Socorro Shiels is an outstanding educational leader—one who is ready and well-prepared to lead the Sonoma Valley Unified District. As someone who has both led school systems (Long Beach and San Diego), and prepared those who would lead them (Harvard, USC, Broad Academy, and Claremont), I have a unique perspective on the new skills needed to move a school system forward today.
Socorro has been, for the past two-plus years, a key part of the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence, our Governor’s new approach to restoring local control of public schools in California. Our job is to get the right kind of help and assistance to school districts using the tools of capacity-building and continuous improvement. Nothing in our work is more important than building positive relationships with those closest to kids, including classroom teachers and parents. Socorro has been the education director for this new initiative designed to better serve districts and their stakeholder communities. She excels at increasing parent, community, business and higher education support for public schools. In addition, she has worked successfully with teachers and their leaders to build ground-level support for the changes necessary to better serve those students who have been left behind.
The work of the CCEE is predicated on the belief that the top-down approaches of the past have failed in motivating and inspiring our heroic classroom teachers who daily make the difference in the lives of the children that we are all privileged to serve. We build trust in all parts of the state because we start with a profound respect for those at the local level who are doing the work of rescuing kids. Listening and engaging with a sense of patience and humility defines our approach to improvement.
In my judgment, informed by almost five decades of experience, your search for a new superintendent has resulted in the selection of an excellent candidate who can lead your school community to improved student success, while making sure that all stakeholders are engaged in a collaborative improvement process. You can’t go wrong with Socorro Shiels as your new superintendent. She will not disappoint you or those in your community closest to kids.
Carl A. Cohn, executive director, California Collaborative for Educational Excellence