The Newhall School District governing board has announced that Leticia Hernandez has been selected as the new superintendent of schools pending board approval at the upcoming June 28 board meeting. Hernandez is scheduled to begin her position on July 1.
“We were very excited to have had an excellent field of candidates for the superintendent position. The board selected Dr. Hernandez from an incredibly talented and impressive pool of candidates,” said board President Donna Rose.
The board hired Leadership Associates, a search firm, to engage parents, teachers, administrators, staff, district stakeholders, and community members to conduct both in-person and online sessions to build the desired profile and leadership qualities for the best superintendent for the Newhall School District.
Hernandez said this was in many ways a homecoming.
She grew up in the district and attended school in the district from kindergarten through sixth grade. She also returns home to her large family, who reside in different parts of the Santa Clarita Valley.
“I also taught there [at NSD] for a year. It’s a dream come true to come back and give to my community, the community that formed me, the community that gave me the education to be who I am today.”
Hernandez comes to the Newhall district from the National School District in San Diego, where she has worked as assistant superintendent of human resources, director of human resources, and principal. She served as an instructional academic coach and teacher in the Chula Vista Elementary District. Hernandez began her teaching career as a bilingual teacher in the Newhall School District where she also received her elementary education, grades K-6 at Newhall Elementary School.
According to Hernandez, in her current position at the National district she serves 10 schools, so coming into the Newhall district will be a little similar in terms of the number of school sites, but the demographics will be different.
“But really working in that environment [and in various positions] has given me experience in a variety of areas,” Hernandez said. “I’m versed in the knowledge of instruction because I come from a background of curriculum and instruction. I’m also blessed to have the human resource part, which is really involved in the functions of running a district.”
Hernandez earned her bachelor’s degree in liberal studies with bilingual/bicultural specialization, her master’s and administrative credential, and her doctorate in educational leadership from San Diego State University.
She said a large portion of her career focused on bilingual and Latino families. It’s always been her goal to bring education and opportunities to these groups because that was given to her as a child in the Newhall district.
“I want to continue their dual immersion program, focus on another language, and just be there to support and take the goals that have already been set in place,” Hernandez said.
The Newhall School District community is invited to attend the June 28 board meeting either in person or via Zoom to celebrate Hernandez’s appointment and hear a few words from her.
“It is my privilege to serve the outstanding learning community of students, educators and families of the Newhall School District,” Hernandez said. “I will help raise a new generation of great young minds and continue the amazing standards of Newhall School District. I am fortunate to work alongside an amazing board, cabinet, teachers and support staff to continue our mission.”
Current Superintendent Jeff Pelzel said his final day will be on June 29.
“I’m excited for the announcement today of Dr. Hernandez,” Pelzel said. “It’s a brilliant choice by our governing board. She’s going to be a real asset to the district. It really settles me to know that we are going to have this great person coming in.”
Pelzel announced he would be stepping down from his position in March. He’s been with the district for eight years and he was named superintendent in 2018.
He led the district through many challenges such as the Saugus High School shooting, the COVID-19 pandemic and a ransomware attack. Pelzel told The Signal back in March that he made the decision to leave the district after having dealt with the stress of various personal and professional challenges over the last few years.
Pelzel said he will be taking some time off before opening the door to his next venture.
“I have some opportunities to do some consulting work,” Pelzel said. “I’m going to explore those opportunities in terms of potentially supporting school districts around a variety of things connected to teaching and learning.”
Pelzel said his passion for working with children started his career in education. He enjoyed working with them and coaching them.
He first started at the high school level as a coach, which then led him to being a middle school principal then a director of professional development.
The rest is history, he said.
And now, Pelzel offered this bit of advice to Hernandez as he prepares to leave the Newhall district: “My advice is just to always be who you are. We have a great parent community; we have great staff. She just needs to express her ‘why’ and build relationships with people.”
“If you do that, it’s just a special place to call your second home. And I know, that’s why she’s coming back here is because it had such an impact on her. She wants to give back to her community, and that’s her cause. People are going to believe and follow her as a leader, for sure.”