Search Archive Columns Special Reports The City Commerce Links About Us Contact

Former Superintendent Dianne Talarico Dies at 53  

By Ann K. Williams
Lookout Staff

May 20, 2011 – Four months after retiring as superintendent of schools in Burlingame, former Santa Monica-Malibu Superintendent Dianne Talarico died of cancer at her home in Pacifica Tuesday. She was 53.

Talarico died surrounded by her family and her husband, Enrique Navas-Vasquez.

“Right before she died, she said she was going to heaven and read to the children,” Navas-Vasquez told the press from her hometown of Canton, Ohio.

Talarico left her post leading Canton's schools to head the Santa Monica-Malibu School District in 2006.

Board member Oscar de la Torre, who was school board president when Talarico led the district, shared his recollections of his first impressions of Talarico with The Lookout Thursday.

De la Torre was one of a group of board members who flew out to Ohio to interview Talarico.

As they drove around Canton, Talarico pulled the car over to the curb to talk with a group of African-American kids, said de la Torre. “She knew them by name...there were a lot of hugs.”

He was impressed by the way she could “chop it up on a street corner and show a lot of love to the kids.”

“Everybody says they care about kids, but that really proved it,” said de la Torre.

“She had a working class appeal,” he said. He compared her to former Superintendent Neil Schmidt in that regard. “They didn't let the job go to their heads,” de la Torre said.

“She made a tremendous contribution to our school district. We will always remember her for the good work she left behind,” he said.

Talarico's tenure in Santa Monica was sometimes rocky, but marked by significant achievements.

Chief Financial Officer Winston Braham left the district after refusing to sign a raise for teachers endorsed by Talarico a few months after she became Superintendent.

Another controversy led to a showdown between the city council and the district over the district's handling of its special education program. Ultimately, Deputy Superintendent Tim Walker who was in charge of the program left the district. His departure was not voluntary.

But Talarico got a lot done for the district, de la Torre said. She was behind the Young Collegians program which teams the district with Santa Monica College to give students a better chance at pursuing higher education.

And she oversaw the beginning of reforms in the special education program that have led to reconciliation between some special education parents and the district.

A list of Talarico's specific achievements is quite extensive, said de la Torre, and can be found in a report he co-authored with her.

“We will continue our strong dedication to doing not only what is right, but also what our children deserve!” she wrote.

When Talarico left Santa Monica-Malibu to head the Burlingame school district, she said that she needed more time with her husband, who lived in Northern California.

"Last July I turned 50 and it came to me 'Oh my God, life is so short. This is ridiculous. I'm living apart from my one true love,'" Talarico told The Lookout in 2008. "I put some things in perspective and realized that I really wanted to have a balanced life."

Talarico's life was celebrated this week, as educators, family and friends gathered to honor her memory. She is survived by her husband, Navas-Vasquez, and by four stepchildren, her mother, a brother and a sister.


“Right before she died, she said she was going to heaven and read to the children.” Enrique Navas-Vasquez

Lookout Logo footer image Copyright 1999-2011 All Rights Reserved. EMAIL