In a May 13 email to the Piedmont Unified School District (PUSD) community, Superintendent Randy Booker announced that he was leaving Piedmont to become superintendent of the San Mateo Union High School District, a district of approximately 9,000 students in grades 9-12 on the Peninsula. His last day as Piedmont superintendent is June 30.
For me, this is bittersweet, as I have been privileged to work in the Piedmont schools for 19 years. Here, my extraordinary colleagues continually innovate to improve education for one and all. Here, the schools have an utterly remarkable partnership with the Piedmont community, which generously supports the schools with volunteer work, donations, parcel taxes, and bond measures.
Together, we have kept a steady focus on enhancing educational opportunities and preparing students for the future. We have modernized curricula and facilities and developed critical programs for student wellness. We have risen to the many challenges presented by repeated cuts in State education funding, a sea change in educational technology, and a global pandemic. I am deeply proud of our work together in Piedmont. At the same time, I am thrilled for the personal and professional opportunities in the San Mateo Union District, where I attended elementary, intermediate and high school. In many ways, my career in education is coming full-circle.
I am working with the Board of Education to ensure a smooth transition and the Board will follow-up with families about the next steps with regard to District leadership.
The PUSD school board said in an email on Friday that it would provide information on the superintendent search at its May 25 meeting.
Booker’s 19 years in PUSD include seven as superintendent, four as assistant superintendent, six as principal of Piedmont High School, and two as an assistant principal. Booker came to Piedmont from the Albany Unified School District in 2003.
“On behalf of previous board members, our educational community, and ourselves, we thank Randy for his hard work, advocacy, perseverance, and unwavering commitment to placing students at the heart of all his decisions,” PUSD school board members said in an email on Friday. “To the board, he has been a reliable and candid advisor, sounding board, and partner. He has served Piedmont for almost two decades with honor and integrity and we are grateful for the opportunity to have worked with him and learned from him. We wish Randy all the very best on this next part of his professional adventure.”
Booker told the Exedra that there’s much he will miss about Piedmont, especially the relationships he’s developed over the years.
“I like building connections and partnering with colleagues, the city, and community. Those relationships and friendships have been so important to moving the needle, to getting things done,” he said. But Booker said he was drawn to the San Mateo job for several reasons. “I went to school and grew up in that area. It was kind of an unbelievable fit and an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” he said, noting he also looked forward to the challenges of running a school district that includes seven high schools, one adult school and a charter school. It was the right time, career-wise, to move on, he said.
In an email to staff on Friday, Booker expressed gratitude to PUSD educators, saying “On a personal level, I want to express my gratitude as a parent for the wonderful education provided to my two sons, Aidan and Christian. As an educator and administrator, I had countless reasons to take pride in the caliber and compassion of our staff. As a parent, I had the opportunity to see our staff and our programs from a different vantage point, and my appreciation only deepened. It has indeed been a privilege for the Booker family to be part of the PUSD family.”
As superintendent, Booker worked closely with the Piedmont Education Foundation and the City of Piedmont.
“Superintendent Booker has been an amazing partner for PEF,” said Executive Director Heather Frank. “He not only took the time to share information between our offices, he made himself available to speak and listen at every meeting, gathering, and fundraising event we put on. The increasing success of the Giving Campaign over the past five years is a tribute to his collaborative approach and active participation. San Mateo is lucky to get such a dynamic leader, and we wish Superintendent Booker much success in his new role.”
“The cooperative and collaborative relationship between the city and the schools is healthy and thriving in large part because of Randy Booker’s open approach to being a true partner,” said Piedmont’s City Administrator Sara Lillevand on Friday. “I will miss Randy’s thoughtful and positive approach to the challenges we faced together over the past couple years and wish him nothing but the best in his new adventure.”
As Piedmont superintendent, Booker oversaw a school district that undertook big capital construction projects, technological upgrades, new diversity and inclusion efforts, and weathered turbulent times related to the pandemic-driven school shutdown.
Looking back on his tenure, Booker said he was particularly proud of the development of the Wellness Center and the bond programs that led to the new STEAM and Performing Arts Center buildings. “The community commitment [to these efforts] was extraordinary,” he said. He also cited the connected learning (Chromebook distribution) program as another highlight, a program that made it possible for PUSD to switch gears to online learning during the pandemic.
When asked if he had any messages for Piedmont families on the eve of his departure, Booker said PUSD’s commitment to academic excellence should not be in doubt. “Our schools are among the best in the country. We are not only academically excellent but we work to take care of students’ social and emotional needs. We are on an intense journey of DEI initiatives but we are willing to take the risk for the betterment of all our students.”
Booker also highlighted the important role that parcel tax campaigns have played in maintaining PUSD’s reputation for excellence — and, perhaps most importantly in his view, in bringing the community together. (The first parcel tax was passed in 1985 and Piedmonters have supported the tax eight consecutive times, most recently in 2019 with the passage of Measures G and H.)
“I don’t take for granted how special this place is,” Booker said, reflecting on his time in Piedmont. “I feel lucky and blessed that my kids got to attend school here. Most administrators don’t stick around districts this long. I am grateful for the community that stood by me when I made mistakes and [when I] celebrated successes.”
(This article was updated Friday afternoon with information from a PUSD Board of Education email.)