Miller-Driscoll principal will retire in December

In what must have come as a surprise to many in the community, Miller-Driscoll Principal Cheryl Jensen-Gerner announced her retirement Friday, in a letter to the school’s families. She said she plans to step down effective Thursday, Dec. 31.
“After nearly forty-two years as an educator it is time to embark on the next phase of my life. It is bittersweet in many ways but I look forward to more time with family and friends and opportunities to engage in leisure activities,” she said.
Jensen-Gerner became principal of the Tilford W. Miller School in December 1999. After it was merged with the Ina E. Driscoll School in 2010, she became principal of the new, united Miller-Driscoll School.
“This past year I had a few health scares that have turned out OK, but I came to the realization that although I love the work I’ve done as an educator for the past 42 years, it was a wake-up call that it is time to step aside for others to carry on the leadership of Miller-Driscoll,” Jensen-Gerner told The Bulletin.
“This is a very time-consuming job and I’ve put some things on hold to give it the attention that it needs.”
Jensen-Gerner said it will be “hard to leave as the principal of Miller-Driscoll School,” as it has been her “second home and my second family” for 16 years.
“I will miss the interactions, intellectual stimulation, challenges, and most of all, the people,” said Jensen-Gerner.
“The children of Wilton are marvelous and I will miss seeing them every day.”
Jensen-Gerner said since she came to Wilton in December 1999, “it seemed to be a good idea to leave in December as well.”
“I don’t like long good-byes and this is just long enough to do the necessary transitions,” she said.
Board of Education Chair Bruce Likly told The Bulletin that Jensen-Gerner has been a “dedicated contributor to the Wilton Public Schools for many years,” and the school district will “miss her smiling face and devotion to our youngest learners.
“We are appreciative that she’s announced her retirement at a time of year that will enable us to conduct a comprehensive search for her replacement,” said Likly.
“While I am sure she’s looking forward to her next chapter in life, we’re appreciative that she’ll be working on a consulting basis from our central offices over the remainder of the school year to help with the progression of the Miller-Driscoll building project.”

Renovation project

Jensen-Gerner’s announcement comes just as the Miller-Driscoll renovation project is about to get underway and she made reference to that timing in her letter.
Jensen-Gerner has been a member of the Miller-Driscoll Building Committee and was at the committee’s meeting last week, discussing how students and staff would transition to the portable classrooms that will be put to use in January.
“Cheryl has been, since the building committee was formed in 2013, a key to ensuring that the renovation design met the teaching, learning and educational needs of the K-2 children,” said Bruce Hampson, co-chair of the committee.
Hampson said Jensen-Gerner’s vision focused “not only on today’s needs, but what the learning and teaching environment might be many years in the future.” He said she was also “very disciplined in differentiating between critical needs and ‘nice to have.’”
“The renovation of an occupied school is a complicated undertaking,” he said. “Cheryl worked closely with Tai Soo Kim and Turner Construction to ensure that the phasing of the project would have as minimal disruption as possible on the students, teachers and staff.”
Although she will no longer be the principal of Miller-Driscoll after December, Jensen-Gerner has agreed to be involved in the school’s renovation project “for a while longer by coordinating the Miller-Driscoll building project for the remainder of the academic school year, June 2016,” she wrote.
“I realize that the renovation project will be very time-consuming for my successor and I want to do everything I can to help make everything go as smoothly as possible,” Jensen-Gerner told The Bulletin.
“From January to June, I will continue the oversight of the project as a liaison from the building to the building committee, architects and contractors.”
Jensen-Gerner said she will “work closely with Miller-Driscoll personnel in helping with renovation decisions that will impact the students and staff and will assist with the necessary transitions” as she moves out of that role.
“After January, when I am no longer the principal,” she said, “I will not intrude on the other operations of the building.”
Hampson said those involved in the renovation project “will miss Cheryl’s competent guidance and are delighted that she will stay with the project through this school year.”
“Cheryl has been a good and faithful servant of the Wilton Public Schools for many years and her knowledge and wisdom won’t be easily replaced,” Superintendent Kevin Smith told The Bulletin.
“We wish her the very best as she gets ready to begin a new chapter in her life. As a long-serving principal at Miller-Driscoll, she certainly has a great deal to be proud of.”

Retirement plans

In retirement, Jensen-Gerner told The Bulletin, she plans to indulge in her many outside interests, such as gardening, reading, sewing, jewelry making, bike riding, and kayaking.
“I want to become more involved in the community in which I live, spend time with friends, join a book club, take classes just for fun, and possibly do some volunteer work,” she said.
“I have a large extended family with parents and siblings spread out all over the country, and I want to travel to those locations and enjoy time with them.”
Jensen-Gerner said she has a son, daughter and two grandchildren in Chicago, as well as a stepson and step-grandchild in Maryland, with whom she wants to spend more time.
“My husband has been retired for two years and we would love to spend more time together and travel to other countries at times other than school vacations,” she said.
“Eventually, after a couple of years, we will move from Connecticut and closer to family.”

This is an updated version of The Bulletin's Oct. 2 article.