San Luis Coastal Unified School District favors Bay Area educator

San Luis Coastal school board members have narrowed their search for a new superintendent to a final candidate: Eric Prater, the superintendent of the Byron Union School District in Contra Costa County.

He oversees the small Bay Area school district, which has two elementary schools, one middle school and a growing preschool program.

The Byron district has 1,750 students enrolled. By comparison, San Luis Coastal has about 6,900 students and is the second-largest school district in San Luis Obispo County.

San Luis Coastal board members interviewed six candidates before narrowing the search to two, both of whom were interviewed again Saturday. In all, 34 people applied for the job.

Superintendent Ed Valentine retired Wednesday after more than five years in the position. School board President Walter Millar and members Mark Buchman and Kathryn Eisdendrath-Rogers will spend today speaking with officials at the Byron district and interviewing people in that community.

If their findings and final interview with Prater go well, Millar said, the board would likely make him an offer.

A formal decision is expected to be made at a July 13 meeting of the San Luis Coastal Unified School District board.

Prater is a graduate of St. Mary’s College of California with a background in economic and organizational leadership. He has a doctorate in organizational management from the University of LaVerne. He is married with three sons, according to the Byron school district’s website.

More information about Prater was not available Wednesday.

Ken Jacopetti, assistant superintendent of student services at Byron, said Prater has been successful in creating intervention programs for struggling students and has focused on closing the so-called achievement gap.

The achievement gap is a term referring to observed disparity on a number of academic performance measures among groups of students, especially by gender, race or ethnicity, ability, and social or economic status.

The Byron district, Jacopetti said, encompasses a diverse group of students, including a large migrant population of English-language learners and students of higher social and economic status.

Prater is also known for being a strong leader in curriculum and instruction and for his strong communication skills, Jacopetti said.

“He is a guy that you will see in the classrooms and on school campuses,” Jacopetti said.

Millar said that Prater’s focus in closing the achievement gap was a strong draw for the school board.

“We were intent on finding a superintendent who hopefully would remain with us for a while and who was at a point in their career that they would have fresh insights and ideas,” Millar said.

Millar said he sees the transition from Byron to a larger school district as a growth opportunity for Prater as well as San Luis Coastal, which would gain someone who offers a new perspective on future issues.

“I think he is going to energize the district,” Millar said. “It will be a matter of scaling up programs that he is familiar with rather than reinventing things.”