MVLA School Board unanimously approves new superintendent

By Stella Huang, Staff Writer

This article was updated on Tuesday, April 30.

On Tuesday, April 9, the Mountain View Los Altos (MVLA) School Board announced that they unanimously selected Dr. Nellie Meyer, Ed.D., as current superintendent Dr. Jeff Harding’s successor.

In the search process, the MVLA School Board interviewed four search firms and selected three consultants from Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates (HYA) to identify what the community, including students, felt were essential characteristics of an ideal superintendent. MVLA parents made up more than half of the 450 survey participants and teachers made up over a quarter of respondents.

According to the MVLA School District website and focus groups, the most important qualities of the candidate were that they:

  • Foster a positive, professional climate of mutual trust and respect among faculty, staff, and administrators
  • Understand and be sensitive to the needs of a diverse student population
  • Recruit, employ, and retain effective personnel throughout the District and its schools
  • Demonstrate a deep understanding of educational research and emerging best practices and implement strategies
  • Provide transparent communication

On Sunday, March 17 and Monday, March 18, all five members of the MVLA School Board interviewed semi-finalists chosen from a candidate pool of 43 people, including 16 superintendents and 12 Deputy, Associate or Assistant Superintendents from around the country. On Saturday, March 23 and Sunday, March 24, the board interviewed the finalists for the district’s superintendency. Meyer was selected as the sole finalist for the position.

Meyer has prior experience serving in the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) and the Mt. Diablo Unified School District (MSUSD). While majoring in psychology as an undergraduate at San Diego State University, Meyer started her teaching career as a teacher’s assistant at Jackson Elementary School in SDUSD. During her 25 years in the district, she gradually climbed up the district’s hierarchy, serving as high school dean of students, vice principal, principal and the Deputy Superintendent of Academics in her last four years.

“I believe having had so many different experiences—really to have sat in almost every chair that a district could have—has given me a broader experience of understanding what people have to do and how important each person’s work is,” Meyer said.

After leaving SDUSD, Meyer served as superintendent in MDUSD for six years. During her time there, she helped the district develop its International Baccalaureate program, positive behavior support systems and districtwide AVID and college and career programs. She also formed a parent advisory committee and student focus groups to ensure that the changes she made to MDUSD were reflective of the community’s input.

“As superintendent, I would go out and meet with different groups of students,” Meyer said. “I really wanted to use it to hear what was needed. I asked questions about their opinions on what was working and what wasn’t, and if I was having a challenge as a superintendent, I would sometimes bring up it to that group. As a result, we looked at making different kinds of changes district-wide.”

As for improvements being made to the MVLA school district, Meyer said that she is hesitant to make significant changes without becoming accustomed to MVLA schools first.

“When I look at the academic excellence and the school test scores, I see that there is a lot to be proud of,” Meyer said. “The last thing [the MVLA district] needs is somebody to add something on top of that [which] might not be helpful.”

Meyer said, however, that improvements could potentially be made to accommodate students currently struggling with their academics. Having experience working with students and staff in AVID programs in her previous districts, Meyer said that she wants to see how the program works at Los Altos and whether students need extra support.

“In the last two districts I worked in, I had a wide range of students, but what I found — whether it’s at the continuation school or our highest-performing school — is that oftentimes there are more things in common than not, and it centers around wanting to have a voice on what is going on,” Meyer said. “I want students to know that I am available to them — if there’s something that they ever want to speak to me about or come in to say hello, that I welcome them. My job is to support them, and that’s why I went into education.”