HomeBlocksFront-GridVeteran LCUSD Leader Departs Amid Praise

Veteran LCUSD Leader Departs Amid Praise

First published in the Dec. 15 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

The La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board’s annual organizational meeting on Tuesday left nary a dry eye in the house after officials gave a celebratory send-off to longtime board member Kaitzer Puglia and thanked the panel’s outgoing president, Dan Jeffries.
During a weighty agenda that wrapped up the district’s board meetings for the year, Joe Radabaugh was elected as the new board president, Josh Epstein as vice president and Caroline Anderson as treasurer. New board member Octavia Thuss was sworn in to her four-year term after being elected to fill Puglia’s seat in the Nov. 8 election. Puglia did not seek reelection.
Superintendent Wendy Sinnette presented a gavel plaque and a plant to Jeffries for his work as 2022 board president, praising his dedication and expertise in what was his second term in the position. Jeffries was reelected last month to his third hitch on the board.
“Dan pays attention to detail. He is smart, judicious, legal-eyed, dedicated and single-mindedly focused on the interest of students, staff and families as he weighs and makes decisions,” Sinnette said. “He is present, readily available, compassionate, forthright and one of the most ethical people I know. In his second year as president he proved exemplary leadership, council, kindness and grace.”
Jeffries, for his part, gave his last report as president, thanking all the dedicated parents, LCF residents, teachers, administrators and students for working together to make LCUSD again one of the top school districts in the state in 2022.
“Over the past year of 2022, everyone did an amazing job of navigating an ever-changing landscape, and despite all of the challenges we have accomplished so much working together,” he said. “Our kids have done well; our schools have made great progress on addressing social and emotional needs. We have very dedicated teachers, outstanding administrators and dedicated parent volunteers and a supportive community. We are truly blessed to live in such a great community.”
Puglia received a heartfelt farewell from the district administration and staff, her fellow board members and representatives of Congressman Adam Schiff and state Sen. Anthony Portantino. Sinnette spoke admiringly of Puglia and her vast experience and knowledge about education, which the superintendent said was essential to the efforts of LCUSD during some of the most difficult months of COVID-19. Puglia has taught at various grade levels and has helped open seven schools in Los Angeles County. As a professor in education and child development at Pasadena City College, she helped guide the board in getting students back into classrooms safely after months of online instruction.
“I’d like to acknowledge that this is somewhat the end of an era,” Sinnette said. “Kaitzer has given nine selfless years of service [and] served two terms as president throughout these nine years; I have to say they were two of the most tumultuous ones we have ever faced.
“During that time and all the years, she has been insightful, ready to pivot, decisive and understanding and flexible. She is always an educator at heart. Her decision-making is so much about children and what makes her exemplary in education, and that’s always guided her and her values.”
Jeffries warned Puglia he was going to “get verklempt” at seeing her go — both had been elected to the board in 2013.
“You’ve always been so level-headed and so clear and so smart and so good about seeing what the issues really are and lasering in on what we need to do. … I think your background as a teacher has been so helpful to us [and helped] us keep track of what exactly our teachers are doing and why it’s such a hard thing to do.”
Newcomer Thuss was given her first chance to address the community, and she thanked the board and those who supported her during the election season.
“You have all been incredibly gracious during the campaign, I can’t thank everyone enough for the support and the guidance throughout the many months. And I’d like to thank the people out there who supported me, my campaign manager Patty Whong and my family, especially, who got to live through this adventure,” Thuss said. “I’m very excited to help all of you, help the district, solve problems, work on fun projects and do everything we can just to serve the students.”


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