After two years with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, superintendent Dianne Talarico is officially leaving and returning to the San Francisco area, where she lived for 20 years.

She has accepted a job as superintendent for the Burlingame School District — a smaller district in Northern California serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade — that is close to where her husband and family live.

Talarico, who was hired in July 2006 to replace John Deasy, plans to stay with the Santa Monica-Malibu district through Friday, June 20th, and start her new job Tuesday, July 1st.

On Friday, May 30th, the Burlingame School District board approved a three-year contract for Talarico as superintendent of the district.

“We are very pleased and excited to welcome Dianne to the Burlingame School District,” said board president Michael Barber. “The board and members of the school community are looking forward to working with her as we all work to advance the best interests of the Burlingame students.”

The move will allow Talarico to live with her husband, Enrique Navas — who works as a chief financial officer/assistant superintendent of Business Services — for the first time in three years in their home in Pacifica, just 15 miles south of San Francisco.

During the time they have lived apart, each has made monthly commutes to visit the other, but the traveling has been taxing, Talarico said.

“I told the [school] board a couple months back that I attempted to fulfill my three-year contract here, but it became more difficult with each passing month,” Talarico said.

“I had an epiphany last summer when I turned 50 that life is pretty short and I want to spend quality time with my husband. I want to have a much healthier balance between my personal life and my professional life.”

With that goal in mind, Talarico believes that Burlingame is a “very good fit and match.”

“I’m really thrilled that she found a district closer to her husband,” says Santa Monica-Malibu board member Kathy Wisnicki, who noted that Talarico was very upfront in her search for a job closer to him. “She sounds like she’ll be very happy in this position.”

And although Talarico’s tenure at Santa Monica-Malibu has been overshadowed by controversy, she says that’s not the reason for her departure.

The district’s Special Education Program, which has a policy of requiring parents of special education students to sign confidentiality clauses in their settlement agreements, has been met with much opposition under Talarico’s term.

Currently, there is a moratorium on confidentiality clauses, and recently, an independent evaluation of the program revealed that the district needed to make major changes to the current plan.

Also, last month, Lincoln Middle School teacher Thomas Beltran was charged for allegedly sexually molesting five of his students.

“Every school district has issues and I’ve been at this thing called education and educational leadership for a long time,” says Talarico. “I really think that many of the experiences I’ve had here make me not just a stronger leader but a more thoughtful leader.”

Talarico says she has made close relationships with people she has worked with and adds that she will miss working for Santa Monica-Malibu, “even though I think a great amount of time was spent on distractions diverting us away from the core mission — higher achievement for all students.”

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