In an eight part series we look back at the world that was, here in our little corner of it. 2020 was a year of challenges. We’ll be publishing this eight-piece series daily as we work to the new year. Today’s piece is on the new faces who stepped up to serve the Windsor community.

Margaret Sluyk, new director at Reach For Home

Margaret Sluyk was selected as the new executive director for Reach For Home, the north county’s nonprofit homeless outreach and shelter program. She is preplacing outgoing director Colleen Carmichael, who announced her resignation last July.

“We have to celebrate the small victories and share the stories of success when we have them. Sometimes it is just having someone finally talk to us and finally opening up their trust,” said Sluyk, a 17-year veteran of business development and nonprofit leadership. Most recently she was a regional manager for Canine Companions for Independence in Santa Rosa, where she currently resides.

Reach For Home operates with a $1.6 million annual budget and has a paid staff of seven involved with homeless outreach, street medicine, permanent support housing, rapid rehousing and emergency shelter support through the St. Paul’s Episcopal cold weather shelter, weekly dinners and daily shower programs. Twelve volunteers from Windsor, Healdsburg and Cloverdale serve on the board of directors.

Decker takes the reins at WUSD

Decker

Jeremy Decker

In July, Jeremy Decker left his previous post as the Superintendent of the Cloverdale Unified School District to take the top job at the Windsor Unified School District.

Decker is a Sonoma County native and a graduate of Elsie Allen High School in Santa Rosa. He was a basketball star in high school and college, and got his degree and teaching credential in biology from Sonoma State University. He served as a middle school and high school science teacher and an athletic director before receiving a master’s degree in education leadership from Northern Arizona University.

He served as an instructional coach and curriculum coordinator and an assistant principal in the Highley School District in Gilbert, Arizona, before returning to Sonoma County to take the job as vice principal and then principal at Washington Middle School in Cloverdale in 2013.

In 2014 he had just made the leap to assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction when he was tapped to step in as acting superintendent for the departing Steve Jorgensen. He was then awarded the top spot permanently. 

However, Decker came to Windsor Unified School District at a challenging time. In addition to the ravages of previous years’ natural disasters, we are now in the midst of a global pandemic, which will require brand new ways of teaching and learning. And, like all districts, WUSD is facing budget challenges as it operates with a functional deficit. Decker is ready to face these challenges, but he acknowledges it’s a big ask out of the gate.

Because of these unique challenges, Decker says the most important thing for everyone to focus on this year is patience, and he includes himself and his office in that.  

Schuessler replaces Harrington at HDH

With the expected retirement of current CEO Joseph Harrington announced in December, the board of the Healdsburg District Hospital (HDH) secured his replacement as they continue to oversee the hospital’s operations through the COVID-19 pandemic that has severely impacted normal operations. In a board vote earlier this month James Schuessler was offered and accepted the CEO position, which he assumed on May 11.

Healdsburg District Hospital is operated by the North Sonoma County Healthcare District and is led by a five-member board of directors who are elected by district voters in Healdsburg, Windsor, Cloverdale, Geyserville and unincorporated north county.

Harper takes over in alternative education

On May 5, the school board approved the appointment of Forrest Harper as the new Principal of Alternative Education for the district.

Harper will be stepping into the role preciously served by Susan Nystrom, who retired at the end of the 2019-20 school year. This role includes leadership of North Bay Met Academy, Windsor Oaks Academy and other alternative programs, including credit recovery and home hospital education. 

Harper was most recently vice principal at Analy and Santa Rosa High Schools in Santa Rosa, where he distinguished himself for his excellent communication skills, and his ability to build strong collaborative relationships with colleagues, students and families. Harper’s career in education began in his role as a social studies teacher at Vista Verde Middle School and Roseland University Prep. 

Harper earned his Bachelor’s degree with a major in history from University of Hartford. He earned his Master’s Degree at Concordia University, and his administrator’s certification from Sonoma State University. 

New pastor at Windsor Presbyterian

Windsor Presbyterian Church welcomed their new pastor, The Reverend Mary Beene, on Sunday, Feb. 2. She and her family relocated from Georgia. Beene grew up in Detroit, attended high school in Pennsylvania, majored in environmental science and German at Allegheny College, served in the Peace Corps in Hungary, earned a Masters in Public Administration at American University in Washington DC and worked for over 12 years for environmental non-profits in DC and Boston with an emphasis on board training and fundraising.

She met her husband Eric, also a pastor, at church in South Boston. She attended seminary and subsequently moved to Savannah. Mary served a tiny church in Rincon, Georgia and started a spiritual direction practice beginning in 2015.

New coach steps into WHS basketball program

The Windsor High School athletic department announced the hiring of Paul Holland to lead the boys basketball program, succeeding veteran coach Jared Greninger. 

The surprise announcement came on July 2 before a socially distanced crowd of players, parents and supporters in the main gymnasium, with all the hoopla and excitement befitting one of the top high school programs in the North Bay.  

Holland, a native of England, played college basketball at both Southern Maine Community College in South Portland and Colby Sawyer College in New London, New Hampshire.  

He assumes the Windsor helm after spending a couple of seasons as a JV coach and varsity assistant at Tempe High School in Arizona. He began his coaching career in 2015 as a graduate assistant at Bowling Green State College in Ohio, followed by a year at James Madison University in Virginia in the same capacity. 

Rigney becomes the head of tech for WUSD

At their June 16 meeting, the Windsor Unified School District Board of Trustees confirmed the appointment of Brad Rigney as the new director of information and instructional technology services.

Rigney served 13 years leading technology services for school systems and was most recently the senior director of technology for Envision Schools in Oakland, CA. He was previously with the Oakland Diocese Schools, also in Oakland.

Rigney studied computer art, 3D modeling and animation at the San Francisco Academy of Art College and has acquired many certifications and credentials in various technologies as he has developed his expertise to serve the needs of K-12 instructional services.

Soto moves into Cali

On May 27, Hector Soto was appointed as the new assistant principal of Cali Calmécac Language Academy. Soto stepped into the role to serve alongside current assistant principal Lidia Teruel-Albert, and principal Sharon Ferrer. This role will serve to lead the 100-plus teachers and support staff that serve nearly 1,200 students. 

Soto was previously assistant principal at Lawrence Cook Middle School in Santa Rosa, and assistant principal at American Canyon Middle School near Vallejo.

Soto earned his B.A. in Chicano/Latino Studies at Sonoma State University, his teaching credential at the National Hispanic University, and his M.A. and administrative credential at San Francisco State University.  

Soto grew up down the block from Cali Calmécac and currently resides in Santa Rosa with his spouse and three young children.

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