Santa Rosa City Schools has tapped Santa Clara educator Socorro Shiels as the district's new superintendent.
Shiels, who turns 41<NO1><NO> 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."