RIPON -- After 14 years at the helm of the Ripon Unified School District, Superintendent Leo Zuber has announced he will retire at the end of the school year.
The Turlock native has marked 39 years in education, almost all of them in the Northern San Joaquin Valley and foothills, and 28 of them with Ripon Unified. His tenure in Ripon coincided with burgeoning growth and a doubling of the student enrollment.
He announced his retirement to the Board of Education Monday evening.
"If I was going to keep working, I would stay here," Zuber, 60, said. "I like the job. It's not because of stress or anything else. It's time ... for 40 years as a teacher, principal and superintendent, I've been responsible for making decisions all of the time, decisions about kids, about lessons, about money. I want time when I don't have to do that."
Board member Larry Stewart, who has served on the board almost as long as Zuber has been superintendent, said Zuber will leave "big shoes to fill."
"There are few people I have ever met who have a work ethic like Leo has. He is totally committed to his job and to the kids," Stewart said. "One of the things about Leo is he has the strength as a leader to not be afraid to do what is right for the whole of the kids and is not afraid of making a mistake. He'll take a stand."
He also praised Zuber for taking steps early toward a future, second high school. Several years ago, the district bought 60 acres on Clinton South Avenue.
Zuber started his career at Tenaya Elemen- tary School in Groveland after graduating from the University of California at Davis in 1969.
He earned a master's in education administration from California State University, Sacramento, in the mid-1970s and was hired as a principal at Ripon Elementary in 1979. At the time, the district had 1,500 to 1,600 students, but a growth boom was about to hit. Enrollment began increasing 10 percent to 13 percent per year, classrooms were packed, and the district grew to its current population of more than 3,000.
When Weston Elementary School was finished in the mid-1980s, he was named principal.
"I think every principal's dream is at some point to start their own school because you get to create the school, the schedules, the rules and start with a new group of parents. It's much easier than molding an existing school," he said. "When we started, it was 13 portables in the middle of an almond orchard. Stanley Drive didn't exist yet, and the bus stopped in the middle of the almond orchard. We had port-a-potties for the first two to three months on the playground. It was different but we made it, and it's a darned good school."
He joined the district office several years later as director of education services and became superintendent in 1993 upon the retirement of Joe O'Leary. His salary is $151,000 a year.
Zuber oversaw the passage of two bond measures in 1998 and 2002 used to build and improve school facilities and presided over construction of the district's fifth elementary school, Park View, in 2005.
Bee staff writer Inga Miller can be reached at email@example.com or 599-8760.