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Rickert to retire

Cynda Rickert, superintendent of Eagle Point School District, will leave for retirement after next school year’s end.

“It’s time to be done,” she said.

With 12 years at the helm of the district, Rickert is one of the longest-serving school superintendents in Jackson County — though her retirement announcement came on the heels of a contract non-renewal that would have eventually led to her departure just one year later, in 2021.

The Eagle Point School Board decided in a split vote March 13 not to renew her contract. Board members’ discussion was limited in the public meeting, but they mentioned issues such as ongoing division between teachers and administration and ineffective communication.

“All I want to see is our district improve,” sad Tony Lallo, who cast the deciding vote against renewing the contract. “I want to see our communication improve. ... I feel that we’re lacking there a little bit.”

Nita Lundberg, chair of the school board and also a “no” vote on Rickert’s contract, said the superintendent had talked about moving toward retirement throughout Lundberg’s four years on the board, which Rickert affirmed.

“For me ... when someone talks about retirement for a number of years, there should be an end goal in sight,” Lundberg said.

“If it was up to me, we’d keep Cynda here until she was 85,” said board member Dan Hodges. “But she keeps telling me she’s not going to do that.”

Rickert said that the school board’s split vote led her to expedite her departure and head into retirement.

“We’re at a point where we have a split board, and it’s better for the district to go hire and commit to a superintendent,” she said. “I’m not that person right now. And that gives me the opportunity to say ‘OK, it’s time.’”

The school board voted to accept Rickert’s resignation at its June 12 meeting, with the stipulation to keep Rickert hired for one more year, Lundberg said.

After more than 40 years in public education, the 65-year-old said she’ll need time to adjust to retirement.

Rickert spent the better part of her local career in the Medford School District, beginning as a dean at Hedrick Middle School. She worked as assistant principal, then principal at McLoughlin Middle School before moving to lead South Medford High School. She worked with the Southern Oregon Education Service District before she was hired as superintendent in Eagle Point.

“I’ve always been pretty attracted to schools that are struggling,” she said. “Probably because there’s only one way to go, and it’s up.”

Rickert acknowledged that the district still has progress to make in metrics such as graduation rates, but that the district-wide gains in achievement, including graduation and state testing in recent years left her feeling “satisfied.”

“My hopes and dreams for this district are that it just keeps going,” she said.

Lundberg said Rickert “certainly has left big shoes to fill.”

“Despite the fact that we’re seeing things differently right now, we both want what’s best for this district,” she said.

Lundberg expressed excitement about the process of hiring a new superintendent over the next 12 and a half months.

She said the board will be looking for someone who can “weave the fabric of relationships.”

“That is key, and vital to where we need to grow in our school district,” Lundberg said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

Cynda Rickert. Photo courtesy of the Eagle Point School District.