"It was a hard decision," she said. "I love my job, the staff, children and community, but the time is right for a change."
She announced her decision — a surprise to many — at the Ormondale staff meeting Feb. 8.
During the same meeting, master teacher Linda Vlasic, who has worked closely with Ms. Gal for many years, told colleagues she also will retire in June.
Ms. Vlasic has taught 35 years in the district, beginning at Ormondale with a combination fourth- and fifth-grade class, moving to Corte Madera to teach sixth grade, and leading classes for gifted and talented students before returning to Ormondale, where she settled in to teach third grade. She is recognized for her leadership, energy and enthusiasm in bringing innovation to the classroom and district and developing grants for school -wide programs such as service learning .
"Independently, Linda and I came to the conclusion it was time to retire," said Ms. Gal.
"Ormondale is at a point where it is positioned to move forward in the coming years "to meet the needs of students in the 21st century," said Ms. Gal. "The teachers have done a lot of hard work this year" on initiatives to further "investigative learning."
Teachers now use what Ms. Gal calls "a hybrid system," combining "best practices" from more traditional content delivery with newer approaches such as project-based learning that reflects student interests and needs.
Ms. Gal came to the Portola Valley district in 1985 as dean of students at Corte Madera before being appointed principal at Ormondale, then a K-5 school, two years later. Previously, she was a counselor and vice principal of a middle school in Day City and taught high school in the East.
"I have had the unique pleasure of working with a most extraordinary group of students, teachers, parents, and community members," she said in her letter mailed to Ormondale parents. "We have shared a commitment to excellence " and "nothing but the highest level of teaching and learning sufficed.
"I have always felt grateful to be in a community that allowed and encouraged the pursuit of excellence and provided the means to build schools that viewed teaching and learning as a total community endeavor," she said.
Reorganization of Ormondale 10 years ago from a K-5 to a K-3 school, Ms. Gal said, narrowed the age span of students and gave the opportunity to fully focus on the younger child and create a school that has the capacity to meet children's needs in "a myriad of ways."
Ms. Gal has no specific plans for the next phase of her life as a retired educator. She will finish out the school year and do the planning to make the next school year at Ormondale successful.
She looks forward to traveling and spending more time with family — husband, George Gal, a research scientist at Lockheed; daughter Andrea Gal, a teacher in Foster City; son Dr. Robert Gal of Long Island, New York; and her four "beautiful grandchildren," ages 18 months to 8 years.
"I love teaching," said Ms. Vlasic, "but I think you have to make a decision when it's time not to teach."
Ms. Vlasic said she has no specific plans for retirement. She intends to continue with volunteer work, take classes, spend more time with family and friends, and pursue options that she hasn't been able to devote time to during her career. She and her husband, Tom Vlasic, deputy town planner for Portola Valley, are parents of Jennifer and Eric Vlasic, now adults pursuing careers.
Superintendent Anne Campbell said she finds herself pleased for the two "models and mentors" as they embark upon new life adventures, but sad when she contemplates Ormondale without their expertise and exuberance.
"Although I find myself wishing we could just clone them, we can't, so we will begin our principal search immediately to find the best match for Ormondale, said Superintendent Campbell.