St. Charles Parish Public Schools Superintendent Felecia Gomez-Walker will retire at the end of this school year, a decision made official after Gomez-Walker formally announced those plans to the School Board at its monthly meeting Wednesday.
Her retirement will not go into effect until July 1 of 2019, and she will continue to serve as superintendent in all capacities until then. Gomez-Walker said she made the announcement early, however, to allow the School Board ample time to conduct a search for a new superintendent and make a seamless transition while installing the new hire as the school district’s leader.
Gomez-Walker said that after 42 years as an educator with the St. Charles Parish Public School system, she feels it’s simply time to move on.
“My family has fully supported me to devote so much time to do the work I love … it is now time to spend time with and support my family,” Gomez-Walker said, adding she fully expects to stay involved with the community following retirement.
Gomez-Walker was voted unanimously to become the school’s district’s superintendent in 2013, succeeding the late Dr. Rodney Lafon. In doing so, she became the first woman to be named to the position.
She began working as an educator in St. Charles Parish as a first and second grade teacher at Paradis Elementary. She moved on to Allemands Elementary and then to Luling Elementary before transitioning into administration, and was named the parish’s assistant superintendent of elementary schools and curriculum, instruction and assessment. She then served in assistant superintendent roles overseeing the parish’s secondary schools. Throughout her career, she has also served in roles as master teacher, administrative assistant, principal, and executive director.
Becoming an educator was a natural choice for her.
“My family valued education,” Gomez-Walker said. “The only thing I ever wanted to be was a teacher. My mother was a teacher. There were many other people in my family that were educators. Teachers were professionals that were valued and held in high esteem.”
She decided to shift roles into administration upon encouragement from her colleagues. She applied for the position of superintendent upon Lafon’s retirement with hopes of serving her community at a different level of leadership.
“My family has fully supported me to devote so much time to do the work I love … it is now time to spend time with and support my family.” – Felecia Gomez-Walker
There have been plenty of successes along the way during her tenure as superintendent, something she quickly credits to a strong foundation built before her and says is shared with countless contributors, including the School Board, administrators, teachers, support employees and the community as a whole.
St. Charles Parish has held high standing among its peers during her run, being recognized as an “A” rated school district. The website Niche.com ranked the St. Charles school district No. 1 of all in the state in its most recent rankings.
Gomez-Walker pointed to how well-rounded the district is, achieving high marks and offering strong opportunities in academics, athletics and the arts as what she is proudest of, especially noting moments of offering congratulations to graduates, witnessing student-athletes sign to accept college scholarships they’ve earned and attending music, theatre and visual arts events that always remind her of the great talents of her students. The community’s approval of the bond issue that supported the construction of the Lafon Performing Arts Center to showcase those performances was another milestone she is especially proud of.
She said her philosophy in leading the district largely came down to empowering others.
“A leader’s main responsibility is to develop other people to help them reach their potential and help them do their jobs more effectively … the three most important components to leadership are communication, recognition and influence,” she said.
That said, Gomez-Walker is going nowhere yet, and she still has plenty on her agenda she wants to cover before she moves on, including overseeing the dedication of the fully-functioning Lafon Performing Arts Center and presenting to the School Board Phase IX of the strategic plan to provide a blueprint for the district’s continued improvement in 2022. She also says she plans to work closely with the new superintendent to share information to create a smooth transition.
She called St. Charles Parish a special place and said she’ll always cherish the time she’s spent educating its youth.
“The opportunity to work with such a diverse group of brilliant, talented educators driving a system that always puts the students first will forever remain with me,” Gomez-Walker said.