Sandra Lyon, a longtime educator who has most recently served as the chief leadership officer in the Palmdale Unified School District, has been appointed as the new Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District superintendent.

The Board of Education voted at a special meeting May 9 to approve the appointment, effective July 1.

Lyon, who has served as the Palmdale district’s chief leadership officer for the past two years, will replace Superintendent Tim Cuneo, who will retire in June.

With Lyon’s appointment, the district’s senior cabinet positions will each be served by women for the first time in its history, school officials said. The senior cabinet includes the superintendent, the assistant superintendent of human resources, the assistant superintendent of business and fiscal services, and the chief academic officer.

Lyon was selected from a nationwide search which included a confidential interview process with the top candidates and a site visit.

“Sandy emerged as the front-runner from a group of superb and highly qualified finalists for the position,” Board of Education President José Escarce said.

“Her intelligence, experience, personal warmth, focus on all students, and collaborative approach make her ideal for our schools and communities. We are thrilled that she will be assuming the leadership of our district this summer, and we look forward to working with her to make our schools better for all students.”

As Palmdale’s chief leadership officer, Lyon supervised, evaluated, and provided support for the district’s 24 principals. She additionally collaborated with all district departments on issues of planning, communication, and implementation.

Prior to her work in Palmdale, Lyon served as the superintendent/principal of the Hughes-Elizabeth Lakes School District. Among her responsibilities were to work with the Board of Trustees to develop and update policies, provide professional development to staff and to implement new instructional programs and practices.

Other administrative positions she has held include director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment for the Lancaster Unified School District; middle school principal; and elementary school principal and assistant principal. Lyon previously taught language arts, primarily in the Lancaster School District, and coordinated an after-school program for at-risk students.

In addition to her career in public education, Lyon has also worked as a journalist in Northern California.

“We had a very strong pool of candidates, but were so impressed by Sandy’s combination of experience, leadership, warmth, and vision. Everyone who knows Sandy sings her praises, and I know that she’ll make an exceptional superintendent for our district,” Board of Education Vice President Ben Allen said.