Three superintendents in four years would ordinarily indicate a school district in turmoil. But the Old Adobe Union School District is anything but an ordinary school district.
The five-elementary school east-side school district is unique for a number of reasons. For openers each school — Old Adobe, La Tercera, Loma Vista, Miwok Valley, Old Adobe and Sonoma Mountain — is a charter school and each has a different academic focus. In addition, the school district is healthy financially and is in the process of completing improvement to each school financed by voter-approved bond money.
It all adds up to a healthy and happy school district for new superintendent Craig Conte. He replaces Jason Yamashiro who left to become superintendent of the Dixie School District in San Rafael.
Conte is no stranger to Old Adobe. This is his 23rd year in the district, 18 as a sixth-grade teacher at La Tercera Elementary School and the last four as Director of Curriculum for the district. He has also been director of the district’s popular Outdoor Education program for 20 years.
Conte is officially the “interim” superintendent, working on a one-year contract.
He has been with the district through the lean times of furlough days and the closing of Bernard Eldredge to the good times of bond measure funds for capital improvements, the reopening of Bernard Eldridge as Loma Vista dual immersion charter school, and today’s budget surplus. He has seen the transition of all the schools in the district to charter schools, each with its own unique focus, and the emergence of La Tercera as a STEM school.
“I’ve inherited a district that is in great shape,” Conte said. “It is now a matter of continuing to move forward.
He said that after the lean recession years, the district is now “in great financial shape.” He gives much credit to Business Services Director Lynda Williams who he calls “a great CFO.”
Thanks to a successful bond measure drive spearheaded by former superintendent Cindy Pilar, major improvements have been made to each school in the district.
Those improvements continued this summer with new playground structures at Sonoma Mountain and Old Adobe, giving every school in the district new and modern play structures. New portable buildings have been added at La Tercera and Old Adobe, although those may not be quite ready for the start of the school year. A new track has been installed at Old Adobe and tile mosaics have been added at Sonoma Mountain.
Each of the Old Adobe schools is well equipped with educational technology. “Larry Black (technology director) has set up our technology that puts us way ahead of many districts,” Conte said.
The superintendent noted that the district schools will be concentrating on writing this year, using a new program called Write Tool. This after the district went to a new math program called Mathematics Adoption last year.
All district principals return and all have been at their respective schools for at least two years, but Conte will have to find a replacement for himself as curriculum director. Until someone is found, he will continue to do that job as well as handle the superintendent’s duties.
One of the challenges Conte will face during the upcoming school year is negotiating a new contract with the district teachers. As part of the district administration for the last four years, it is a situation he is familiar with, but, as he points out, “It is different as the superintendent.