Paso Robles school district poised to hire new superintendent

Chris Williams
Chris Williams

After a vetting process that included input from teachers and members of the public, the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District has offered the superintendent position to Chris Williams, an assistant superintendent of human resources at Central Unified School District in Fresno County.

“He’s a solid leader,” said school board president Katy Griffin. “He’s student-driven, student-focused and student-centered.”

While Williams has accepted the district’s offer, the hiring still requires the approval of the school board, which will first take public comments about the decision during its meeting Tuesday.

If hired, as expected, Williams will succeed Kathy McNamara, who retired at the end of the most recent school year after serving as superintendent since 2007.

The school board chose Williams after a screening process that involved members of the school board and a hand-picked group of 20 community members.

“They did an extensive vetting of him,” said interim Superintendent James Brescia, who will become superintendent of county schools in January.

Community members who offered input included current and past teachers, other school staffers, members of the business community, a City Council member and Latino leaders. School employees in the group were selected by their unions.

“It was a pretty diverse group of stakeholders,” Brescia said.

Other community members were invited to meet the four finalists, Brescia said, and several did, including a custodian and an accountant.

Brescia said members of the public and school board members were clear on their preference — Williams. “It was pretty consistent,” he said.

Williams has served as a teacher, athletic coach, vice principal and principal before his most recent position. While working as the principal at Rio Vista Middle School, he was named Fresno County Administrator of the Year.

A graduate of Fresno State University who earned his master’s degree from National University, Williams is also an adjunct professor at Fresno State.

If the council approves his hiring, he will start sometime in September. The contract for the position — which pays $170,000 per year — is posted on the district’s website.

The Central Unified School District does have some demographic similarities to Paso Robles schools, Brescia said, but it’s considerably larger — 16,000 students compared to 6,400 in Paso Robles.

Other finalists included Rich Merlo, superintendent of Corcoran Unified School District; Hugo Pedroza, assistant superintendent of human resources at Lompoc Unified School District; and Cynthia Toews, assistant superintendent and special education director at St. Helena Unified School District.