After 60-hour workweeks and the constant grind of corporate life, Linda Slattery was ready for a change.
However, she never imagined that would include being laid off, and eventually becoming the superintendent of a small country school.
Slattery, 58, is the new superintendent in the Mount Pleasant School District. Children in grades kindergarten through sixth are educated in the small building in Skamania County, with goats and chickens as frequent visitors.
Slattery wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“This feels just like coming home,” she said.
Slattery began as the school secretary two years ago, after a job notice at a career fair caught her eye.
“For some reason, this just jumped out at me,” she said.
For 20 years, Slattery had been a department administrator at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. But when the economy began tanking in 2008, she lost her job.
This bumpy road led Slattery to a job she loves.
“There is just something magical about this place,” she said. “To have the goats and horses in our backyard, and the chickens in front, is really unique and neat.”
Slattery applied for the superintendent’s position after Teresa Baldwin announced her retirement as superintendent of the Washougal School District, and as part-time superintendent of Mount Pleasant.
She was selected from six applicants. Her annual salary is $35,942.
Slattery said her lack of an advanced college degree is what motivates her to support the three teachers at Mount Pleasant School as much as possible.
“I have a lot of life experience, but education is such a powerful tool,” she said. “I’m supporting these three teachers who have the education to help these children make a difference in the world.”
Slattery’s first few months on the job have been challenging, but enjoyable.
“There are some really good people in this community,” she said. “I like feeling like I am supporting people who will make a difference in the lives of children. I just love kids.”
She said the most difficult aspect of the job is learning how educational systems and requirements work in Washington state.
“But I feel confident that I will succeed because of the strong support from a strong School Board and parent community,” Slattery said.
Although Mount Pleasant School is only five employees strong, Slattery said this is also one of the benefits of the 60-student school.
“Since there are only three teachers, when the kids go to the next level, they are in close communication with each other,” she said. “Each child is an individual here.”
Slattery’s goals are to continue to balance the budget and offer the best education possible. Recently, Mount Pleasant passed a levy, which will keep the school running until 2015.
“We plan to preserve as much as we can so we can keep operating the school,” Slattery said. “It has its unique challenges, but also has a set of rewards.” She said the challenges included having a small staff that also has to teach music and the arts, and having the superintendent’s and secretarial position combined.
“Last year we had four teachers, and now we only have three,” Slattery said. “Our day is very full, but it also keeps use people. We are responsible for maintaining the same standards of educational excellence, but with fewer people.”