WatchSonoma Watch

Santa Rosa City Schools names new superintendent

Socorro Shiels, the new Santa Rosa City Schools Superintendent, middle, greets Wanda Calvert, left and other city school employees, Wednesday June 20, 2012 in Santa Rosa. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)


Santa Rosa City Schools has tapped Santa Clara educator Socorro Shiels as the district’s new superintendent.

Shiels, who turns 41 Thursday, currently is assistant superintendent of educational services in the Morgan Hill Unified School District, located south of San Jose and a little more than half the size of the Santa Rosa district. She replaces Sharon Liddell, whose resignation is effective June 30, ending nine years with the district.

Shiels was unveiled as the top choice Wednesday amid a gathering of staff members and trustees, but the board is not expected to vote on her three-year contract until its June 27 meeting.

“We interviewed four candidates, all very well qualified but she was so outstanding, so knowledgeable in what is going on in education on a state and national level and so clearly able to work with and communicate with people that the fit just seemed really good,” said Bill Carle, vice president of the board.

The school board considered 12 applicants, according to the firm hired to lead the search for Liddell’s replacement.

Shiels has served as a bilingual teacher, high school vice principal and elementary school principal.

She said Wednesday that Morgan Hill’s changing demographics are similar to those in Santa Rosa where Latinos now make up about 45 percent of the student population and nearly half of the district’s 15,000 students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

Both districts are in Year 3 sanctions for failing to meet federal academic targets laid out under No Child Left Behind.

The goals in both communities are “creating schools that are responsive to the community and changing demographics,” Shiels said.

Wesley Smith, the Morgan Hill superintendent, said that “What the community there needs to understand is she is coming from what she is going into. Our Latino population is changing exponentially.”

Smith credited Shiels with spearheading in the course of one year an adjusted schedule that dismisses students an hour early one day a week so teachers can stay on campus and collaborate. The time is made up on other days. She also led the charge to create a K-8 music and math magnet school and a dual language Spanish immersion elementary school, both of which will open in the fall.

All of those projects involved extensive public outreach, Smith said.

“You are getting one of the bright stars in public education,” he said. “I think she is going to have a storied career and your students are going to benefit from that.”

Shiels comes to Santa Rosa after a tumultuous school year for the district that saw the board effectively close Doyle Park Elementary School — a move that ignited acrimony among board members and the community.

Andy Brennan, president of the Santa Rosa Teachers Association, said Shiels is an impressive hire. He predicted she will be tested almost immediately in light of a difficult budgetary climate and a large number of vacancies at the district office.

“She is walking into a bit of a difficult situation,” he said. “Right now it’s obvious that you see divisions within the board on the direction and where to go. One of her primary responsibilities will be to heal those rifts and … to provide leadership. That will be a major challenge.”

“I’m hoping she will be a breath of fresh air,” said board member Laura Gonzalez. “I think we probably need some new eyes in the district office, new ideas and I think that her background shows her to be culturally knowledgeable and culturally sensitive as the demographics of our district change.”

Ron Woolf, the Morgan Hill school board president, said Shiels made a name for herself as an administrator who reached out to teachers, parents and district officials.

“She is a real work-together type person; she listens,” he said.

Shiels is the director of the administrator mentor program of the California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators.

“She is very, very knowledgeable in the area of assessment and accountability,” said Sal Villaseñor, executive director of CALSA. “She is very firm in her belief that kids, regardless of their background, can all be taught and all can achieve.”

Shiels is a resident of Sacramento. She has spent weekdays in Morgan Hill, traveling home to Sacramento for weekends, she said.

She remains open to moving to Santa Rosa. “We are going to explore our options,” she said.

Board members said they hope she eventually moves to the area.

“I think she intends to,” Carle said.

14 Responses to “Santa Rosa City Schools names new superintendent”

  1. Reality Check says:

    The anonymity allowed here probably does contribute to a rougher tone, which is unfortunate. But it also promotes for freer speech, which has merit.

    More important, it protects a speaker from threats and vandalism from those offended by provocative speech. Which is worse? There’s a reason why voting is by secret ballot.

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  2. Steveguy says:

    Racists ? The only ones that govern by race are those that scream ‘racist’ when you don’t agree.

    By the way- ‘multi-culturalism’ and ‘diversity’ are ruining this country. Polar opposite from what Dr King dreamed about.

    Those that divide and ‘categorize’ races ARE the racists !

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  3. Skippy says:

    The cloak of anonymity that protects me is the same one that protects us all when we vote.
    Your Alinsky tactic of making the political personal just opens the door for the violence that today’s leftists love so much.
    As a Tea Party guy, I shun violence and poor manners.
    That would be an Occupy thing.
    Thanks for playing!

