“What are you learning today?” Buckeye Union School District Superintendent Terry Wenig said she will miss asking this question most after she retires this June.
Twice a week Wenig visits the classrooms of the 5,200 students that make up Buckeye’s five elementary, two middle and two charter schools — a highlight of her job.
Born and raised in Kentucky, Wenig made her way to Northern California to attend the University of Santa Clara. She went on to get her teaching credential in the early 1970s, bouncing from school site to site at a time when cuts in education were comparable to now. “I was always getting laid off at the end of each school year because I was the youngest teacher,” she said. Yet Wenig credits the various teaching jobs as a blessing because of the experience she gained.
Wenig pursued a master’s degree in Education because she said she wanted more tools to teach reading to her students. She eventually taught nearly every primary grade during her career. And since she was young, single and wanted to keep her options open, Wenig took advantage of San Jose State’s offer to get her administrative credential at the same time.
While on staff at a school in Gilroy an interim principal was needed. They looked at the credentials of the staff and offered Wenig the job. She continued to rise through the ranks in education, but said her heart has always been with the students and in the classroom.
Wenig and her husband eventually moved to El Dorado Hills. She happily worked at a school district in Roseville until the post- 9/11 Folsom Dam Road closure made her commute unbearable. So she jumped at the chance to take the superintendent position in her own community.
Wenig said she is most proud of the passage of Measure K, which she said allowed the district to modernize the school sites with all the best, most up-to-date technology. She loved knocking door-to-door to talk with neighbors about Measure K. When they discovered they were talking to the superintendent on their doorstep, people reminisced about their own school years with her.
She also fondly remembers working with a community committee to plan the district’s 150-year anniversary, which happened to coincide with Buckeye Elementary’s 50th anniversary. “That was a fun time. It was fun to plan and wonderful to celebrate,” she said.
She credits the Buckeye Foundation for saving many enrichment programs that would have otherwise been cut, and said she looks forward to seeing the foundation grow. Its contributions are needed now more than ever. The Buckeye Board of Trustees recently voted to eliminate more than a dozen teaching positions and offer early retirement incentives to avoid layoffs.
And though Wenig remembers the pink slips and the budget cuts she endured as a new teacher, she has hope for teachers today. “I tell teachers to hang in there. If you’re a good teacher you’ll have a job.”
After six years as Buckeye superintendent and 38 years in education, Wenig said she feels especially proud and honored to work in a community where education is valued so much.
Oak Meadow principal Barbara Narez said Wenig has always brought a vision of collaboration and teamwork. “Under her leadership our district has grown as a team, one that will continue to collaborate and thrive. As a result, Terry leaves us in a good place,” said Narez.
Retirement will kick-off with her son’s June wedding. She then plans to take some well-earned relaxation. “At first I just want to sleep in, have coffee, read, and exercise,” Wenig said. “Then after a while I’d like to get back to riding horses, sewing and spending time in Tahoe.” Further down the road, she said she and her husband would like to plan a trip to her ancestral Italy but she won’t spend too much time away from home.
“After I’ve slept in as much as I want, I want people to know I’ll still be living in El Dorado Hills,” Wenig added. “I’m going to get back out there and volunteer.”