Sheehan hired by Covina school district

The Covina-Valley Unified School District hired Glendale Supt. Dick Sheehan Tuesday evening, returning the veteran educator to his roots but also to a district under fire for a series of recent sex scandals.

He replaces Catherine Nichols, who announced in March she would retire. Nichols, whose husband Terry Nichols is leaving his post as superintendent of the Duarte Unified School District at the end of the school year, was not in attendance at the CVUSD meeting, as his retirement party was the same evening.

“Glendale’s a great district, but I’m very excited to be coming back to Covina-Valley,” said Sheehan, 51, who worked at Covina-Valley for nearly two decades before coming to Glendale Unified. He is also a resident of Covina.

Sheehan’s base salary will be $259,000, slightly less than the current $266,500 he earns in Glendale Unified. Covina-Valley officials declined to make Nichols’ contract available, stating they were unable to locate it.

The San Gabriel Valley district, which made national news earlier this year for a series of inappropriate teacher-student relationships, called for a special meeting Tuesday evening to vote on Sheehan’s hire.

He has deep ties to the district, having worked there for 17 years as well as having attended Covina-Valley schools from kindergarten through high school. In addition, two of his three sons currently attend South Hills High, with his oldest in college.

He worked as Covina-Valley’s director of curriculum and instruction, was principal of Northview High School, and taught and coached at Covina High School, where he coached a football CIF championship and won coach of the year honors in 1995.

Covina-Valley board member Darrell Myrick said Sheehan’s local knowledge made him the top candidate.

“He understands the culture of this school district… and this is home,” Myrick said. “Every district has issues and there are bumps, and you run through good times and you run through times that are a little more difficult, but he is a calming influence. His management style is very calm, very direct, and get things fixed and get things done, and that’s what we’re looking for, besides being just a brilliant educator.”

Sheehan took the helm of Glendale Unified after working as its deputy superintendent for a few years in 2010, replacing Michael Escalante.

Since then, he’s overseen Glendale’s 30 schools and 26,000 students, with 42% of Glendale’s students from low-income homes, making them eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals.

At Covina-Valley Unified, he will oversee 17 schools, and 12,200 students, with 68% of them eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

The Glendale school district’s 2013 score on the Academic Performance Index, the most recent available, is 861, higher than Covina-Valley Unified’s score of 800.

More recently, all of Glendale Unified’s eight secondary schools won Gold Ribbon Awards earlier this month from the California Department of Education, a significant showing in the program, which replaces the former California Distinguished Schools program.The Covnia-Valley district won no such awards.

Lower scores and fewer awards are hardly the only issues facing Covina-Valley.

Earlier this month, the son of a Covina teachers’ union leader was arrested on suspicion of molesting a 14-year-old girl during a middle school class trip to Catalina.

In March, two teachers pleaded not guilty to their involvement in a beach party where high school students were allegedly provided with cocaine. One of the two women is accused of having sex with a 17-year-old at the San Clemente bacchanal while the other acted as a matchmaker.

And in January, a male girl’s wrestling coach at South Hills High was accused of having sex with a high school student. The part-time coach, who has pleaded not guilty, was fired by the district, while the two teachers resigned.

Sheehan said he leaves Glendale Unified, where he was initially hired as deputy superintendent eight years ago, “most proud of the progress the kids are showing. It’s a great district with great people.”

Although his contract is scheduled to run through 2018, it states it can be canceled by mutual agreement of both the Glendale board of education and Sheehan.

Also while holding Glendale Unified’s top post, Sheehan has overseen the implementation of the $270-million Measure S bond voters approved in 2011.

He has waged negotiations with La Cañada school officials over the potential transfer of La Cañada’s sagebrush territory from Glendale’s school district into that city’s school district.

In 2013, Sheehan supported hiring Geo Listening, a company that monitors Glendale students’ public posts to social media and provides Glendale Unified administrators with a daily report indicating students’ online mentions of drugs, bullying, alcohol, violence, suicide or harming others.

His push to hire the company came after Drew Ferraro, a 15-year old sophomore, jumped to his death in 2012 in front of other students at Crescenta Valley High School, spurring new conversations among Glendale school officials about students’ mental health needs.

Several months later, state Assembly Mike Gatto (D-Glendale) introduced a bill that would require school districts across California to notify parents before they collect information from students’ public social media posts, and school districts would be required to discard any information they collect within a year of a student graduating or leaving a school district.Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law last year.

More recently, Sheehan has guided the district in its major curriculum overhaul as it has moved to the new Common Core standards.

Earlier this spring, Glendale students began taking the state’s new standard computerized exams, with those scores expected to be released this summer.

With Sheehan’s departure, the Glendale school board called a special meeting Tuesday night to discuss hiring a search firm to assist the district in selecting its next chief.

Glendale school board President Greg Krikorian said in a phone interview on Tuesday the board plans to seek input from the community regarding the qualities the next superintendent should have.

“There will be plenty of opportunities for dialogue,” he said. “We are not going to rush into this. We are a destination school district. We have a very long track history of stellar superintendents and a long history in this district of academic and financial success.”

Meanwhile, school officials will also look into hiring someone on an interim basis, he said.

“We’re happy for Dr. Sheehan in his next chapter in life. At the same time, we are confident and resolved in our district in where we are going… We are going to try and not lose a beat,” Krikorian said.