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Home-grown school superintendents bring stability, deep knowledge to their districts

Home-grown school superintendents bring stability, deep knowledge to their districts

Photograph courtesy of San Juan Unified School District.

Kindergarteners within the San Juan Unified School District in Sacramento County rejoice Nationwide Teddy Bear Day on Sept. 9, 2016. Superintendent Kent Kern is the grownup within the again.

A small group of home-grown school superintendents in California defy the stereotype of a school chief who parachutes right into a district, spends three or 4 years there, and strikes on to a brand new job in one other district.

One in four of the superintendents within the state’s 20 largest districts have been at one time college students in the identical district that they now lead. Some of them – together with Los Angeles Unified’s Michelle King, Lengthy Seashore Unified’s Chris Steinhauser and San Juan Unified’s Kent Kern – have spent their whole skilled careers there.

These superintendents bring a deep understanding of their districts that comes solely from rising up there and experiencing district faculties from the within. A few of these superintendents say they’re doubtless to keep longer in their positions than the standard school chief, and a few schooling specialists say they’ve a larger probability of effecting change and sustaining district stability.

“A strong familiarity with a district can give a superintendent a huge advantage in pushing for changes,” stated Carl Cohn, government director of the California Collaborative for Instructional Excellence, a brand new state company that’s offering help to districts to enhance instructional outcomes.

Cohn ought to know. He’s greatest recognized for his 10-year tenure as superintendent of Lengthy Seashore Unified. Whereas he didn’t attend district faculties as a scholar there, he grew up in Lengthy Seashore, attended parochial faculties within the space and he introduced a deep knowledge of the group and the challenges college students confronted there.

In January, King, 54, turned the primary black lady to lead Los Angeles Unified. School board President Steve Zimmer proclaimed her “the daughter of our city, a graduate of Palisades High School, and a teacher from our schools, a principal, a leader of our community.”

“L.A. Unified has been part of my life since I was 5 years old,” she stated on the day she turned superintendent. “My teachers instilled in me a lifelong yearning to learn.”

Superintendents who return to lead districts the place they grew up say they’re no less than partially motivated by a profound craving to honor their academics, coaches and different mentors who nurtured them alongside the best way.

‘Unfinished business’

“The single most important reason why I decided to come back to Stockton was because I had some unfinished business in this town,” stated Eliseo Dávalos, who turned superintendent of Stockton Unified this summer time. He’s one in every of seven youngsters whose mother and father immigrated from rural Mexico.

Dávalos, 61, attended Stockton faculties from kindergarten by means of ninth grade, when his household moved to Contra Costa County. He went to St. Mary’s School in Moraga, ultimately incomes a doctoral diploma in schooling from Claremont Graduate School. Whereas doing the latter, he labored as a instructor and principal in Southern California districts earlier than coming residence to Stockton this yr.

“I benefited tremendously from the education I was provided here as a child,” Dávalos stated. “I knew as an educator I could use my skills as an administrator to help students in Stockton Unified achieve their goals, just as teachers had invested in me.”

Stockton Unified Superintendent Eliseo Davalos Reunes with Mae Hill, his fourth-grade teacher, at an assembly to kick off the school year.

Stockton Unified Superintendent Eliseo Davalos reunites with Mae Hill, his 4th-grade instructor, at an meeting to kick off the school yr.

Retired octogenarian Mae Hill was certainly one of Dávalos’ mentors when he was in elementary school. When he turned Stockton’s superintendent this yr, he stood in an auditorium at the College of the Pacific, with Hill at his aspect, and thanked her in entrance of a crowd of academics.

“She was my 4th-grade teacher and I remember her every day,” Dávalos stated in an interview, choking again tears of gratitude.

“So when teachers in Stockton make their references to their ‘Mrs. Hill,’ I certainly understand that, because I know that I have been someone’s Mrs. Hill,” Dávalos stated.

“That’s the work I want to do here,” he added. “To instill the same passion and spirit in the educators in the district.”

