Updated 5:12 p.m. Friday with comments from Dr. Paul Raffer.
Sharon Raffer, the Poway Unified School District's spokeswoman, is retiring after more than 17 years in this role, citing a desire to spend more time with family and travel in light of a recent family health scare.
"It was not an easy decision," Raffer said on Friday, her last day. "I really do like what I do very much."
But after her younger brother, Dr. Paul Raffer, was diagnosed with Stage 4 skin cancer, she began to rethink how she was spending her time.
"When that happens, you begin looking around," Raffer, 69, said, adding that her brother, who is a neurologist in Chula Vista, is doing better after treatment.
Raffer has been the director of communications for more than 17 years, and has also been a journalism teacher for PUSD, a reporter and a school principal over nearly five decades in education and journalism, she said.
Thoughts of leaving first sprang up about a year ago, she said, but she kept putting it off. Over the past several months, the district has been embroiled in controversy over a bond deal that will cost taxpayers nearly $1 billion, but Raffer said that did not factor into her decision to leave.
"Part of your job is just to work with whatever happens in a district," she said.
Superintendent John Collins, in a recent letter to staff, said Raffer's "positive energy and passionate commitment" will be missed.
"Of course, I am also excited for Sharon as she takes on what I’m sure will be a very active retirement," Collins said in the statement, provided to Patch by Raffer. "On behalf of the Board of Education and the entire Poway Unified School District I extend our sincere gratitude to Sharon for her service and wish her the very best for an exciting and fulfilling retirement."
Paul Raffer, the spokeswoman's brother, said he was diagnosed with Stage 4 skin cancer in February 2009.
"It was an awakening for all of us," he said.
Paul Raffer said he sold his private medical practice at the end of 2010 and has been on an official leave of absence since, though he may return in a consulting or part-time capacity when he regains more strength. Until then, if a return happens, he considers himself retired, he said. His cancer is in remission after he participated in a clinical trial at Stanford University in February 2011, though he is still dealing with lingering health effects, Raffer said.
Seeing how much he's enjoying himself in retirement likely nudged Sharon to join him away from the workforce, Paul Raffer said.
"It's well-deserved," the doctor said of his sister's retirement. "I'm very proud of her."
Sharon Raffer, who lives in Scripps Ranch, said she also plans to throw herself into volunteering in PUSD and other organizations. Marlene Cowell, the executive assistant to the PUSD Board of Education, will take over communications duties until a replacement is found, Raffer said.