The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s (SM-MUSD) search for a new superintendent is officially over, with the selection of Dianne Talarico.

A special board of education meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, July 20th, after a reception for Talarico, and unanimous approval of her appointment is expected.

Talarico — currently the superintendent of the Canton City School District in Canton, Ohio — has been offered the position and has accepted an offer made by the board of education, said Tim Walker, interim superintendent of the Santa Monica-Malibu district.

“It’s just the matter of making it official,” said Walker.

Talarico is leaving Canton City School District — where she was the first woman superintendent and has led the district for five years — to come on board with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. She will replace John Deasy, who resigned to accept a position in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Her anticipated date of arrival in Santa Monica is around August 15th, according to school district staff.

Previously, Talarico held various positions in the San Francisco Unified School District for nearly 20 years and was the associate superintendent for three years, staff said.

Talarico started her career as a special education teacher in Ohio, became a principal and a special education teacher in San Francisco and was principal of the American Overseas School in Rome, Italy for a year.

During her time in San Francisco, she was also an adjunct professor at San Francisco State University.

“I know that she comes with a wealth of experience in both a large urban district and also in a smaller district of similar size [to ours],” said Walker. “We look forward to working with her as a leader of the team.

“I’m very much looking forward to her arrival.”

Talarico, who is married to Enrique Navas-Vasquez, a specialist in school business services, received a Bachelor of Science in elementary and special education from Bowling Green State University.

She also received a master’s degree in educational administration from San Francisco State University.

“She’s going to be an outstanding superintendent for our schools,” said school board member Shane McCloud. “Her focus on student achievement and her experience on improving the instruction and support programs in her current school district give me much confidence in her abilities to lead our schools.”

During her term as superintendent of Canton City Schools, academic achievement at every level and the high school graduation rate reportedly increased by 25 percent.

Talarico was also instrumental in establishing partnerships with local colleges, the business community and education foundations to initiate an Early College High School and a P-16 (Pre-School through College) Compact.

Additionally, her administration secured $42 million in competitive grants, oversaw a $178 million reconstruction project and secured voter approval of a $7 million annual tax levy, while also curbing expenditures and streamlining district operations, according to Santa Monica sources.

“She’s been instrumental in instituting change,” Walker said.

Walker also said that Talarico has experience and awareness in addressing diversity issues, which will be helpful for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

“We are really excited about having Dianne join us,” said Julia Brownley, board of education president.

“We interviewed a number of candidates and are convinced that her experiences in San Francisco and Canton have prepared her well to address the challenges that face us in Santa Monica-Malibu.”

Talarico was recruited for the superintendent position by Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, Ltd., an educational management recruitment firm in suburban Chicago that helped the school board with its search. Over 60 candidates applied or were contacted or recruited by the firm, and the group was narrowed down to five candidates, staff said.

The board then interviewed the candidates on two occasions and conducted site visits, reference checks and extensive background checks before offering the superintendent position to Talarico.

To welcome Talarico to the district, a reception for central office and school-site administrators, PTA members and union leadership was scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday, July 20th. The board will then convene in a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the Board Room at the District Central Office, to approve the appointment.

A community-wide reception and celebration is expected to be held for Talarico within a few weeks.

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