Snoqualmie schools' top businessman to retire after 36 years

Overseeing the financial picture for Snoqualmie Valley School District for the past eight years, Business Services Director Ron Ellis will retire this year after a 36-year career in education. - Allison Espiritu / Snoqualmie Valley Record
Overseeing the financial picture for Snoqualmie Valley School District for the past eight years, Business Services Director Ron Ellis will retire this year after a 36-year career in education.
— image credit: Allison Espiritu / Snoqualmie Valley Record

Ron Ellis has worked some long hours in his 36-year career in education.

Ellis, Snoqualmie Valley School District's Director of Business Services, put in a lot of late nights and early mornings in his eight years at the local district.

"I've been married to schools for years," Ellis told the Valley Record last week. "So I haven't been able to have the chance to see what else is out there."

Ellis finally gets that chance when he retires Sept. 1. A retirement reception is 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 25, at the district office.

Ups and downs

Ellis' school career began in 1974, when he took a job as the Federal Way School District's finance director. He went on to become Bellevue schools' director of planning and community services, later shifting to a job directing student placement and data analysis.

In 2002, when a position opened in the Snoqualmie Valley School District, Ellis saw an opportunity to merge his background and experience. He came to the Valley looking for a challenge, and said it was exactly that on a number of fronts.

Getting his hands dirty from the start, Ellis helped the fast-growing district to pass a June 2003 bond that built Cascade View Elementary and Twin Falls Middle School, add a sports complex at Mount Si High School, put a new gym at Chief Kanim Middle School and install a fiber optic network.

"Those are probably my proudest moment," he said.

Besides growth, the district also experienced economic challenges in the recession.

"We're suffering the same fate that all schools are suffering across the state," Ellis said. "The last couple of years have probably been the toughest I've seen since I've been in the school business."

Working with board members and the superintendent, Ellis said he has faith that the district will find a capable, competent person to keep an eye on all the pieces after he's gone.

One of his biggest challenges is striking a balance between money coming in for the students and making provisions for the future, "so you don't fall into a big black hole."

What may have worked five years ago may not work now, he added.

"You can't keep doing the same thing," Ellis said. "You have to put your antennae out and realize what your environment is, and see where to adjust."

Quality man

Appreciating the scenic views at his workplace, the Seattle resident said that he will most miss the people of the Valley.

"There's a lot of hard-working, good folk in this district. They've treated me well and I'm going to miss that," he said. "They're going to keep me busy until I'm out of here, and then I'm going to figure out what I want to do for the rest of my life."

Snoqualmie Superintendent Joel Aune praised Ellis as one of the most competent, loyal and committed people he's worked with in his 29-year career.

"He comes in early, stays late and is willing to do whatever we ask of him," Aune said. "We'll really miss him. As good as he is as a business manager he's an even better person, a really quality man."

The district has received more than 20 applications for Ellis' position and hope to have a final candidate chosen by early June.

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