March 25, 2015 / Modified mar 25, 2015 9:31 a.m.

Sunnyside Superintendent Finalists to Meet Public

Community wants collaborative, ethical and bicultural leader for South Side schools.

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Before the Sunnyside Unified School District narrowed its search for a new superintendent, the community was asked what it wanted to see in a new leader.

About 160 people, including business owners, teachers and other stakeholders attended meetings and completed surveys and part of what they wanted includes an educator who is:

  • Compassionate and humble
  • Involved
  • Ethical
  • Bilingual and bicultural
  • Able to work effectively with the board

Now the community will have a chance to see if the finalists for the position match these expectations.

Finalist Steven Holmes will meet the public Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Sunnyside High School, 1725 E. Bilby Road. Manuel Valenzuela, the other finalist, will do the same Thursday.

Manuel Valenzuela 080213 portrait Manuel Valenzuela, superintendent, Sahuarita Unified School District. (PHOTO: AZPM)

The district has had a tumultuous past 12 months. Two board members were recalled and the former superintendent was bought out of his contract. The district hired consultants McPherson and Jacobson, LLC, which includes Bill Dean, to help find a superintendent.

“We presented a list of those people we felt were perhaps best qualified based on the characteristics that were established by the board,” Dean said. He estimated there were 27 applications submitted.

The governing board selected the two finalists, Valenzuela and Holmes, earlier this month.

Both are long-time educators who have spent the majority of their careers in Southern Arizona school districts.

Valenzuela has been the superintendent of the Sahuarita Unified School District since 2010.

  • He graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry and continued his education with a master’s degree in education at Northern Arizona University and doctorate in education at the University of Arizona.
  • The first post-college job on his resume is teaching junior-high science in the Marana School District.
  • He lists written and spoken Spanish fluency on his resume.
  • He has worked as a teacher and principal in the Flowing Wells School District and as an administrator in Sahuarita Unified School District since 2005.
Steve Holmes portrait Steven Holmes. (PHOTO: courtesy of TUSD)

Holmes is an assistant superintendent in the Tucson Unified School District.

  • He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Arizona and later a master’s degree in education from the University of Phoenix and attended the Harvard University Urban Superintendents Program.
  • The earliest job listed on his resume was was working as a sales manager for LA Musical Instruments in 1989. He also worked with mariachi programs at Pima Community College and in the Tucson Unified School District.
  • He also, lists written and spoken Spanish fluency on his resume.
  • He has spent the majority of his career at the Tucson Unified School District, but served also worked as an administrator in Sunnyside for about four years.

A review of Holmes’ and Valenzuela’s personnel records show both have received positive performance reviews from their current employers.

The governing board expects to announce the new superintendent at the end of the week.

MORE: Arizona, News, Tucson
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