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Carlsey stepping away after 39 years


Education — Elementary school principal returned for two additional years after initially retiring in 2012

Stepping away -- Leslie Carsley, who has served as Dundee Elementary School principal the past two school years, is retiring from full-time work after a 39-year career as a teacher and administrator for the Newberg School District.Dundee Elementary School principal Lesley Carsley will retire at the end of the school year, capping a 39-year career as a teacher and administrator in the Newberg School District.

The only catch is that this will be Carsley’s second attempt at retirement, having originally stepped away two years ago after completing her seventh year at Joan Austin Elementary School. Upon making that announcement, Carsley told superintendent Kym LeBlanc-Esparza that if she needed help with something in the district, just ask and she would be there.

LeBlanc-Esparza later turned to Carsley to serve as principal at Dundee for a year, but when it came time to step back, it didn’t feel quite right.

“We were doing some pretty good things and I felt like the staff and the students needed stability, so I asked if I could stay one more year,” Carsley said.

Longtime physical education teacher Rick Harris, who has taken part in the interview process to hire Carsley’s replacement, said she was integral in reviving the school.

“She took a staff that was really struggling and she’s turned it around and created an upbeat place that’s organized and is just clicking,” Harris said. “Teachers feel good again about what they do and feel supported. She’s just really changed the atmosphere in the last two years. We’re grateful for that.”

Carsley also guided the school community through aftermath of the murders of students Bailey and Jackson Engels and their mother, Amy, in 2012.

A fitting memorial garden and bench in the school courtyard was erected last year and then decorated with a student mosaic art project under the tutelage of Amity artist Sam Bernardi.

Harris credits Carsley with spearheading the effort to rally the school community in such a trying time.

“She’s just a take-charge individual, but she does it in a gracious servant-style manner,” Harris said. “She’s not overbearing and it’s not ‘My way or the highway.’ I just think people are grateful for strong leadership when it doesn’t feel like things are being shoved down your throat.”

Carsley said the presence of the Life Skills program and structured learning classroom at Dundee allowed her to rekindle her passion for working with special education students, whom she enjoyed working with as a teacher.

“Many of them I meet in the hall and walk them to their classrooms,” she said. “Being away from that is going to be difficult.”

A classic Type A personality, Carsley said she would like to continue working part-time in some capacity (and not necessarily in a school setting) to help transition to full retirement.

“My husband will tell you, I do not sit,” Carsley said. “I don’t know the word ‘relax,’ so he tells me I’m going to have to figure that out.”

The running joke in their home the past two years has been that she’s stayed on full-time to keep him, a classic car lover, flush with the necessary car parts.

“So I’ll say goodbye June 30, but I could be back,” Carsley joked. “You never know; an old penny keeps coming back.”