Sheehan named as new GUSD superintendent

By Mary O’Keefe

The Glendale Unified School District board announced that Dr. Richard Sheehan will be the new superintendent beginning July 1. Sheehan presently serves as the district’s deputy superintendent.

Sheehan will be replacing Superintendent Michael Escalante who will be retiring at the end of June after six and a half years at Glendale.

The board approached Sheehan to ask if he would consider the job, Escalante said.

“I let the board know that I was interested in the position,” Sheehan said.

Sheehan went through the same superintendent interview process as other past candidates.

“I participated in an interview and I was fortunate enough to be chosen,” Sheehan said.

In the 2009-10 school year Sheehan was part of the team that had to shepherd the district through the Station Fire when schools above Foothill Boulevard were shut down. The district continued to monitor air quality as the flames turned to ash and smoke. Then came the H1N1 virus and the vaccinations, questions and concerns. In Glendale, the media and fans filled Glendale streets for the Michael Jackson funeral that affected nearby schools. Recently there were the flood and mudflows that have to be monitored during each rainstorm.

“[Sheehan] has proved himself,” Escalante said. “He has the advantage of a great team around him and a great deal of experience.”

Sheehan said he felt there was an advantage from being promoted from within.

“I think it is a definite advantage to know the lay of the land. Glendale is a very diverse, multicultural sophisticated city,” he said.

The district also has the unusual distinction of having schools within the city of Glendale and Los Angeles County. Due to the fires and flood/mud Sheehan has spent many hours dealing with both the city and county officials.

The question still remains as to why anyone would want to take on the job of leading a school district during these turbulent economic times. The district will be facing a historical budget deficit, the end of class size reduction and teacher layoffs.

“The good thing is I have seen the budget and I understand what I am getting in to,” Sheehan said. “The biggest thing is dealing effectively with the budget restraints. We are extremely fearful of what the May revise will be.”

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger presents a budget at the beginning of the year he then revises it, recently with additional cuts, in May.

The problems are looming but they are surmountable, Escalante said.

“Dick has learned his lessons over the last several years. He is ready to take on the challenges faced by GUSD,” he said