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Dr. Deneen Guss Monterey County Superintendent of Schools

  • What led you to become County Superintendent?

    I have always had great respect for the work of county offices and admired the challenges of the role. As the liaison to the state, the entity that has fiscal oversight, and at the same time, the thought partner to districts in regard to curriculum, instruction, accountability, and everything in between, county offices are complex, key pieces to our public education system. I worked closely with county office team members while serving as a school site and district leader for many years. In fact, my former District Superintendent, Mr. Jorge Guzman used to tease me when I left the district office to attend meetings at the county office by saying, “Don’t let them recruit you to join the County Office team.” I think he knew before I did that with my collaborative leadership style, I had the desire to serve all students, not just those in our own district. The county office team and model is a perfect fit for me.
    After serving as Monterey County’s Deputy Superintendent for almost six years, and with the announcement of my Superintendent’s retirement, I felt that fire in my belly telling me that it was time to take on this extremely important leadership role. It takes an entire community partnering together to ensure our students receive a high quality education, and a leader that can coalesce the diverse needs of the community. I am proud to be that leader for Monterey County. 

    What inspired you to enter the field of education?

    When I was 18-months-old, my mother moved my brother, sister, and I from Oklahoma City to Stratford, California to become a first grade teacher. We moved into on-campus teacher apartments where we lived next door to other educators and had the school playground as our backyard. From a very young age I used to line up all of my dolls and stuffed animals and read to them. When I was old enough to go to school, I would hang out in my mother’s classroom every day after school where I would play school and teach my invisible students. I have had a love for teaching and a passion for learning my entire life. I have always seen life as one big classroom where every day we learn a new lesson.

    Do you have a particular goal that drives you?

    I am committed to preparing our students for a diverse, innovative and highly technical world that demands creativity and productivity to thrive in our global society. Well-prepared students are able to accomplish their college and/or career goals. In order to accomplish this goal, I am focused on closing opportunity gaps that exist in our county. I want to ensure our youth have the opportunities that will help them achieve financial independence, and live healthy and happy lives. My husband and I have three adult children who are fully launched, living healthy and happy lives. We are thankful every day for the opportunities that were afforded them to help them get to where they are today. I am driven to work toward breaking down barriers, searching out resources, creating partnerships and doing whatever I can to make sure all students have opportunities available to them so that they too can be financially independent, healthy and happy in their chosen career and in life.

  • What objectives do you hope to achieve?

    The first objective I hope to accomplish is to bring together all of our community partners who are interested in working on equity issues in our county and improving outcomes of our students. I would like to shift our partners from working collaboratively to a collective impact approach, which goes beyond working collaboratively to really pooling together our resources in a whole new way. We are leading the planning of our county’s first ever ALL IN FOR EQUITY Conference to be held March 2nd. We have several partner agencies and districts participating in the planning and pooling their resources. This is a very exciting development to see the synergy in the room. ALL IN FOR EQUITY will be the first of many training and learning opportunities to come on equity.

    I also hope to achieve the expansion of high-quality early care and education in our county. I am thrilled that we will be partnering with a local childcare agency who will be renting one of our county office buildings to expand their program and also offer childcare at a discounted rate to our own county office employees. This is in addition to working with several other partner agencies on expansion work and growing our own Quality Matters QRIS program.

    I will continue working toward recruiting and retaining top-notch teachers and staff who will build on our students’ cultural and linguistic assets. We recently received the Local Solutions Grant and the Teacher Residency Capacity Grant that will help us to continue to recruit as well as grow our own.

    Lastly, I will be working toward empowering parents to become more engaged in their schools, continuing to focus on school safety, and will be working with one of our local hospitals to implement a major health initiative focused on reducing obesity rates of our young people by 20%.

    What are your interests?

    I love to travel both foreign and domestic and have traveled to all but seven states in the US. I love to read and learn new things. I love watching movies, wine tasting, and playing games with friends and family.

    Who are the special people in your life?

    The special people in my life include my husband, Jim Guss and our three children. Jim serves as the Executive Assistant to the Salinas City School District Superintendent. Mallorie, our oldest daughter, lives in Cape Coral, Florida and is a business tax specialist for the City of Ft. Meyers. Our son Christopher is an aerospace engineer and lives in San Diego. Our youngest daughter is Katelynn, and she is a scientific researcher and lives in Pacifica. We also enjoy spending time with our extended family and close friends.


Peter Birdsall CCSESA Executive Director

There has been significant discussion and time devoted at the state level to building the Statewide System of Support approved and funded in the 2018-19 state budget.  At the same time, at the local level, county offices of education are already working with the school districts identified for differentiated assistance.

Connecting those two related, but separate, activities is a key reason CCSESA has established a System of Support Coordinating Committee.  To keep the time commitments of county superintendents and county staff manageable, CCSESA has dissolved its LCAP Coordinating Committee.  This represents a logical evolution as the focus of county office work expands beyond support for the LCAP process to substantive collaboration with school districts as they seek to address the issues identified by the state Dashboard.

As we strive to provide consistent, high quality support that simultaneously allows local variation to address local needs, there are a number of key issues that require collaboration and agreement across county offices of education.  What does the balance of consistent support and local flexibility mean for continuous improvement?  What are key principles that should be reflected in the work of all county offices, and what are variations that are appropriate to allow local flexibility?

