New super for school district

02/03/2021

Adam Jennings, the principal of Tomales High School for the past eight years, will step into the role of superintendent of Shoreline Unified School District this summer. 

The district’s board selected Mr. Jennings through a competitive process to replace Bob Raines, who is retiring after five years at the post and more than four decades in education. 

“Adam has really built a culture that is centered around equity and accountability at the high school, and his efforts to include all students and all families shows,” Mr. Raines said. “He works well with staff: He listens, he incorporates feedback in ways that are exceptional, and he is a leader, stepping in to support and coach our new principals.”

Board member Jill Manning-Sartori added, “Adam has stood out as a rising star in our district from day one.”

A Petaluma resident and father of two, Mr. Jennings worked for a decade in education in the East Bay prior to his time with Shoreline. He was previously an English teacher at Foothill High School for eight years and an assistant principal at Monte Vista High School. Raised in Pleasanton, he earned a degree in English from the University of California, Davis, his teaching credential from San Francisco State University, and his administrative credentials from California State University, East Bay. 

Ms. Manning-Satori said his experience with the district was a huge plus. “Whenever you hire a new superintendent, there is always a learning curve. For an experienced superintendent, the learning curve is getting to know our district, getting to know the teachers, the staff, the parents, the community—that’s a big learning curve,” she said. “If you are like Mr. Jennings, without superintendent experience but with experience with our community, his learning curve will be a bit different but, in my opinion, it will actually be easier.” 

Lourdes Romo, the executive director of Papermill Creek Preschool who has worked with Mr. Jennings in several capacities, including as an advocate for district families, said he connects well with parents. Ms. Romo has one child who graduated from Tomales High and another enrolled currently, and she sat with Mr. Jennings on a committee dedicated to supporting English language learners.  

“Adam was very supportive of my work as a parent and as a volunteer,” Ms. Romo said. “Even after a long day, he never missed an evening meeting, and he was always there and available for parents. He was very responsive to any concerns, very positive. He truly cares for the students and I admire how important the family is to him.”

Ms. Romo said Mr. Jennings’s experience positions him to tackle the greatest challenges facing Shoreline: A troubling achievement gap and continued distance learning despite poor and unequal internet access for students. 

Over the past month, Shoreline kindergartners through sixth graders and Tomales middle school students have been returning to campus. High school students are still working remotely, under restrictions imposed by the state, though recently some high students with insufficient internet began conducting their remote studies at the high school.

While mask-wearing and physical distancing may still be necessary in the fall, Mr. Jennings said he is looking forward to having all of the district’s students on campus. “It will be emotional,” he said. “I think there will be a lot of positivity. I think there will be a desire to celebrate.” 

Using the lessons learned throughout the pandemic is key for Mr. Jennings. “From an educator perspective, we have tapped into the deep recesses of our creativity that we haven’t been as required to tap into, and broken down our practices and built them back up again,” he said. “How can we take that level of passion, reflection and creativity and apply it to what post-Covid education looks like? That is what I’m finding really inspiring right now.” 

He added, “For our kids, you talk about learning loss, and I know that exists, and I also think that our kids have gone through an incredibly unique experience and we have to give them credit for the learning that they have done during this time. What life skills did they learn? And also, how do we pick up the pieces from a year of isolation and social-emotional fallout from that?”

Mr. Raines, whose current salary and benefits amounts to around $200,000, leaves the district in a more stable position than it was for much of his five-year tenure. Principals have come and gone including former West Marin School principal Matt Nagle, who wound up suing the district and Mr. Raines for defamation and retaliation. Parents signed a petition declaring a vote of no confidence in Mr. Raines and trustees over their handling of the matter. In 2019, the district finally reached labor agreements with both the certificated and classified staff, after the former threatened a lawsuit over unpaid raises and the latter conducted a wildcat strike amid labor negotiations. A critical budget officer position sat unfilled for almost two years.

While Mr. Raines made equity a central piece of his mission, the challenge of closing the achievement gap remains formidable: In the latest round of standardized testing, 68 percent of white students and just 27 percent of Latino students passed the English and language arts assessment, while 46 percent of white students and only 16 percent of Latino students met standards in math. 

Mr. Jennings is currently paid salary and benefits of around $180,000. His new salary will be determined at next week’s board meeting.