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School board hires new superintendent

RANCHO SANTA FE — In a 3-0 vote, the Rancho Santa Fe School Board approved the employment of Donna Tripi as its new superintendent effective Jan. 1. At the Dec. 13 special meeting, a three-year employment agreement was approved noting that Tripi would be compensated an annual salary of $190,000 in addition to benefits.

Tripi will replace former Superintendent David Jaffe whose voluntary resignation was effective on July 31, 2018, as well as Kim Pinkerton’s role as interim superintendent over recent months. In the new year, Pinkerton will resume her position as elementary school principal at R. Roger Rowe.

Since 1999, Tripi served as the principal of La Jolla Elementary School. She has more than three decades of educational experience and was selected from a field of 23 superintendent candidates.

New board members Jee Manghani and Kali Kim abstained from the vote.

Manghani said he did get a chance to meet Tripi the prior week. While he was fully supportive of Tripi, he decided to abstain since he was not part of the superintendent candidate interview process.

“I have no reservations about her (Tripi), and I am excited to see what she brought to La Jolla Elementary School in terms of academic excellence that she will bring here as superintendent,” Manghani said.

Kim also decided to abstain for the same reasons noting she also had the opportunity to meet Tripi.

“I was impressed by her knowledge and also her collaborative demeanor. I think that knowledge and demeanor will enable her to repeat in our school what she has demonstrated at La Jolla Elementary,” Kim said. “And not only academic success but also the successful character development through her implementation of an inclusive learning environment in the classroom.”

Board President Sarah Neal explained that the board moved with what Vice President Tyler Seltzer referred to as “focused energy” in recruiting a new superintendent.

“We didn’t want to stop important business because there was a board transition,” Neal said. “Obviously, like all organizations, especially in public education, there is always change.”

Neal went on to say the board felt it was essential to move forward and found search firm consultants Ernie Anastos and George Cameron, who had combined decades of experience in the field of superintendents.

Neal described the recruiting, screening and interviewing process as thorough. The board unanimously supported the selection of Tripi.

Neal also shared how the board wanted to bring Kim and Manghani quickly up to speed by having them meet with Anastos and Cameron, as well as meet with Tripi at a site visit.

“I feel very confident about the way that we have done this, and I certainly respect where the new board members are as well,” Neal said.

While a recent school district press release highlighted Tripi’s accomplishments, Neal said that her support for Tripi was based on her leadership, which she described as a standout quality.

“What I saw was her long-term leadership in a community which was very similar to ours, clear commitment to being student-centered which I know is first and foremost to all of us, and her success in supporting teachers as professionals who we count on to develop our students,” Neal said. 

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