Schools - April 27, 2011

Woodside Elmentary School superintendent to resign

by Dave Boyce

Diana Abbati, principal and superintendent of the Woodside Elementary School District since mid-2008, has announced plans to take over as superintendent of the Los Gatos Union School District.

Ms. Abbati informed the Woodside school board at a special meeting at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 20, board president Bettina Pike told the Almanac. Her resignation is effective June 30.

"No career experience before or after will ever compare for the depth of personal and professional regard I have felt in my role as superintendent/principal," Ms. Abbati said in an April 20 letter to parents. "As I transition, I leave much of my heart with you."

With 2,800 students, one middle school and four elementary schools, the Los Gatos district is considerably larger than Woodside's one-school district with 500 students.

"Every district has its challenges," Ms. Pike said. "If anyone was qualified and determined to meet them (at Woodside), Ms. Abbati was."

The resignation was a surprise, Ms. Pike said. "I'll be very sad to see her go," she added. "She loved our children. She was (usually found) out on the campus surrounded by children who really adored her."

Asked about parental involvement, Ms. Pike noted that "our parents generally are very successful, motivated, passionate people. They want the best for their children and the community," and, thanks to their wealth, many have the time to significantly involve themselves in the education of their children.

Having that time "can be double edged sword," Ms. Pike said. "We have to make sure that their passions are channeled in the right direction."

Asked if that aspect of Ms. Abbati's job weighed on her, Ms. Pike said that if it did, it didn't show. "I don't think Diana ever saw it as a burden. She is so well equipped to handle anything that comes up. Los Gatos is lucky to get her."

Ms. Abbati did not respond to a request for comment.

Woodside Elementary regularly scores in the highest ranks in terms of academic performance statewide. The school, Ms. Pike said, needs a strong and dedicated leader in keeping with its strong and dedicated staff, and Ms. Abbati has made some "great hires" in replacing teachers, most of whom have retired.

"I believe we have the deepest bench in terms of the administrative team and teaching staff," Ms. Pike added. "It's a loss that she goes but the school is resilient and in the best place that it's been in a long time."

Finding someone new

Ms. Pike said the board would not rule out a national search for a new superintendent, but noted that the district cannot afford to offer to pay for the cost of relocation.

The district will tap the Woodside community for ideas and recommendations.

"The future remains very bright. I think we are an incredibly attractive district and we'll find someone who really wants to be with us," she said. "My sense is that we will probably end up with someone local from a like district."

The district has combined the role of superintendent and principal in one person for at least the last three people who held the job. Will that hold true this time? "I think that's something that the board is going to have to discuss," Ms. Pike said.

Parents visiting a school for a matter of concern often want to talk to the person at the top of the hierarchy, which in most schools would be the principal. But at Woodside, with one school and one administrative office, a principal and a superintendent would be sitting a few doors away from each other if not in adjacent offices.

"Being very clear about the separate roles and responsibilities can be a challenge if both people are sitting in the same place," Ms. Pike said. "It's difficult not to have a certain amount of redundancy between the two positions."


Posted by Dee, a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on May 14, 2011 at 12:09 am

She probably got sick of dealing with the adminstrators and "smart" Board.

Posted by Perhaps, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 14, 2011 at 10:36 am

On the other hand, perhaps the allure of greater responsibilities in a larger district which can afford to give her a 25% raise had something to do with it.

Posted by Perhaps2, a resident of Woodside: Family Farm/Hidden Valley
on May 14, 2011 at 4:06 pm

On the other foot, perhaps they got sick of her and pushed her out and she found better job else where. They should just role woodside elementary into the las gatos school district and she can run everything. Now that's consolidation at it's best.

Posted by Perhaps, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 14, 2011 at 7:57 pm

I guess I don't why the trolls seem to be out in force. I have multiple kids in the district and have found her to be an entirely competent administrator. She successfully navigated the school through a trying period of unstable school funding while balancing many competing interests.

If you are from the Family Farm/Hidden Valley part of Woodside you are in the PV district, so I find it inappropriate to cast aspersions without first hand knowledge.

Posted by Health, a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline
on May 14, 2011 at 11:54 pm

It's message board, relax. Name calling and accusing others of slander is the same. Some people have different opinions, only the subject person knows the facts. It's probably alot more complicated and everyone is happy for her career move. A little diversity in her job can only be good.

Posted by Heath, a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline
on May 15, 2011 at 10:35 am

Top talent comes when the compensation is very competitive and the environment (people and place) is desirable. That said, anyone would "really really want" to be with that org too.

