PITTSBURG -- After four years at the helm of Pittsburg Unified, Linda Rondeau is retiring following a career that has spanned four decades as a teacher, principal and superintendent in three Contra Costa school districts.
The decision was not made lightly, said Rondeau, who is ending a career that has also included stints in the Mt. Diablo district and what is now the West Contra Costa district.
Rondeau was named superintendent of Pittsburg Unified in August 2010 after serving as the district's deputy superintendent and assistant superintendent of educational services during the previous five years.
Her first teaching job was as a fifth-grade teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Richmond.
"She has always led us with grace and dignity," said district trustee Vince Ferrante. "She really has been the catalyst to our academic achievement over the years."
Over the past few years, graduation rates in Pittsburg Unified have improved and more students than ever are going to college, Rondeau said.
The districtwide Academic Performance Index score -- a composite of state test scores that range from 200 to 1,000, with 800 the state target for proficiency -- has risen during her tenure, going from 699 in 2009 to 734 in 2013.
"Hopefully, I have contributed and helped to put the district in a positive place and to move into some of the new things that are happening," said Rondeau. 65, of Pleasant Hill.
Still, there is unfinished business in terms of student achievement. "The goal is all students and if we have individuals or subgroups not performing at a level we know they are capable of, then that's a disappointment," she said.
She said the district is in good shape financially, something that not all districts can say in the wake of an economic downturn.
"We didn't have rollbacks, we didn't lose jobs, we didn't lose professional development," she said.
Rondeau credits voters for passing bond measures that have made it possible for new schools to be built and existing schools to be improved.
But there are also other bonds that are crucial.
"The connection you have with people, teachers, principals, the parents. To really achieve things, you have to have those bonds," she said.
At a recent school board meeting where Rondeau officially announced her June 30 retirement, trustees opted to hire a search firm that will look for a new superintendent. Candidates inside and outside of the district will be considered.
"Linda's retiring is a big loss for the district and for our association," said Dawn Cova, president of the Pittsburg Education Association, which represents district teachers. "She has included us as partners over her tenure as superintendent. We have appreciated having a voice on important policies and practices. She will be hard to replace."
Once she retires, Rondeau expects to continue to be active in educational issues.
She also wants to do some volunteer work with hospices.
"And that is directly related to how they treated my dad. It's payback time," she said.
What will she miss most about being in charge of the Pittsburg schools? "I will miss this culture of learning and coming to work and saying this isn't boring," she said.
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.