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Board picks Placer Union’s next superintendent

George Sziraki chosen for experience, leadership skills
By: Andrew Westrope, Staff Writer
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Placer Union schools will welcome George Sziraki this summer as their new chief administrator, named on Tuesday to succeed retiring Superintendent Dave Horsey.

One of four finalists to interview for the position, Sziraki comes from a background of administrative achievements and experience in Merced Union High School District, a district of more than 10,000 students from Atwater, Livingston, Merced and surrounding areas.

Sziraki completed his undergraduate degree at California State University Stanislaus in Turlock, his masters degree at National University in Fresno and a doctorate in education administration at University of the Pacific in Stockton.

After teaching government and economics for Merced, his administrative career began in 2001 as a co-administrator of newly-opening Buhach Colony High School, for which he was heavily involved in the hiring and organizing process. He served other schools in that district as coordinator of athletics, principal and eventually assistant superintendent for the past five years.

According to a press release from Placer Union High School District, in his previous role as assistant superintendent Sziraki oversaw the opening of a new school, helped bring instruction up to state and national standards throughout the district, oversaw several programs and curriculum improvements, managed community outreach and negotiated with bargaining units.

His new contract with Placer Union includes a $155,000 salary with health and benefits, an annual 3 percent raise and 225 work days per school year.

Preparing to spend a series of Fridays with Horsey between now and the beginning of his three-year contract on July 1, Sziraki said he looks forward to serving Placer Union schools because of its familiar “high school experience.”

“When you look at Placer, it’s similar to what my current district was 10 years ago: a one-high-school town,” he said. “And there’s nothing better than a one-high-school town – the experience, the culture, the climate, the close community.”

Sziraki expects some of his immediate challenges will involve implementation of Common Core standards and curbing declining enrollment, but he will bring to the district his own high expectations.

“Truly, in the forefront of my thinking and in my career is definitely improving instruction,” he said.

Board president Lynn MacDonald said the board had a strong list of finalists for the position, but Sziraki exhibited “great leadership quality” and the potential to raise the bar for the district’s schools.

“We want to do two things: perpetuate the culture, which is very important to the people here, and strive to be even more outstanding than we are,” she said. “We’re really happy with our choice … He was the very best we could hire.”

Board clerk Maureen Ward agreed, confident that Sziraki will be well-suited to the particular qualities and challenges of Placer Union.

“I think he’ll fit with our culture,” she said. “He looks to be a team player (who will) create relationships with the people we have in place.”