Thanks to her regular “all-calls” Carol Bly’s voice is instantly recognizable to the families of Rescue Union School District’s 4,100 elementary and middle school students.
In her most recent call she announced her retirement as superintendent, capping six years on the job and a career total of 45 years in education, all in the greater Sacramento area.
Bly, 60, said she decided to go into education when she was 13 years old. Sitting in class, listening to what she called an incredibly boring English teacher, she dreamt about making learning fun. That evolved into a mission statement she has carried with her, “to create a joyous learning environment, so that students will never want to stop learning.”
Bly was an elementary teacher, then a principal, eventually working her way to deputy superintendent of Education Services in Davis, before making her way to Rescue and landing its top job as superintendent in the summer of 2005. Bly said she always expected to retire as a teacher. “Everything else that happened came as a surprise,” she said.
Bly has deep admiration for classroom teachers and called layoffs forced by the budget crisis the most difficult part of her job. “The teachers bring such wisdom to their roles,” she explained. “They make the district a better place for everyone.”
While there is a saying that “Education cuts should affect the classroom last,” Bly is quick to point out that it takes contributions well beyond the classroom teams to make everything happen. “The crossing guards, the bus drivers, the office staff — we need them all so that the students in those classrooms have a good education.” Unfortunately, working with an already lean budget, Bly sees even more budget cuts in sight for the next school year.
Lake Forest principal Bruce Peters called Bly another vital part of Rescue Union’s team of behind-the-scenes tireless workers and her leadership a tremendous asset to the district, unifying the district in “more ways than can be counted …. She will be missed.”
Bly wasn’t just the voice that informed every Rescue Union household there would be no school due to snow in December of 2009; she and her husband went four-wheeling to assess the situation themselves. “I had parents calling me, saying, ‘Snow days? How does Tahoe hold school when it snows and we can’t?’” Or, “There’s barely frost on the ground where we live. Why can’t our kids go to school?”
After the Department of Transportation informed her that school had to be canceled for at least one day (Rescue Elementary suspended classes several more days), Bly and her husband went out to see for themselves. “One street had frost, but we’d just turn a corner and cars would be stuck in the snow.” Our community isn’t equipped to clear roads and ensure safe conditions, like Tahoe can, she said. One upside? Students at Marina Village called her “the Best Superintendent on Earth,” for canceling school.
The Rescue school district has grown from a rural district of four school sites in 1950 to one that encompasses five elementary and two middle schools. Bly, who makes aprroximately $136,000 annually, said she entered the job in 2005, “on the shoulders of giants, though. It was already an excellent, high-achieving district.” As “a homogenous district, not reflective of the multi-cultural state and nation we live,” Bly said she hopes students will go out into the world prepared and also be open to differences.
Bly and her husband, also in education, plan to retire together this spring. After 38 years of marriage, one of her proudest personal accomplishments, Bly said she looks forward to accruing more miles on their RV instead of just their “two week jaunts every July.” She also looks forward to spending time with her two grown daughters and grandchildren. But whatever is in store, “I will continue to help the district in any way I can.”