Tom Pritchard’s office – a small room with a meeting table, desk, and photographs he took of nature – was empty most of the day Thursday as he visited many district campuses to check on how to get by. was on the first day of each school for the last time in his career.
Pritchard, who has served as superintendent of the Woodland Joint Unified School District for the past four years, said this first day was bittersweet. Although he is delighted to be enjoying his retirement, he will miss a lot about his job.
“I think I can’t wait to retire, but the people I work with will definitely be missed,” he said.
Pritchard’s time with WJUSD
Pritchard is scheduled to retire on Friday October 1. He started working for the district eight years ago, first as an assistant human resources superintendent for four years, then as district superintendent.
He believes he helped steer the district in the right direction during his tenure as Superintendent by finding the right people to do the right jobs.
“Everything the district accomplished while I was superintendent you can attribute to our staff because they have just done a great job in dealing with the pandemic, focusing on improving education by class and setting the vision for what we want our kids to be able to do when they graduate, ”he stressed. “Did I do all of this? No. But I think I put people in the right jobs and pointed them in the right direction.
A big defining issue during Pritchard’s time as superintendent has been the pandemic and the many issues that have accompanied it.
“I think the way the district handled the pandemic has kept student safety at the forefront,” said Pritchard. “If we made a mistake, we were careful. “
Pritchard believes the district’s biggest goal right now is to support children – emotionally and physically – during the tumultuous times Woodland has faced, from the coronavirus pandemic to record-breaking wildfires.
“I think they feel the pressure of social media and environmental situations, like smoke or the pandemic, that keep them from doing what kids are supposed to do. We want to make sure that if some children are struggling with this, we have supports available to help them. “
Pritchard argued that some of the decisions made by the district that were stricter than those recommended by the local or state government were made to keep children safe.
“That being said, you have a part of our community that wants to handle this on your own and another that wants the district to take a stronger position,” he said. “Overall, I think we can say that we have protected our students during the pandemic so far. “
According to Pritchard, there have only been 60 positive cases on school district campuses, all attributed to spreading in the community and not on campus.
Pritchard said he looks forward to retiring and focusing on the outdoors and enjoying nature photography, one of his favorite hobbies.
“People who know me know that I will be spending a lot of time outdoors hiking and camping,” he said. “My wife loves being in the mountains, so we’re going to be spending time there, but I don’t have ambitions beyond anything to do with town or county.
Woodland’s Unified Joint Board of Directors held a special meeting on Thursday to discuss the process for selecting a new superintendent while identifying key characteristics they would like to see in the next person to represent the district.
“I hope our board of directors will make a good selection that will continue to move the district forward,” said Pritchard.
The board spoke with two advisors from research firm Leadership Associates – which will be responsible for finding potential candidates to fill the position – and provided some guidelines to consider when researching.
Zone Four administrator Noel J. Rodriguez argued the research firm should attempt to meet parents and students who are usually not easy to connect with.
“You may have to go to Yolo housing, find apartment complexes,” Rodriguez said. “It may take a little longer than the people who are traditionally easier to meet. I just want it to be on the forefront of your mind that we want you to go to those kinds of places.
Zone Three administrator Bibiana Garcia asked how the research firm’s advisers plan to reach the Latino community, which she says comprises 70% of the district’s student population. She suggested making videos – in English and Spanish – showing what the process looks like and how to get involved.
Area One administrator Deborah Bautista Zavala agreed with Garcia’s idea and thought it was a great idea.
“Especially when we rely on our directors to get the word out, because these videos can be shared via email, social media and it’s a cohesive message,” Zavala said. “Our families like it because as parents we don’t always want to read something. If I could just go to my phone and hit play while cooking or cleaning I would be more likely to listen.
Chairman Jake Whitaker said he’s not sure the board has access to a staff member who can create a video, but will look to find someone who can.
An advisory committee will also be created to interview candidates and report their findings to the Board of Directors. Yet the final decision will ultimately be made by the board itself.
Some board members agreed that the panel should be made up of students and adults with a target of 50% students.
“If we want to be a student-centric neighborhood, why not think of it this way? Rodriguez argued. “We have students here who can tell us about the very moments in their education that they go through every day instead of going through the lens of an adult who hasn’t been to class for a long time.
Zavala also noted that candidates should be proven leaders who are willing to be visible outside of the district office, especially because the district is still rebuilding its reputation.
Zone Seven Administrator Rogelio Villagrana agreed, adding his appreciation for Pritchard’s work while he was superintendent.
“I am grateful to our current superintendent who was not afraid to tackle what other superintendents would see as difficult or difficult issues,” Villagrana said. “We definitely need a superintendent who knows there will be tough decisions, and they need to be courageous and do what’s right for the students, even though sometimes it won’t be popular with the community or parents. .