Randy Perlis asked a simple question when he first learned he'd been elected to serve on the Cherry Creek School District Board of Education.
"The first thing I said was, 'What do I do now?'" Perlis recalled to a room packed full of colleagues, friends and family at the CCSD Instructional Support Facility on Nov. 1. "When I first got on the board (in 2007), I was honestly scared."
A lot can change in 10 years. A decade on the job helped calm Perlis' nerves as he helped steer the district through both good times and bad. During his tenure on the board, Perlis became a leader and a role model to his colleagues, working closely with his fellow elected officials to ensure that Cherry Creek Schools stayed true to its fundamental values and mission. On the road to becoming president of the Cherry Creek School District Board of Education, Perlis learned to inspire and to lead.
The ceremony at ISF offered Perlis the chance to publicly celebrate and reflect on his time on the board before officially leaving his term-limited post. During the ceremony, past superintendents and board members mingled with their contemporary counterparts; principals, teachers and administrators from opposite ends of the district came together; and current and former students offered a stirring sense of context to the whole ceremony. The gathering was an acknowledgment of Perlis' steadfast and dedicated work for the district, but it was also a reminder of the underlying inspiration for that work.
"There's always been a sense of cooperation on our board. You focus on what's important," Perlis said. "You keep the focus on the kids."
A string of high-profile speakers were on hand to detail just how hard Perlis worked over the past 10 decades to ensure educational excellence for thousands of CCSD students. Cherry Creek School District Superintendent Dr. Harry Bull and current board members Dave Willman, Janice McDonald and Karen Fisher were there to pay tribute, as was former CCSD Superintendent Dr. Monte Moses and past board members Aagje Barber, Jennifer Churchfield, Jim O'Brien, Claudine McDonald, Wendy DeBell and Jim Harrington. Kelly Bates, Perlis' successor on the board, was also in attendance.
They sketched out a portrait of a dedicated public servant, a former swimmer and current scientist who applied a sense of thoroughness and dedication to his work on the school board.
"You were a good listener and eager to learn," said Barber, who served as board president when Perlis started his service. "You stayed true to the Cherry Creek Schools mission, and you did it with dignity, grace and a smile on your face."
Churchfield echoed those sentiments, pointing specifically to Perlis' impact on all of the students who attended CCSD schools over the past 10 years.
"You've done an outstanding job, and you've impacted the lives of thousands of students. You were in it for the long haul," Churchfield said. "You've inspired all of us, and you've shown us how to go the distance."
Past CCSD board president Jim O'Brien noted that during his time serving with the Colorado Association of School Boards, he had the opportunity to see Colorado school boards at their most and least functional. Serving in that post gave O'Brien a sense of scale and scope when it came to efficient school boards, a perspective that made his praise for Perlis all the more heartfelt.
"The best board members have the ability to listen, good judgement, an open mind, fairness, a team mentality and the dedication to place students first," O'Brien said. "These all come to mind in describing the work of Randy Perlis."
The current CCSD board members offered that same brand of praise. Dave Willman pointed to Perlis' "tremendous impact," while Karen Fisher detailed Perlis' quirks, from his love of vintage TV and movie references to his ability to match neckties to any special occasion. "We will certainly miss him," Fisher said.
Janice McDonald offered some perspective to the celebration, explaining that if an individual's wealth can be measured in good friends and dedicated peers, Perlis is indeed a rich man. "Look around this room and see how wealthy you are," McDonald said, before adding, "You are leaving something in this district."
Former CCSD Superintendent Dr. Monte Moses got straight to the heart of the affair in his tribute.
"Thanks. That's the bottom line," Moses said. "The Rotarians talk about 'service over self,' and you've embodied that."
Perlis wasn't the only subject of praise. CCSD Superintendent Harry Bull pointed out that all of Perlis' hard work over the past 10 years came with the important support of his wife, Kim, and his three children, Lauren, Tony and Michelle.
"For 10 years, he's asked you to do a lot. You were unwavering in your support," Bull said. "Thank you for your willingness to share your husband and your father," he added before turning his attention back to Perlis. "I appreciate your support and your friendship … I offer a heartfelt 'thank you.'"
For his part, Perlis was quick to share the praise. He thanked district administrators and staff for always supporting board members and offering all the necessary information. He thanked current and past superintendents, board members and staff members. He pointed to the critical role his wife and children have played in making his time on the board effective and enjoyable. And he thanked the countless students that made the service so worthwhile.
"The most amazing thing is to walk into a school and feel so welcomed," Perlis said. "I think that's what I'll miss the most. It means a lot."