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California school district leader chosen as next Douglas County schools superintendent

After the district’s former superintendent left following differences with the board, trustees say a fresh face is needed.
Rocio Hernandez
Rocio Hernandez
EducationK-12 Education

The Douglas County School Board voted 4-3 Tuesday to appoint Angelo “Frankie” Alvarado, a Northern California school district leader, as its next superintendent. 

Alvarado, the assistant superintendent of human resources of the Ukiah Unified School District in Mendocino County, was one of the two finalists who was interviewed by the board at its Tuesday meeting. Alvarado’s school district serves about 6,000 students, according to its website.

The board also interviewed Patrick Peters, the principal of Silver Stage High School in Silver Springs, located almost an hour east of Reno. A third finalist and fellow Northern California school superintendent, Louise Simson, withdrew her application after receiving a superintendent job offer at another district. 

Though this would be his first time working as a superintendent, Alvarado said his experience working in school leadership roles across various California districts has prepared him for the role. 

“All of that has been purposeful to gain the skills and experience that I need to be successful in this position,” he said. 

The board is expected to vote on a contract with Alvarado at its next meeting on July 9. 

The district’s previous superintendent, Keith Lewis, resigned last November after having differences with the board’s majority, including concerns about its decision to hire Republican politician Joey Gilbert as the district’s legal counsel.  

Board President David Burns, Clerk Katherine Dickerson and Trustees Susan Jansen and Doug Englekirk said they wanted a fresh perspective, even though other trustees leaned toward Peters because of his 30 years of educational experience in Nevada, all at the same school in the Lyon County School District. 

“I think it's a good thing to bring in a fresh face … so that there is not a lot of emotional tie because a lot of things get pushed on emotion and emotion moves people good or bad,” Dickerson said. 

Trustee Yvonne Wagstaff pointed out that Alvarado’s resume shows he’s moved across various California school districts to climb up in the ranks, which she said doesn’t show commitment. 

Wagstaff said she was also concerned that neither of the candidates had experience as a superintendent. She proposed the board reconsider appointing interim Superintendent Jeannie Dwyer, who’s been leading the district since Lewis resigned, to the role. 

“I really feel that our district, given the climate of our school board and the divisiveness that is here, I feel like we need someone who has superintendent experience,” she said. “I still think Jeannie’s the best option. She's been doing a heck of a great job.” 

Trustees Carey Kangas and Linda Gilkerson were in agreement. 

Alvarado’s selection comes after two previous attempts to nominate a new district head, including a motion to hire Dwyer that was later voided due to an open meeting law violation, and a controversial pick that the board ended up reconsidering after widespread community concerns

During the interviews, Jansen asked the finalists to weigh in on a proposed policy the board attempted to pass last year that would have restricted students from using facilities or participating in sports that align with their preferred gender identity rather than their sex assigned at birth. Opponents such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada said such a policy is “unconstitutional,” and could violate federal and state law in addition to various Nevada Department of Education regulations. 

Jansen has said the proposed policy is meant to protect cisgender girls in private spaces such as locker rooms and bathrooms, and keep transgender girls from “taking … sports opportunities away” from their cisgender counterparts. 

Jansen said the board is waiting on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to rule on Arizona’s so-called “trans athlete ban” before bringing the proposed policy back before the board, but asked finalists what they think it should do in the meantime to “keep our girls safe and our girls sports fair.”

Alvarado said the board should wait to see what happens in that case. 

“We should not try to get ahead of any legal decision,” he told the board. “We don't want to raise the legal costs that the district is already incurring.”


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