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School Board to Retain Cuneo as Permanent Supt for Santa Monica - Malibu Schools


By Jorge Casuso

February 2 – Tim Cuneo, who was hired half a year ago to temporarily steer the School District through turbulent times, will be officially hired as permanent superintendent on Thursday, District officials announced last week.

Since being hired as interim superintendent last July to replace Dianne Talarico, Cuneo has worked to reshape the District’s controversial special education program and tackle a looming budget deficit that could reach $10 million over the next 18 months.

He is currently leading a team of District leaders who are renegotiating an agreement with the City that pumps some $7.5 million a year in City funding to the cash-strapped school system in exchange for public use of school facilities. (“City, District Launch Negotiations,” January 28, 2009)

“We are pleased to have Mr. Cuneo agree to lead our district for the next two and a half years,” said School Board President Ralph Mechur.

“He has brought stability to the district, which will help us to focus on important educational issues and continue the district’s efforts to close the achievement gap,” Mechur said.

“Tim Cuneo has many years of experience in education and exemplifies the type of leadership required to maintain high educational standards in our school district,” said Board Vice President Barry Snell.

Snell praised Cuneo’s commitment to “working with all groups within the communities.”

An education consultant who had held top positions at numerous California public school systems, Cuneo helped to successfully lobby the City Council last month to release $840,000 in additional funding it had held back for nearly two years.

The council vote came after Cuneo helped lead the district’s efforts to revamp a special education program that had long been the target of frustrated parents. The parents charge they were being strong-armed into confidential agreements that short shrifted the needs of their children.

The controversy led to the May 1 resignation of deputy superintendent Tim Walker, who was in charge of special education. (“Walker Resigns Post Amidst Special Ed Controversy,” May 2, 2008)

Weeks later, Talarico resigned the top post to head a small district in Northern California. ("Superintendent Talarico to Join Burlingame School District," May 30, 2008)

During Cuneo’s tenure as interim superintendent, the District implemented a number of measures outlined in a report on the status of its special education program produced by an outside consultant.

The report found that although the District met and exceeded many of the criteria, its policy of entering into agreements with parents, though legal, was not commonly used and not necessarily good practice.

In addition to overhauling its special education program, the district could face as much as a $10 million deficit over the next 18 months as California officials struggle to balance a State budget that is $45 billion in the red.

Before joining the district, Cuneo served as senior partner with Cuneo-Zinner Group in San Jose, a consulting firm that specializes in organizational development for both public and private educational ventures.

His experience as an educator spans all aspects of K-12 education, including student achievement, curriculum development, governance, budget management and community relations, according to District officials.

From 1966 to 1996, he held numerous positions as superintendent, assistant superintendent and dean of curriculum and instruction with Oak Grove, Whisman, Pajaro Valley Unified and Fremont Union High School Districts.

He subsequently served as Interim Superintendent for Scotts Valley Unified School District and Senior Executive Director for 21st Century Education Initiative as part of Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network, where he was responsible for all aspects of the highly successful public/ private partnership investing in K-12 school reform.

A former president of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), Cuneo also has served on a variety of boards, including PACE (Policy Analysis for California Education), the Tech Museum of Innovation and the Hewlett Packard Employee Scholarship Committee, as well as serving on the Xerox National Education Advisory Council.

Cuneo holds a BA in Biological Science from Chico State University, an MA in Counseling and Guidance from University of Santa Clara, and a California Administrative Credential from San Jose State University.


“He has brought stability to the district." Ralph Mechur

"Cuneo exemplifies the type of leadership required to maintain high educational standards in our school district.” Barry Snell


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