It was on Oct. 1 that Surrey school district Supt. Jordan Tinney announced his retirement, but he says the plan to retire was in the works for a while – and then the pandemic continued raging on.
Tinney told the Now-Leader he initially planned to retire back in March or April of this year.
“In the spring, we were still just right in the heart of the pandemic. The thinking was, ‘Hey, let’s get the school year started, let’s get September under our belt, let’s make sure we’re all good.’
“I thought last year, one more year of the pandemic,” Tinney said, laughing at his optimism.
“It seems like it’s just going to go on and on. It does seem, there’s no question, the fourth wave is still very concerning and we’re still not out of this by any stretch. It just doesn’t seem to be any clear end in sight.”
Tinney came to the Surrey school district in 2012 from Vancouver and prior to that, he was a superintendent on Vancouver Island for four years. In 2014, he became superintendent in Surrey.
“Coming from Vancouver, Surrey is a lot bigger than Vancouver as a school district, so getting used to the size, coming to understand the priorities of the district, supporting the board and all of the normal stuff is really just getting used to the culture and the scale.”
Because he thought he was going to retire in the spring, Tinney and his family sold their house and moved to Kelowna so his son would be ready to start at a new school in September.
“It sounds bizarre, but when I worked in Vancouver, my family was actually in Comox Valley and I commuted for two years from Vancouver to Comox,” he explained.
“Talk about full circle; here I am where we live in Kelowna because we had to get my son up here to start school. We live in Kelowna and I commute down to Surrey every week.”
Tinney said he hopes to stay engaged with the district “in some way, shape or form” after retirement, but “first and foremost,” he’s looking to spend more time with his family.
“My wife and son spent a lot of time without me, and so to have more ability to be at home will be super, super precious.”
But Tinney said he feels the district is “in a very good spot.”
The district announced last week it had hired a new superintendent.
Mark Pearmain is coming to Surrey from the North Vancouver school district. He’s been superintendent there since 2016.
The district says the board will now begin its transition process, with Tinney continuing in his role until the transition is complete, which will likely be close to spring break.
As for his replacement, Tinney’s advice is: “Go slow. Surrey is a big place. It’s a juggernaut, so it’s going to take time to get up to speed.”
The district’s challenges with growth is “the greatest challenge, and yet it’s one of the most exciting things,” said Tinney.
“When I was in Vancouver, it seemed like Vancouver was in a place that was grappling with its history. It was and had been in enrolment decline for a long time, so how to deal with fewer students showing up,” he explained.
“There’s such rich history in Vancouver, the heritage buildings and all that. But when it came to Surrey, I said, Surrey’s a place that’s grappling with its future because it’s growing so fast.”
“Many times in my career, I’d go to visit a school and it seemed to me, two or three months later, I’d go to see the same school and I’d say, ‘Were those buildings there the last time I drove up here?’ You look at 24th (Avenue) and it’s just growing so fast. But as a result, Surrey is tremendously resilient, like people are accepting of change and they flex and they adapt and they deal with it.”