School chief contract narrowly approved

Posted on May 9, 2018 by Sonoma Valley Sun

The civics lesson that was the search for a new school Superintendent appears to be over now that Socorro Shiels, the former head of Santa Rosa schools, has officially been offered a contract.

In April, Shiels was the then-unanimous choice of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District, but opposition from the local teachers association, and an initial contract that critics found overly hefty, caught the SVUSD board by surprise. It then tabled the discussion until a new, reduced contract could be drafted. Despite a split emerging on the board that document was approved May 8 with the new math: a three (Johnson, Chavez and Abate-Ducarroz) to two (Gustafson, Kelly) vote.

Shiels will be paid $204,000 a year (reduced from $225,000), which is about the state average for such a job. Gone is the original offer of a $10,000 PhD tuition credit, but the $400 travel allowance stays. Though it was a handy talking point for critics, the line item is nothing new. Louann Carlomagno, the previous Superintendent, received similar reimbursement, as did Chuck Young, her interim replacement.

Shiels herself was not at the meeting, but had responded to critics with a written statement. “I hear your concerns and am listening,” she said. “Please accept my commitment to meet with and listen to all members of our school community, so that I can build the trust and understanding necessary to work collaboratively.”

The ultimate twist in the saga would be if she turned down the job, but enough with the drama –what is this, the plot for next year’s school play? Can we at least add some catchy tunes and make it a musical?

— Val Robichaud

Sonoma Sun | Sonoma, CA