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.
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.
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.
the day begins.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
in the window of a local business.
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
a platform that quickly become a daily part of students’ lives once
quarantine took effect.
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.
Valla is the deputy superintendent of human resources and educationalservices for Lompoc Unified School District. She can be reached at