School superintendent leaving district
Superintendent Pat Gemma has decided he will resign from the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District. After a four and a half-year run with the district, Gemma was offered a superintendent job at the Sequoia Union High School District in the Bay Area.
“I was a high school principal for 10 years, I know how they think,” he said, referring to his tenure at neighboring Alhambra High School. “I have a lot of empathy for them and I know what they’re thinking. It’s a very good match at this point in my career.”
Gemma was expected to be approved by the Sequoia Union High School Board of Trustees on Wednesday night, after the Sierra Sun deadline. His last official day with Tahoe Truckee will be Feb. 7, and he starts at Sequoia on Feb. 10.
“It’s wonderful for him,” said district board member Cindy Gustafson. “I was on the committee that hired him. His energy really stood out from the other applicants, but there was a question at the time: How long would he be with us? We knew this was his first superintendence and that he would be moving on eventually.”
The committee members assumed, correctly, that Gemma would stick around for three to five years, Gustafson said.
When asked why he was leaving Tahoe Truckee, Gemma replied, “I was recruited by Sequoia. It just seemed like the right thing to do.”
Included in Gemma’s new job will be a significant pay annual raise – $167,000 versus $123,000 from Tahoe Truckee – and a housing element, with which Sequoia will help him find and purchase a home.
Over the past few months, Gemma had been applying for superintendencies. He said that he was only interested in jobs that paid significantly more than Tahoe Truckee.
“I like it [at Tahoe Truckee] so much that it would take such a change as that for me to leave,” he said.
Gemma said his job in the Sequoia district should present new and different challenges than those that he encountered at TTUSD. First, Sequoia is a “Basic Aid” district, which means that local property taxes generate more revenue for average daily attendance (ADA) than the capped state funding system.
Where a district like TTUSD is capped at $4,800 per student, Sequoia boasts a per-student budget of more than $7,000.
“[Because of the budget cuts,] the state may work over the Basic Aid districts,” he said.
Also, there is a greater socioeconomic stratification at Sequoia. It may be a challenge, he said, to decide on the curriculum for students coming from varied backgrounds.
Sequoia Board of Trustees member Don Gibson said that if Gemma is approved, Gibson will be pleased to have him on board.
“His strongest attribute is his ability to work with others,” Gibson said. “I think he will be a great asset.”
Although Gemma is resigning from his superintendence in the district and plans to sell his Truckee home, he doesn’t want to cut off all ties completely.
“I would like to think that I have made a few friends who have an extra bedroom, so I can visit,” he said.
In Dr. Pat Gemma’s tenure at Tahoe Truckee Unified School District…
— The district has written and received more than $1 million in funds for staff development and teacher training.
— After a very serious budget crisis in the mid-to-late ’90s, the district’s budget has a healthy reserve.
— In a highly contentious election, candidates jockeyed for three school board positions, with the three incumbents running and two newcomers bringing a viable threat to unseat the incumbents. The three incumbents were re-elected.
Gemma considered that time to be one of the biggest challenges in his term with the school district. “With different board members, a great deal of superintendent time would have gone into training those (new) board members,” Gemma said.
— The district and Prosser Creek Charter School have tried to mitigate ongoing issues about the school’s growth and financial future.
— The focus of curriculum development has shifted toward helping teachers design lessons that promote students’ deeper understanding, rather than simple memorization of fact.
— Voters passed more than $900,000 in capital improvement bonds to rebuild inadequate school facilities.
— Voters renewed the parcel tax for another four-year cycle, creating $2.6 million for educational program enhancement each year.
— Student achievement on standardized tests remains higher than state and national averages.
— Service learning and character education have been emphasized and integrated into the curriculum at all grade levels.
— All employee group salary schedules have been raised to the median of comparable school districts.
— The infrastructure of the maintenance and transportation departments has been rebuilt through restructuring of personnel and the long overdue purchase of inadequate vehicles and equipment.
— Each year, high percentages of graduates continue their education in programs beyond high school. In June 2002, a reported 83 percent of Tahoe Truckee students continued their education beyond high school.