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      Pasadena Unified School District new administrators (Photos – PUSD)

      The Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) announced new administrators in preparation for the new school year.

      By News Desk

      Elizabeth Blanco, Ed.D., Superintendent, said: “The new administrators have decades of educational experience that will be key to continue advancing progress and academic excellence for all of our students. We look forward to their leadership and fresh thinking that they will bring to their new positions.”

      Superintendent’s Leadership Team

      Chief Academic Officer

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      Helen Chan Hill

      Helen Chan Hill, Ed.D., has been appointed Chief Academic Officer of PUSD, having served in the interim capacity since July 2023. As a key member of the Superintendent’s Leadership Team, Dr. Hill will lead the district’s Academics Division. An educator with 25 years of experience, Dr. Chan Hill previously served PUSD as Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services; Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development; Coordinator of Professional Development; and district math coach. She began her career as a substitute teacher before joining PUSD as a teacher at Octavia E. Butler Middle School, then known as Washington Middle School.

      “I am thrilled to announce the well-earned promotion of Dr. Helen Chan Hill to Chief Academic Officer,” said Dr. Blanco. “With her deep roots in our school district, her proven track record of leading through change, and her innovative and collaborative approach to leadership, Dr. Hill is the ideal person to guide our academic programs to new heights. Her dedication to our students and her vision for the future will strengthen our community and inspire excellence throughout our district.”

      Under her leadership, Dr. Chan Hill and her team have established systemwide structures for curricular consistency, job-embedded coaching for teachers, and individualized approaches to student learning, codifying such priorities for teaching and learning in PUSD’s 2023-28 Educational Master Plan and the forthcoming Local Control Accountability Plan.

      A strong proponent of student agency and educational justice, Dr. Chan Hill helped establish the PUSD Student Think Tank and the inaugural Student Assembly of student members on the Board of Education. Her post-doctoral research and authorship examines humanizing education and cultural sustainment for teachers and students of diverse backgrounds. Dr. Chan Hill received an Ed.D. from Pepperdine University, a Master’s degree from Loyola Marymount University, and a Bachelor’s from the University of California, Berkeley.

      “I’m honored to continue serving this remarkable community of students, families, and colleagues that I care deeply about,” said Dr. Chan Hill. “I look forward to working alongside our dedicated staff, teachers, and leaders to uplift and push forward the excellence inherent in our students.”

      Chief Business Officer

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      Saman Bravo-Karimi

      Saman Bravo-Karimi has been named the district’s Chief Business Officer, pending approval by the Board of Education. Mr. Bravo-Karimi joins PUSD from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), where he is currently Senior Executive Director of Finance Policy and oversees the Budget Services and Financial Planning Division.

      “I am delighted to welcome Mr. Bravo-Karimi to the PUSD team,” said Superintendent Blanco. Mr. Bravo-Karimi’s appointment is a significant step towards realizing our district’s strategic plan and ensuring our long-term fiscal health. His extensive experience and expertise in financial planning and budget management, coupled with his leadership in school system operations and effective communication skills with educational partners, will have a powerful impact on our district.”

      As a key member of the Superintendent’s Leadership Team, Bravo-Karimi will lead the district’s Business Services and Budget, Innovative Technology, and Facilities departments. His responsibilities will include overseeing budget preparation and managing fiscal operations. His role will be crucial in ensuring the efficient and effective use of the district’s resources.

      “Serving the students, families, and staff of PUSD is a great privilege, and I will work hard to ensure that the District’s business services support student learning and equity, and provide for a safe and loving school environment,” he said. “I will also work hard to ensure that the District’s finances can sustain important investments in our students, staff, and schools. I know that together we can continue the great work already happening at PUSD.”

      Bravo-Karimi brings 18 years of experience in financial management, long-term financial sustainability, and successfully aligning educational goals and initiatives with budgets. His experience includes managing organizations’ finances, facilities bonds, and overseeing the development of Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAP). In his current role at LAUSD, he oversees budgeting, financial planning and analysis, and school fiscal services. He also participates in labor negotiations, supports school student body function, and delivers presentations to the Board of Education, community organizations, and parent committees. He previously served as LAUSD’s Director of Capital Fund Compliance for the District’s $20 billion bond program and its Certificates of Participation (COPs), ensuring legal and tax compliance and working with the Bond Oversight Committee.

