Theresa Grace is retiring as superintendent of the Ramona Unified School District on June 30, after three years in the role.
His retirement was announced at a May 12 ceremony in front of the district office. Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Joel Garcia recognized Grace and a handful of other retirees as well as Classified Employees of the Year and Teachers of the Year for each school site.
Grace said she decided to retire in February, after working in education for 37 years as a teacher, principal and administrator. She said she is at a time in her life where she would like to slow down and enjoy other interests.
“The last few years with the pandemic have been exhausting for me and everyone in education,” she said. “I plan to continue supporting public education by volunteering and mentoring new site and district administrators as a professional coach.”
Grace is married to Robert Grace, an automotive teacher at Ramona High School.
Daryn Drum, president of the Ramona Unified School Board, described Grace as an “incredible leader who has done a fantastic job as superintendent.” Drum said people don’t realize that she often works until 8 p.m. because the job has to get done.
Many also don’t know that Grace stepped up and performed COVID testing on staff when she could have delegated the work to others, Drum said. Grace acknowledged that other staff members were busy with their work, he said.
“Theresa has done more COVID tests than anyone other than our district nurse,” Drum said.
He praised Grace for her calm demeanor and her ability to set the standard for reopening schools safely as COVID ended. If she and district employees hadn’t worked so hard together, schools in Ramona might have remained closed longer like those in many surrounding districts, he said.
“We appreciate that every decision Theresa has made since day one has focused on what’s right for the kids in this district,” Drum said.
As a student in the Ramona District from third grade through high school graduation, Grace said she had many great teachers who inspired her to immerse herself in teaching and education as a profession.
Grace started out as a student teacher in Kingsburg, California, and served as a substitute teacher for a semester. She said she was interested in helping others from a young age and teaching has always been an interest, especially in 4-H and FFA related topics.
She began her career as a high school agriculture and science teacher and went on to teach at Lake Elsinore, Bishop and Vista before moving into administration at Vista.
During her administrative career, she worked as a vice-principal at Rancho Buena Vista High School in the Vista Unified School District, before moving to vice-principal at Washington Middle School, then becoming principal at Madison Middle School. .
Eighteen years ago, she returned to Ramona as principal of Mt. Woodson Elementary School, a job that lasted nine years.
She moved to the Ramona Unified District Office as Senior Director of Educational Services. After a few years in this position, she became Deputy Superintendent of Educational Services. On July 1, 2019, she began serving as superintendent after the board selected her from a pool of 30 applicants.
Grace said what she will miss most about her work as an educator is the impact she can have on the community and especially children.
“I truly believe that public education is the cornerstone of our democracy,” Grace said in an email. “I will miss working daily with the dedicated staff at the school sites and in the district office. We are fortunate as a community to have so many dedicated and caring people working with our students and their families.
“I will miss the visit to the primary, middle and high school classes,” she added.
Grace said she plans to hike and exercise regularly and volunteer in the community. Those plans include mentoring new administrators at the site and district level in San Diego County, she said.
The Ramona District began working with the San Diego County Office of Education to find a replacement. They held community and staff forums to get feedback on the qualities desired in a new superintendent. A survey was also sent to students, staff and families in the school district to gather similar information.
Grace’s position was advertised in professional publications for educators and as a result, 20 applications are being considered, officials said. Selected candidates will be interviewed by the school board on Friday, May 27 during a special closed meeting. The goal is to choose a final nominee at the regular school board meeting on Thursday, June 9, Grace said.
Drum said the school board is looking for a visionary leader.
“Someone who can develop or deliver their own vision for the district while maintaining the positive momentum we have right now,” Drum said. “We didn’t anticipate COVID in February 2020, so we don’t know what the future holds, but hopefully someone can expand on their vision in the future.”
Grace may be retiring, but she won’t be gone for long.
She plans to be back in August to volunteer at the Ramona High library to help borrow books for students at the start of the next school year.