Longtime Los Altos School District administrator Sandra McGonagle is set to replace retiring Superintendent Jeff Baier at the end of the school year, with the school board expected to approve her contract at a meeting on Monday, April 25.
McGonagle has served as the district's assistant superintendent in charge of curriculum and instruction since 2015 and previously was the principal of Santa Rita Elementary School and then Blach Intermediate School. Before that she worked in the Cupertino Union School District from 1997 to 2010.
Board President Steve Taglio told the Voice that he and his fellow board members were pleased McGonagle chose to apply for the top job, which she is slated to begin on July 1.
"Sandra was, we felt, the strongest candidate for a lot of reasons – her depth of knowledge of the district being a strong plus," Taglio said.
Current Superintendent Baier announced in February that he plans to retire after a dozen years leading the school district. Longtime Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Randy Kenyon has also announced plans to retire at the end of this school year.
According to Taglio, trying to maintain continuity with two top officials leaving was important, but wouldn't have been the deciding factor in choosing McGonagle if she wasn't already the strongest candidate.
The district hired Leadership Associates to conduct the superintendent search process. Five candidates completed applications, Taglio said.
Becoming superintendent wasn't originally McGonagle's goal, she told the Voice, but over the past year she said she's been thinking more seriously about whether it was a role she wanted to pursue. When Baier announced his retirement a few months ago, she decided to apply.
"What excited me about it is to continue the great work that we've been doing in our district – and to be able to lead that work," McGonagle said.
Part of what Taglio said impressed the board about her candidacy was the work she has done during the pandemic to ensure education continued regardless of the format. According to Taglio, McGonagle showed foresight and the ability to adapt to changing situations.
For her part, McGongale said she is hopeful that this is the tail end of the pandemic and that schools will be able to get back to what they were doing before COVID-19 hit. In her new role, McGonagle wants to work with the school board to lead that effort.
The district's priorities include expanding its STEM program, increasing support for both struggling and high achieving students, hiring and retaining teachers, and focusing on both student and staff mental health, McGonagle said.
"Our story for the last two years has been about the pandemic and our response to the pandemic," McGonagle said. "It's time to get back to really what we're about – educating our kids."
In the next few months, the district will look to hire a replacement for McGonagle's position of assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, with the goal to have a candidate picked by the end of the school year.
To view information on the Monday, April 25, school board meeting where McGonagle's contract is scheduled to be considered, visit the school district's website.