Likins has been at Gunn for 12 years, six as assistant principal and six as principal.
"Always waiting until tomorrow to do things you want to do is not wise," she said in the e-mail as the central reason for her retirement. Her husband, Tod, has been retired for 13 years and "is patiently waiting for us to do some of the traveling we keep talking about but don't have time to do."
Likins said the past year has been emotionally difficult for her as principal — referring indirectly to deaths of four young persons linked to Gunn — and personally.
"As you all know events here at Gunn over the past nine months have been very hard on all of us but while all of this has been going on, I lost my beloved sister Liz to cancer in August, and her husband, Malcolm, who was really a brother to me, also died suddenly in November," she wrote.
"The impact of it all has left me deeply saddened and very much aware that life is unpredictable."
Likins' retirement leaves Superintendent Kevin Skelly with two high-school-principal vacancies to fill by next summer, after Palo Alto High School Principal Jacquie McEvoy resigned "for personal reasons" in late January. There also are several lower-level principal openings to fill.
"Noreen's contributions to education in our community have been enormous," Superintendent Kevin Skelly said.
"I know I speak for the (school) board and her colleagues when I say how much we will miss her leadership and inspiration and wish her well in the next phase of her life."
Martha Bowden, parent chair of Gunn's Site Council, said, "My respect for Noreen has grown not only from her courage to identify the impediments to change, but also from her demonstrated dedication and love of the students.
"This has been a really hard time for her and, while I understand her decision, I am saddened that some of what she wanted to do to help the students (community building period) may not happen with her leaving.
"And for that, we will all lose out on an opportunity to improve the experience of each kid at Gunn."
Likins' full e-mail message:
"Dear Gunn Community
"It is exceedingly hard to leave a job that I love and enjoy very much but after much soul searching I have decided that this will be my last year at Gunn. I have been here for twelve years, six as Assistant Principal with responsibility for Guidance Services and six as Principal.
"I have been privileged to work with a great staff, amazing students and a wonderful administrative team. And I could not have asked for a more supportive parent community.
"Through these twelve years, working together, I believe we have done a lot to make Gunn a more caring community and to improve what we do and how we do it.
"Of course it is the staff that has done the work that makes Gunn the great school it is, and to them the credit should go. I will, however, admit to turning over a few rocks along the way that have helped to clear the path. From my biased vantage point, Gunn is a great place to teach and to learn.
"I have reached a time in my life that I have to move on. Life is too short not to stop and smell the roses and my job does not allow me the time to do that.
"As you all know events here at Gunn over the past nine months have been very hard on all of us but while all of this has been going on, I lost my beloved sister Liz to cancer in August, and her husband Malcolm, who was really a brother to me, also died suddenly in November.
"The impact of it all has left me deeply saddened and very much aware that life is unpredictable. Always waiting until tomorrow to do things you want to do is not wise. My husband, Tod, has been retired for thirteen years and is patiently waiting for us to do some of the traveling we keep talking about but don't have time to do.
"I want to spend time with family and friends in England. I want to take some classes. I want time to read the newspaper! It is time for me to look forward to the rest of my life.
"The only reason we are all here at Gunn is for our students and it has always been my goal to do that which is best for each of them. It is my hope that Gunn will always be a high school that puts students first. If I have a legacy, may it be just that.
"My grateful thanks to you all."