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Pasadena schools chief Edwin Diaz to retire

February 24, 2011 | 10:33 am

Pasadena schools Superintendent Edwin Diaz confirmed Thursday he will retire this summer to return to his native Gilroy and spend more time with his family.

Although wanting to "spend more time with my family" is often code for a civic leader exiting because of scandal or loss of political support, Pasadena officials insisted the explanation is genuine.

"He's been thinking about it for a couple of months," said Pasadena Unified spokesperson Binti Harvey. "Over the holidays, he had conversations with his family over the lifestyle they want to lead and his ability to do that."

Before moving to Pasadena in 2007, Diaz had been a fixture in Gilroy, the well-known garlic capital south of the Bay Area, where he had grown up and  worked as a teacher and administrator. His first grandchild was born recently and lives there, Harvey said.

Diaz, 57, suffered a minor stroke about two years ago but missed no more than two weeks of work and has recovered fully, Harvey said.

Supporters credit Diaz with raising the district's test scores at a faster pace than the state, although scores are still below the state average. The district of 18,000 students is one of the state's larger school systems, although dwarfed by L.A. Unified, which has about 678,000 students.

Diaz's initiatives focus on improving middle and high schools and reducing the dropout rate. He also oversaw a new master plan for facilities and worked to rein in legal costs.

During his tenure, the district passed a school construction bond but fell short of winning voter approval for a parcel tax to offset ongoing budget strains. Because of the state budget crisis, Diaz had to oversee successive cuts that have reduced his general fund by about $30 million to about $165 million.

Perhaps his most controversial initiative was restructuring Muir High School, which required staff to re-interview for their jobs. Some were not invited back. The effort remains a work in progress, officials have acknowledged.

Diaz is scheduled to retire Aug. 2 but said he could stay longer if a successor is not yet named.


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