By Timothy Cox
Celina City Schools Superintendent Fred Wiswell plans to retire at the beginning of next school year after 27 years with the district.
Wiswell's pending resignation is on tonight's board of education meeting agenda. His retirement is effective Aug. 31, which will give him just over four years in the district's top job. Wiswell also has worked as assistant superintendent, high school principal, middle school principal and teacher. He taught in the Antwerp district for three years before coming to Celina.
In his resignation letter to school board members, Wiswell explains he plans to retire from education to pursue a career in nursing. Wiswell has long planned to make the career switch after 30 years, he said.
Wiswell, 52, plans to spend the first few months of retirement renewing his nursing license. He eventually wants to work in a hospital emergency room.
"It has been an incredible journey yielding countless fond memories and lasting friendships along the way," Wiswell said of his education career. Wiswell, 52, assumed the superintendent role following the ouster of Hank Smith from the job in May 1999. Board members at the time accepted Smith's resignation but rehired him as a teacher at his contracted superintendent salary in a deal cloaked in secrecy. Despite the controversy swirling around Smith and other district issues then, Wiswell vowed to steady the ship and finish his career at Celina schools.
Wiswell faced budget problems, a string of levy failures and the recent protracted contract negotiations with teachers and classified workers during his tenure. Despite those challenges, Wiswell prospered in the position, supporters say.
"He's had a lot of difficult times. We've been in school funding problems about ever since he took office," school board member Tom Rable said. "It's been nothing but a difficult slate for four years, but he's done a fine job."
Rable has been on the school board only a year, but previously worked with Wiswell on a past levy campaign. Working with Wiswell helped push Rable toward a run for a school board seat. Rable also knew Wiswell when he was a student at Celina High School and Wiswell was an English teacher.
"He has conducted himself with more honesty and integrity than any superintendent we've had recently," Rable said. "I think the whole board feels the same way. I hate to see him go."
Other board members could not be reached for comment this morning.
Wiswell currently earns $81,370, although a pay increase for him also is on tonight's agenda. The proposed 2.75 percent increase would raise his annual salary to $83,068. The increase is retroactive to Aug. 1, 2004, reflecting the same percentage increase as the contract recently approved with the teachers union.
No formal discussion on the search process to replace Wiswell is planned for tonight. That issue likely would be dealt with at the February board meeting, Rable said.