By Patric Hedlund
FRAZIER PARK (Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010 at 3:40 p.m.)—If anyone seemed to have immortality within her grasp, it was Rochelle ‘Shelly’ Mason. And if doing what one loves is the formula for a long life, then most knew Mason had that one nailed.
Shelly Mason loved working at El Tejon School. She worked there for over 25 years, as a teacher and as principal. Her own children went to school there, she told visitors proudly. Her office was adorned with Betty Boop memorabilia, scented candles and photos of her family and the children who attended the school.
In 2007 Shelly was asked by the El Tejon Unified School District Board of Trustees to serve as interim superintendent for the district. She appeared invincible, working as both principal of El Tejon School and as acting-superintendent for the district’s five schools. After a personnel search, the board invited her to accept the position. They gave her a four-year contract.
Shelly loved to go to graduations, athletic events and school plays. At one, the student actors found a wild brown wig, massive with curls, and named the most energetic and irrepressible member of the cast “Mrs. Mason.”
Those students were very observant. Mason worked tirelessly on behalf of the students and the district. Still, she was a first-time superintendent and she inherited a train-load of challenges along with the ETUSD superintendent’s position.
The district has now had six superintendents and acting superintendents in seven years. Mason’s predecessor John Wight resigned in 2006 under an ethical cloud, leaving behind a morass of legal, financial, personnel and morale issues the district is still grappling with today.
On May 1, 2009 Mason was admitted to the hospital for an operation. She had been stricken with a brain tumor. The public was told she was recovering. It was widely expected that she would return to work, but she never did. She did attend the 2009 graduation ceremony and received a standing ovation. She asked to retire in December 2009 to focus on her recovery.
A family member reports that Shelly was receiving treatment for brain cancer. She died surrounded by family and friends on Christmas day. A memorial service is being planned. Details will be announced as soon as possible. See The Mountain Enterprise print issue for further details as they are available.
This is part of the December 24, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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