Recently, in this column, a retired (and revered) local educator, said that our public libraries and public schools were key among our last bastions of democracy. In these angst ridden times, when our democracy itself, feels like it's under threat, I couldn't agree more.
Linda Irving is doing her best to maintain the high quality of our public schools, and help them achieve even more.
My wife first met Linda back in '84 at a summer camp near Yosemite where Linda was a wilderness leader/environmental ed specialist. I saw her recently on a Saturday over at Park Side Elementary. She warmly greeted a teacher and an aide who were taking part of their weekend to prepare for the coming week. A true multitasker, Linda later answered my questions while baking an apple pie with our grandkids (pictured).
She is the proud mother of a son, David, who she boasts is majoring in math and physics at Cal Poly.
Where and when were you born, Linda?
In Oakland, back in 1962.
And what's your current position?
I've been the superintendent of the Sebastopol Union School District since I arrived here in 2013.
Did you start out in the classroom?
Oh yeah. I started out as a second grade teacher near Modesto, but this is my 27th year as a superintendent. I've been in Sebastopol for the last eight years, and I just love it here.
This seems obvious, but what's your biggest challenge right now?
Of course, it's managing the COVID crisis. Although our teachers are doing a remarkable job, there's no way to really replace in-person instruction. Though the state has provided some guidance, it's been a little late.
Enrollment in the district is down a bit again this year, and significantly over the past 10 years. What's behind that?
First of all, it's too expensive for young families to live here. And second, there are many more wonderful educational options for parents to choose from, than ten years ago.
You know, with declining enrollment, there's less money for the district. There's an extension of the parcel tax on the November ballot that would help us continue to provide enrichment activities, much needed counseling, and technology.
You are a passionate administrator. What gives you the most pleasure doing this work?
Hands down, it's working with our teachers and students. The teachers in this district have been phenomenal, as have our families and students. They've all risen to the exceptional challenges we're faced with .... The million dollar question on everyone's mind, is when are we going to be able to return to in-person instruction?
And the answer is?
Based on advice and guidance from Dr. Mase, the county public health chief, and Dr. Harrington, the county superintendent of schools, we are preparing to stay in distance learning at least through December. If and when we return to the classrooms, it will most likely be in small cohorts, with students attending on alternate days. The students simply can't all be on campuses at the same time. In-person learning will present it's own new challenges.
Besides apple pie baking, what else do you enjoy outside of work?
I love riding my bike, and in particular riding it to work. And of course I love this beautiful area of west Sonoma County. I'm a former snow ski instructor and a river guide, and I still love skiing. And then I'm a huge fan of live music. Needless to say, I've missed Peace Town this year.
Okay, here's something I'm asking everyone, these days.
If the FDA approved a COVID vaccine tomorrow, would you go out and get it?
Yes. Absolutely. And I'm saying that as someone with a compromised immune system.
Linda, I should be more impartial about this, but I've known you and your devoted work here since the day you arrived. It's impossible not to see what sort of huge asset you are to our community.
Thanks for that. It's a huge honor to serve our students, families and teachers.