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September 26, 2022

A ‘super’ smooth transition

With a campus map in hand, Jean Burns Slater conquered her first
week at the San Benito High School District, describing her
transition into the district superintendent’s chair as


With a campus map in hand, Jean Burns Slater conquered her first week at the San Benito High School District, describing her transition into the district superintendent’s chair as “smooth.”

Slater, whose first day as superintendent was Monday, moved into her new office Sunday to give retiring superintendent Richard Lowry time to move out of the office Saturday.

“I didn’t want to be breathing down his neck while he was packing,” she said. “… It’s difficult when two people are sitting in the same chair.”

While Slater was in her new office Monday, Lowry worked through Wednesday, allowing a smooth transition for Slater.

Lowry introduced her to people and gave her advice about the job. He drove her around the construction site of the SBHS freshman campus and took her for a quiet lunch Tuesday at San Juan Oaks Golf Club.

Slater’s Thursday started at 7 a.m. when she attended the SBHS Student Council meeting.

“The students run those meetings. They’re doing an excellent job,” she said.

At 9 a.m. she met with Dave Matuszak, director of the Santa Clara Regional Occupational Program, to learn about SBHS’s ROP program and get background information for a meeting Feb. 12. Matuszak told Slater to “come in with an open mind and a smile.”

This meeting set the tone for Slater’s day. She wanted to learn more about the ROP program, so she visited the Career Center and toured the south side of campus where the school’s vocational classes are located.

At 10:30 a.m. she set off to tour the Career Center on campus. Career Specialist Jeanie Churchill and ROP Specialist Sonja Romero gave Slater an overview of what the center offers. The school offers 45 ROP classes in 16 different courses.

Slater, Churchill and Romero discussed how the school was handling military requests for student information and the big demand for high-school tutors for younger students.

“We all need tutoring,” Slater said. “Dick Lowry tutored me.”

Around 11 a.m., Slater headed to the south side of the campus to see the vocational classes in motion. She watched Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps cadets undergo uniform inspections, then watched students sand various parts of their projects in a Wood 1 class.

By 11:30 a.m., Slater was meeting with Steve Delay, the school district’s director of finance and operations. The pair discussed the progress of construction of the freshman campus and Slater proposed a work session for her and the Board of Trustees in March.

Delay said decisions need to be made regarding the city’s sewer moratorium, the state’s budget crunch, city and county use of the freshman campus facilities, annexing county land on the site into the city, the construction of new tennis courts and clearing an area on the freshman campus.

“It looks like there’s a lot to worry about,” Slater said.

Time ran out and Slater and Delay decided to continue the meeting another day.

When students were released for lunch at 12:15 p.m., Slater walked around campus, still orienting herself to the campus. She walked to Baler Alley and surveyed the “roach coach” lunch wagon.

“The students here are so friendly, polite and very respectful,” Slater said, comparing SBHS to other schools where she’s worked. “They dress much more appropriately. It’s not like walking down the hall and running into Britney Spears.”

Slater said SBHS has a larger campus compared to the other schools she oversaw as associate superintendent in San Rafael, but its population is similar.

At 12:45 p.m., Slater went to lunch and prepared for a meeting with a board member at 1:30 p.m.

Slater admits that she’s taking over a school district at a precarious time with shortfalls in the state and federal budgets, so she got down to business her first day. On Monday she met with Principal Karen Schroder, was introduced to the Hollister Rotary Club by Superintendent of County Schools Tim Foley and attended the district’s monthly staff meeting. She also began her first of five individual meetings with SBHSD board members.

“I’m the newcomer. I want to make sure I understand what the core values are,” Slater said. “Among these are safety, athletics and ROP (Regional Occupational Program).”

On Tuesday, Slater met with the administrative council – similar to a presidential cabinet for a superintendent – met with Hollister Police Chief Bill Pierpoint and attended a medical Joint Powers Agreement meeting, where it was discussed how the district will provide medical benefits to its employees with the increasing cost of medical insurance.

“(This school year) the insurance went up 13 to 19 percent,” Slater said. “(Next school year) it will increase 24 to 36 percent. We couldn’t afford that.”

On Wednesday, Slater met with three more board members, interim Athletic Director Dave Tari, California Teachers Association Local President Clete Bradford and district Personnel Director Evelyn Muro – a work day that began at 9 a.m. and ended at 7:15 p.m.

Even though Slater is an administrator now, she began her career as a teacher in San Luis Obispo. She said she wanted to come to the SBHSD to reach more students.

“You can offer more change as a superintendent than in the classroom,” she said. “When I was a teacher, I knew I would affect 150 students every year, but my mentor told me that (as a superintendent) I could affect the teachers that affect the classroom.”

Staff Report
A staff member edited this provided article.

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