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Sandy High School principal retiring

District rushes to find Jim Saxton's successor
by: Marcus Hathcock, Principal Jim Saxton will end his 30-plus years with Sandy High School this June.

Sandy High School Principal Jim Saxton has a piece of advice he offers his teachers: Don't make career decisions in April. But Saxton chose not to heed his own words last week when he announced his retirement, effective in June.

'I'm not going to go sit in a rocking chair and mow my lawn every day,' said Saxton, 57, who spent 31 years in the Oregon Trail School District as a teacher and administrator and the past five as the high school's principal.

'I feel like I still have something to contribute. I just want a different venue - (something) a little less stressful, a little less hectic and a little more my style. Being a high school principal is not a sport for an old man; it's a young person's sport.'

Saxton's departure is the latest in a series of retirement announcements that hit the district this year, including Superintendent Clementina Salinas and Assistant Superintendent Russ Hasegawa, both of whom also will retire at the end of the school year.

'We definitely have lots of key positions (turning over),' said district communications director Julia Monteith. '(Jim) has been eligible to retire, so from that aspect it's not a surprise. He loves his job, and he's stuck it out longer than most folks. We're fortunate from that aspect.'

Saxton's departure will initiate a search process for a new principal, which Monteith expects to include candidates from outside and inside the district. Advertisements for principal positions are typically posted in March, and Saxton's April announcement left the district with a smaller window of time to get the ball rolling.

'There's a little bit of a time crunch,' Monteith said. 'It doesn't mean we're out of the game; we just need to get it out quickly.'

The district plans to include new Superintendent Shelley Redinger in the search process to find a new principal. Redinger, who will be in town April 19-20, hopes to talk to the high school staff and other administrators about the opening. Redinger is looking forward to taking part in the decision and also expressed her appreciation for the work that Saxton did for the district.

'I know that Jim Saxton was very well respected and has done many good things for the high school,' Redinger said. 'I think he leaves an outstanding legacy, and we'll build on that. I was looking forward to working with him, and I wish him the best.'

Saxton was one of five candidates interviewed for the superintendent position, but he said that not getting the job did not contribute to his decision to retire.

'I don't have any issues with that (decision) at all,' Saxton said. 'It would have just been something to do closer to home. I thought I'd come back here and continue being the high school principal. But that itchy feeling didn't go away.'

With his newfound free time, Saxton plans to spend time with his new grandson, golfing, working with children, teaching and writing. He already has an idea for a book composed of stories from his childhood in Butte, Mont.

'I have so many stories and memories,' said Saxton, who once taught language arts. 'It might not be a very good book, but it'll be fun to write. It's kind of a coming-of-age historical fiction with a little biography thrown in on the side.'

Saxton also plans to remain in Sandy and to help pass the bond for a new high school, set to be included in the 2008 general election. That could give Saxton the chance to impact the sons and daughters of his current students, an inter-generational connection he has already enjoyed by teaching many children of former students.

'Every year I get a whole new group of sons and daughters of former students,' Saxton said. 'I don't think very many people have an opportunity to do that; it's almost like watching a community grow up. They became adults; they're cool people.'

Saxton said he would miss everyone he worked with, including the teachers, staff, administrators and, of course, the students.

'I love it here; I love the kids, and I love the staff,' Saxton said. 'I've given my working life to this place, and I have no regrets. If I had to do it all over, I'd do it again.

'I feel very lucky that I've had the opportunity to be in one place for a long time. I think that would be so lonely to not be able to stay in one place for a long time and make connections and get to know people.'

But as Saxton pointed out, he knew this decision would arrive one day.

'Like the guy said when they closed the Fillmore in San Francisco, 'All good things come to an end.''


Princi-'pals' praise Saxton

Principals and others from the Oregon Trail School District react to the announcement that Sandy High School Principal Jim Saxton will retire at the end of the school year:

Mike Sutton, principal of Welches Elementary and Middle schools:

'The kids respect him, and the parents love him. I'm sorry to see him go, but I'm happy for him. He has a great passion for the school district and healing things from way back when. I admire him from that. He'll be hard to replace.'

Scott Maltman, principal of Boring Middle School:

'It's going to be a huge pair of shoes to fill. He's just a walking history book of Sandy Union High School District and the Oregon Trail School District.'

Molly Knudsen, principal of Cedar Ridge Middle School:

'I'm very excited for him to move forward in the next chapter in his life. He has been a great leader for Sandy High School; he always put kids first and was a really good mentor for up-and-coming assistant principals. He was a great person to work for.'

Kimberly Braunberger, principal of Naas and Cottrell Elementary schools:

'I think he's done some wonderful things at the high school. He's obviously been a real positive member of the community. I'm thrilled for him and hope that it gives him time to do things he hasn't been able to do. He's earned the right to move on to things that will give him more freedom.'

Debbie Johnson, principal of Firwood Elementary School:

'Jim has been such a positive influence in this district for so many years. We're going to miss his leadership and his wonderful sense of humor. I wish him well.'

Pat Sanders, principal of Kelso Elementary School:

'I'm sad, (but) I'm happy for him because it's something we all look forward to. He's provided a lot of leadership for our principals and administrators. He's worked hard, and the high school has changed dramatically under his leadership. He's done a great job. We all look up to him for what he's done.'

Rayburn Mitchell, principal of Sandy Grade School:

'When he told me, I was happy for him, but for selfish reasons I was also really disappointed. Jim and I have worked together for 20 years; he was my mentor going through administrative work. He's a personal friend, and I told him it's a graduation. He's a very sharp man, and he will find another niche where he will contribute.'

Clementina Salinas, superintendent of Oregon Trail School District:

'I'm saddened for the district, but I'm happy for him, because I know for myself that being retired is a big milestone. I think Jim has done a marvelous job with Sandy High School. He deserves to have the very best in the future.'

Terry Lenchitsky, chairman of the Oregon Trail School Board:

'I hope him the best in his retirement. He's been an asset to the community and the school district, and he's affected the lives of many kids. He just did such a good job, and he will always be a friend of the school district.'

Sena Norton, president of the Wy'East Education Association:

'It will be sad for the district to see him go. He's put in a lot of years in education.'