Before Walter Delecki served as Gilbert Public Schools superintendent, he moved to a town with about 5,000 residents and only one streetlight.
“Life was slower and easier,” Delecki said. “I can remember being the only car on Gilbert Road.”
Delecki, 72, grew up in Michigan, received his education from Arizona State University and moved to Yuma. In 1978, he arrived in Gilbert to serve as the assistant superintendent for Gilbert Public Schools.
Three years later, he embarked on his 20-year tenure as superintendent. During his time, the town saw massive growth, especially in its schools.
When Delecki arrived, there were only four schools in the town: Gilbert and Greenfield elementaries, Gilbert Junior High and Gilbert High School. While he was there, the district built 29 more.
Despite the town’s rapid expansion, Delecki said Gilbert has maintained the same atmosphere it had when he first arrived.
“It still prides itself on being a small town,” Delecki said. “Its roots are in people, not places.”
Delecki said he is most proud of handling the growth in a positive and successful way.
“You judge a company by the people it keeps,” he said. “People stayed in Gilbert and were happy to be in Gilbert.”
Delecki accepted a position as a clinical professor at Northern Arizona University in 2001. He left his position as superintendent to teach and train the next generation of educators and school administrators, working with master’s and doctoral students.
Delecki said that while being superintendent was stressful, teaching is his leisure.
“I’ve taught when I was tired, when I was sick and when it wasn’t convenient,” he said. “I love what I do, and it keeps me going.”
Delecki said he thinks he only has a couple of more years left before he stops leading students after working with them for close to 40 years.
“I need to know when to leave the dance,” he said. “Technology and the millennials will probably pace me out.”