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Canton Superintendent Tapped to Head School District

By ANN K. Williams
Staff Writer

July 17 -- Dianne Talarico -- who as superintendent turned around Canton, Ohio schools and boosted student achievement -- has been tapped to head the Santa Monica Malibu School District, The Lookout has learned.

Talarico is noteworthy for having gotten the 13,000-student district in Canton off the state’s academic emergency list, improving graduation rates and increasing the number of college bound graduates, while managing a $200 million project to rebuild the district’s schools, according to press reports.

Talarico was chosen to replace Dr. John Deasy, who left the district in February, after an aggressive recruiting effort by the School Board that included a visit to Ohio last month and two visits to Santa Monica by Talarico, according to a Canton newspaper. She has been offered the job and is waiting for a contract to be approved.

“We are very excited,” Santa Monica-Malibu Board member Emily Bloomfield told The Lookout Sunday.

“We were looking for someone who would continue the course,” Bloomfield said. “She has dramatically increased graduation rates and demonstrated her ability to raise student achievement.”

Talarico told The Canton Repository that she was up to the challenge of running the Santa Monica Malibu School district, which is similar in size to the Canton district..

“There are so many things I can help move forward in terms of access to higher-learning opportunities to all students in that district [Santa Monica-Malibu],” Talarico said. “I am obviously always up for a challenge. What I think is extra special about this is that they acknowledge the work that has been done here.”

While the size of Canton’s district is comparable to Santa Monica-Malibu’s, the population in the Ohio city is less affluent, according to the local press.

Canton is Talarico’s home district. She graduated from Lehman High School in the Ohio city, and after a successful career as a special education teacher and top-level school administrator in San Francisco, returned to give her home town the benefit of her expertise.

Talarico said she won’t be leaving without regrets.

“It is absolutely bittersweet,” she told The Canton Repository Friday. “It is a personal dilemma, but if you have to go, go on the upswing.”

And at least one Canton board member isn’t willing to let her go without a struggle.

“She is an outstanding superintendent,” Canton Board member Nadine McIlwain told the local press. “I think if board members are willing, we can offer her something. I think we can offer her something to keep her in Canton – she is a real asset.”

For its part, the Santa Monica-Malibu Board is pleased to welcome Talarico, after an arduous search this Spring during which many top administrators left the district after former Superintendent John E. Deasy rocked the community with his resignation in February.

The superintendent search has “been a very intense process,” Bloomfield said. “It was a very difficult choice.

“We were presented with great candidates, but she was our first choice.”

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