First Portola Valley School District superintendent Tony Rose remembered


By Kate Daly

Special to The Almanac

Derek Rose intends to pull up at Portola Valley Town Center on Saturday, May 25, in his father's black '55 T-bird, the one Tony Rose drove to work for many of the 14 years he taught and served as school principal in Portola Valley, and led the Portola Valley School District as its founding superintendent.

Derek will be at Town Center to attend the memorial service for his father, who died at age 99 on March 13 in his Woodside home, surrounded by family. Other plans for Rose's memorial service that day include a formal military flag presentation and the playing of "Taps" to honor his time spent in an Air Force band during World War II.

The music will be a fitting tribute for a man who loved music, had his own orchestra, Tony Rose and his Buds, and used to teach kids how to play saxophone and clarinet.

The memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. at 765 Portola Road, near where classes used to be held in the prune pickers' shack and the building once known as The Little Red Schoolhouse.

That building is now beige, but according to Rose's widow, Carol Rose, her husband is responsible for the former color. To keep Frank Mendoza, the school's maintenance man and bus driver, busy one summer, Rose told him, "Go and get some red paint."

Rose started working at the school district in 1951. With a master's degree from Stanford and a couple of years' teaching experience, he taught fourth grade in Portola Valley and made an extra $1,000 a year driving the school bus. Conveniently for him, the route went up Old La Honda Road, close to where he rented a cottage from the Tracy family before he built his own house across the street in 1954, the same year he became superintendent.

During his tenure the school population swelled from somewhere in the 80s to the hundreds by the time he left his position in 1964, and he oversaw the construction that resulted from so much growth in the area.

He told the story of driving around the open fields of the Westridge area with Mendoza to count water meters on all the undeveloped lots because each meter would help justify the construction of more classrooms.

"He was 100 percent for the students, faculty and the staff, and they were 100 percent behind him," Carol Rose says.

"People liked his personality, the twinkle in his eye ... he would pay attention, he could listen to people for hours and hear what they said."

Born in Canton, Ohio, in 1920, Anthony (Tony) Rose was a descendant of Italians on both sides of his family. His father was a baby at Ellis Island when the family's name was changed from La Russo to Rose. His mother was brought to the U.S. at 19 for an arranged marriage.

Rose's father never learned how to read, whereas his mother taught herself. Rose enjoyed books and learning, graduating with a bachelor's degree from what was then called Mount Union College in Ohio.

He got married and had a son, Michael. The couple divorced after the war and Rose moved to San Jose.

Rose met his second wife when she was 20 and working for school board member Dr. Milton Flocks. Rose was 40 when he came into the office for an eye exam. Romance bloomed, and almost six months after he left his job as superintendent, Tony and Carol got married.

Like Michael, their two children, Derek and Jessica, attended district schools.

Rose's academic career lasted almost 50 years. After his work in Portola Valley he was headmaster of Florence Moore School in Burlingame, and then worked as principal and vice principal at several San Mateo-Foster City School District schools before retiring in 1993 at age 73.

"After 50 years (in education) he never had a day when he wished it would end," his wife says.

Tennis and golf consumed his later years, and when Rose's body slowed down he enjoyed participating in activities at the Rosener House in Menlo Park.

In lieu of flowers Rose's family suggests donations to Rosener House or another charity of choice.

Rose's oldest son, Michael, preceded him in death. In addition to Carol and their two children, Derek and Jessica, Rose is survived by eight grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

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