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By Dave Boyce
Almanac Staff Writer
The transition coming to the top of the Sequoia Union High School District has the earmarks of being seamless when a new superintendent takes over in July.
The governing board announced at its March 17 meeting that it had appointed current assistant superintendent and business officer James Lianides, 56, to take over from Superintendent Patrick Gemma when Mr. Gemma retires on June 30 after seven years heading the district.
The board's vote was unanimous, district spokeswoman Bettylu Smith said.
Mr. Gemma hired Mr. Lianides in 2008 to replace Ed LaVigne, who took a job back East, and Mr. Lianides has since had a high profile on many district issues.
The board decided to limit its search to candidates who were already district employees
"We are extremely fortunate to have (Mr.) Lianides ready to succeed superintendent Gemma," board president Olivia Martinez said in a statement. "... he will contribute new ideas and leadership to the upward trajectory achieved during Dr. Gemma's tenure."
"There'll be no down time during this pivotal transition, which is particularly important now, with the significant challenges we currently face," Ms. Martinez continued. "Transition to (Mr.) Lianides promises to be smooth, without interruption to the ongoing work and achievements of our outstanding staff and excellent schools."
Since his arrival, Mr. Lianides activities have included:
■ Preparing the annual budget, now at $100 million, amid widespread budget cutting by public agencies.
■ Overseeing capital projects such as the completion of the new theater at Menlo-Atherton High School in 2009.
■ Participating in the district's career technical education initiative.
■ Participating in the effort to make the district greener environmentally, including recycling and composting initiatives.
■ Managing the district's $6.5 million loss when Lehman Brothers investment bank went bankrupt in 2008. (That the district was invested in Lehman at all was the responsibility of the county treasurer.)
■ Being at Mr. Gemma's right hand in dealing with charter schools, including the effort to place Everest Public High School in East Palo Alto rather than Redwood City where Everest officials wanted to be and now are.
Mr. Lianides came to the Sequoia district from the Pacifica School District, where he was the superintendent.
He lives in and grew up in Redwood City and graduated from Woodside High School, which is also the alma mater of his two sons, Ms. Smith said. He is fluent in Spanish.
Mr. Lianides has a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of California at Berkeley, a master's degree in educational administration from San Jose State University, and a doctorate in "leadership for educational equity" from a joint program run by UC Berkeley and California State University, Ms. Smith said.
He headed schools in Mountain View and Half Moon Bay and taught bilingual classes in Los Angeles and Redwood City, Ms. Smith said. As the business officer for the Pacifica School District, he was recognized by the state's association of school administrators.