What is the consistent, quality approach to supporting districts that have been identified due to performance issues with their students with disabilities?  How do counties align this work with the support of districts that have schools identified for Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) under the California’s ESSA State Plan?  What are the elements of cost-effective support by county offices for the data management and analysis needs of school districts?

Our experience over the past six years is that these kinds of questions are best addressed when we involve all the county offices and their staff in developing protocols and resources.  For example, when CCSESA did the first series of trainings for county offices related to the LCAP and Dashboard, staff from 42 county offices were involved in the development, review and presentation of those materials.  This broad-based involvement is an important reason for establishing the Coordinating Committee, so that key county staff are working together across the regions, across the Steering Committees, and across the various state-identified lead agencies.

County offices are now recognized as central to the support and accountability elements of California’s LCFF funding model.  The success of county offices in performing this key role depends on county offices continuing to work together, and relies on the expertise of leading staff from county offices across the state to develop and refine the trainings, protocols and resources that support all counties in providing high quality, high impact support for their school districts.


[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Pictured L - R: Superintendent Steve Herrington (Sonoma), Superintendent Mary Sakuma (Butte), Butte County Office of Education trustee Mike Walsh, Superintendent Stan Mantooth (Ventura), Superintendent Judy Flores (Shasta), Paradise Unified School District  Superintendent Michelle John, Ridgeview High math teacher David Smith.[/caption]
On Wednesday, February 6th,  Butte County Educators, along with several County Superintendents, participated in a panel before California's Assembly Education Committee to share lessons learned from their experiences responding to the Camp Fire.The committee's informational hearing, titled "The Impact of California Wildfires on Public Schools: Response and Recovery" also included comments from Assemblyman James Gallagher as well as from education leaders impacted by other California wildfires, including Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools, Steve Herrington, Ventura County Superintendent of Schools Stanley Mantooth, Shasta County Superintendent of Schools Judy Flores, Zoe Miller, teacher from Piner High School, and Amy Alzina, Superintendent/Principal Cold Springs Elementary School District. A number of other representatives from CalOES, CDE and FEMA were present to provide additional information to the committee. A full video of the hearing can be viewed on the BCOE News YouTube channel.


Dr. Nancy Katowski, former Monterey County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Amie Miller, Monterey County Behavioral Health Director, and Amanda M. Dickey, Esq., CCSESA Director of Intergovernmental and Legal Affairs, presented Collaboration On Campus, a panel discussion on school and mental health collaboration models at the County Behavioral Health Directors annual Behavioral Health Policy Forum in San Francisco.This conference brought together leaders in the Behavioral Health field, health care association leaders, political leaders, and behavioral health consumers from around California for an open dialogue to discuss the issues facing our state and nation, and to develop strategies to move forward key policy changes within the mental health and substance use fields. Topics discussed included homelessness, youth in foster care, youth mental health, harm reduction strategies, and criminal justice.

Video coverage of the conference can be viewed here.


New Science Contest for K-5 Teachers

As part of a statewide effort to raise awareness about the importance of science education starting in the early primary grades, the California Department of Education (CDE) has launched a new contest for teachers who use the formative assessment process to explore science phenomena in their classrooms. Science: It’s Elementary! is open to kindergarten through grade five California public school teachers. The CDE is calling for submissions demonstrating the use of the formative assessment process in the study of science. The contest seeks to feature classrooms where the formative assessment process is used to guide the study of science phenomena based on the California Next Generation Science Standards (CA NGSS). The winner will receive up to $1,000 in prize money for science resources for the classroom.

Eligibility and submission requirements, contest entry forms, and more information can be found here:

Submissions are due March 22, 2019.

First Convening of System of Support Lead Agencies

Gary Waddell, Deputy Superintendent, San Mateo County Office of Education, and CCSESA Executive Director Peter Birdsall were among those in attendance.

On February 12th, the Lead Agencies within the new state System of Support convened for the first time. These teams will work alongside districts to provide the help they need to make a difference for students. Calfornia’s System of Support is designed to provide resources and supports to school districts so they can continually improve teaching and learning for all students.

Registration for Spring 2019 Federal Advocacy Trip Now Open

Individuals interested in attending should register by March 1st, 2019. Learn more and register here.

School District Teams Sought For Community Engagement Network

There is a call for applicants for the statewide Community Engagement Initiative. If selected, districts will have the unique opportunity to help lead the initiative’s efforts to build statewide capacity for meaningful community engagement in California’s public schools. Districts also will be asked to make a three-year commitment to participate and will receive a stipend to offset the costs of participation.

To apply, districts should submit a letter of interest by email to Josh Daniels . The deadline for submissions is March 8.


Computer Science HS Classes To Count As Science

The University of California has expanded its application requirements so that approved high school computer science classes can satisfy a student’s third year of laboratory science, instead of being categorized as an elective. Proponents of the decision believe it will be an incentive for high schools to offer Computer Science courses as well as for students to want to take them.

Read the full article here.

Ventura County Office of Education Video Featured On NBC Today Show

A video produced by Ventura County Office of Education staff was featured on an NBC Today Show story about the national teacher shortage. The video featured three teachers from Mountain View Elementary School in Simi Valley, Erin Kutcher, Carly Wilson and Katie Muklevicz, along with Kim Uebelhardt from the Ventura County Office of Education.

Watch the video here.


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