Bob Cunniff’s career in the Alexandria School District spans more than four decades and includes not only teaching, but coaching several sports, having a seat on the school board and being a sports radio announcer.
Cunniff, however, has said goodbye to the Alexandria area as he and his wife, Darice, also a longtime Alexandria teacher, moved to New Prague to be closer to family, which includes their three children and five grandchildren.
“We’ll definitely miss the Alexandria area,” said Cunniff. “It’s a very special place. But I won’t have any regrets once we are down there and all settled in.”
It’s not just the area Cunniff will miss, he said. It’s his working partners, co-workers, school board members, administration, teachers. But mostly, he said choking up, it’s the kids, the students, his students, the players he coached.
“I’m just really going to miss the kids,” said Cunniff, who started his teaching career 44 years ago.
Alexandria School Board member Sandy Susag said Cunniff has been a valuable asset to not only the school board, but to the community as a whole.
As a dedicated teacher, Cunniff alway placed a great value on providing the best education possible to the students, she said, adding that his perspective as a teacher was invaluable to the board. She said he helped the other members see issues and concerns from a teacher’s frame of reference.
“He will be sorely missed,” said Susag. “We wish him and Darice all the best in their new adventure. It has truly been a pleasure to serve with him.”
In December 1976, he graduated from the University of Minnesota and in January 1977, he started teaching fifth grade at Washington Elementary School. After a couple of years, he ended up moving to Garfield Elementary School. The reason for the move is because in September of 1977, he met his future wife, Clarice, who was a kindergarten teacher at Washington.
Back then, per district policy, the two of them could not work together after they were married, which is why he made the move to Garfield.
His stay in Garfield was short as he then made a move to Carlos Elementary.
The policy regarding married couples working together changed somewhere along the line as the two of them both ended up teaching at Voyager Elementary School. Cunniff started in about 1989, he said. He taught sixth grade at Voyager until he retired from teaching in the spring of 2011.
But even though he was retired, Cunniff wasn’t completely done teaching as he spent plenty of time as a substitute teacher in the district.
Teaching students in District 206 is something he says he will always treasure.
When it comes to sports, Cunniff is connected – in more ways than one. During his time in District 206, he coached volleyball, basketball and softball. And not just at the high school level, but also middle school. And he coached both boys and girls.
Then in the early 2000s, he started his career in sports broadcasting.
At first it was just basketball games, but soon, he was also helping to broadcast games for hockey, football, baseball and softball. And in some, it was both boys and girls.
“It was real easy being on the radio,” said Cunniff, adding that it was fun, too.
Impressed with school board
Cunniff said he knew someday he would run for school board as he always had an interest in district policies, how the school operated and of course, the students.
“It’s always been about the kids,” he said.
He chose to run when there was an opening as he knew he didn’t want to run against anyone who was already on the board. When Jean Robley stepped down, he took his chance and decided to run. He ended up going up against three other people who had also filed for the opening.
Cunniff said he started with the school board exactly 40 years to the day he started teaching. On Jan. 3, 1977, he began his teaching career and on Jan. 3, 2017, he became a school board member.
“I really appreciated the school members and administrators welcoming me on board,” he said, adding that he wasn’t sure how it would go as he had been a teacher and at that point, was still subbing. But he said he was there for the students and didn’t have any hidden agendas.
He also said he was “really impressed” with those who served and are still serving on the school board. Being a school board member, he learned so much more about the school district and how it operates.
“I learned so much and really liked being on the board,” said Cunniff. “Leaving the board, especially in the middle of my term, was very difficult.”
There were many aspects of being a school board member he enjoyed, including being on the various committees, working with students, working with both the Alexandria City Council and Douglas County Board of Commissioners, going to events and so much more.
“I learned so much and it was so cool and fun,” he said. “I thoroughly enjoyed everything.”
Now that he and his wife have moved to New Prague, Cunniff said he is looking forward to spending time with family, especially his five grandchildren. He is also looking into volunteer opportunities and possibly some coaching opportunities.
He is not sure what the future will bring, but he did say he will continue to follow sports and other happenings in not only School District 206, but the Alexandria community.