Former student in the district became a school board member in 1988
Rick Syring just figured he would help out with the Green Mountain School District for a few years, maybe until his youngest child made it through the school system.
Well, she’s 42 years old now.
Guess it is a good time for Rick Syring to say goodbye.
It is the end of an era for Green Mountain. Rick Syring, a former student of the small school district in north Clark County, has resigned after 35 years serving on the school board. He was the board chair for most of those years, as well.
As he steps away from the district that has its campus in rural Woodland, he has one request for the district in terms of its future.
“To persevere,” he said.
By that, he means not to give in to the wishes of others. He said there have always been requests from other districts, or even from the state, to consolidate.
Syring wants Green Mountain to stand, and thrive, on its own — like it has for decades.
“It’s got a definite small-school feel and family friendly environment. I definitely don’t want that to go away,” Syring said.
Dave Holmes is the superintendent of Green Mountain. He said Syring IS the Green Mountain School District and he is an institution.
“He is THE connection to the community,” Holmes said. “Not that the other board members aren’t important. It’s just that nobody knows more about the history and what this community stands for, and what the goals are. He’s pretty incredible.”
Syring was a student in the 1950s, back when the district had roughly 50 students.
There were two classrooms then, Syring said. One for younger students, one for older students. A husband and wife team taught the classes, and they lived on the school grounds. He was a student at Green Mountain through the sixth grade.
Syring would go on to graduate from La Center High School. He earned an electrical engineering degree from Washington State University in 1973. He worked for Portland General Electric for 34 years and then Cowlitz PUD for 10 years.
In 1988, there was an opening on the school board, and Syring was asked to apply.
“I thought I could make sure the educational process was going well. It was my first time serving on a board. I wanted to learn,” Syring recalled.
Back then, there were a lot less students. There was one building.
Through the years, under Syring’s leadership, the school has grown.
It remains on a small piece of property, though. The school is using as much space as it can, Syring noted. He is particularly proud of the progress in three areas through the years:
In 1996, there was the modernization of the old building. The district had to move the students out of the school building and into the gymnasium for the school year. They used tarps to separate the classes.
“We modernized the building but kept the old-school flavor,” Syring said.
Then, over the years, the district added three portable projects, to serve the growing enrollment. The district now has more than 170 children.
And opening just recently, a covered playground area. The gym was too small for all of those students on rainy days. Now, there is a place for students to exercise and stay dry.
Syring also became the volunteer IT expert for the school.
“I enjoy volunteering, moving dirt, or shoveling snow,” Syring said. “Most of my time was up there being the technology support. For a small school district to have IT, it can’t afford it. Nobody else wanted to step up to do that. I knew enough to be dangerous. I took on the technology support.”
Rick’s wife Janet also worked for the district for many years. Their children, Aaron and Stephanie, attended Green Mountain, just like their dad.
Now 73, Rick said it is time for someone else to take over as chair of the school board.
Holmes said Syring will be missed.
“He’s pretty phenomenal. He put the district in the place that it is. Financially sound. The largest enrollment in the history of the school. Test scores are good. Just about everything you can think of is going well here. Rick Syring is one of the most vital elements of that success,” Holmes said.
It will be the superintendent’s goal, and that of the school board, to maintain the philosophy of Green Mountain, a philosophy that Rick Syring has protected for decades.
“The idea is that we’re not here to serve as parents. We’re here to serve as educators,” Holmes said. “That’s what Green Mountain stands for. We’ll worry about reading, writing, and math. We’ll let the parents worry about everything else.”
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