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Two More School District Officials to Bid Farewell

By Teresa Rochester

May 29 -- Adding to a whirlwind of change currently whipping through the school district, two key district officials have announced their resignations effective this summer.

Sue Gee, assistant superintendent of academic services, and Robert Cutting, director of fiscal services, confirmed separately on Tuesday that they would leave the 12,500-student district in August and June respectively. Both will remain in education.

Gee, who has held her post with the district for four years, will leave in mid-August for a position with a non-profit education center, which she described as an opportunity of a lifetime.

Feeling the pinch of housing costs in the area, Cutting, who was hired a little more than a year ago after years in the private sector, will take a position with a nearby school district in a more affordable area.

Gee was hired after a nationwide search by the non-profit Education Development Center, which runs numerous education and health programs worldwide, to serve as program director for its national school reform program Authentic Teaching Learning and Essentials for All Students (ATLAS), started by four prominent educators.

"This is such an exciting opportunity for me," Gee said. "These opportunities only come along once in a lifetime."

Gee will work with 15 site developers who work with schools in over 100 districts across the country that have agreed to a three year commitment to implement learning reforms.

The reforms are put in place in the grade, middle and high school levels to give students a cohesive experience. They are based on the principles of teaching for understanding and ongoing professional learning for faculties.

The program also places an emphasis on parent involvement, an area Gee worked closely with in the district, helping to implement site-based governance.

"I get to work with people who are change agents," said Gee. "We need to know there are vigorous program where teachers are professional learners. All the work I've done in my career I get to share that and contribute it to a national picture."

During her time with the SMMUSD Gee was instrumental in the district's Annenberg Project, which sought to bring equity to what students are learning in the classroom. Gee also led the district's community focus group several years ago, which led to the drafting of district goals.

Her new position, which is based in Newton, MA, will mark a homecoming for Gee, who lived in New England for 30 years. The move will allow her to spend more time with her parents, who live in Philadelphia, PA.

"I'm returning home for my parents who are entering a stage of life where they need their children closer to home," she said.

"Sue's done a lot for the district while she's been here," said Board of Education President Tom Pratt. "We'll miss her."

Gee said she was sorry that she would not have the chance to work with new superintendent John Deasy, a nationally recognized reformer.

Cutting echoed the sentiment saying he was impressed with the new district head, as well as with the rest of the district staff. But he added that it was economics and not the job that was the driving force behind his decision to accept a position as assistant superintendent of business services for the Saugus Union School District.

"It's a lot hotter there and there isn't an ocean," said Cutting who added that real estate prices are about 50 percent less there than they are in Santa Monica.

Cutting came to the district a little over a year ago from Ohio after spending years in the private sector. He and his wife settled into a condo after checking out the cost of houses in Santa Monica's burgeoning market, only to find that most of his salary would go to housing.

"It really does not have anything to do with the Santa Monica district. It has to do with economics. It's expensive to live in Santa Monica," said Cutting. "My wife and I decided well we can't afford a house so we rented a condo. We've discovered making the decision from house to condo was more difficult than we surmised. The condo life just didn't work for us."

His work with the SMMUSD marked Cutting's first foray into the public sector. Cutting decided to remain in education because he feels he still has a lot to offer from his years in private business.

"I think school districts can pick up a lot of advantages from private sector," he said. "I feel like I have a lot to offer."

Pratt agreed.

"Bob's public sector experience gave a fresh look at the district's finances," he said. "He will be greatly missed, and I wish him a lot of luck in his position."

Along with the departures of Gee and Cutting the district is gearing up for June 30, which marks Supt. Neil Schmidt's last day. The district also is searching for a replacement for Dr. Art Cohen, assistant superintendent of fiscal and business services, who is set to retire this summer.

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