New superintendent chosen by Sonoma Valley school board

Jeanette Rodriguez-Chien was appointed as the new superintendent of Sonoma Valley Unified School District, pending approval of her contract at the board meeting Thursday.|

Jeanette Rodriguez-Chien has been named the new superintendent of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District, pending board approval at its meeting on Thursday, May 11.

The selection of Rodriguez-Chien, who has been deputy superintendent for the San Diego County Office of Education since July 2020, was announced by the school district on Monday. She would begin serving in her new role on July 1, 2023.

“After a thorough statewide search process led by Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, Dr. Rodriguez-Chien was identified as the top candidate because she embodies the qualifications most desired in a superintendent,” said Anne Ching, president of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees, in a news release.

Ching said that Rodriguez-Chien has expertise in curriculum development and implementation, English language learner programs, mental health programs, early literacy, special education, accelerated learner programs, as well as strategic planning and data analysis.

“Not only is Dr. Rodriguez-Chien bilingual; she also has a deep understanding of the challenges faced by culturally diverse communities. We are thrilled to have someone with the breadth and depth of experience to lead our district,” Ching said.

Rodriguez-Chien would succeed Dr. Elizabeth Kaufman, who has served as acting since the sudden departure of superintendent Dr. Adrian Palazuelos in November while also continuing in her role as associate superintendent of business services. Kaufman was a finalist for the position, but commended Rodriguez-Chien.

“I am very excited about her selection,” Kaufman said. “Her expertise and qualifications are a great fit for our community. I look forward to having her head our team!”

Laura Monterosso, co-president of the Valley of the Moon Teachers Association, also welcomed Rodriguez-Chien.

“We’re really looking forward to working with our new superintendent,” she said.

Rodriguez-Chien’s contract, which still needs to be approved by the board, calls for an annual salary of $241,00 for three years, ending June 30, 2026. Palazuelos was paid $230,000 per year.

She expressed enthusiasm and excitement about coming to Sonoma Valley.

“I am thrilled about the opportunity to work with the Sonoma Valley students, staff, parents and community,” she said in the news release. “I am looking forward to building relationships with people, understanding the desires of the various stakeholders and ensuring our district prepares students for their future endeavors.

“I understand that there is work to be done, but I am committed and embrace the opportunities to create relevant learning experiences for students and further develop a culture of collaboration. I am looking forward to Sonoma being my home and connecting with this wonderful community.”

Nineteen candidates were considered for the superintendent position, and the board interviewed four of them. After Rodriguez-Chien was selected unanimously by the board, Ching and Trustee John Kelly worked with William Tunick, an attorney for the district, to develop the initial contract. Then, Ching worked with Rodriguez-Chien, Tunick, and Rodriguez-Chien's counsel over the past week to finalize terms.

“It is possible the board may change some terms, and it is also possible the board may approve the contract as presented,” Kelly said.

Kelly said that he is looking forward to working with Rodriguez-Chien.

“Dr. Rodriguez-Chien is familiar with all of the challenges faced by SVUSD,” he said. “In the near future, our district will make a series of tough decisions on realignment that will require SVUSD to carefully balance the needs of the community and the fundamental right of all our students to a high-quality public education.

“I believe Dr. Rodriguez-Chien will, given her strong background in site administration and educational management, guide the district through this process with equity and fairness as her primary concerns. Our community will benefit from Jeannette's hard-won expertise, and I look forward to the start of her service.”

A public-school educator for more than 30 years, she started her career as a bilingual classroom teacher and subsequently served in several capacities, including school site principal, director of curriculum and instruction, chief academic officer and assistant superintendent before becoming deputy superintendent for the San Diego Office of Education.

Rodriguez-Chien received a bachelor’s degree in educational leadership and psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles and a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Southern California.

The Sonoma Valley Unified School District’s Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday will begin at 5 p.m. at the district office, located at 17850 Railroad Ave. in Sonoma. It will also be accessible by Zoom; check for details on the district’s homepage.

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