This week marks the final time that Magnolia Elementary School Principal Julie Minabe and Vice-Principal Kathy Jenkins will observe Spring Break as Oakdale Joint Unified staff members. At the March 14 OJUSD School Board meeting, the retirement of the Elementary school administrators as well as a host of others, was approved by the board.
“When I first came as a kindergarten teacher in January of 1988,” Principal Minabe said, “she (Jenkins) was an instructional aide in the class next door. So from 1988, until now – minus that one year I was in Modesto – we’ve worked together. We were in kindergarten together and we both taught second grade across the hall from each other.”
It is “pretty much full circle,” Minabe added of the two electing retirement in the same year.
Both administrators shared that while they had discussed retirement with one another in conversation, they had never discussed a time frame of when they felt the time might be right. The decision to retire was made independent of one another and exclusive to what was the best choice for them and their families.
Vice Principal Jenkin’ husband, Oakdale Police Chief Lester Jenkins, also announced his retirement earlier this month during an Oakdale City Council meeting.
“As hard as it is to leave it,” Minabe said of her 28-plus years in education, “there is a life beyond this.”
“Making the decision to retire was not an easy one,” Vice Principal Jenkins said, “but I am confident that I made a good decision. My husband and I are really looking forward to beginning a new chapter in our lives.”
Minabe began her career with OJUSD over 28 years ago, as a kindergarten teacher at Cloverland Elementary. She joined the Magnolia Elementary family, as a kindergarten teacher the following school year in fall of 1988.
Jenkins has spent her entire 27 years in education with OJUSD. Beginning her career as a yard duty aide, she was then an instructional aide. She moved from there to be a second grade teacher and finally, to vice-principal.
“Education has been a lifelong pursuit for me,” Jenkins said, “and while I was employed as an instructional aide at Magnolia, Pam Antinetti encouraged me to become a teacher. One of the most vivid memories I have of Pam was on the day that I received a phone call and she offered me a second grade teaching position at Magnolia.”
Minabe came from a family of educators. Her paternal grandmother, as well as her mother, both taught in Oakdale schools. She noted that she was a teacher’s helper, grading papers and doing bulletin boards from a fairly young age.
“I always knew that education was the career for me,” the principal said.
Her ties to Magnolia extend well beyond her professional career. Her parents, as well as herself and her children, have all walked the halls of the 76-year-old campus as students.
“Last year when we celebrated the 75 years of Magnolia Pride, we did the mural in the courtyard and we had the older pictures in the courtyard,” Minabe said of the 2015 Open House Event. “It was so much fun for me to see the parents of students who we have now, that went here. There’s just a lot of pride.”
Jenkins, a New York City transplant, met her husband Lester, who’s originally from Germany, in the Central Valley and their son attended Magnolia.
“It’s that cultural diversity that really lends itself to what really makes us special, I think,” Jenkins said of the campus.
“I have truly enjoyed working with a staff of dedicated educators and support personnel that have created a caring and compassionate culture for our students,” Jenkins added of her career with OJUSD. “Every day I am touched by something that a child will say, do, or learn. It is a great deal of responsibility as a site leader to know that you are responsible for guiding the instruction at your site and preparing students to be successful in life.”
“The best thing is seeing former students become successful adults, applying skills they learned at Magnolia to become the best people they can be,” Minabe said of what she found most rewarding in her position.
“We always said that Magnolia is like a family,” she continued, “and I will definitely miss the relationships and the daily interactions I’ve had with students, families and co-workers. The (retirement) pieces fell into place and … the time was right.”