San Marcos Unified School District Superintendent Melissa Hunt said the tumultuous year of boundary changes, complaints about school overcrowding and budget constraints did not lead her to abruptly announce her retirement from education.
It was her husband’s cancer diagnosis.
Hunt said her husband was diagnosed last winter with a re-occurrence of a cancer that he beat four years ago.
“While the prognosis is good and we feel quite fortunate, the experience has reminded us that time is precious,” Hunt said. “We want to make a bigger dent in our list of places to explore and devote more time to our grandsons; our newest was born just last weekend.”
Hunt explained to her district colleagues her reason for leaving in a poignant letter she addressed to her “SMUSD Family.”
“I have been ‘in school’ in some way virtually my entire life,” Hunt wrote. “Nearly all of my Sundays to Thursdays have been ‘school nights.’
“Even to this day, my non-educator friends still ask, “Are you out of school for the summer?” Hunt wrote.
“As hard as it is to imagine my life without school and all things teaching and learning, it is time for a new chapter in my life to begin,” Hunt wrote. “I will retire on August 30, 2018.”
In the letter, Hunt explained that she had devoted her life to education, and found it to be the most rewarding work.
“Serving SMUSD as a Principal, Director and Superintendent is much more than I ever hoped for when I started this career teaching English and History 33 years ago,” she wrote. “So many students and teachers, colleagues and friends, have given my life meaning and purpose. I hope I have given half as much to others as they have given to me. There’s never been a day I haven’t been proud to call myself an educator. What more can one ask of a professional life?”
Hunt assumed her current post in January 2017, when former superintendent Kevin Holt stepped down on medical leave before retiring in June. The school board named her as Holt’s permanent replacement in July 2017.
Hunt, who has a 30-year career in education, began working for San Marcos Unified in 2001 as the principal of Woodland Park Middle School. She then worked at the San Diego County Office of Education to provide professional development for school leaders before returning to San Marcos in 2011 to become the principal of San Marcos Middle School.
She served as the district’s director of secondary education before her interim superintendent appointment in 2017.
During her yearlong tenure, the district faced financial headwinds due to budget shortfalls and underwent a controversial redrawing of boundaries to help balance enrollment at district schools.
But Hunt said she considered these challenges to be part of the job of a superintendent, and relished them.
She said that moving forward, the next superintendent will have to meet those challenges head on, but will inherit a staff and district community who will be ready and willing to support them.
“This is an incredible district,” Hunt said. “I truly believe that the district is in a solid position moving forward, and I believe it is because of the amazing staff, teachers and community.”
The district began a “comprehensive search” for superintendent following the June 19 board meeting, when the board unanimously approved a contract with Dave Long and Associates to spearhead the search.