Education · Visalia

Visalia Unified trustees tap Blair to “heal relationship with the community”

With a vacancy to fill, Visalia Unified school trustees went to work interviewing nine candidates on Tuesday, including a former Superintendent, to replace outgoing long-time Trustee John Crabtree.

In the end, board members unanimously backed Catalina Blair, a mother of three children attending Oak Grove Elementary School. An attendee of Visalia’s College of the Sequoias, she was a senior preschool teacher at Christkids Preschool.

Blair competed with some high-powered applicants, including former Visalia Unified Superintendent Todd Oto and former Parlier Unified School District Superintendent Juan Lopez.

After hearing initial responses from the candidates, four trustees – Megan Casebeer Soleno, Walta Gamoian, Joy Naylor, and Christopher Pope – ranked Blair as one of their top three choices.

Eschewing further questioning of the three highest-ranking applicants, Gamoian moved to have Blair appointed.

Following some discussion about the rationale behind an expedited appointment, Visalia Unified’s current board members joined Gamoian in approving Blair’s appointment.

“We are looking to heal our relationship with the community,” Trustee Walta Gamoian said during Tuesday night’s two-hour meeting. “I think [Blair] has the skills, the know-how to do that.”

Following the unanimous vote, Blair was sworn into her seat.

Reid Stone is a contributing reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun.