District's new operations head brings teaching, administrative experience to the table

When it comes to school district business and finance, La Cañada Unified's new chief business and operations officer, Mark Evans, is sort of a triple threat.

In addition to being a numbers guy, Evans has worked for years as a teacher in multiple subjects and also as a school administrator. Because of his varied background, he's able to keep one eye on the bottom line without losing sight of the people and programs behind the numbers.

"When principals have programs, I know what that account means as far as people go — I can connect those two things," he says. "Because I've been the principal trying to get everything new for my school."

Evans joined the district on July 1, replacing Stephen Hodgson, a consultant who came back from semi-retirement after his successor, Ruben Rojas, left in July 2013 to take a position in Gov. Jerry Brown's cabinet.

He came to La Cañada from the Castaic Union School District, where he served as director of fiscal services for five years. Before that, he held administrative and teaching positions in the same district, working his way up from middle-grade English, math, science and physical education to teacher on special assignment and assistant principal in charge of special projects.

In 2003, Evans became principal at Castaic Elementary School, where he implemented a schoolwide academic intervention program, oversaw state testing throughout the district and worked with the PTA to raise more than $10,000 through energy-efficiency programs.

Despite recent leadership turnover within LCUSD's finance department, Evans is looking forward to settling into the job and getting to know more about the La Cañada community, which he says is similar to Castaic Union in size but comprises a different, more involved demographic.

"The whole city has an educational bent," he says. "There's just a strong sense of education in this community, a level of awareness."

Diane Clinton, LCUSD's director of fiscal services, was on the panel that ultimately selected Evans for the job. She says his personality and experience at a similar-sized California school district made him "a good fit" for the position.

"You can do the position without being a teacher, but there's an advantage to having that experience," Clinton said. "With the people at the sites, they feel more comfortable talking with someone who's been in the trenches."

LCUSD Supt. Wendy Sinnette said as the district begins its slow climb out of recession-era financing, Evans is in a good position to work with administrators on new programs and priorities.

"To have someone who comes from the instructional side of the house in this position is a real rarity," she added. "(And) he brings a lot of personality to the position. I think he's going to take us to a new place."

An active cyclist and hiker who climbed Tanzania's Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2012, Evans says he likes exploring places and getting off the beaten path. In that spirit, he's already visited all four school campuses, speaking with stakeholders and getting a lay of the land for use in his role as maintenance and operations chief.

Now that the school year has begun, he hopes to make more inroads into the community.

"I'd really love to see what's out there, and I hope to spend more time with the principals," he says. "The district, from what I've seen, has a very good concept of looking ahead — that's something I want to talk about with people and learn more about."

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