways. We've been able to address long-term deferred maintenance projects."
Last year, Hamilton voters struck down a proposed technology levy for the school district, something which Santee feels was a personal disappointment.
"One thing I'm really disappointed in was not passing a technology levy, not being able to get our message out to the community effectively enough," he said. "We had bigger issues than just the economic situation. We tried to pass it once when the economy was good and we still didn't get it. We just weren't able to convince people that it was necessary, and the need has not gone away. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to pass that on to whoever takes over for me to address that situation."
Many of the principals and staff in the school district say Santee will be greatly missed.
"Mr. Santee is a dedicated educator who has always put the welfare of Hamilton children first in every decision he makes," said Kathleen Dent, principal of Grantsdale Elementary School. "The experience and historical knowledge about the district he brings to the position of superintendent is not something that can be replaced."
Daly Elementary School principal Eric Larson said Santee addressed each and every challenge and opportunity by first asking if it was best for the students.
"HSD3 is a better place because of the efforts and leadership of Mr. Santee," he said. "I have grown as an educational leader under the mentorship of Mr. Santee."
Shawna Kientz, principal at Washington Elementary School, agreed.
"I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work with Duby," she said. "He is truly an amazing leader, visionary and role model. He leads with integrity, fortitude and dedication every single day. I feel confident in saying that he will be greatly missed by everyone."
Santee said he would offer a bit of advice to whoever steps into the role next year.
"I would tell them that Hamilton is a real diverse community and they need to be prepared for that," he said. "There is a wide range of views. They can't just be locked into one thing. We have a professional dedicated staff, and they just need to maintain that. Hire people that have that same outlook for the kids, and maintain that same quality of teaching. Share those things. We've got a good administrative team in place here."
The Hamilton School Board is in discussions about how to search for a replacement, and they will come up with a plan by November, Santee said.
Reach reporter David Erickson at 363-3300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.