McALLEN — After 17 years leading South Texas Independent School District, Superintendent and long-time educator Marla Guerra announced her retirement.

“It’s bittersweet because I love my job and we have a wonderful district in South Texas, and the people I work with are phenomenal, our board is phenomenal, but ultimately I needed to make a decision and I did,” Guerra said.

Guerra took over the leadership role at South Texas ISD in 2001 and her retirement was approved by the board of directors during a meeting last week. Her official last day in the leadership role is yet to be decided, as she agreed to remain on board until the district finds her successor.

The decision to leave the district was not easy, she said, as she has seen the district evolve over the years. But the leading role, although rewarding, wasn’t leaving her much time to enjoy her family.

“It’s difficult to keep that healthy balance,” Guerra said about balancing family and work. “My husband is retired, we’ve got two children that live here in the Valley, we’ve got six grandchildren and I really want to dedicate more time to being a wife, a mother and a grandmother. And to serve my church and serve my community, so I felt like I needed to make a decision and that was it.”

Guerra has served in education for more than 40 years in numerous roles including as a teacher, principal, assistant superintendent, superintendent and college professor.

Her main mission in all of these roles, she said, was to make a difference in somebody’s life and encourage them to never give up on their goals and dreams from the moment they are students in her classroom, to the moment they come to her as professionals seeking advice to move up the ranks.

During her tenure at the South Texas school district she sought to increase the academic offerings and partnerships outside the district in order to offer students more hands-on experience with local businesses and added educational opportunities with local higher education institutions.

“Always at the back of my mind has been improving the quality of life,” she said. “That’s been my passion and my work for over 40 years, to realize that there’s a bigger picture, but education is certainly important.”

Guerra said her ties to education might be hard to completely cut at this point and hopes to find ways to stay connected by working as a consultant or volunteering her time with education organizations.

“We have an education foundation here at South Texas ISD and I want to keep involved with raising funds to provide scholarships for our students,” she said. “I want to find other ways in which I can serve in the field of education. I have not identified those yet, but certainly I feel like I have enough energy and passion left in my life to where I can continue to serve.”

The South Texas ISD board of directors will be hiring a search firm to help with the transition, but Guerra said there is no timeframe yet as they want to take as much time as needed to find the right candidate.

dperez-hernandez@themonitor.com