The Cambrian

Longtime Coast Union High librarian, coach cites ‘rudderless’ district leadership in departure

Shannon Sutherland, librarian at Coast Union for 15 years, has quit her position to take a job at Cuesta College.
Shannon Sutherland, librarian at Coast Union for 15 years, has quit her position to take a job at Cuesta College. Courtesy Photo

It was a job she called “my love... my passion,” but longtime Coast Union High School librarian and coach Shannon Sutherland has resigned after 15 years to take a position at Cuesta College.

She said she “hit a ceiling” at Coast Union.

“I can’t be promoted, so I need to be in a position to set myself up a bit better,” she said. “At Cuesta, I’ll have a chance to grow… there will be opportunities.”

She alluded to the day-to-day treadmill of dealing with adolescents for 15 years as one of the reasons for her move.

“Anyone who doesn’t work in education doesn’t know what it’s like to be worn down by teenagers all day long,” she said.

Another big reason for deciding to leave was her questions surrounding the quality of Coast Unified School District’s leadership.

“We have the ideas, we have the enthusiasm, but it’s not making its way up to the highest levels of administration,” she said. “We have no goals. We’re rudderless. And that makes me very sad.”

District Superintendent Vicki Schumacher announced her resignation last week following a board of trustees meeting in the wake of a no confidence vote delivered by nearly all of the district’s teachers over the summer. The high school has also faced teacher cuts and reassignments. 

Sutherland said Coast Union is being “dismantled. We don’t have very many full time staff here. I don’t see how we could build something amazing with half our staff.”

One example she provided was a staff idea of adding viticulture to the existing emphasis on FFA and agriculture that wasn’t given serious consideration by the district.

“Viticulture blends beautifully with our surrounding environment, our culture and our economics in the county,” Sutherland said. “Between agriculture and viticulture, those two pathways would have really attracted students to this campus.”

“Ideas have been talked down instead of listening to what staff wanted,” she added.

She said the staff at Coast Union is like “a big Italian family. We’re loud. We air it all. We wear our hearts on our sleeves. The community sees us arguing, but we’re not arguing with each other, we’re arguing against the powers that be because we want to do some things — to do things better. We want to make things great.”

During her tenure with Coast Union, Sutherland has done far more than to serve as a librarian. She has stepped in to coach tennis, golf, basketball and cross country — sometimes when the school had no other coaches to handle those sports.

Growing up in Cambria, her original interest was history, sparked by frequent visits to Hearst Castle. As a young girl, she rode her bike up the dirt path to the castle, which was not “as regimented as it is now.”

That offered her the freedom to swim in the Neptune Pool, enjoy perusing the grounds and learn the history of the castle.

After graduating from Midland School in Los Olivos, Sutherland attended Scripps College (part of the five-school Claremont College system) and majored in history. Her dream at that time was to become director of a museum, in particular, the director of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, she said.

At Cuesta, Sutherland will be working in the library’s computer lab and will be involved with the community college’s distance learning program.

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