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Sonoma Valley school district suffers exodus in senior admin

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The revolving door at 17850 Railroad Ave. hasn’t stopped much in the last year.

That’s the address of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District, and in the last year the district has seen almost all of its senior administrator positions turn over. It started when Superintendent Louann Carlomagno resigned last June. She was followed by Curriculum and Instruction Director Karla Conroy, who retired, and Chief Business Officer John Bartolome, who took a similar position at a school district in Marin County.

So far this year, Human Resource Director Loyal Carlon retired, Student Services Director Nikarre Redcoff resigned and the latest senior staffer to resign is Instructional Services Director and Associate Superintendent Karen Strong, who has been in her position less than a year. Strong is leaving the district to focus on caring for a family member.

Interim Superintendent Chuck Young finished his contract last week and promptly left on vacation.

A number of coordinators are also leaving including Susan Langer in Student Services and Lucy Bollinger and Lyndsey Munn in Instructional Services. Bollinger and Munn resigned while Jennifer Matthews’ ed tech position in Instructional Services was eliminated in a budget reduction.

“We’re starting from scratch,” said Associate Superintendent Bruce Abbott, who has only been with the district about six months.

Abbott said the district is trying to fill the positions, but there are a lot to fill.

“Student Services is very critical because it handles special education,” he said. “Right now, we have seven candidates for Nikarre’s position and we’ll start the paper screen shortly. We’ll bring in an interim (director) if we have to.”

“Special ed is what we’re focused on,” he said. “Very focused.”

While the director’s position is posted, Langer’s position as Special Services Principal, Special Education and Preschool, had yet to be posted.

Abbott, who heads Financial Services, has been doing double-duty with human resources. “We have an HR candidate that we’re going to take to the (school) board on June 5,” he said.

And he said now that new Superintendent Socorro Shiels is on board, she is also involved with hiring so the district can fill some of its positions quicker.

The district has yet to post Strong’s position, although she resigned earlier this week. Abbott said one of the two empty positions in Instructional Services has been posted.

“This is a chance to build a team,” he said. “This gives us a chance to re-organize and rethink how we deliver services to the sites.”

Abbott’s hoping the administrative team can be in place by the first part of August.

“We have a strong HR team, and they’re all sticking around,” he added.

The district is also looking for another high school principal. Earlier this month, the district had a community forum with five candidates, and after the forum, decided to restart the search.

“We’ve got a smaller pool this time,” he said. “We’ve got seven candidates and we’re looking at interviewing three of them next week.”

One of the seven candidates is internal.

The district won’t have the same type of forum it had earlier, but Abbott said there will be some sort of opportunity for the community to meet the finalists.

“Despite the shorter timeline, we got better candidates than we got last time,” he said.

The school district also rescinded all the layoff notices that it sent to teachers earlier this year as part of making $2.5 million in cuts. “No teachers were laid off,” Abbott said. In order to soften the layoffs, the district offered a $20,000 incentive for teachers to retire. Administrators hoped that at least 10 teachers would take the incentive, and in the end, 14 retired.

Email Bill at bill.hoban@sonomanews.com.