Stanislaus Union gets new schools superintendent: Gratton district’s Shannon Sanford

Stanislaus Union School District in northwest Modesto has a new superintendent, Shannon Sanford.
Stanislaus Union School District in northwest Modesto has a new superintendent, Shannon Sanford. Modesto Bee file

Stanislaus County’s longest-serving current school district superintendent, Shannon Sanford, has a new job.

Sanford, who has led Gratton School District in Denair for 13 years and last year ran for Stanislaus County superintendent of schools, will move to the Stanislaus Union School District on Feb. 1.

The SUSD board of trustees appointed Sanford on Thursday, Jan. 17, pending approval of a contract.

It’s a big leap for Sanford, from a district with an elementary school, a charter school and about 140 students to one with five elementary schools, one junior high and more than 3,000 students. In northwest Modesto, Stanislaus Union includes Chrysler, Dieterich, Stanislaus, Baptist and Eisenhut elementary schools and Prescott Junior High.

Stanislaus Union School District has a new superintendent, Shannon Sanford. Joseph Zuzula photography

Sanford succeeds Superintendent Britta M. Skavdahl, who retired in December.

“I was drawn to Stanislaus Union because of the dedication of teachers and community to the success of their students,” Sanford told The Bee in an email Tuesday. “I am very excited to be a part of the team and support their efforts. I thank Dr. Britta Skavdahl ... for her work and wish her much happiness as she begins this next chapter. I will carry on proudly.”

The SUSD board hired a consultant to conduct the superintendent search. Input from community focus groups was used to develop a “leadership profile,” which the consultant then used to make candidate recommendations.

Of 15 applications received, the board chose six candidates to interview. Those were narrowed to three finalists before the offer was made to Sanford.

She was chosen “for her integrity, willingness to collaborate with community and staff throughout the district, and her willingness to keep the board’s vision going,” board President Susan Elliott said in a news release Tuesday.

In her time at Gratton, Sanford instituted a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program, and the district’s students test well.

“I am looking forward to contributing in the areas of intervention and enrichment opportunities for students, as well as continue to nurture STEM education,” she told The Bee. “Stanislaus Union is also known for their wonderful fine arts program that I advocate fully.”

Prior to becoming a superintendent, Sanford was a teacher for 16 years — all with Gratton. “After 29 years with Gratton School District, I will miss the students, parents, staff and community,” she said. “We have accomplished so much as a district. I look forward to creating those same relationships and adding to the accomplishments at Stanislaus Union School District.”

While campaigning for the Stanislaus County superintendent seat, which was won by Scott Kuykendall, Sanford wrote on her website about STEM education. “We need a reliable, highly skilled workforce in our county,” she wrote. “From electricians, pipefitters and agricultural workers to IT professionals, tech start ups and the next Steve Jobs, we have to graduate students who are ready to contribute to the 21st century workforce and to making Stanislaus county a great place to live, work and play.”