Bissonette notified the board of his decision to step down as superintendent in a letter dated Nov. 4. After almost six years at his post, Bissonette said with family in Europe, Central America and the West Coast he wants to live in a place that is more accessible.
“In these six years I have accomplished a great deal and am more than satisfied with the quality and direction of Ridgway Schools,” Bissonette stated in his letter to the board. “Students receive an outstanding education from caring and talented teachers, the schools are led by strong principals with a clear student oriented vision, the district is in strong financial condition, and Ridgway’s reputation locally and around the state is exceptional.
“The time has come to live in a place where both travel time and the cost to be with family and life-long friends is not a barrier,” he stated.
School Board President Kara Mueller said the board is working on a plan to replace Bissonette but details of the superintendent search have not yet been finalized. Mueller said Bissonette has accomplished a lot for Ridgway Schools.
“I am sad that Ridgway will be losing him,” Mueller said on Monday. “He has done an outstanding job overall and has accomplished a great deal in his six years. We have developed our academic program from being an average program to a really excellent program. Douglas has worked hard to keep our class sizes very small and he has been very successful hiring and retaining excellent teachers.”
Mueller added that during the Bissonette’s time as superintendent, Ridgway Schools has added Spanish to the elementary and middle schools, changed the secondary block schedule and developed an outdoor education program.
“Even though I am sad to lose him, I am excited for him and his family to start the next chapter of their lives,” she said. “I know it has been very difficult living here when they are so close to their far-flung families.”
With the loss of Bissonette and the voter approval of Ballot Issue 3B to build a “Place to Play” at a cost of $3.3 million, the school board unanimously voted to appoint Batchelder to its vacant seat on Nov. 6. Batchelder previously held a seat on the Ridgway School Board for 10 years, with that tenure ending in November 2007 because of term limitations. The school board cited Batchelder’s experience in school governing as a much needed quality during this time of change.
“The board feels that it is the responsible choice for the district to utilize Don’s wealth of experience and knowledge at this time,” Mueller said. “He will be a great asset in both the superintendent search and the building of the gym/music room. Taking on a brand new boardmember requires a time-intensive mentoring component that we feel cannot be adequately performed right now with our obligations relating to the superintendent search and the building of the gym/music room.”
Batchelder on Tuesday said he accepted the appointment because he agreed the district would benefit from experience during this time.
“Previously, the board had asked if I would consider being appointed after I was term limited,” he said. “My reaction to them was that it is really important for new people to come on board and learn about board governance. I still firmly believe that. Because they have asked and because of the two situations facing them, which I have been through, I have agreed to do it until next year.”
Butcher’s term, which Batchelder is fulfilling, will end in November 2009.