Guest Viewpoint

A Day in the Life of an Assistant Superintendent During Distance Learning

Here’s how a district leader stays connected with her community, her students and herself.

Every day, I work with teachers, principals, local business owners and the School Board of Education to ensure that Lompoc Unified School District provides the best possible education for its students. As an assistant superintendent, I coordinate with each of these stakeholders — and everyone in between — granting me a broad perspective and the opportunity to illustrate how a district keeps the lights on.

I can’t speak for all educators or administrators, but in the following paragraphs, I’ve distilled my common experiences into a 24-hour snapshot of my work, offering you what I believe is an accurate peek at a day in the life of an assistant superintendent.

Now, the day begins.


I start my morning by sending a district-wide message called the Daily Bright Spot, highlighting various innovative, student-centered activities occurring across the district. The Daily Bright Spot goes to all of our employees, as well as our school board members, giving them a glimpse of some of the great things happening in our community and hopefully brightening their days — something we recognized needed to be supplemented after losing in-person instruction last March.

During this morning’s Daily Bright Spot, for example, my colleagues and I were able to watch one of our kindergarten class’s recent trips to a local fire station. As the virtual tour proceeded, the station actually received a call, so the kids got to witness the firefighters quickly suiting up and leaving the station in their engine, sirens wailing, to go assist the public.

After the Daily Bright Spot is sent out, I pop virtually into a variety of classrooms to watch these innovations play out live and select highlights to share in future Daily Bright Spots as the week progresses.

We have principal meetings next, where we connect with our principals throughout the district and identify the needs of their site staff, as well as their own personal needs, in order to help conduct education at their schools in the best way possible. Informed by this meeting, we typically work with our district staff to review the information and see what we can do as a district to reduce as many barriers as possible.

This week, we’re focused on preparing our recommendations to the district board concerning reopening for in-person instruction. We are a week and a half into the Red Tier, down from the Purple, as per California’s framework of metrics describing a community’s risk for disease transmission. As determined by the State of California, in-person instruction is allowed to resume after a county has been out of the highest-risk Purple Tier for two weeks.

So, after wrapping up the calls with our principals and district staff, I hop on the phone with The Lompoc Federation of Teachers, a coalition of our 600 certificated non-management staff, including classroom teachers, nurses, speech and language pathologists, and counselors whom we’ve been working with closely since last spring.

It’s wonderful to work with them and easy in the sense that we both have the same top priority of safety. Together, we discuss our presentation for the board, which petitions that the safety of our students and staff remains our priority and encourages that we not let our focus slip due to pandemic exhaustion and how eager we all are to go back to a more traditional model of instruction. We also ask that the board allow us two weeks to prepare for whatever direction they determine.


About this time I look at the clock and see that the day is almost half over and I should probably eat something, but I still need to note follow-ups from my last call and answer a few emails to keep my insatiable inbox at bay, so lunch typically takes place over the keyboard.

Mental health and personal time is something we enthusiastically prescribe to our staff here at Lompoc, especially now in a distance setting where the lines can easily blur, so I do make a concerted effort to carve out some time each day for some self-care, often a workout or a run.

Today it is easier to pry myself away from the desk, though, because at 4:00 pm the local yoga studio we’ve partnered with will be logging on to Zoom to coach a free live class, available to all Lompoc staff twice a week. It offers a wonderful reset, both physically and mentally, and prepares me to launch into the second part of my day.


For two of my fellow yogis, however, the day is just beginning. After hearing from many of our teachers that their workday was bleeding into their personal time and they were feeling compelled to answer emails and assist students long after signing off, we’ve recently hired two after-hours teachers who begin their day at 2:00 pm and end at 7:30 pm, offering students who need extra help in the evening a place to turn and alleviating some of the pressure and guilt felt by our hardworking teachers.

As the after-hours teachers have settled in, I begin my afternoon by checking in with some of the other folks we’ve just hired to support the unique learning model we’ve recently adopted. I speak with our new counselor, psychologist, and technology specialist about what students, parents, and faculty are saying to determine how we can best support them.

Our last conversation revolved around introducing a new SEL curriculum into every classroom, and coaching parents on the use of our latest tech platforms, helping them gain confidence in their newly acquired role as at-home teaching support.

Before I leave the office, I work with the various districts around our county, particularly the human resources and payroll staff, to help us understand how to best navigate the new COVID sick-leave processes, how we can best facilitate COVID surveillance testing for staff, and overall best practices to achieve cross-county consistency. The tail end of the afternoon is typically spent collaborating with our fellow districts to generate ideas and approaches to support all staff throughout Santa Barbara County.


After that, it’s time for a break. I have dinner with my family, help my own kids with their homework, and then maybe take a walk or run errands, hopefully noticing a new 805 Reads! sticker in the window of a local business.

We’ve been working to recruit community partners in our grassroots reading initiative, encouraging students to read at least 20 minutes a day and striving to knock down barriers by providing WiFi access through our partners’ hotspots and thousands of books on the myON digital library, a platform that quickly become a daily part of students’ lives once quarantine took effect.

In the evening, after the kids are in bed, I want to make sure that our staff feels supported and knows that the district is here to respond to their needs as quickly as we can, so I often revisit my email. It’s already a full day, but it feels good to tie up loose ends and know that tomorrow morning I’ll wake up with a clean slate as I start a new day.

About the Author

Bree Valla is the deputy superintendent of human resources and educationalservices for Lompoc Unified School District. She can be reached at [email protected].