Columbus High School principal Connie Valenza will be leaving the district for the Platteville School District, where she will become the new superintendent of schools.
Valenza's resignation was accepted by the Columbus School Board on Monday night. Her last day here will be June 30 - finishing up 11 years on the job in the Columbus School District and marking a major transition in her life.
"I grew up outside of Columbus on a farm," Valenza said. She currently lives next door to the family farm. Valenza's sister, Linda Choudoir, is also a long-term Columbus educator, having recently retired from teaching at St. Jerome School.
Valenza attended school in Sun Prairie herself. Her academic career has gone through Sun Prairie and Waterloo High Schools, where she taught; LaFollette High School in Madison, where she served as assistant principal; and Cherokee Middle School in Madison, where she was principal.
"When I came to Columbus my intention was always to stay until my last child graduated from CHS," Valenza said. Her youngest daughter, Maria, will graduate this spring.
"My mother grew up in southwest Wisconsin," Valenza stated. "As a child I spent many trips out there, and always liked that area of the state."
Valenza has a superintendent's license and received her doctor of philosophy degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in educational leadership and policy analysis.
She believes that working in Platteville will make for a good use of her gifts and interests.
"I really like the idea of being in a university town," she said. "It really offers a school district some nice options to work with teacher education programs."
She said that she is also excited about the Platteville community's "strong agricultural emphasis."
"There is a strong emphasis on education in Platteville," Valenza noted. "The surrounding community is very supportive of education."
The Platteville district has about 1,500 students divided into four schools: early learning, grades two and three, grades four to eight and grades nine to 12.
Valenza began applying for the position in October.
Valenza's husband Ted works for the city of Madison in emergency communication. The couple will keep their small farm near Columbus, and plans to retire there one day.
All three of their children have gone through CHS: Maria, Jenny (a nurse at Veterans Hospital in Madison) and David (recently deceased).
"I've appreciated my years in Columbus," Valenza said. "It was a good opportunity for me to be close to my children when they were going to high school. That was my reason for coming here."
"I'm very proud of the accomplishments that CHS has made for students in the area of student achievement," she said. "There have been some pretty significant gains in student achievement - with the help of really dedicated staff."
For example, Valenza pointed to advanced placement testing. In 2000-01, nine percent of the graduating class participated. Last year that number had gone up to 26 percent.
The drop-out rate for seniors over that time period has decreased from 14 percent to .8 percent.