Visalia Unified educator takes the helm CJUSD

In addition to his role with Visalia Unified School District, Andre Pecina has previously taken on the role as an English Language Arts and Theatre Arts teacher, a vice principal, principal and district instructional leader. (Visalia Unified School District)

Award-winning VUSD educator embarks on path to leadership at Corcoran Joint Unified School District; Visalia Unified bids one of its core team members farewell

CORCORAN – As of its last meeting, Corcoran Joint Unified School District (CJUSD) has welcomed a new superintendent in the form of Andre Pecina, an award winning educator who currently serves in Visalia Unified School District as the Administrator of Communications Strategy and Outreach.

Pecina was notified of the position — which he will officially step into at the beginning of February — by the Leadership Associates, an organization that works with school boards and various other educational institutions to help them find the best fit for their open leadership positions.

“I wasn’t really looking for anything because of the work we were doing and the strong bonds I had in Visalia with Kirk Shrum (VUSD’s superintendent) and the other members of the board,” Pecina said. “The whole process started around a month ago (and) I’ll be honest with you, I really took my time to dig deep because I wanted to make sure it’s the right place.”

After looking into Corcoran, Pecina found himself feeling drawn to the small community, something he attributes to growing up in Sangar, a similarly sized town, where he remembers attending it’s one highschool and the communal pride that came from it.

“It really was the community aspect I felt drawn to,” he said. “I’m very excited to be their superintendent and really serve that community and provide every opportunity I can for students.”

Pecina continued by sharing that his drive for student success is due in large part to his family, namely his wife, who teaches at Fresno Unified and whose father was a teacher and principal, as well as Pecina’s own father, who taught for 39 years.

“It’s really a calling for us,” he said. “My girls are fortunate because they have two parents who know the school system and can help them navigate through it, but not all our families do (which means) some students don’t get access to every opportunity, which has been a driving force during my almost 26 years of working in education.”

During just the past two years, Pecina has earned various accolades, such as the 2023 California School Board Association Governance Team of the Year and Golden Quill for Outstanding Public Relations, 17 California School Public Relations Association awards for high-quality campaigns and 15 National Public School Public Relations Associations awards for high-quality campaigns, including the 2023 Superintendent to Watch.

These awards aren’t the only achievements the educator boasts, he also assisted VUSD in developing its first strategic plan, which was created with over 18,000 community inputs. During his career, Pecina has also worked as a English Language Arts and Theatre Arts teacher, as well as a vice principal, principal and district instructional leader.

In his educational career, Pecina has been recognized for multiple accolades, with his most recent achievements being his inclusion in VUSD’s recognition as the 2023 California School Board Association Governance Team of the Year along with the Golden Quill for Outstanding Public Relations. (Visalia Unified School District)

Despite this long list of past work, Pecina feels “fortunate and blessed enough to be able to be the person who was able to get the position” at CJUSD, a position which looked for applicants at a national level, according to the press release from the Corcoran school district.

“The application process itself was extremely competitive,” Pecina said. “Leadership Associates is a firm that truly makes sure that is the case, as that’s what they’re hired by districts to make sure that that happens.”

This was confirmed by CJUSD board president Sandra DeLaFuente, who stated in the release that the district had “great candidates to select from,” many of whom met their “common desire…to seek an experienced and proven leader who also had a desire for a long-term commitment” to the district and its community.

“Mr. Pecina possesses all of that,” DeLaFuente stated. “We are happy that he’s with us.”

As for Pecina’s prior employers, VUSD expressed excitement for the soon to be superintendent. Although they have yet to find a new Administrator of Communications Strategy and Outreach, they plan to have their current staff assimilate the various responsibilities that encompass the position.

“Mr. Pecina has been an incredible asset for Visalia Unified, helping us establish our communications team and being an advocate with our community for our strategic plan work,” said Superintendent Kirk Shrum via statement to The Sun-Gazette. “Our exceptional teams will assume Mr. Pecina’s responsibilities while we evaluate next steps.”

According to Pecina, VUSD has always made sure to cross train their employees, to allow them to fill different roles and responsibilities during times such as this.

“We prepare in advance before something like this happens, it’s always something we’re working on,” Pecina said regarding his past role with VUSD. “Our team (at VUSD) is definitely aware of different roles and responsibilities; we’ve definitely stepped in a lot of times for each other…because we had kind of built in as part of our working structure.”

As for the way Corcoran Joint Unified operates, Pecina feels the district already has a good system going and plans to take the next few months to really learn its ins and outs, as well as become better acquainted with the community and identify their needs and goals.

“From now to the end of June I am really going to be listening and learning and kind of assessing what’s working really well, what might be missing, what might need to be started and really doing that through the lens of the stakeholders,” he said. “We’re gonna be doing listening sessions, one-on-ones and really gathering all that data to decide what areas we want to focus on in the future.”

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