      He has two Bachelor’s degrees and two Masters, one in Business Administration from UCLA, and one in Educational Leadership from the Broad Residency in Urban Education.

      Mr. Bravo-Karimi’s contract is scheduled for action by the Board of Education at its June 27, 2024 meeting.

      Pasadena High School

      Principal

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      Eric Barba

      Eric Barba, Ed.D., has been selected as Pasadena High School’s (PHS) principal. His appointment is effective July 1, 2024.

      “I am honored to have been selected to join the Pasadena High School team,” said Dr. Barba.  “I look forward to working with the staff, students, and families to create amazing opportunities for all students. Go Bulldogs!”

      Barba has 26 years of experience as an educator. He has been the principal of Monache High School in the Porterville Unified School District (in the San Joaquin Valley) since 2015. Under his leadership, Monache was named a California Distinguished School in 2024, partly because of school climate improvements, a schoolwide decrease in suspensions, improved attendance, and effective campus security and safety programs.

      He previously served as senior director of college and career partnerships for Roll Global senior high school instructional director in L.A. Unified, principal of Duarte High School and Northview Intermediate School, and assistant principal in the Baldwin Park and South San Francisco unified school districts.

      Barba has an Ed.D. in K-12 Education Leadership from the University of Southern California, two Master’s degrees from Azusa Pacific University, and a Bachelor’s degree from Carleton College. He replaces Dr. Matt Kodama, who has announced his departure.

      Assistant Principal

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      Jason Taylor

      Jason Taylor has served the Pasadena Unified School District in several roles. He joined PUSD in 2011 as a teacher at Marshall Fundamental and went on to become the school’s technology coordinator and athletic director. He was a math teacher and math department chair at Wilson Middle School from 2012 to 2020, and was named the PUSD Teacher of the Year in 2017.

      Taylor joined Pasadena High School as a math teacher and became the school’s instructional coach in 2021. He has supported Marshall Fundamental as interim assistant principal since December 2023. Now, he returns to his post as assistant principal of Pasadena High School, a position he has held since 2022.

      Assistant Principal (Interim)

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      Bryon Lanagan

      Bryon Lanagan has been appointed interim assistant principal of PHS. He is an experienced educator with 24 years of experience in PUSD. He has served as a classroom teacher, literacy coach, and language development resource teacher.  He is currently an instructional coach at Sierra Madre Middle School where he has served since 2020. Mr. Lanagan was instrumental in implementing systems that have helped teachers strengthen their practice. Sierra Madre Middle School was named a California Distinguished School while Mr. Lanagan was a school leadership team member.

      Lanagan has a Bachelor’s degree from UCLA and a teaching credential and a Master’s degree from National University. He says, “It is my honor and privilege to join the Bulldog family, and I look forward to working with the students, families, and staff to create an amazing high school experience.”

      Assistant Principal

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      Noemi Orduña

      Noemi Orduña has accepted a position as assistant principal of PHS. She began her career in education as a secondary school math teacher in the L.A. Unified School District, and was a math teacher and math department chair at Pasadena’s Blair High School from 2007-2014. Ms. Orduña was a district math coach from 2014-2017 and principal of Madison Elementary School since 2017.  She has served as principal of Octavia E. Butler Magnet (OEB) since 2022.

      Under her leadership, OEB received two national awards from the Magnet Schools of America. Ms. Orduña has a Master’s degree, administrative and teaching credentials from National University, and a Bachelor’s degree from California State University, Los Angeles.

      Vivian Huang, who has served as assistant principal of PHS since 2021, has accepted a promotion to interim Executive Director of Special Education, effective July 1, 2024.

        Eliot Arts Magnet

      Principal

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      Lanisha McKenzie

      Lanisha McKenzie’s title has officially changed from interim principal to principal of Eliot Arts Magnet. She served as interim principal since December 2023 and was previously assistant principal of Marshall Fundamental Secondary School since 2016. As a leader with a background deeply rooted in the arts, Ms. McKenzie is committed to fostering an environment where creativity, innovation, and collaboration are celebrated. She has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Riverside, a Master’s in Educational Administration, and an administrative service credential from California State University, Los Angeles.

