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Sandra Lyon Named to Lead Santa Monica-Malibu Schools  

By Jason Islas
Special to The Lookout

May 10, 2011 – Calling her a "perfect match," the School Board has hired Sandra Lyon, a 25-year education veteran, to head the local public school system.

Lyon, who will be leaving her position as Chief Leadership Officer in the Palmdale School District, will be the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District's new Superintendent, the Board of Education announced Monday night.

New SMMUSD Superintendent Sandra Lyon and her husband, Paul, immediately after the Board of Education unanimously approved her appointment. (Photo by Jason Islas)

Lyon stood out among a group of “superb and highly qualified candidates,” Board President Jose Escarce said, calling her “a perfect match for our district.”

Lyon will take over the position from Supt. Tim Cuneo on July 1.

“I'm very accustomed to diverse communities,” Lyon said as she accepted the appointment on Monday, adding that “I've heard nothing but good things” about the Santa Monica-Malibu School District.

The announcement brings to an end to a process which began in October, when Cuneo announced he would retire.

The process was extensive, Escarce said, and included a public meeting in January, during which members of the community were asked to outline what they wanted in a new superintendent.

Monday night's comments indicated that the Board had been listening.

“Our new superintendent really fits the description of what this community wants,” said Board Member Laurie Lieberman.

Board Member Ben Allen described Lyon as “a very thoughtful person” with a “concern for social justice.”

And Board Member Oscar de la Torre said, “Sandra's definitely a leader. She understands that the most important relationship is between students and teachers.”

De la Torre also emphasized Lyon's focus on the importance of “institutional culture.”

“Hire someone who's smarter than you,” Board Member Nimish Patel said was the advice he followed when he helped choose Lyon.

Patel was pleased by the fact that Lyon and her husband, Paul, who has been a teacher for 17 years, are planning to move into the area, because “we need someone who lives in our community.”

Lyon's appointment also means that the school district now has “an all female senior cabinet,” he said. The District's Chief Financial Officer is Janece Maez, the Chief Academic Officer is Dr. Sally Chou and the Assistant Superintendent in charge of Human Resources is Debra Moore Washington.

After receiving a degree in Journalism from San Francisco State University, Lyon went on to receive a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction and an Administrative Credential from the California State University at Bakersfield.

She began her career in education as a high school teacher in the Antelope Valley School District before moving on to teach and then serve in administrative roles in the Lancaster School District.

Lyon spent a two years working as a private professional development consultant for Thinking Maps, Inc. a company that specializes in professional staff development.

She then served as Principal/Superintendent of the one-school Hughes-Elizabeth Lakes School District, which earned a California Distinguished School designation under her leadership, before joining the Palmdale School District.

Lyon is a member of the Association of California School Administrators, as well as Phi Delta Kappa and the California League of Women Voters.


“Our new superintendent really fits the description of what this community wants.” Board Member Laurie Lieberman.

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