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  4. Randy Santini says:

    Ha! So good to see “Skippy” admits his own lack of character. It’s funny that the very mean names and untrue accusations he spreads about people like Ms Shiels and Ms Gonzalez are the exact things he wants to use his anonymity to protect himself from. I guess it’s ok for him to publicly attack others from the safety of his computer screen but God forbid anyone else know his real name. I am sure then he wouldn’t be as brave and outspoken about calling people “losers” and other nice epithets he is so free with on these boards. More likely he is scared that his neighbors, coworkers and friends would see the hate and malice he displays so freely against strangers who think differently than heimself and he would lose what little credibility he has. That is why the level of discussion on these boards has sunk so low. This is a community of cowardly “Skippys”

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  5. Skippy says:

    Nice try, but no dice.
    As a conservative, my true name being published would result in threats against my life and my family; concocted scandals coming out of thin air; screaming crowds outside my door, and lots of people injured when they lay their filthy paws on any of us.
    Leftists shout their opposition down, then try arson and violence when that fails.
    I don’t fear them, they just make living a normal life difficult.
    Your call for my viewpoint to be banned from the PD speaks volumes about the thin strand by which your philosophy hangs and the threat to it that open discourse poses.
    In other words, you just want all conservatives to simply shut up.
    Not. A. Chance.
    Have a nice day!

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  6. Randy Santini says:

    I agree with Ms. Gonzalez. This site is poorly moderated. Hateful, personal attacks and racism are all over the board. I had previously assumed that the PD was paying attention to the decline in comments and would soon try to rectify the descent into Fox News madness by at the least requiring real names. But I see they continue to allow lies, distortions and the ever popular Agenda 21 paranoiac fantasies to control. Folks like “Skippy” and “Missy” are the worst offenders (they are probably the same person anyway) but the effect of it all is that no reasonable people bother to post or participate on these boards anymore.

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  7. Chuck G says:

    When the future cuts of our schools come around you’ll know where to find her….in Sacramento, and unavailable for comment.

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  8. Laura Gonzalez says:

    According to some of these postings, I *alone* hired the new superintendent, whom none of these people know, because of affirmative action, because she’s Latina and because one of her goals is sure to be “teaching about the evils of American colonialism.”

    Posting this is responsible journalism, how? This isn’t highly inflammatory or racist, how? The affirmative action comment implies that she, and all Latinos, are incompetent and only “get” jobs because of quotas. It also implies that Latinos have ulterior motives that are not congruent with what’s good for public education (in this case). That’s offensive.

    If you’re going through the pretense of having the site moderated, why not actually moderate it, or just drop the pretense and let it become the cesspool that is the forum section.

    Laura Gonzalez

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  9. Skippy says:

    “Bilingual, bicultural, teaching about the evils of American colonialism.”
    And another generation of schoolkids gets indoctrinated into the Church of Big Govt and learns to hate America.
    Ever wonder where the Occupy losers come from?
    Look in your kids’ bedrooms.

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  10. We Didn't Do It says:

    Bilingual, bicultural, teaching about the evils of American colonialism, is that what the new school superintendent goals are? Is that what board member Gonzalez had in mind when she described the superintendent as “culturally knowledgeable and culturally sensitive?”

    Whatever happened to the concept of hiring someone based on their managerial and leadership abilities? Instead the district went the politically expedient affirmative action route and hired someone to cover all of their leftists views and ideas about how students should be taught.

    It was all very predictable.

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  11. Jack says:

    Did it occur to you that Shiels will live in SR during the week and commute back to Sacramento on the weekends just like she splits her time between Morgan Hill and Sacramento right now? Who cares where she is on the weekends as long as she is doing a good job as superintendent.

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  12. Teacher/Parent/Taxpayer says:

    As a current teacher, parent, and taxpayer in the Santa Rosa City School District I have a question for Ms. Shiels: What kind of a first impression do you think it makes when you accept this position, sign a three-year contract, and don’t make an immediate commitment to move closer to Santa Rosa than your current home in Sacramento? Spare me the justifications and the super-commuter details, you’ve made a negative first impression with a lot of people. Credibility is something you will need to do your job effectively, and you’ve gotten off to a poor start with me and a lot of others. I know with the hours I put in “after” school grading papers, attending athletic events, tutoring students in my classroom, etc. that I could not do this as effectively living in, commuting, or super-commuting from Sacramento as I can as a member of the local community. It is self-evident that you can be a more effective superintendent for this community by living in this community, not in Sacramento. I hope you succeed, but my first impression of you is that you lack the necessary common sense to do so.

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  13. Chuck G says:

    Come on, its not about the job, its about the salary,perks,bonuses,moving allowance,and a picture in our local paper once and a while.

    You can bet your bottom dollar when more school cuts come around, her job will be secure, and the teachers..uh no.

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  14. Don says:

    They hired someone who does not live in the community that she serves! I’m sure she can get real close to her employees and the kids from Sacramento. Is it also wise to hire someone that is in the No Child Left Behind pentlty program? If she ran that district into the program is she the one to run our district.

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