Agents of Shiels
EDITOR: As I have followed the Sonoma Valley Unified School District’s important work in choosing our next Superintendent of Schools, including the discussion at the Board of Trustees meeting on April 17, I want to share some comments and observations.
I was impressed by the comments during the public input period at the board meeting on April 17 in support of the hiring of Socorro Shiels. I appreciated much of what I heard from her supporters regarding her emphasis on student needs, her track record for initiating innovative programs, as well her experience with bicultural education. However, I heard little or perhaps nothing from these supporters about how she works with and supports teachers.
I have read comments and have spoken with teachers who worked under Ms. Shiels when she served as Superintendent in Santa Rosa. They expressed grave concerns with her top-down approach to leadership and her perceived disregard and lack of support for classroom teachers.
Also, I have concerns about the salary and benefits package she apparently requested. To many, her salary and benefits expectations are an indication of her character and her priorities as a leader. These expectations suggest an inflated view of her importance and her place in the district. These concerns may well translate into a lack of confidence among dedicated teachers and administrators whose support she will need to be successful.
In light of these concerns, and perhaps as difficult as this may be for you, I recommend you reconsider your recommendation of Ms. Shiels. I recommend that you begin a new search which is much more collaborative and attentive to the needs and concerns of teachers, administrators, and staff.
However, if you decide to hire Ms. Shiels, I recommend that you reduce her salary and benefits package to be in line with districts of similar size. Additionally, our Superintendent’s salary should reflect the issues involving current teacher compensation, upcoming reduction in staffing, programs, and increases in classroom size.
Finally, as the Superintendent’s employer and supervisor, I recommend developing clear expectations and objectives to measure the Superintendent’s performance in general, but especially in the area of teacher support and collaboration.
The bounty of Sonoma Garden Park
EDITOR: I attended the opening of the Sonoma Garden Park Harvest this morning. What a wonderful park developed under the stewardship of the Sonoma Ecology Center, an incredible organization. The extensive grounds are impressive with the variety of plants and crops planted throughout the property. Color is everywhere. Hidden down Seventh Street East, the Sonoma Garden Park has a quiet serenity that restores one’s spirit with the beauty on display throughout the property. In talking with volunteers, they proudly reviewed the variety of programs available not only to our youth but to the community in general.
Part of this visit also gave me the opportunity to really see the Pauline Bond undeveloped lot to the north of the Garden Park. I had not really focused on it before. Its quiet beauty actually took my breath away. It is a serene piece of property that could be used to expand the Sonoma Garden Park. I know that the City of Sonoma owns both properties since Pauline Bond donated all or part of the properties from her estate. I hope that the City of Sonoma/City Council takes the opportunity to authorize use of the Pauline Bond parcel since its value is wasted if just left alone.