‘We are family’

North of Stockton on Freeway 99, Elk Grove Unified Superintendent Chris Hoffman has come house, too.

For 15 years, he labored at school districts within the Sacramento space, commuting many hours every week between his household’s house in Elk Grove and his educating and administrative jobs. In 2014, the Elk Grove school board appointed him to lead the district.

Like Dávalos, Hoffman sought a superintendency that might give him the chance to give again to the group the place he was raised. However what stands out most is his love for the district’s Valley Excessive School, the place he was captain of the soccer staff and the place he would meet his future spouse.

“The atmosphere at that school made everyone feel welcome,” Hoffman stated. Then, like Dávalos, he additionally broke into tears for a few moments.

Hoffman, who’s 48, stated that Elk Grove, greater than some other giant district in California, has held onto its small-town really feel regardless of being the fifth-largest school district within the state, with almost 63,000 college students.

As well as, Hoffman stated, the district brings lots of  its former college students again as academics. He lately counted almost a dozen former college students who train within the district.

When Hoffman advised his household that he was accepting the Elk Grove superintendency, his oldest son requested, “Does this mean that you will hand me my diploma when I graduate?” Sure, it did, dad stated, together with his signature as district superintendent.

“I get to do that this year again,” Hoffman stated, when his youthful son graduates.

San Juan Unified Superintendent Kent Kern, 48, recollects an analogous small-town environment when he attended faculties within the San Juan Unified district within the Sacramento suburbs.

As a scholar, Kern recollects his academics searching for him, notably when he was recognized with most cancers in his sophomore yr. Kern, who performed basketball, recovered. He was appointed San Juan superintendent in 2014.

Kern and Hoffman stated they intend to keep in their positions for a number of years. That, they are saying, will assist make sure that their districts are extra secure over time.

‘Where I come from’

Stockton’s Dávalos introduces himself to guests in his workplace by displaying them a framed photograph of the tiny home the place he lived as a toddler together with his six siblings on the town’s south aspect. “This is where I come from,” he stated, pointing to the photograph.

Stockton is the one place Dávalos needs to be a superintendent.  There’s a number of work forward for the district, the place check scores are low and one-third of its college students are studying English.

However he’s wanting ahead to elevating scholar achievement, he stated. “We’re waiting for that to happen. We will celebrate because our kids deserve it.”

What stands out probably the most from Dávalos’ childhood reminiscences is that faculties have been enjoyable locations to be. Faculties additionally have been the place he discovered to converse English. “My teachers worked really hard to make sure we got really good lessons and to make sure we were safe in school,” he stated.

“I know there are little Eliseos sitting in classrooms today who are waiting for me to come and say ‘Let me build a path for you, and let me tell you how I did it.’ ”

A current EdSource survey confirmed that 17 of the superintendents of the state’s 30 largest districts have been in their posts for 3 years or much less. 9 of them have been appointed in 2016 alone. Two weeks in the past, Oakland Unified Superintendent Antwan Wilson turned the newest chief of a giant school district to depart his submit – in his case after lower than three years in workplace. Wilson will grow to be head of the District of Columbia public faculties.

It might be no accident that the superintendent with the longest tenure among the many state’s 30 largest districts is Lengthy Seashore Unified’s Steinhauser, who was appointed to his publish in 2002. He not solely attended Lengthy Seashore faculties, but in addition went to Lengthy Seashore Metropolis School and Cal State Lengthy Seashore. He has spent his complete profession there, as a instructor, principal and administrator. Steinhauser’s district, which is the third-largest within the state, is acclaimed for a variety of revolutionary packages.

Throughout Cohn’s decade as superintendent of the Lengthy Seashore district, he loved robust help from the group – a lot that the editor of the Lengthy Seashore Press Telegram as soon as informed him:

“As a hometown guy, everyone is rooting for you to be successful.”

Replace:  Eliseo Davalos resigned his submit at Stockton Unified on December 17 for private causes.  Learn the story right here. 


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