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Livermore Schools Welcome New Leaders

With the start of the new school year, the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District (LVJUSD) is welcoming new leadership staff to the District Office and to school sites. 

Mike Biondi, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, is joined by Kevin Grier, Director of Curriculum, and Helen Gladden, Assistant Director of Curriculum, to lead the educational work of the District. Director of Special Education, Frank Selvaggio, also joins the District team to continue the focus on achievement for all students. 

Arroyo Seco Elementary School welcomes new principal, Gatee Esmat. Sunset Elementary School will be led by Tom Jones. Carla Estrada-Hidalgo takes the helm at Vineyard Alternative School. Jeannette Garza and Jeremy Vilkins join Junction Avenue K-8 principal, Dayna Taylor, to complete the leadership team at the District’s Dual Immersion School. Denise Nathanson, formerly at Arroyo Seco, will be joining Marylin Avenue Elementary this year as principal; and Mistee Guzman has been appointed principal at East Avenue Middle School, where she has served as vice-principal for several years. Alex Eckert will join Ms. Guzman at East Avenue as vice-principal. 

Superintendent of Schools, Kelly Bowers, Ed.D. said, “We are grateful for the contributions over the past years of our outgoing administrators, and we are looking forward to the innovative leadership our new staff members will bring.” 

Mike Biondi brings experience and vision to his new role as Assistant Superintendent. He is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley, with a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Chapman University and additional coursework completed at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Biondi’s depth of experience in educational leadership spans twenty-two years including: University Faculty Instructor, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Principal, Assistant Principal, Department Chair and Teacher. “I am delighted to join the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District team,” said Biondi. “I am very impressed by the dedicated teachers, school staff, and the district-wide leadership that supports students and staff at such a high level.” 

Kevin Grier’s twenty-five year career in education includes service as math teacher, middle school assistant principal, elementary principal, middle school principal, and director of human resources. Grier earned his Doctorate Degree in Educational Leadership and his Master’s Degree in Educational Management at Azusa Pacific University, in addition to a B.A. in political science from U.C. Irvine. Grier is committed to providing a robust curriculum that will further the District mission of preparing students for the 21st Century world. “I am committed to providing each student with the best educational experience possible, that will provide the broadest range of options after high school,” said Grier. 

Helen Gladden joins Grier in the Curriculum Department, after serving in LVJUSD as principal at East Avenue Middle School, and vice principal and English teacher at Livermore High School. She has a master's degree in Educational Leadership from California State University East Bay and a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric from U.C. Berkeley. Throughout her career in education, Gladden has demonstrated her commitment to preparing all students to contribute and thrive in a changing world. In 2015, her accomplishments were recognized both statewide and nationally when she was named by the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) as the California Co-Administrator of the Year. 

Frank Selvaggio brings 18 years of experience in public education, including principal, school psychologist, special education teacher, and community college faculty member. He holds Masters Degrees in Education Administration, School Psychology and Special Education, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration. Selvaggio looks forward to supporting all students. “I have dedicated my professional life to helping children, families and educators find personal, professional, emotional and academic success,” said Selvaggio. 

Gatee Esmat began her interest in education while earning her bachelor’s degree at U.C. Berkeley, where she worked with students in the community. She has served as vice principal and teacher since 2007 at the elementary and middle school levels. Esmat holds a Masters in Education from U.C. Davis, and a Masters in Educational Leadership from Brandman University. “I am so excited to be joining the Arroyo Seco community,” said Esmat. “I will continue to provide a positive and nurturing school atmosphere, and to provide our students the platform to thrive academically, socially and emotionally.” 

Tom Jones earned his bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies from California State University, Chico and his master’s degree in Educational Leadership from St. Mary's College. His 18 years in education include experience as both teacher and administrator. Jones is excited to join the students, staff and parent community at Sunset. “I look forward to adding positively to the already amazing culture at Sunset. Consistent and ongoing communication will be an early focus of mine, as I believe it is an important component to leverage in order to drive toward excellence,” said Jones. 

Carla Estrada-Hidalgo has served as an educator in LVJUSD for 11 years. She received her Administrative Services Credential from California State University, East Bay. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Education from Chapman University, and two Bachelor of Arts degrees, in Anthropology and Spanish, from California State University, East Bay. Estrada-Hidalgo is committed to ensuring equity and enhancing educational opportunities for all students. “I’m honored and privileged to be part of students’ educational experiences. It’s gratifying to witness their achievements and growth; and I look forward to continuing to serve our Livermore students by supporting and strengthening our schools,” said Estrada-Hidalgo. 

Jeannette Garza has served as Spanish teacher and Leadership teacher during her 14-year career in education. Currently earning her Master of Science in Educational Administration, Garza also holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from California State University, East Bay. Garza has been honored as the 2017 Rotary Teacher of the Year for Livermore High School. She is excited to bring her bilingual background to Junction’s Dual Immersion program. 

Jeremy Vilkins joins the Junction administrative team with 14 years of experience as an educator. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Radio and Television from San Francisco State University, his multiple subject credential from CSU Hayward, and his Masters of Science in Educational Leadership from Cal State East Bay. Vilkins has worked as history and leadership teacher, yearbook and newspaper advisor, and intervention services coordinator. Vilkins is looking forward to meeting and supporting the Junction community. “Although I have had my hand in many projects, my favorite part of being an educator is making learning fun for the students,” said Vilkins. 

“In addition to the superb slate of administrators, we are proud to be adding 80 teachers to the District for 2017-18,” said Director of Human Resources, Melissa Theide. A combination of retirements and increased enrollment has provided the opportunity to further build the District team. 

The new staff members will join with all LVJUSD employees for the annual Kickoff Celebration on August 17, the official start of the 2017-18 school year. “We come together as a team to celebrate our combined focus on students,” said Bowers. Students will be welcomed back on the first day of school, August 21. 

Posted by: Lori Sanborn, District Admin, Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District Published:8/6/17
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