"The future remains very bright. I think we are an incredibly attractive district and we'll find someone who "really wants" to be with us," Pike said.

Posted by Woeful Woodside, a resident of another community
on May 19, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Diana, I am told was fine at somethings but not at others. Budgeting may have been her strong suit and brown nosing the board, but her interaction with the staff was lacking. She would ask for input from the staff and then do things the way she wanted to anyway. I say good riddance to her, the District will find somebody who doesn't always butter up to parents because Johnny's got too much homework. Remember it's school it's not supposed to be easy. It wasn't when I went and it shouldn't be today either. Learning is a process and it takes patience and perseverance. If you don't succeed try again. Bye Diana I hope Los Gatos loves you, on to greener pastures.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 19, 2011 at 7:46 pm


as a business owner I can tell you I solicit input from employees all the time. That doesn't mean I TAKE IT. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. Sometimes it is valuable insight other times it is ridiculous because of a lack of access to the "big picture."

I can guarantee you many bosses get input from employees and don't necessarily take it. There's usually a reason the boss is the boss.

Posted by Sue, a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on May 23, 2011 at 10:19 pm

This is a k-8 1-dimensional school for rich white kids, and she got sick of dealing with the so called liberal smarty pants on the board and rich parents flashing their wealth to get what they want.

Posted by Woeful CA, a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on May 30, 2011 at 2:43 am

School administrators job responsibilities is to kiss up to everyone. You have to justify your existence and open your own doors. If you're in education and not teaching, you kiss up and cry for a bigger budget. It's not about the kids, come on folks.

Posted by Health, a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Jun 11, 2011 at 5:57 am

Maybe they can takie this vacancy opportunity to share a superintendent with one of the small "districts" like they did in the past to save money.

Too many superintendents across CA in all these tiny districts. Eventually, the taxpayers will speak loudly.

Posted by huh?, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 11, 2011 at 1:17 pm

They used to share 1/2 the superintendent cost with Portola Valley. When Ms. Abatti became principal, they consolidated the two jobs into a single post, at even greater total savings.

Health, the direction you are suggesting going would actually cost money.

Fwiw, the state budget outline does specifically discuss consolidation of districts as a means of savings, but districts with over 100 students are actually considered moderate size. The state's budget focus is on consolidating those districts with less than 100 students.

Posted by Health, a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Jun 15, 2011 at 10:47 pm

So it costs more money to reduce head count...okay I can see why CA publics public schools are so broken.

Go get informed on how many kids are in the Palo Alto school districts relative to Woodside, PV, Las Lomitas combined. Put the data in a spreadsheet.

Posted by huh?, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 17, 2011 at 10:39 am

What the heck are you talking about? What headcount are you going to reduce?

There is ONE person who fills the role of both superintendent and principal in Woodside.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 17, 2011 at 10:52 am

I think huh's comment was: "Health, the direction you are suggesting going would actually cost money." I believe Health was referring to the savings that would come from consolidating districts.

huh appears to be accepting the school board's assertion that consolidation would shift a district from "basic aid" status (districts with a high property tax base and relatively few students) to "revenue limit" status (poorer tax base with a lot of students). If true, then the per student funding could be less.

I would caution you to be skeptical of this unfounded claim. Combining two basic aid districts will almost always result in a basic aid district. You should depend on a financial analysis - which is VERY easy to perform - not on scare tactics promulgated by a school board defending their turf.

Posted by huh?, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 17, 2011 at 11:49 am

Who said anything about consolidating districts? Health suggested that Woodside should share a superintendent with another district. I pointed out that Woodside used to share a superintendent with Portola Valley (splitting the cost 1/2 - 1/2) but decided that as a single school district that one position for both principal and superintendent was sufficient.

Can't get much more efficient then that one person unless you don't want to have an on-site principal.

Don't know what anything about being a basic aid district has to do with it.

Posted by Johnson, a resident of another community
on Jul 4, 2011 at 11:26 pm

Have they thought about shipping some of the white kids from woodside to say E. Palo Alto? That might make more sense than to get diversity by shipping a few minorities into a purely white school district.

Posted by Jake, a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline
on Jul 10, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Huh, go back and read your posts. You can answer your own questions reading your own posts. [Portion deleted.]

Posted by R.Gordon, a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Kids in Woodside don't see much future in growing up to be educated and be like their parents who have lost control of bicycle lanes, and an overabundance of mountain lions.

They would probably riot, except there is nothing around to gripe about unless it is a house to save.

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