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Education

Napa school superintendent Rosanna Mucetti gets contract extended to 2025

Rosanna Mucetti

Superintendent Rosanna Mucetti of the Napa Valley Unified School District addresses an audience in October 2019 during the reopening ceremony of Snow Elementary School, following its reconstruction and relocation in response to the 2014 earthquake. NVUSD board members on Thursday approved a contract extension to keep Mucetti at the helm through June 2025.

Rosanna Mucetti, who has directed the Napa Valley’s largest public school system through a time of financial stress and then an historic global health emergency, will stay at the helm through the middle of the decade.

Late Thursday night, board members with the Napa Valley Unified School District approved a four-year contract extension that takes effect July 1 and will keep Mucetti as its superintendent through June 2025. The agreement also includes a 4% raise for the 46-year-old Mucetti at the end of the 2021-22 school year, her fourth at NVUSD’s helm, and similar “longevity increases” for every third year on the job afterward.

Mucetti’s original four-year contract with the school district, drafted when she came to NVUSD from the San Leandro district in 2018, included a $265,000 annual base salary.

The extension and raise won the unanimous support of the seven trustees, who on Tuesday conducted their annual performance review of Mucetti during a closed session.

“It’s evident that Dr. Mucetti is an extraordinary, one-of-a-kind CEO, and we feel fortunate to have her as our superintendent,” Elba Gonzalez-Mares said Thursday while announcing the review had rated Mucetti as “distinguished” in all aspects of the job.

Trustees described the extension as a reward for guiding students, teachers, and staff through the thicket of challenges faced by the district – from the steady erosion of per-student state education funding to the coronavirus pandemic that abruptly emptied out classrooms in March 2020 as social distancing rules took effect.

In late October, NVUSD became one of California’s first school systems to phase students back into in-person instruction, ahead of educators in San Francisco and major cities. Board members praised the early move to bring students and teachers together as quickly as possible, and also credited Mucetti for investments in computers that smoothed students’ path to virtual learning as the pandemic raged.

Since her appointment in 2018, Mucetti also has advocated for shrinking NVUSD’s physical footprint and staffing to meet a shrinking number of families with school-age children, and for boosting the district’s budget reserves to head off the prospect of a state financial takeover.

During her tenure, NVUSD’s board has canceled a second middle school envisioned for American Canyon and mothballed the Yountville and Mt. George elementary schools, which had the district’s smallest enrollments at that grade level. In May, the board voted to shut down Harvest Middle School after 2022 and replace River Middle School with a dual-language English-Spanish academy.

Closure decisions have triggered vocal resistance by parents who warned of overcrowding at remaining campuses and predicted the loss of smaller classrooms with closer staff attention would drive more families to private schools and accelerate the district’s student drain.

Only two people called into Thursday’s virtual meeting during the public comment period for Mucetti’s contract, which took place after 10 p.m. two-thirds of the way through a five-hour session. But one of the speakers blasted the superintendent and the cutbacks during her tenure.

“Reading the highlights of her term is devastating; it’s cuts, cuts, and more cuts,” Matt Clancy said by Zoom videoconference to trustees at NVUSD headquarters. “It’s baffling that you guys have any idea of what you’re thinking. I can’t wait for the next election.”

“You’re closing two middle schools and two elementary schools; I understand it brings in money, but you’re going to cut more in the future … And yet you want to give her a raise? If this were a business and she were the head, she would be removed immediately.”

Afterward, trustees were quick to support Mucetti’s record against what they called misunderstandings about how school districts are funded, and how school-age populations rise and fall.

NVUSD, like most public school networks in California, is funded mainly by a formula providing a set amount of state funds for each student enrolled. Student counts in the Napa district have declined from 18,314 in 2015 to fewer than 17,000 this year, and a district-sponsored report predicts further shrinkage to 14,316 by 2028 as ever-rising housing costs squeeze out families with younger children and lower incomes.

Mucetti’s support for operating from fewer campuses merely accepts a fiscal reality that previous district leaders ignored, steadily eroding cash reserves and risking insolvency, said trustee David Gracia.

“To do this, she has had to make difficult decisions that I know have ruffled some feathers,” he said, crediting her with bolstering district finances. “These are frankly decisions that should have been made years before she came … The decisions that are most difficult to digest are often the most important to execute.”

“So much of the criticism of Dr. Mucetti is absolutely misplaced,” said trustee Cindy Watter. “It’s all right to be upset at the way of the world and that’s fine, but it’s wrong to make personal attacks on someone who is trying to make things right, who is making things right.”

Also on Thursday, NVUSD trustees approved a budget for the next three years that would raise the district’s cash reserve in 2021-22 to more than 12%, above the district’s goal of at least a 7.5% buffer and well past the 2018-19 of 3.6%, just above the 3% mark that can lead to a state fiscal takeover.

District officials have predicted that cushion will shrink to 4.24% by 2023-24 as staff and pension expenses grow and enrollment shrinks. (Enrollment declines are expected to cost the district $20 million through 2024, officials said in their budget report.)

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You can reach Howard Yune at 530-763-2266 or hyune@napanews.com

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Public Safety Reporter

Howard Yune covers public safety for the Napa Valley Register. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.

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