During his time at the Atascadero Unified School District, outgoing Superintendent John Rogers has encountered some remarkable behavior.
“One of the things I appreciate the most is being able to observe the best of the human character represented by the students, staff and parents,” he said recently. “You see courage and compassion. You see toughness in the face of adversity. You see hope and optimism.”
Rogers is being succeeded as superintendent by Deborah Bowers, who steps down as principal of Creston and Santa Margarita elementary schools. She had also spent four years as Templeton Unified School District superintendent.
“The district is in good hands,” Rogers said, referring to Bowers. “She is a person of the highest intellect, has tremendous character and is a ferocious worker.”
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Rogers, whose last day was Thursday, said he decided to retire for “personal reasons.” He declined to elaborate further.
Rogers took office in 2006 after five years as the district’s human resources director. He previously was principal of Santa Margarita Elementary and assistant principal of Atascadero Junior High School.
Rogers described the superintendent post as “absolutely the most interesting job I’ve ever had.”
“There is never a dull moment. There is always one intellectual challenge after another,” he said.
Rogers said the greatest challenge that Atascadero Unified has faced in recent years has been the economic downturn, coupled with declining enrollment.
“For any superintendent in the past five years, that has been front and center of their agenda every day,” said Rogers, who has overseen layoffs, work furloughs and myriad other cost-cutting measures.
The district’s philosophy has been to balance cuts across the board, he explained.
“When the pendulum swings, we want to have a strong foundation that we can build back from,” the outgoing superintendent said.
Rogers would not comment on one of the greatest tragedies of his administration, the May 2008 drowning of a 17-year-old student in the Atascadero High School swimming pool.
The district has also faced two grand jury investigations during his tenure — one dealing with the drowning, the other with the hiring of a high school principal.
Asked about his part in crafting a $117 million school improvement bond approved by voters in November 2010, Rogers gave a typically modest reply.
“I feel I was a very tiny little part of that,” he said. “I’ve just been a lucky guy to be able to associate with (our staff).”
As for his next step, Rogers said that he might follow the lead of others who’ve retired from the district — only to return in a volunteer capacity.
“My guess is that I’ll be doing the same thing, contributing where there’s a need, if I’m asked,” Rogers said.