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Louann Carlomagno resigns

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Teachers, students and parents were taken aback on Tuesday afternoon when Sonoma Valley Unified School District Superintendent Louann Carlomagno unexpectedly resigned. Her last day will be June 30.

Carlomagno, 54, said that she has accepted an Interim Superintendent position leading the Hillborough School District in the South Bay, north of Palo Alto.

In a letter sent to school district stakeholders Tuesday afternoon, Carlomagno outlined recent frustrations she’s had at SVUSD. “Since the school board election last November, I have had to spend much of my time addressing board operations and interpersonal dynamics. The governance team has been unsuccessful in achieving any resolution to these challenges, even with the assistance of organizational consultants. As a result, I have been unable to focus on the work necessary to support our strategic educational initiatives. I have concluded that a different superintendent may be better able to address these issues and to re-unify the governance team.”

The Nov. 8 election saw two hotly contested school-district-related items on the ballot – a proposed $120 million school district bond, which passed, and a challenge for the school board seat of incumbent Sassarini board trustee Gary Desmet by district parent John Kelly. Kelly won the seat, but has himself become embroiled in controversy.

Last month, retiring Director of Curriculum and Instruction Karla Conroy filed a formal hostile-work-environment complaint against Kelly. An investigation into the claim was considered by the District Board of Trustees on June 6. The board voted unanimously – with Kelly recusing himself – to hire an external legal consultant to investigate the complaint.

Debra Garber, director of the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation, described Carlomagno’s work as superintendent of schools as “outstanding.”

“Louann has always been at the forefront of education excellence,” Garber said, crediting Carlomagno with helping establish several district preschools and usher in such programs as Exploratorium Science, Freshman Teams, the high school Engineering, Design, and Technology and Sustainable Agriculture academies.

School board president Dan Gustafson described the District as having “thrived” under Carlomagno’s leadership.

“We have been fortunate to have a local resident with us for so many years in so many capacities,” said Gustafson in a press release from the District.

“On a personal note, I consider Louann to be the most talented superintendent a school district could hope for, and I feel truly fortunate to have worked with her. Her dedication to our students and families, as well as to District employees, has been evident to all.”

Added Gustafson: “She will be missed.”

Carlomagno is a 25-year veteran of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District. She graduated from Sonoma Valley High in 1980, and received a bachelor’s degree from U.C. Davis and a master’s degree from Sonoma State.

Carlomagno started in the Sonoma schools in 1991 as a Sonoma Valley High School science teacher. She later taught at Sonoma Charter School, was a vice principal at Altimira Middle School and principal of El Verano School.

She was named superintendent in 2010, replacing Pamela Martens, superintendent from 2008 to 2010. Previously, she served as the district’s director of curriculum and instruction.

Carlomagno oversaw Sonoma Valley’s $49 million budget, 4,000 students and 11 schools.

She and her husband Brian Wirick, also a 1980 SVHS graduate, raised their three children in the Valley.

“Sonoma is my hometown,” said Carlogmagno. “Know that as a local resident, as a former employee, and as a graduate of Sonoma Valley High School, I will always support our educators and our schools.”

The Sonoma Valley Unified School Distric board will meet in a special, open session at 9 a.m. on Saturday, June 10, at the District office at 17850 Railroad Ave. to discuss next steps regarding open positions in the district office.

Email Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.