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An Interview with Superintendent Simson

I interviewed Louise Simson Superintendent of Anderson Valley Unified School District in her office at the administration building next to the Elementary school.

She is a very high-energy and enthusiastic woman. Her style is informal and open. She is very warm and easy to talk to. Everyone I spoke with before meeting her had positive things to say about her and I can see why. I encourage anyone interested in our schools and students to get involved in any of the ways she suggests at the end of this interview. I did not record our talk so this is not a word for word interview but I hope my notes were accurate enough to give a good recounting.

What brought you to this job in Anderson Valley?

This is an amazing community full of untapped potential. I love to take a look at all that is good and build on the good bones. There is room to grow and innovate.

Where were you before you came here?

I was principal/Assistant Superintendent at the Vallecito Union School District in Calaveras County. Before that I worked in Special Education in San Mateo. There are similarities in the school population in Vallecito and Anderson Valley. In both places the community really cares about the kids and personal relationships matter. 

There is a book “The Road Back: Memories of Covid Left Behind” that was compiled by Louise Simson, Judy Bergantz and Deb Rocco that contains stories by Vallecito Union School District students and staff. If you are interested in reading you could find a copy at the District Office. It chronicles how a rural school community stepped up to create in-person, every day school beginning in October 2020. The Vallecito school district is a three-school TK-8th grade system in Calaveras County serving 600 students. Home schooling and digital platforms were also made available. Very few schools were able to offer in school learning so early in the Covid crisis.

What is your experience in education?

This is my second career. I was vice-president of a shopping center management and development company. We created from the ground up. During this time I had my only child Ben who was diagnosed as autistic which began my interest in Special Education. Ben is now a special education teacher himself and I am very proud of him. In my 40s I finished my Master’s degree. After working in Special Ed I decided to go back to get my administration credential so I could help make system changes. My partner Bob died. We had a second home cabin in Calaveras County and when a job came up there I decided to take it.

What is your impression of our community?

It is a very invested community with a beautiful legacy. When I got the job I had a list of 40 people in the community to call and talk to about the schools. I got an overview. We have a very committed and hardworking staff.

Do you plan to stay long term?

My goal is to see one full generation kindergarten through 12th grade through the system. I bought a house in Ukiah. I have lots of goals.

What are your long-term goals?

Measure M is coming up and we have vast infrastructure needs. The campuses are 60-70 years old. The last school bond 12 years ago helped upgrade many things, but much more is needed. Some classrooms have no water. The high school gym heaters failed and we needed to get emergency help from the office of public school construction. Sewage systems need to be improved. The remodel at the high school is only half way finished. There is much to do.

What are your personal passions- traveling, hobbies, family?

I love to run. I get up every morning at 4 AM and run 6 miles on my treadmill 7 days a week. I used to run 12 miles. I was a marathon runner.  I run for my health and for the calm.  It’s like fusion, it gives me energy. I love to travel. I’ve been to Africa, Austria, Germany, Hungary, England, France. I like Costa Rica and Panama.

What can the community do to help you to help our schools thrive?

As Covid loosens up, volunteer opportunities will be there. We also need substitutes for teachers and classified workers. Work parties are another option. Painting, maintenance, mowing… If you are interested in helping call Veronica here at the district office 895-3774. With Measure M coming up to vote on funding for the schools I am happy to take anyone interested on a tour to see exactly what the needs are for May 12th at the high school at 4:30 to walk through with district architect Don Alameida. 

On Thursday May 19th there will be a tour at the elementary also at 4:30. I have an open door policy. I can be reached at 707 / 684-1017 or lsimson@avpanthers.org

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