Education · Visalia/Tulare

In Shrum, Visalia Unified reaches across U.S. for newest Superintendent

Visalia Unified School District turned the page Tuesday evening in what it hopes brings stability to its most senior leadership position. 

Following an unanimous vote in closed session, the Visalia Unified Board of Education announced Kirk Shrum as the district’s next superintendent. 

Shrum comes to the Central Valley with 25 years of educational and administrative leadership experience, the latest of which was as the chief school leadership officer with Henry County Schools in Georgia since 2019. 

Previously, Shrum served as the area executive director for Fulton County Schools in Atlanta from 2013-2019 and was a school principal from 2011-2013. 

“During his 10 years of district level leadership, he successfully increased student achievement, developed systems to deliver consistent high quality instruction, led initiatives that improved facilities and supported other leaders to create many opportunities for students,” Board President Juan Guerrero said. 

“Throughout his career as a teacher, site administrator and district leader, Mr. Shrum has modeled strong personal character to carry out his vision for high quality education for all students.” 

Tuesday’s announcement caps a search that began last August and brings in the fourth superintendent to lead the district in the last few years. 

Visalia Unified’s superintendent turnover started in May 2019 when the board ousted Todd Oto, who himself only lasted three years on the job after he replaced former Superintendent Craig Wheaton in 2016. 

Then Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Tamara Ravalin took over from Oto in the interim and was tapped for the permanent gig in January 2020. 

But Ravalin’s tenure ended up as a short one. She announced her pending retirement in May 2021 for personal and health reasons and served in the position through the end of August. 

In May 2021, Ravalin announced her retirement and continued to serve as superintendent through the end of August. 

In her stead, the board appointed Douglas Cardoza to step in as the interim superintendent until a permanent replacement could be found. Cardoza had been with the district for over 30 years and was serving as the Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services before covering the district’s top job. 

As Cardoza took over and the board once again began the search for a permanent superintendent, Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Tim Hire assisted the board and oversaw the recruitment process. 

Shrum will officially join Visalia Unified on May 16 and work alongside Cardoza until he takes over the top spot full time on July 1. 

“It’s an honor to be appointed as superintendent of Visalia Unified School District. This community, board and district values public education and is focused on creating futures for each student, and from the first moment I spoke to County Superintendent Hire about this district, I knew it was the place I wanted to call home,” Shrum said. 

“Creating futures for each student we are privileged to serve is the most important work we could do. I believe in the unlimited capabilities of all students and of all staff to nurture those capabilities. That’s the impactful work we get to do every day as educators, and that’s the work I’m excited to engage in with each of you.” 

In his address to the board following his introduction, Shrum urged the district to listen to the voice of the Visalia community for what they “hope and dream for all children” and in turn generate policy that solidifies those dreams and designs systems and operations to ensure bright futures for all students. 

“Throughout my career I’ve worked as a classroom teacher, school administrator, district level leader to champion systems that identify and remove barriers for success and set the conditions for each student and adult to be successful. It’s the work I’m passionate about and the work I’m ready to begin with you and this wonderful community,” Shrum said. 

“I look forward to meeting our teachers, leaders, staff and community over the next few days, listening to their stories and experiences, learn what they value about what makes their school and community special. And every day I commit to you to bring all of my efforts and my focus to the table to honor what we as a community value to engage in this work with energy and transparency, focus on what is possible and making it happen, because that is what each student and employee deserves from me and from each of us.”

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.