Retiring superintendents who were at last month’s Superintendents’ Symposium were honored. From left, Paul Gothold, Julie Mitchell, Ronan Collver, Grant Bennett, Andy Parsons, Ron Carruth, ACSA Executive Director Edgar Zazueta, Sarah Koligian, Michael McCormick, Molleen Barnes, Charlie Hoffman, Louann Carlomagno and Denise Wickham.
Retiring supts share advice for the next generation
February 12, 2024
The retiring superintendents in the Class of 2024 have certainly left their mark on education.
Among those who are stepping down this year are a former ACSA president, two former ACSA Exemplary Woman in Education award winners, and numerous winners of ACSA awards including Superintendent of the Year, Marcus Foster Memorial Award for Administrator Excellence, and Ferd. Kiesel Memorial Distinguished Service Award.
These leaders have built new facilities, passed bonds, navigated school lockdowns and cultivated a strong cadre of leaders who will carry on their legacy of prioritizing success for all students.
Retiring superintendents were recently honored for their leadership and service to California students during the 2024 ACSA Superintendents’ Symposium in Indian Wells.
Fourteen retiring superintendents who attended the symposium offered their advice to new superintendents and those aspiring to the role. Here’s what they had to say.
Molleen Barnes, Sunol Glen USD “Always hold in the forefront why you got into education in the first place ... educators are passionate about our students and no matter what happens — at the end of the day, never forget, you are making a difference in children’s lives! It is critical to network and form partnerships with your colleagues, as it takes a tremendous amount of courage to Lead from the Heart!”
Grant Bennett, Perris Union High School District “Remember where you came from. Everyone in your district works with you and not for you. Get out on your campuses to better understand what’s happening in classes.”
Louann Carlomagno, Hillsborough City School District “Don’t be afraid to take this step in your career and know that you can absolutely do this work. It’s the most challenging and rewarding work you will ever do. Love your leaders and look for the good throughout your organization, and then celebrate it!”
Ron Carruth, El Dorado Union High School District “Identify and refine the principles you believe in as a leader, and use those to pursue the good you envision for students. Take care of your leaders, as the only way to make lasting change is through them.”
Ronan Collver, Brisbane School District “Find healthy ways to truly step away from the job, as it can easily become a 24/7 position.”
Kris Corey, Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District “Make sure you are passionate and committed to the greater cause. You may not see the tangible impact of your work, but know that you are making a difference. Find joy in every day and every circumstance. Even in the most challenging of circumstances, there are still sparks of joy.”
Paul Gothold, San Diego County Office of Education “[Being a superintendent is] an amazing job and wonderful opportunity to create conditions of hope, well-being, success for students and families, and unconditional love, regardless of what’s occurring around us.”
Charlie Hoffman, Shasta Trinity Regional Occupational Program “Trading the job security of placation of the squeaky wheels for improved student learning results through instructional improvement and intentional budget alignment and discipline is a worthy trade off ... go for it!”
Sarah Koligian, Folsom Cordova Unified School District “Whether you are a new or veteran administrator, give yourself grace. None of us are perfect. One of life’s best lessons is accepting that we are human. Mistakes are part of life’s lessons. How we respond to success and failure helps build our internal core as leaders.”
Michael McCormick, Val Verde Unified School District “Know who you are and what you believe and be willing to lose your job over it.”
Julie Mitchell, Rowland Unified School District “Serving as a superintendent comes with tremendous responsibility and an equally tremendous opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the students you serve. Lean in to the challenges and embrace the opportunities to make a difference. Our students need you! And trust your gut instinct — it is rarely wrong!”
Andy Parsons, Union Hill School District “Be flexible, consistently connect with students and staff, build capacity with all staff and educational partners. Be a learning leader. Don’t take yourself too seriously.”
Candy Singh, Fallbrook Union Elementary School District “Remember that your role as a superintendent, while significant, should not define your entire identity. The demands of this job can be all-encompassing, but it’s crucial to invest time and energy in the various facets of your life beyond work. Cherish and nurture relationships, pursue personal passions and explore new horizons. Before you know it, your tenure as a superintendent will be a chapter of the past, and you’ll want to ensure that your identity extends far beyond the confines of this professional role.”
Denise Wickham, Ceres Unified School District “Do something small every day that fills your bucket. Go visit a school site, call a colleague, write a thank you card ... do something that reminds you to be grateful. The job can be all-consuming, so remember to breathe and enjoy the journey.”