Superintendent Shelly Mason Dies after Lingering Illness

Friends and Community Members Remember Shelly Mason (See notes below this story; add your own by clicking below or sending to

By Patric Hedlund

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 bright with Betty Boop memorabilia, warmed with scented candles and filled with photos of her family and the children who attended the school.

In October 2006 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 a 2009 graduation ceremony for El Tejon School 8th graders 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 on Christmas day, surrounded by family and friends. A memorial service is being planned. Details will be announced as soon as possible.

Memories of Shelly Mason:
• We are very saddened by her death. The Mountain Communities lost a great resident, a great educator and I lost a great friend. No one that I know of cared more about children than she did.
Frank Williams, December 29, 2010
Bakersfield (formerly of Frazier Park)

•December 30, 2010
Dear Editor;
I first heard of Shelly Mason passing on Wednesday, 12/29, as Jean Tackett cut my hair. She read the news in The Mountain Enterprise online version. I was saddened.
For one school year, 2004-2005, my wife and I served as directors of the Tejon School Parent Teacher Service Organization; Lynn Redden was the super active chairman. The PTSO raised a lot of money for the school.
   The play Disco Knights, directed by teacher Ms. Schmidt, was super successful. My granddaughter Cara Peters played the lead role of school principal. She wore a huge wig that resembled Ms. Mason’s hair. Willie Peters was the "Main Thug."
Shelly Mason was very supportive of the play and the pupils. She worked closely with the PTSO.
   Patric Hedlund wrote a great article on Ms. Mason. Tears came to my eyes as I read it. Our families…, the Ventura’s, the Peters and the entire Mountain Communities will miss Shelly.
   It would be a well deserved honor if the new library would be named The Mountain Communities Shelly Mason Library.
Donato Ventura, Lake of the Woods

•January 3, 2011
You really captured Shelly’s great energy in your article. She was an amazing educator.. a rare, rare teacher who I admired and appreciated so much. You know she knew every kid in that school’s name? She loved those kids!
Doug Peters, Lake of the Woods and Susanville

This is part of the December 31, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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