‘We’ve really gotten to know each other’: Superintendents continue collaboration, cooperation to determine upcoming school year | TheUnion.com

‘We’ve really gotten to know each other’: Superintendents continue collaboration, cooperation to determine upcoming school year

Sam Corey
Staff Writer

From the PG&E power shut-offs to the coronavirus and the current recession, this school year has been filled with surprises for school administrators.

Admittedly difficult for any educator in a position of leadership, these issues are being dealt with by new superintendents to the county: of the nine non-charter public schools in the area, just three superintendents have more than one year of experience in their respective district. That is, the Nevada City School District, Clear Creek School District, Chicago Park School District, Twin Ridges Elementary School District, Union Hill School District and Grass Valley School District have all hired superintendents in either 2019 or 2020.

But while a possibly intimidating challenge, more seasoned veterans of their district or county superintendent position are not terribly concerned about the newer superintendents, especially as the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Office tries to continue fostering relationships of collaboration and cooperation to help them support each other and their respective institutions.

Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Scott Lay, who took over the position in 2017, said he’s been holding weekly meetings for months with every superintendent in the county, and including local public health officials and school nurses on the calls, to help every administrator receive the same information at the same time, and allow them to ask questions likely relevant to their peers.

“If we’re all doing something very similar then we can all put families on the same schedules,” said Lay, adding that he wants to ensure administrators “don’t feel like they are an island.”

Lay said what’s prepared him most for this situation — something unprecedented to school leaders — is the relationships he’s built with county officials and other superintendents.

“There was a lot of trust already built, so I think that was critical,” he said.


Rusty Clark, superintendent of the Pleasant Ridge Union School District since 2013, agreed that there is a high degree of trust between county officials, noting that Lay has been leading a collaborative charge since he became the superintendent of schools. Clark was first struck with how important listening to other leaders in the county was a few years ago when he encountered his first snow day. Now, with many unknowns about school life for this coming fall, Clark said cooperation and trust is critical.

“With the pandemic, we’re all in the same boat,” he said. “We’re trying to learn together.”

Clark also noted that simply because the county districts have new superintendents doesn’t mean that those superintendents are new to the position itself.

Torie Gibson, superintendent for the Penn Valley Union Elementary School District since 2015, agreed with Clark’s sentiment, noting that cooperation between the districts really began surging during the PG&E power shut-offs and that the pandemic “took that to a whole new level.”

Gibson said Lay has done a particularly good job incorporating charter schools into regular conversations between administrators.

“That has really changed,” she said. “We’ve really gotten to know each other intimately.”

The Penn Valley superintendent also said that more experienced superintendents in the area do a good job of reaching out to the newer ones, offering to “call us, text us, email us” if they need guidance or help.

That trend, she says, is only continuing during this time, as superintendents try to remain “lockstep,” and aid one another during a period of change.

“Our county really spends a lot of time collaborating and not every county is like that,” she said.

To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey, email scorey@theunion.com or call 530-477-4219.

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