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John Garcia to head Downey schools

March 03, 2013|By Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com

Glendale Unified Deputy Supt. John Garcia will become the next superintendent of the Downey Unified School District in April — making him the fourth leader of that district in as many decades. 

Garcia was selected for the top job from an applicant field of about 30 people, according to Downey Unified school board member Donald LaPlante.

LaPlante — who has served on the school board for 34 years — said Garcia's extensive experience as a teacher and administrator made him stand out from other applicants.

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It also helped that Garcia grew up attending Downey schools; he graduated from Downey High School in 1985.

“What more could we ask?” LaPlante said. “The only thing we could ask was that he would be working for us all along.”

For his part, Garcia said leaving Glendale after six years for the new role was “bittersweet.” 

Prior to becoming deputy superintendent for Glendale Unified in 2010, Garcia served as assistant superintendent of human resources and director of classified staff. 

But he is looking forward to working with the Downey community, saying it was one that “cares as much about its kids as the Glendale and La Crescenta communities do.”

“I'm very excited about the opportunity,” he said. “There's a component of going home to the place where I grew up.”

Garcia will also be stepping into a financially strong district — practically an endangered species in a state where education funding has been repeatedly cut. Downey Unified has roughly $30 million in reserves and hasn't had any recent teacher layoffs or furlough days, LaPlante said.

But Garcia would still face a learning curve in becoming a new face among community stakeholders and the district where the retiring superintendent was on the job for the 10 years. 

“His other challenge is he has to get to know our district…the culture of the schools individually,” LaPlante said.

Glendale Unified Supt. Dick Sheehan said Garcia would be missed.

“We're very excited for him,” Sheehan said. 

“Personally, I'm going to miss him greatly. He's a good personal friend of mine and very much my right hand.”

The district was going to open the deputy superintendent position for applicants beginning March 1 through the end of the month, he added.

The position would be open to insiders and outsiders, although, Sheehan said, “we feel very strongly we have some great internal candidates.”

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Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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