Genie O'Grady Stepping Down As West Elementary Principal
West Elementary Principal Genie O’Grady has announced she will step down from her position at the end of the school year.
O’Grady, 56, announced her retirement in December. She has served as an educator in Iowa for 32 years, the last 10 as principal at West. She is eligible for the Iowa Public Employees Retirement System (IPERS) “rule of 88” that allows a teacher to retire with when they are 55 or older, and the sum of the their age at the last birthday and years of service equals or exceeds 88.
“The ‘rule of 88’ factored into my decision and I’m eligible in June,” she said, adding she moved to Omaha a few years ago and had been commuting to Glenwood since. “I had talked about it for a while. I knew a couple years ago this would probably be the end.”
The decision wasn’t an easy one for the Glenwood native.
“I was an elementary student at West, my mom was the secretary there, my kids went there and I have grandkids coming through,” she said. “As it gets closer to the end, it will be tougher and tougher. There is an excitement about change but I know I’m not leaving behind just a job. This is where I grew up and a lot of people had a part here of helping me be successful.”
O’Grady started her career as a second grade teacher in the Council Bluffs School District before stops at Council Bluffs Lewis Central School District and Green Hills Area Education Association and eventually returning to finish her career at the school she herself attended years ago.
“You never think as a teacher you’re going to stay in one job or one district because you just don’t make that plan but then you get 20 years down the road you realize you’re in it,” she said.
She can hardly believe a decade has passed at West.
“Time flies when you’re having fun,” she said.
O’Grady played no small part in West’s successes over the last decade. Last fall the school was honored with the prestigious National Blue Ribbon award. The Blue Ribbon award signifies overall academic performance and progress in closing gaps between student subgroups.
Less than 300 schools nationally received the award.
But what the principal will remember most is building a culture at West that supports each other.
“They take care of each other and they know how to take care of kids and they know how to find the resources to take care of kids. I know whoever takes over will have a group of people that are going to support them just as they helped to support me to make good decisions for West.
“It’s the staff. We have great kids and great families but you have to have a group of people on the same bus in the right seats doing the right work and I think West has that.”
O’Grady may be “retiring” from West but she doesn’t plan to be far from education. She intends to continue to teach, as a substitute in Nebraska.
“I live between Omaha and Millard Public Schools so there’s lots of little schools I can keep my skills groomed in,” she said.