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Q&A: New SMUSD Superintendent Loren Kleinrock

The newly appointed San Marino Unified School District superintendent speaks about his background and intentions.

Former principal and experienced educator Loren Kleinrock and shared thoughts with Patch.

What makes you most qualified to lead the ?

"Having been in this district since 1975, having sat in a number of different seats at two levels of the three that we have in the school district, I've got a strong historical perspective. I have deep roots with people in this community who I hope have learned to have confidence and trust in me, and I think I have a perspective of what this district is and how it's been shaped over time.

"I've worked closely with the current district administrators and very much will be relying on their expertise and experience, but I think because of the long-time association there's a relationship there that's aided by the confidence and the trust they have in me to be open and know that I'll welcome their thoughts and criticisms, which somebody coming in the door new may not have the confidence to talk that straight."

What are your priorities for the district? 

"The goal is to take small steps toward getting better and better every year. I come from a coaching background and the analogy I use is, there might be a championship team, and I was fortunate enough to be part of a CIF championship team, you don't stop just because you win a championship one year. The next year, practice by practice, game by game, year by year you're trying to get better. So in this district, as good as it is, until we can look at each other and say 'Hey, we're perfect, there's nothing else to do,' then we should continue to improve what we do."

Will you do anything differently as superintendent? 

"One thing as a goal, maybe original or not because every superintendent likes to do this, is try to be inside classrooms more frequently. And I hope to work with the principals more closely on instruction and share thoughts and conversations about instruction strategies, things that we can be on a common vocabulary with as we do our evaluations and observations, trying to help the people keep current on what research says are the most effective instructional strategies. I've been here for a long time in this district, and there have been some on-and-off efforts over the years to do that but nothing really consistently."

What are the biggest challenges facing the district as you step in as superintendent?

"The lack of state funding. That says it all. Our community has stepped up, but it's a tremendous burden on the community, the lack of funding. That's the greatest challenge."

What do you think will be significant differences between your new position and your former job as SMHS principal?

"One of the biggest differences is making the final decision. [As a principal], if there's an issue, question, I'm not sure how I want to go, I call the superintendent and say, 'What do you think?' Now I've got to be the one who says what they think.

"You have a much greater direct constituency in terms of people who are trying to influence that decision-making process, making sure that things are done openly, fairly as much as they can be as a principal. That's the same as a principal, but it's on a higher level and therefore there's more at stake because it affects the entire district, not just one of the schools."

Do you have any suggestions for your successor?

"It's hard to generalize because it's going to depend on who comes in. If they're an experienced, sitting principal I'm going to have less to say than if it's someone who's never occupied a principalship before.

"And if they've come from a community that is similar to ours in terms of the educational excellence and the kinds of communication that have to happen in a small district like this, it's going to be different than if somebody comes in and doesn't have that experience from a similar district. So it's hard to generalize on what the advice would be, other than 'do it right.'"

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