Last year, Windsor hired a new superintendent of schools by pulling from their neighbor to the north, Cloverdale. This year, they’re doing it again, welcoming two new administrators down from Cloverdale. Susan Yakich, currently principal of Jefferson Elementary in Cloverdale will be taking over the top spot at Mattie Washburn in Windsor, and current Cloverdale High School Principal Chris Meredith will be taking over as human resources director for the district.
Decker hired Yakich in Cloverdale in 2017, bringing her to Northern California from Santa Monica. At the time, Decker called her a “big get,” a view he’s clearly kept as he moved school districts.
In 2020 she was recognized as Elementary School Principal of the Year for Region 4 by the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA). The award is specifically for ACSA’s region 4, which encompasses districts in Sonoma, Marin, Mendocino, Lake, Napa and Solano counties. The award recognizes administrators who strive for student achievement.
Yakich has spent over 30 years in education, and has a love of the littlest of learners.
“Elementary age range is my favorite. I just like the littles,” she said in an interview with the Times’ sister paper The Cloverdale Reveille in 2020. “It’s their first experience with school and you’re setting the foundation for their lifelong success. I do enjoy working with kids, but I also enjoy working with the staff and the parents as well — it takes all of us working together to support the kiddos.”
Yakich is looking forward to her change of venue.
“I've enjoyed my work in Cloverdale, but I'm excited for this next chapter and being a part of the stellar Windsor Unified School District and leading Mattie Washburn,” she said. “I enjoy working with the littles and I'm really impressed with Mattie Washburn's focus on the whole child and their student-centered approach.
“The school community is one with strong traditions and is committed to maintaining strong partnerships, and Mattie Washburn embraces inclusion and diversity and is committed to every child being successful,” she continued. “The school community offers a positive, supportive, nurturing and collaborative environment that allows students and staff to thrive. I'm excited to be part of their dedicated, hardworking team. I've learned a great deal from Betha (MacClain) as our (Cloverdale) superintendent, and I've appreciated working with her this past year, but I am looking forward to working with Jeremy as well.”
Yakich will be taking over from beloved principal Julie Stearn, a prospect she doesn’t take lightly. “I have big shoes to fill — I have huge shoes to fill. So, right now my focus is getting to know the community, getting to know the staff, the students and the parents, developing those strong relationships ... it's important to have strong relationships to work collaboratively together,” she said. “I'm looking forward to hearing about the things they're most proud of, hearing about their traditions and what their focus has been. I'm very interested in hearing about what I can do to support them. I'm there as a support system and I want to hear from them about 'What do you need from me?'”
Chris Meredith also came to Cloverdale in 2017 as a Decker hire, leaving his position as vice principal at Roseland University Prep in Santa Rosa. Meredith is a Sonoma County native who graduated from Rancho Cotati High School. While he has extensive degrees and experience in education and as an administrator, he also has a strong background in sports, as a football player and football coach at the high school and college levels.
However, at the WUSD he’ll be taking a non-teaching role, stepping up to the top tier administrative team in his new role as the human resources director.
“It’s district-level leadership,” Meredith said. “Windsor being a mid-sized district, the role will expand outside of just the realm of human resources. It’ll be an opportunity to help the district and support their site leaders, support their negotiations process with both bargaining units.
“I have a great relationship with Jeremy,” he continued. “So, I look forward to helping him pursue the vision that he has for the district as the superintendent. I feel like this will help me to be more prepared and grow as a leader and learn.”
Meredith has two Masters degrees, one in Educational Leadership and another in Human Performance and Sport. Prior to his work at Roseland, he was the summer school Maker Camp principal for the Santa Rosa City School District in 2015. As a teacher, he taught business and physical education at the high school level. In addition, he served as the academic advisor at Ridgeway High School. He also previously served as an adjunct faculty for the Kinesiology Department at Santa Rosa Junior College.
Despite the movement in his career, he says he’ll always have strong feelings for Cloverdale. “It comes with a heavy heart. There will always be a special place in my heart for Cloverdale. I’m just really excited about the opportunity to take this next step in my career,” he said.
Additional reporting by Zoë Strickland.