Administrators of the Year

One of ACSA’s priorities is to ensure that school leaders are recognized for their excellence. Through our annual awards program we honor administrators and community members for their achievements and their dedication to public education. Each year, regions select their regional award winners, whose nominations are then submitted to state ACSA for consideration of the state award.

This year, Region 10 was proud that one of ACSA’s top award winners was Marilyn Shepherd, superintendent of Monterey Peninsula USD. She received the Marcus Foster Memorial Award for Administrator Excellence.

Marcus Foster was a shining example of leading the process of positive change in a school district, and one could find no better example of a school leader who exemplifies his spirit than Marilyn Shepherd, superintendent of Monterey PeninsulaUnified School District.

Shepherd said she was honored just to be nominated for ACSA’s Marcus Foster Memorial Award for Administrator Excellence.

“I know what Marcus Foster represented, and what Marcus Foster believed in, and his leadership legacy,” she said in receiving the award Nov. 4 at the 2011 Leadership Summit.

Shepherd was recruited to Monterey Peninsula USD specifically for her ability to lead large-scale change. The district had slipped into Program Improvement status, with declining enrollment and test scores, and an increasingly adversarial collective bargaining atmosphere. There was a poor public perception of the district and significant fiscal challenges.

As soon as Shepherd took the helm, that all began to change. She said her initial assessment of district operations in 2007 revealed few clearly defined policies, systems and structures in place to support student achievement.

“Students and staff were frustrated and public confidence had suffered,” she said. “For example, teachers did not consistently receive communications and were left to solve problems on their own in the classroom. This type of stress had a direct impact on teaching, learning, and overall district operations. In addition, parents lacked the information they needed to support their children in school.

“To address these problems, we convened parent and community advisory committees to work on everything from restructuring plans to technology upgrades. These changes better supported teaching and learning, helped to streamline operations, and greatly improved stakeholder confidence.”

In addition, Shepherd has made a concerted effort to reach out and revive relationships with community partner organizations.

“We had to regain the community’s trust and confidence in our ability to manage resources appropriately and demonstrate our vision and commitment to student achievement,” she said.

The efforts clearly showed results when Shepherd helped lead a $110 million general obligation bond measure for facility improvement that won an astounding 71 percent approval at the ballot box.

Despite numerous challenges – some of which still remain – Shepherd has her highly diverse school district heading in the right direction. Although Monterey Peninsula USD is a community that contains some excellent post-secondary institutions, a majority of the parents in Shepherd’s more than 10,000-student school district do not speak English as a first language. Indeed, many are not literate even in their primary language, and they struggle to understand how they can help their children be successful in school. So Shepherd has ensured that recruitment of a culturally representative staff at all levels is a high priority. District staff also receives professional learning opportunities on the culture of poverty, social justice, instruction for ESL students and full inclusion practices.

Shepherd said that she has relied on ACSA for support throughout her career.

“ACSA has kept me connected with colleagues statewide who have been a great support to me professionally,” she said. “ACSA publications help to keep me informed about educational issues and the numerous professional growth opportunities for administrators. That is an invaluable resource for me and my leadership team.”

Shepherd said growing up she knew she wanted to be an educator, and that desire only grew stronger through the years. And knowing the legacy of Marcus Foster, she feels very honored to receive an award bearing his name.

“This award would not be possible without the outstanding support of my Board of Trustees and leadership team,” Shepherd said. “There are many exceptional administrators in California that are deserving of recognition for their accomplishments. I thank the Association of California School Administrators for giving awards and recognitions to this professional community and for providing the validation that the work we do is meaningful, appreciated, and making a difference in the lives of the people we serve.”