At their final meeting before the start of the school year, the Sonora Union High School District said goodbye to Superintendent Pat Chabot and welcomed new employees with the ratification of Dr. Mark Miller’s superintendent contract and hiring of a yearbook advisor and agriculture welding and mechanics teacher Melissa Stegall.

“I want to thank the board and staff and community at Sonora High School for allowing me to serve for 25 years,” Chabot said to a crowd of about a dozen district staff and members of the public. “It’s been an honor to serve you and I've enjoyed almost every minute of it.”

Hanging on the wall above the board of trustees was a new portrait of Chabot, posted alongside the eight other superintendents from the district’s history.

Board president Jeanie Smith handed Chabot multiple envelopes with gifts during the meeting — at least one for his retirement and another for his 61st birthday, which was on Friday — and was nearly brought to tears when recalling his appointment as superintendent during the 2015-16 school year.

“The board would like to thank you for your 25 years of service,” she said, and noted her appreciation for his 14-year career as a Sonora High School math teacher and 10 years as a swimming coach. “We had a good feeling about what you could do for the school.”

Board member Rob Lyons also noted his appreciation for Chabot, and said, “I don't think a lot of stuff that went through with the bond measure would have gone through without you.”

Despite the emotion surrounding Chabot’s departure, the board also expressed excitement about the anticipated arrival of Miller, current superintendent of the Juneau School District in Alaska.

“Although we are sad to lose Pat, we are very excited to have Dr. Miller from Alaska,” Smith said.

Miller is scheduled to arrive for his first day on the job on Monday, the day before the start of the 2018-19 school year. Chabot’s contract will expire on Aug. 22, and he has previously said he will meet with Miller as a part of the transition.

Chabot announced his retirement at a Sonora Union High School District Board of Trustees meeting on May 1, and Miller was announced as his replacement on July 24 following a search and recruitment process conducted by the firm McPherson and Jacobson.

The board convened a special meeting on Aug. 10 to schedule the regular meeting on Tuesday, following the cancellation of the originally scheduled Aug. 7 meeting due to the lack of a quorum.

“We were ready to do this at our last meeting,” Smith said, noting the board was “juggling special meetings” to ratify Miller’s contract.

Miller will be paid an annual salary of $155,000, and his benefits include a $200 monthly expense allowance, a $350,000 life insurance policy, a $8,656.40 annual health and welfare benefits cap, and a monthly $40 cell phone reimbursement.

Chabot referred to his salary as “competitive,” and Lyons noted that the salary was not higher when compared to other schools in the area.

Prior to Miller’s appointment, the board approved a resolution to restore the superintendent work calendar to a full schedule. A 10-day reduction of the superintendent and other management staff was approved during the 2016-17 school year as a part of the district’s fiscal recovery plan.

Miller did not receive a relocation stipend as a part of his contract.
Miller, an educator since 1985, was born in Concord, northeast of San Francisco, and has taught chemistry and physics in Manteca and served as the principal at Tracy High School before becoming superintendent of the Juneau School District four years ago.

Miller has said that he plans to familiarize himself with the district staff, students and facilities, and engage the community on controversial issues when he arrives in Sonora.

Along with the ratification of Miller, the district also welcomed back a former Sonora resident into a teaching position in Sonora High School.

Stegall, a graduate of Sonora High School in 2009, was approved to teach a single section as yearbook advisor for the 2018-19 school year. Earlier in the 2017-18 school year, 80 percent of her teaching assignment as an agriculture welding and mechanics teacher was approved.

“It’s home,” she said. “I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time.”

After graduating from Sonora High School, Stegall attended Modesto Junior College and then Cal State University, Chico, where she received a degree in agriculture education. Stegall then received her masters degree teaching credential at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo before teaching at Los Molinos High School, north of Chico.

Stegall’s position in the agriculture department is new and replaces a CTE teacher who resigned.

In regards to the Wildcat Ranch, the 137-acre district-owned property off of Tuolumne Road and Wards Ferry Road, Stegall said she “did not have a clue” about if the board would actually sell it.

“It’s a gold mine for the ag department, and for the school in general,” she said. “I hope they keep it.”

At the meeting on Tuesday, Chabot said the district has not received any offers on the property, but Tier II notices (to the California Department of General Services, the Regents of the University of California, the Trustees of the California State University, Tuolumne County, the City of Sonora, and all the other school districts in the county) would be sent out on Aug. 24.

Chabot said there were no updates or offers on the historic Sonora Dome.

Also at the meeting:

  • The board approved the hiring of Sherryl Godfrey, an educator from San Diego, as assistant principal of student services.

  • Chief Business Official Dana Vaccarezza presented a Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee report and said $23,414,055 was spent on the project (which includes the Sonora Aquatics Center, the high school cafeteria, the track & field, the H Building, and construction and consulting costs)

  • Chabot said recreational swim activities at the Sonora Aquatics Center was “successful” over the summer, despite a few lessons being canceled due to smoke. Columbia College will host an adult swimming class at the Sonora Aquatic Center in the fall, he said.

  • The board changed an agreement with Tuolumne County Arts’ for lease of the building previously known as the cosmetology building adjacent to the Sonora Dome from three years to one year, in case of a potential sale of the property, which has been deemed surplus. Chabot said the organization rents the building for $750 a month.

  • Chabot said school sports programs have “been practicing for weeks” and advertised Sonora High School football’s opening varsity game, away against Oakdale High School on Friday at 7 p.m.

  • A member of the public noted her confusion with districting as it applied to trusteeship areas, and school technology employees said a map could be made available online. The board approved a measure to make district and school websites accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at (209) 588-4526 or gricapito@uniondemocrat.com . Follow him on Twitter @gsepinsonora.

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