By Travis Mounts, TSnews
After a career focused on students and their schools, Renwick USD 267 superintendent Mindy Bruce is ready to spend some time on herself.
Bruce told Renwick Board of Education board members this month that she plans to retire at the end of the 2022-23 school year. The board is expected to formally accept her retirement at its Oct. 10 meeting in Garden Plain.
Bruce has spent more than 30 years as an educator in the Renwick School District. The past five years have been spent as superintendent.
She came to the district in 1994 as a kindergarten teacher at St. Marks Elementary and as a Title I instructor for students at Andale and St. Joseph. She became a full-time kindergarten teacher when the district adopted an all-day option for students. She also coached volleyball and basketball at Andale High School and volleyball at St. Marks.
In 2003, Bruce became principal at St. Marks. In 2010, she moved to the district office as superintendent.
She did not initially plan to become an administrator.
“It came about over time. I think you go into teaching because you love teaching,” she said.
Bruce became administrator because “you see how you can help the district in other ways,” she said.
Family matters also played a role. Bruce and her late husband Kevin, who also was a Renwick educator, had tried for 12 years to have children. They eventually decided to adopt, and made a decision to work on their master’s degrees. The two-year program would allow them to become principals or hold other leadership positions.
“Then I had two babies in those two years,” Bruce said.
And then life delivered another, stunning change.
Kevin Bruce died unexpectedly in January 2006, leaving Mindy to raise two young children on her own. Being a single parent since then has taken a lot of time and energy. Her youngest son is getting ready to graduate next May. It seemed like a good time to make life changes.
“I’ve been in charge of everything – the house, my family, a school, a district. It’s time for me to not be in charge of so much,” Bruce said. “It’s time for me to concentrate on Mindy time. I think it’s time to focus on me.”
What comes next is unknown.
“I will have another job, I just don’t know what it may be,” she said. “I joke with my kids that maybe I’ll move to Manhattan and serve ice cream at Call Hall.”
For the uninitiated, Call Hall Dairy Bar at Kansas State University has been known for generations for its ice cream, made at the adjacent Call Hall Dairy Plant. It also serves breakfast and hot lunch.
“It’s good,” Bruce added.
Retirement is not on Bruce’s mind most days.
“It’s business as usual right now. I kind of forget about it,” she said. “I’m sure it will be emotional” later in the school year.
Working in Renwick has been a great fit for Bruce. She found great support following Kevin’s passing.
“This district has been more than a profession or a job. It’s a family. I’ve never not wanted to come to work. I loved my job and I still do,” she said.
She praised the support that Renwick’s various communities give to the schools and the students.
“I will miss interacting with kids so much,” she said. “When I think of all my years as a teacher or coach or principal or superintendent, the thing I’m most proud of is (that) everyone in this district expects excellence. It’s so rewarding to see.”
The best and worst times of life, professionally and personally, have been with the Renwick School District.
“We did a bond issue and survived COVID. We have State championships, we have great test scores. There’s just so much,” Bruce said. “It all comes back to hardworking staff and hardworking students, and community support for the schools.”
A native of Olathe, Bruce graduated from K-State with a bachelor’s degree in animal sciences. Jobs in the agricultural fields were hard to find at the time. After a year, she went back to school for a teaching degree.
She and Kevin landed their first jobs in Satanta in southwest Kansas. They were there from 1991 to 1994. Bruce did her student teaching there and was a substitute teacher before landing a full-time job. At the time, as many as 200 people were applying for a single teaching position. She then taught fifth grade and coached high school volleyball and basketball.
In 1994, Kevin landed a job at Andale, and the couple moved here. Mindy found a job at St. Marks, and never left the area.
Being an educator is much different today. Schools are having a hard time finding enough teachers and support staff. They have been pushed to the center of today’s cultural wars.
“Unfortunately, because of outside voices perhaps, public education is being scrutinized more than ever. Teachers used to be highly respected, and I think it is still an honorable profession,” Bruce said. “We need to pay educators better. We need to make it a more important profession. There are too many things for teachers to deal with that have nothing to do with education.”
It is burning out teachers and keeping people from entering the field.
Despite all of that, the rewards of working with children remain the same, Bruce said.
“All kids are amazing and they just need positive influences,” she said. “I’m so thankful for the opportunities I’ve been blessed with in this district. I’ll be forever grateful.”