A search firm is seeking a replacement for Ravenswood City School District Superintendent Maria De La Vega, who has announced she will retire in June.
The K-8 district educates 4,296 children on seven campuses in East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park. When they reach high school, Ravenswood students are bused to Menlo-Atherton, Woodside or Carlmont high school in the Sequoia Union High School District.
De La Vega, who began her career as a clerk in the Stockton Unified School District, has led Ravenswood since 2005, struggling under state mandates to improve test scores and a federal court order to provide "full inclusion" for special education students.
She has kept a sharp eye on student achievement, and standardized test scores have inched up under her tenure.
About 76 percent of Ravenswood children are English learners and more than 85 percent qualify as low-income under the federal free-and-reduced-price lunch program.
De La Vega has resisted efforts by charter-school operators to locate in the district, saying the loss of enrollment at traditional schools could put the district's future at risk.
Ravenswood currently has one charter operating under its auspices, the high-performing, 16-year-old East Palo Alto Charter School managed by Aspire Public Schools.
But De La Vega successfully argued in 2011 against allowing Rocketship Education, which has achieved top test scores in its six K-5 schools in low-income San Jose neighborhoods, from locating in East Palo Alto.
Rocketship presents an "unsound educational program," she argued before Ravenswood trustees at the time.
"The model is a business design, not an educational program design that is constructed to promote literacy and academics while respecting the community's wishes for cultural and social skills development."
The Ravenswood board voted 3-2 on March 24, 2011 to deny the Rocketship bid to build a campus in East Palo Alto.
De La Vega also argued successfully in 2010 to deny renewal of a charter for the Stanford University-affiliated East Palo Alto Academy Elementary School.
That school closed its doors in 2010, though Stanford continues to operate a charter high school in the community, the East Palo Alto Academy High School, under the auspices of the Sequoia Union High School District.
De La Vega acknowledged that charter schools have "shown great success" in other districts but said Ravenswood was fighting for survival. The district already loses more than 1,000 students who reside there to alternative programs, including the Tinsley Voluntary Transfer Program.
That program, the product of a 25-year-old court settlement of a desegregation case, allows children of color living in the Ravenswood district to apply to attend public schools in Palo Alto, Belmont-Redwood Shores, Las Lomitas, Menlo Park, Portola Valley, San Carlos and Woodside.
De La Vega in 2012 was selected by the San Mateo County Commission on the Status of Women for induction into the county's Women's Hall of Fame.
The commission called her "a visionary leader in the field of public education who has been recognized for her efforts to provide an inclusive education for disabled students.
"She has worked to encourage, mentor and promote women, particularly women of color, into leadership roles in the school system," the commission said.
The search for De La Vega's replacement is being handled by the consulting firm Leadership Associates, which has posted an application closing date of April 8 and interview days of May 3 and May 4.