FREMONT — Except for a casual reception at the district office two weeks ago and a resolution that the Fremont school board will present to the retiring superintendent at Wednesday's meeting, Milt Werner, 63, does not want a lot of fanfare when he departs.
"I don't feel like I'm retiring. I'm not going to go sit somewhere in a rocking chair and read a book all day," said Werner, who plans to become a part-time consultant. "I still like all the work. It's just getting away from the 70-80 hours a week" of work that led him to decide to go into semiretirement. His official last day with Fremont Unified is June 30.
Citing a desire to spend more time with his family, Werner's immediate plans include traveling through Europe with his son, working on his sailboat, trout fishing, hiking and spending time with his wife, Barbara.
Eventually, however, he plans to return to the world of education.
Werner's career as an educator spans 40 years, including time in the classroom teaching math and science. He also served as an assistant principal at James Logan High School in Union City from 1975-1985 and led three Bay Area high schools before becoming principal at Washington High in Fremont in 2003. He was promoted to assistant superintendent of instructional services in 2006, became interim superintendent in 2008 and, later, the district's permanent schools chief.
When he was named interim superintendent, Werner said his top priorities would be student achievement and balancing the budget.
This month, he said he is pleased with the progress shown in student achievement but said there is more to do with some student subgroups. He also shared his regrets that he was not able to help every child reach proficiency during his tenure.
As for the budget, he is concerned that the district might receive its first "qualified" or "negative" certification from the county Office of Education if it cannot balance its budget the next three years.
For those reasons, he said, that is why he supports a parcel tax. Although a proponent of a rigorous curriculum and raising standards, Werner is critical of mandates on student achievement that come without funding.
Linda Fernandez, who worked with Werner at Washington High and succeeded him as principal, said he was a stabilizing force during a time when the school had undergone heavy staff turnover.
"He changed the culture of the school. "... He introduced the concept of small learning communities. "... I don't think there's anyone at Washington who worked for him and under him that wouldn't say they didn't have respect for him," she said.
In recent days, community members repeatedly have described Werner as a "good listener, collaborative and humble."
Robert Hou, a member of the technology advisory committee that Werner used to facilitate, said Werner was interested in everyone's opinions, even if meetings ran overtime.
"Milt was patient enough to let everyone have their say," Hou said.
Ann Crosbie, a parent, expressed frustration that Werner was not always able "to make clear his position to the board if they disagreed." On the whole, however, she described Werner as an effective leader with good instincts who did not micromanage. His departure will leave a void in the district at a time when other key leadership positions, including an assistant superintendent post, is vacant, she said.
"Either people are new so they're not up to speed, or there's people I don't even see," she said. "So am I frustrated that he's leaving? Yes. But do I understand why he's leaving? Yes."
Werner decided to step down midway through a multiyear contract.
Board President Lara York credited Werner for inspiring professionalism in others.