After a lengthy presentation on the state of special education in Hollister at the Jan. 8 Hollister School District (HSD) Board of Trustees meeting, Diego Ochoa was voted in unanimously as the new superintendent. The vote followed emotional endorsements from trustees and the public.
HSD Board President Stephen Kain said Ochoa’s total compensation will be $209,000 per school year, beginning Feb. 8, through June 30, 2022. Ochoa will be employed the last five months of the 2018-19 school year, for which he will be paid $80,101.32. He will receive the same benefits as other full-time certified district administrative employees.
Kim Taylor, a lay special education advocate, repeated her endorsement from the night before at a public meet and greet with Ochoa.
“I believe Mr. Ochoa has a passion for working with communities, with children and families, with Latino community members, for students in general education, and those who need special education services,” Taylor said. “I will be watching to make sure he follows through on what is needed to make positive change.”
District speech language pathologist Cheryl Rios said that after listening to Ochoa’s responses to questions at three meetings she was convinced they accurately represented his core values of inclusiveness and open communications. Angela Higgins, president of Hollister Elementary School Teachers Association (HESTA), said there was not enough time to ask union representatives for a consensus on Ochoa’s qualifications, but that the union was able to do a thorough background check. She said HESTA wanted to know his reputation for working with teachers and how they felt about him.
“We were able to find way more positives than negatives,” Higgins said. “For the last two years and much longer teachers in this district have not been treated well, so we look forward to working with Diego Ochoa.”
After equally high praise from the Hollister School District Board of Trustees, Ochoa gave his remarks in Spanish and English. He thanked the board and told them he was there because he wanted to serve them as superintendent. He said the selection process was difficult, partially because of media coverage.
“There has been much written about me on the internet and Facebook,” Ochoa said. “I came to this room and spoke to 150 people to try to show them who I am and what I’m about.”
Ochoa was referring to his 2011 resignation from a Chula Vista school in the wake of mismanaged funds and altered grades. BenitoLink spoke to the firm hired to assist Hollister School District in their search for a superintendent, as well as former coworkers who held him in high regard.
At the Jan. 8 meeting, Ochoa described the events as a circus.
“That ends today,” Ochoa said. “From this day forward the focus needs to be the students and Hollister School District and the amazing employees in this community. It’s about community. It’s about collaboration. It’s about our work. I want to go far with this district and to make a difference, but I want to do it together with this board of education.”
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