      “Together, we will continue to build upon the rich legacy of Eliot Arts Magnet and ensure that every student has the opportunity to explore their artistic passions and reach their full potential,” she said.

      Octavia E. Butler Magnet

      Principal

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      Arian Whitley

      Arian Whitley has been selected as principal of Octavia E. Butler Magnet, effective July 1, 2024. Mr. Whitley is an alumnus of John Muir High School and returns to PUSD, where he began his 18-year career as an educator.

      Whitley has solid experience in urban and suburban public schools and a track record of leading academic gains, school climate improvements, and instructional impact through continuous feedback. He strives to serve the academic and social-emotional needs of the whole child while increasing students’ access to a rigorous, coherent curriculum.

      He has been assistant principal of Rowland High School in the Rowland Unified School District since 2016. Before that, he was a social studies teacher at Hawthorne High School from 2009 to 2016 and a teacher, long-term substitute, and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program tutor at PUSD. Whitley has a Master of Education from the University of Southern California, a Preliminary Single Subject Credential from California State University, Long Beach, and a Bachelor of Arts from Hawaii Pacific University.

      He replaces Noemi Orduña, who accepted a position as assistant principal at PHS.

      Assistant Principal

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      Ella Farinas

      Ella Farinas, Ed.D., who serves as PUSD’s TK-12 STEM Equity and Integration Specialist and has held various roles in instructional leadership in PUSD, returns to Octavia E. Butler Magnet as Assistant Principal. Dr. Farinas has extensive experience coaching teachers in STEAM and language development. She served at Octavia Butler E. Butler Magnet School (then known as Washington STEAM Multilingual Academy) as an instructional coach and coordinator of AVID and GATE and as a language development resource teacher. She has served as a summer school principal and began her career in PUSD as a first-grade teacher at Franklin Elementary.

      Dr. Farinas has a National Certificate for STEM Teaching, a doctorate in Educational Leadership for Social Justice from Loyola Marymount University, and Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from California State University, Los Angeles.

      She says, “I am thrilled to be coming home to Octavia E. Butler Magnet. Over the years, OEB has cultivated a rich and supportive culture that I am honored to help continue and strengthen.”

      McKinley School

      Principal

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      Maria Toliver

      Maria Toliver, Ed.D., has been selected as principal of McKinley School, effective July 1, 2024, and subject to approval by the Board of Education. Dr. Toliver is a seasoned educational leader with 25 years of service in PUSD, including 10 years as an administrator. “It is an honor and privilege to serve as Principal of McKinley School of the Arts,” says Dr. Toliver. “I look forward to continuing the great work begun by my colleagues who built a solid foundation of high expectations and excellence in student achievement. I am forever PUSD proud!”

      Toliver has served as Director/Grant Manager of PUSD’s Expanded Learning Programs and PasadenaLEARNs since 2016. She was the Program Coordinator III, of the PasadenaLEARNs after-school program from 2014-16. She began her career as an elementary school teacher in PUSD. In addition to administrative and teaching credentials, she has an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Concordia University, a Master’s from Point Loma Nazarene University, and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

      As previously announced, Dr. Merian Stewart, who served as principal of McKinley School since 2020, has accepted a position as the District’s MTSS Coordinator.

      Assistant Principal

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      Jeannette Schaller

      Jeannette Schaller has been appointed assistant principal of McKinley School, effective July 1, 2024. She joins PUSD from South Pointe Middle School in the Walnut Valley Unified School District where she has served as assistant principal since 2017. At South Pointe, she enhanced the school’s STEAM program and student clubs, and supported developing the school’s Mandarin Dual Language Transition program. Ms. Schaller joined the Walnut Valley Unified School District in 2012 as a middle school social studies teacher and was a teacher at R.L. Stevenson Middle School in the L.A. Unified School District in 2006. Ms. Schaller began her career in education with Teach for America.

