The first sign that things have changed at the Lucia Mar Unified School District office is small: Where the walls in former superintendent Jim Hogeboom's office were once a neutral mossy green, they are now a bright turquoise, with wave patterns along one wall and photos and signs adorning the others.
That's thanks to new superintendent Raynee Daley, who succeeded Hogeboom as the district's leader in July. Daley, who has worked for the district since 2011, was chosen from among five candidates this summer to fill the vacancy created by Hogeboom's departure to a Bay Area school district.
She will be leading the largest district in the county, with approximately 10,400 students at 18 schools, and an annual budget of approximately $94.2 million. Daley steps in as the district regroups following tense contract negotiations with the teachers union and an exodus by three top administrators.
In advance of the new school year that started Thursday, Daley took time out of her schedule to sit down and chat with The Tribune, and share a little more about herself, her plans for the district and what students and families can expect from an almost entirely new district administration.
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KL: Let's start with the basics — where did you grow up?
RD: I grew up in the valley, about three-and-a-half hours from here in Atwater, Calif. At the time it was an Air Force base town, and we were not Air Force, so we lived there while a lot of other people came and went. I got to know a lot of different kinds of people that way, and I loved it. I stayed there until I went to college, to UC Davis, and when I came back I was married. I lived in Turlock for several years, had my children there, and then moved back to Merced, which is six miles from Atwater — it's a pretty small area, really — and worked in a district there for 24 years until coming here.
KL: What was your family life like?
RD: My parents were hardworking, strong, faith-based people, who instilled in us that we had a lot of responsibility. My mother always said to us, 'for whom much is given, much is required.' They just provided a home that motivated us. My father was an immigrant from Portugal who didn't graduate from the eighth grade, and my mother was the daughter of an American Indian and she didn't graduate from high school. But they believed in education. And they produced four kids, all of whom have worked in the public school system at one time or the other.
KL: So what got you started on the education path?
RD: A couple of things. First of all, probably from as early as 12 or 13 years old, I began to teach Sunday school. So I was always with the little kids. I loved sitting down and reading to them, teaching them things. That was just my earliest experience as a teacher. I like to say I've been a teacher for a long time, even though not a teacher like our (district) teachers are.
Then in college I had the opportunity to be an intern at a middle school. My early college work was in psychology, so my goal was to become a marriage and family counselor at the time. I had the opportunity to go to this middle school while I was at Davis, as a counselor intern and I loved it — I really loved working with middle school kids. But I stayed on the path to go into marriage and family counseling, and during that time that I was in graduate school, I had the opportunity to teach reading. It was a program run by the university, and it was targeted at kids that had failed to learn how to read.
Later on we expanded to high school kids who had been incarcerated, and then eventually to adult English language learners, which was amazing too. I loved the value of watching before my eyes, what education does in a democratic society. All of these people somewhere along the line didn't fit with school as it was rolled out or didn't have the right opportunity, and it was just like 'Wow. This is what it's about.'
KL: But you were still trying to get into marriage and family counseling at the time?
RD: I got my masters, and then I went into a counseling internship, and I found I really didn't like it. It wasn't a fit for me as a professional — but I remembered the kids. So I decided what I really wanted to do was go back and work in high schools and be a counselor. I served as a counselor at Merced High School for a number of years, until I went into administration at that school and then a few after that.
KL: So what have your first few weeks as Lucia Mar superintendent been like?
RD: It's busy. The people in the Five Cities area, particularly our staff, are awesome people, and to interact with them and begin this process of saying 'what do you need?' and 'how do you get there?' — it's been a terrific process.
KL: What is your vision for the district?
RD: The vision isn't radically different from where we've been, but like I've said before, our work is kids. It's about providing those students with a learning environment that is safe, that engages them and inspires them, but that also is rigorous and relevant to the world that they are going to be out in.
KL: What about the lingering tension between the district and the Lucia Mar Unified Teachers Association? How do you plan to address that?
RD: It was a rough year. It was a rough year for everybody. The way I look at that is that it was regrettable that we went through all that, but it is also an opportunity to come together and as we move forward, bring all the voices to the table. Even the voices that we may not agree with. I really believe in a leadership model that is shared leadership. I'm informed by the great minds that we have, and I'm trying to surround myself with the very best people we have and then let them go down the right paths. It's about building teams, by building up people.
KL: Speaking of people, the district has an almost entirely new upper level administration. How is that going to impact this year?
RD: It's going to go well! Chuck Fiorentino in human resources, he's the veteran in his spot now, and he's a phenomenal person with wonderful integrity and tons of experience in Lucia Mar and as an educator. He's a person that by his nature is faithful to the contract, he guards that for both the employees' side and the district's side, so he's the perfect person to lead HR. I'm also looking forward to the opportunity to bring Andy Stenson back into the administration cabinet. He has a tremendous understanding of Lucia Mar and of how budgets and numbers work. Both of their abilities are going to make a phenomenal cabinet.
We do have an open curriculum spot, but we're going to sit on that for a year until we can get a more robust applicant pool. In the meantime, I have confidence that we have the people to continue to go down the paths that we need to go down. There is a lot of work to do, but — and I know this is corny —we love our work, and we're passionate about what we do. The opportunity to serve kids is a passion, and we want to do it well. It's kind of a fun thing.
Name: Raynee Daley
Education: Bachelor's degree in psychology from UC Davis; Masters degree in psychology from UC Davis; Doctorate in organizational leadership from the University of La Verne.
Experience: Merced Union High School District positions - deputy superintendent, business services; assistant superintendent, human resources; associate principal, Buhach Colony High School; counselor, Merced High School.
Atwater Elementary School principal; reading teacher in program sponsored by CSU Stanislaus.