Current Analy High School Principal Shauna Ferdinandson was selected to head the high school that will be formed as a result of the consolidation of Analy and El Molino High School this fall. The West Sonoma County Union High School District (WSCUHSD) Board of Trustees announced the selection at its meeting on April 14.
The trustees unanimously approved her employment contract for one year to begin July 1, concluding a hiring process that lasted a few days shy of one month. The April 14 agenda stated the position was posted nationally from March 17 to March 31.
Once signed, her contract will be posted to the district’s website, said human resources director Mia Del Prete.
Two candidates made it through the initial paper screening and one remained after the first round of interviews, held on April 8 by a committee of half El Molino and half Analy students, teachers, staff , parents and Superintendent Toni Beal.
The second interview committee — Beal, Del Prete, Laguna Principal Allie Greene, Board Vice President Jeanne Fernandes and Trustee Angie Lewis — offered Ferdinandson the role.
In an interview on April 15, Ferdinandson said she was deeply honored to be chosen as the principal.
“The interesting thing is when we say it’s a brand new school, that’s not exactly right because we’re going to be really utilizing and building off of the histories both schools are bringing to the table,” she said. “So, both schools have a lot of history and both schools have deep, deep ties to our community and I want to keep all of those ties, keep as many of the traditions as we can from both campuses and build from there our new traditions as we go forward.”
The principal said working with her administrative team, staff and students is the source of her enjoyment in her position, “I don’t see it as a one-person job. It is absolute teamwork in every way.”
The public response was mixed on April 14, in a meeting that was particularly turbulent regarding consolidation, which some community members described as more of an acquisition. Attendee Chris Cahn and El Molino organizer Gillian Hayes resurfaced a preference for co-principals representing Analy and El Molino if a transition were to occur.
“Funny that it’s an Analy principal that gets to be the principal for everything and I agree, it should have been both principals, period, for this transition for the kids. Not fair. I’ve already enrolled my two eighth graders in another high school that are devastated at losing this high school,” said Terra Del Drago, Forestville Education Foundation president.
However, Del Prete responded to the hiring concerns by saying, “I do want to make sure that people know that both the Analy and El Molino principal were given the opportunity to apply for the position and I also encouraged both of them to apply.” She added, “We did not get an application from one of the existing principals.”
Del Drago and El Molino parent Eleanor Gorman voiced their appreciation for El Molino Principal Matt Dunkle’s leadership.
On the first day back at school in Forestville, Dunkle did not say whether he applied for the position, but that his role would be determined.
“I may find myself in a position in this district, but at this point, I’m just looking at the opportunities that are available. Sometimes you get those crossroads in life and you make the most of them,” he said on April 12.
Lewis, Fernandes, Trustee Laurie Fadave and the human resources director vouched for Ferdinandson as a refreshing and collaborative leader.
“She’s empathetic, she works very, very well with students and always has their best interest at heart. I really think going forward she’s going to be a tremendous asset to the future of west county,” Fadave said.
Lewis, praised by an El Molino parent earlier as bleeding “red and black,” spoke of Ferdinandson’s empathy and humility.
“It’s hard to even put to words, she is so committed to this process and to allowing people the time and space to get through, and just her acknowledgement,” Lewis said, adding she was glad to participate on the interview committee as a trustee and parent.
In her April 15 interview, the Analy principal said the resistance to the merger and discord across the community make sense to her.
“I think people are understandably upset because it is a very serious loss and I can understand where people might be fearful that really what’s happening is that El Molino is being assimilated into Analy,” Ferdinandson said.
She said she could speak at length about how the effort is to genuinely blend the communities, “but the real proof is going to be when students and staff and community members come to our campus, they’re going to see and experience the fact that this is kind of the best of both worlds, the best of Analy, the best of El Molino coming together and it is not an acquisition.”
Ferdinandson said she believes the community will begin to trust the union when they observe the students “engaged in powerful, meaningful work” and the district and staff in motion. “And the perception that I have is there is a lack of trust around this process, and I think words are not going to solve that. It’s going to be actions that solve it.”
Although the consolidated high school will be led by the current Analy principal at the Analy campus in Sebastopol, school life will not be quite as the Analy Tigers have known it either, with the rebranding process underway.
The El Molino advocates who regularly participate in the WSCUHSD board meetings were joined by Analy community members turning out to voice their opposition to rebranding the 113-year-old Analy campus.
Analy alumna Kasey Hillier said a petition with over 2,500 signatures against rebranding is in circulation, while El Molino community members have said previously that a new name and identity was the least the district could do if it was going to deprive deep west county families of their local high school.
That process may take multiple years to complete at all sites, according to facilities director Jennie Bruneman in a March 17 email. Beal said during her unity committee updates that the district released a survey to students, staff and the community for their name, mascot and school color suggestions that closes April 16.
A design team of 16 randomly selected students who expressed interest began weekly meetings on April 14 and at their second meeting will review that feedback “and then start to narrow those selections down into two that then they will bring to the board for the board’s consideration,” Beal said, aiming to deliver recommendations by the May 26 board meeting.
Beal said the design team is made up of two students per grade, half from Analy and half from El Molino, and that they would develop prototypes with Varsity Brands, a district unity campaign partner announced at the March 30 board meeting that focuses on rebranding new and consolidated schools, as well as controversial mascots.