Brad Coscarelli, longtime Santa Rosa school leader, running for county school superintendent
Brad Coscarelli has often told people about the imaginary scenario that captures his vision as a leader in education in Sonoma County.
“My dream is to be traveling somewhere, and … for somebody to hear that I’m from Sonoma County,’” said Coscarelli, 52, a teacher and principal in Santa Rosa since 1999.
In the scenario, he said, the person would say next, “I’ve heard of Sonoma County. I hear they have really great schools.”
First as a teacher at Herbert Slater Middle School, then as principal of Santa Rosa High School and, since 2018, as principal of Hidden Valley Elementary, Coscarelli said he has tried to do his part to move the needle in the direction of his dream.
And now, he has his eye on a new opportunity to advocate for local students: running for Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools.
“I want to support the students and the teachers and the staff members and the families of Sonoma County,” he said. “Do I think I have the best experience? Yes.”
Coscarelli said his focus will be on relationship-building, both with school leaders and families, to boost the chances for success for a greater number of students in Sonoma County.
Amie Carter, who is the assistant superintendent of education services for the Marin County Office of Education, also has announced she is running for the seat. Steve Herrington, who has been county superintendent since 2010, will not seek reelection, he announced in October.
The primary election will occur June 7. A November runoff would only occur if no candidate receives more than half the vote.
It was August or September of 2021, Coscarelli said, when he accepted a dinner invitation from “community leaders,” including teachers, classified employees and school board members. They told him they had a career move in mind for him: running for the county superintendent post in 2022.
He was taken aback, he said. It wasn’t a move he had previously been considering.
But a few months later, Coscarelli’s campaign website is now launched, his core issues defined and his first endorsements already garnered.
The California Teachers Association and the Santa Rosa Teachers Association have endorsed Coscarelli, said Kathryn Howell, president of SRTA.
“We’re very proud of the fact that Brad has worked at Santa Rosa City Schools for as long as he has,” Howell said. “We really value his knowledge of teaching and his appreciation for the point of view of the teacher. If he wins this election, he would step into that role, looking at, how does any policy help teachers of the county? How do we help the kids by making sure the teachers getting what they need?”
Coscarelli spent 10 years as a shop teacher at Slater Middle School, teaching courses in wood shop and metalworking, among others. For most of that time, he didn’t think he would ever leave, he said. He loved connecting with students, and for some, his were the only classes where they were engaged and successful.
He began pursuing his administrative credential at Sonoma State University after Slater’s then-principal encouraged him to get involved with administration.
He first put that credential to use as an assistant principal at Santa Rosa High School, which has the largest single-campus student population in the county. Over 15 years at the school, including time as vice principal and eventually the principal position for eight years, Coscarelli worked to meet students’ diverse needs, both in the classroom and beyond it, he said.
One example he gave was the pantry he established at Santa Rosa High to help students satisfy basic needs, such as food and toiletries. He also managed the master class schedules and oversaw budgets, including alumni and community donations, for the benefit of the campus.
Coscarelli also can recount in detail the ways the school community pulled together in the immediate aftermath of the 2017 firestorm. His own family evacuated from their Fountaingrove home to spend the night at Santa Rosa High. In the weeks that followed, he and his staff worked to get displaced families resources and finish out the school year.
The following year, Coscarelli went to Hidden Valley, which had experienced the total loss of its satellite campus on Parker Hill Road in the fires. He was “already in love with” the school, he said, since each of his four children had already attended there.
His 30 years of education experience helped shape his priorities while vying for the county superintendent position.
For his campaign, Coscarelli has outlined several of those priorities, including advocating for increased education funding, fostering student leadership opportunities and exploring the possibility of consolidating Sonoma County’s 40 public school districts, “to work better for students and parents,” according to his campaign website.
Amid unprecedented and ever-compounding challenges for schools as the pandemic drags on and declining enrollment continues, Coscarelli struck an optimistic tone about the chance to make a positive difference for local students and improve their outcomes.
“I love Sonoma County,” he said. “And I know we have great schools, and I know we have students that are in need, teachers that are trying their hardest. But I know we can do better.”
You can reach Staff Writer Kaylee Tornay at 707-521-5250 or email@example.com. On Twitter @ka_tornay.