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American Falls superintendent reflects back on long career

After nearly five decades in education, the superintendent for the American Falls school district, Ronald Bolinger, is retiring. He will officially step down as superintendent on July 1. On Wednesday, he sat down with KIFI/KIDK to think back on his long career in education.

“Twenty-two years as a superintendent is a pretty long time,” Bolinger said. “Now it’s time for someone else to take over and have their fun.”

Though Bolinger has been superintendent in American Falls since 1995, his career in education began years before that. Bolinger’s time in education spans 46 years.

Bolinger grew up in Twin Falls, Idaho and graduated from both the College of Southern Idaho and Idaho State University. He would later earn his doctorate from Montana University. Bolinger’s first job was as a teacher in Filer, Idaho. From there, he moved to the American Falls area and has been there ever since.

Bolinger spent seven years teaching, then 12 years as an elementary school principal, then six years in administration as director of special education, and finally on to superintendent.

“I’ve loved every job that I’ve had,” Bolinger said. “And I’ve had almost all the jobs in education, including aide and custodian. I’ve done everything but drive a bus.”

Bolinger has spent 45 of his 46-year career in American Falls. In that time, Bolinger said he’s taught or supervised about 41,000 kids.

“That’s how many kids you can get to in 45 years I guess,” Bolinger recounted with a laugh.

During his education career, Bolinger has received several awards. He’s been honored with a professional achievement award, superintendent of the year, special education administrator of the year, and president of the state’s education association.

No matter what his position within education has been, Bolinger said he has always had the same key belief.

“I’ve always been a strong proponent for public schools,” he said. “Public schools to me are one of those institutions that’s kind of the catch net for all of society.”

A few of Bolinger’s accomplishments through the years include pioneering the special education program, establishing an alternative high school in American Falls, helping to develop state-wide kindergarten curriculum and helping the school district pull through the economic downturn of 2008.

He said he’s grateful for each and every opportunity he’s had in his career.

“I’ve been very, very honored, humbled, to be a part of the whole thing for over nearly half a century,” Bolinger said. “I’ve had a lot of history in our community and our state and so it’s kind of fun to reflect back on.”

As he does reflect back on 46 years, Bolinger knows exactly what he’ll miss the most.

“No question about it – the people,” Bolinger said. “The kids, the teachers, the parents, the patrons, the community, the day-to-day interaction.”

Bolinger said one favorite memory he has is when the school district helped put on a local production of the Broadway play, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” He said it was a community play and everyone came together to help the school and to him, that showed the power that schools and education can have in bringing communities together. He added that it was a great production.

Bolinger said he would like to thank the community and all of his staff and board members he’s worked with over the years.

“There’s been tough times,” he said. “There’s the day-to-day pressures sometimes, but in the end it’s all about the kids and what we can do for them. And I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to do what I’ve done.”

Bolinger said he doesn’t have any definite plans for retirement yet. He said he would like to enjoy some personal time, maybe do some consulting work, and possibly even teach part-time. But he said he’ll figure that out once he gets there.

When asked how he’ll feel about not having to go into work every day, he added, “I really don’t know. It’ll be interesting to see how I react. When you’ve been superintendent for 22 years, it kind of becomes part of who you are.”

Randy Jensen, the current principal at William Thomas Middle School in American Falls, will take Bolinger’s place as superintendent in July.

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