Diana Abbati, principal and superintendent of the Woodside Elementary School District since mid-2008, has announced plans to take over as superintendent of the Los Gatos Union School District.
Ms. Abbati informed the Woodside school board at a special meeting at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday (April 20), board President Bettina Pike told the Almanac. Her resignation is effective June 30.
With 3,500 students and one middle school and four elementary schools, the Los Gatos district is considerably larger than Woodside's 500 kids and one school. "Every district has its challenges," Ms. Pike said. "If anyone was qualified and determined to meet them (at Woodside), Ms. Abbati was."
The resignation was a surprise, Ms. Pike said. "I'll be very sad to see her go," she added. "She loved our children. She was (usually found) out on the campus surrounded by children who really adored her."
And the parents? "Our parents generally are very successful, motivated, passionate people," Ms. Pike said. They want the best for their children and the community, she said, and, thanks to their wealth, many of them have the time to get more involved than is typical in the education of their children.
Having that time on their hands "can be double edged sword," Ms. Pike said. "We have to make sure that their passions are channeled in the right direction."
Asked if that aspect of Ms. Abbati's job weighed on her, Ms. Pike said that if it did, it didn't show. "I don't think Diana ever saw it as a burden. She is so well equipped to handle anything that comes up. Los Gatos is lucky to get her."
Woodside Elementary regularly scores in the highest ranks in terms of academic performance statewide. The school, Ms. Pike said, needs a strong and dedicated leader in keeping with its strong and dedicated staff, and Ms. Abbati has made some "great hires" in replacing teachers, most of whom have retired.
"I believe we have the deepest bench in terms of the administrative team and teaching staff," Ms. Pike added. "It's a loss that she goes but the school is resilient and in the best place that it's been in a long time."
Finding someone new
Ms. Pike said the board would not rule out a national search for a new superintendent, but noted that the district cannot afford to offer to pay for the cost of relocation.
The district will tap the Woodside community for ideas and recommendations.
"The future remains very bright. I think we are an incredibly attractive district and we'll find someone who really wants to be with us," she said. "My sense is that we will probably end up with someone local from a like district."
The district has combined the role of superintendent and principal in one person for at least the last three people who held the job. Will that hold true this time? "I think that's something that the board is going to have to discuss," Ms. Pike said.
Parents visiting a school for a matter of concern often want to talk to the person at the top of the hierarchy, which in most schools would be the principal. But at Woodside, with one school and one administrative office, a principal and a superintendent would be sitting a few doors away from each other if not in adjacent offices.
"Being very clear about the separate roles and responsibilities can be a challenge if both people are sitting in the same place," Ms. Pike said. "It's difficult not to have a certain amount of redundancy between the two positions."
To see the announcement from the Los Gatos Union School District, click here.