      In addition to a credential in administrative services, she has a Master’s from Loyola Marymount University and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon.

      She says, “I am thrilled to join McKinley School and the Pasadena Unified School District community. I am committed to ensuring that all students have access to a high-quality education that fosters creativity, academic achievement, and social-emotional learning.”

      Ivan Harris, who has provided temporary administrative support at McKinley, is returning to teaching in the classroom.

      Marshall Fundamental Secondary School

      Assistant Principal

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      Marcela Valadez

      Marcela Valadez, Ed.D., has been appointed assistant principal of Marshall Fundamental School, effective July 1, 2024. Dr. Valadez joins PUSD from Nogales High School in the Rowland Unified School District, where she has served as assistant principal since 2022.

      Dr. Valadez, who is bilingual and biliterate in Spanish, brings over 20 years of experience as a collaborative leader and educator serving TK-12 school communities as a teacher, intervention coordinator, instructional coach, and assistant principal. She was a teacher on special assignment at two campuses in the Montebello Unified School District from 2018-22, where she helped a middle school transition into a STEAM academy. Dr. Valadez began her career as an English Language Development and Journalism teacher at Bell Gardens High School in Montebello Unified in 2007.

      She has a Doctorate in educational leadership, a Master’s in education from UCLA, and a Bachelor’s from UC Santa Barbara. She says “I look forward to collaborating with the talented students, dedicated staff, and vibrant community of Marshall to continue our school’s legacy of excellence in arts and academics. Thank you all for this incredible opportunity!”

      District Administrators

      Interim Executive Director of Special Education

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      Vivian Huang

      Vivian Huang has been appointed Interim Executive Director of Special Education, effective July 1, 2024.

      She has served as assistant principal of Pasadena High School since 2021 and was a special education coordinator in PUSD from 2017-21.

      Huang has been a special education teacher since the start of her career and is committed to promoting inclusivity, diversity, and equity in education for all. She has an administrative credential from UC Irvine, two Master of Arts degrees (Educational Administration and Special Education), and a Bachelor of Arts in Child Development from CSULA.

      Director, Planning, Innovation, Accountability & Special Projects

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      Kristina Turley

      Kristina Turley, Ed.D., has been appointed Director of Planning, Innovation, Accountability and Special Projects. Dr. Turley served as PUSD’s Coordinator of College and Career Pathways for nine years and was previously an assistant principal and Language Development Resource Teacher at McKinley K-8 School.

      She has a doctorate in K-12 Leadership in Urban School Settings from the University of Southern California, a Master of Arts from the California State University, Los Angeles, and a Bachelor of Arts from California State University, San Bernardino, in addition to teaching and administrative credentials.

      MTSS Coordinator

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      Merian Stewart

      Merian Stewart, Ed.D., has accepted a position as the district’s Coordinator of Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS), working on significant disproportionality, and Families in Transition, which promotes school stability and academic success among students and families experiencing homelessness.

      Dr. Stewart was the principal of McKinley School and brings thirty years of experience as an elementary and middle school principal to her new role. She began her career as an instructional assistant at PUSD.

      Dr. Stewart has an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Change from The Fielding Institute in Santa Barbara, California; a Master’s degree from Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena; and a Bachelor’s degree from CSU, Los Angeles.

      SELPA Administrator

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      Sally Iverson

      Sally Iverson, who has served as Coordinator 2 in PUSD’s special education department since 2015, has been appointed SELPA Administrator. SELPA facilitates high quality educational programs and services for special needs students and training for parents and educators. She will continue to be responsible for public and non-public schools, attend SELPA meetings, act as liaison to the Executive Director, and work with the Community Advisory Committee. Her appointment is effective immediately. Ms. Iverson was a resource and special day teacher at PHS from 2006-2015.

      Iverson has a Master’s in Special Education from National University, a Special Education Teaching Credential from Pacific Oaks College, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Minnesota, and an education specialist instruction credential – Level II (Mild/Moderate Disabilities), and an authorization to teach English Language Learners and students with Autism.


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      Contributor

      Comments

      1. Heather Messner says:

        Eric Barba is a GREAT Administrator. PHS is in great hands

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