"Mountain View is such an interesting community," Skelly said. "A changing, evolving community."
Skelly resigned from his post as head of the Palo Alto Unified School District in June, but said it was always his plan to get back into public education. After spending some time traveling, he let the Mountain View Whisman district know he was interested in the interim position.
One of Skelly's main priorities for improving student achievement is supporting young students who did not go to preschool and start kindergarten already behind other kids, he said.
"You have to find a balance and create equal opportunities for everyone," he said.
Board member Ellen Wheeler, who worked with Board President Chris Chiang as an ad hoc committee to select a new interim superintendent, said she is "highly" impressed with Skelly's academic background, and believes he is interested in Mountain View's diverse student population and its varied socioeconomic backgrounds.
As superintendent of Palo Alto Unified, Skelly tightened graduation requirements so more low-income and minority students would be eligible to apply for University of California schools when they graduated. Though the Mountain View Whisman district isn't directly involved with university requirements, Wheeler said, the district needs to prepare students for the "rigor" of high school classes.
"I believe Kevin Skelly will help us in this work," she said.
Chiang said the school board was looking for someone who could "get them through to June," and that Skelly's track record on issues the district is facing — new state funding plans and implementation of Common Core State Standards — shows he has both the skills and expertise to handle the job.
Chiang said transitioning between superintendents can be a tense period, and Skelly's positive attitude as a school leader makes him a good choice on a personal level as well.
Skelly was criticized during his last year as superintendent of Palo Alto Unified for lack of transparency following civil rights complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.
The district had failed to disclose a December 2012 report that found the district mishandled a bullying case at one of the district's middle schools and violated the civil rights of a disabled student. Since then, several other families have filed federal complaints against the Palo Alto district.
Chiang said the issues over the findings by the Office of Civil Rights alleging discriminatory harassment was a "non-issue" when board members determined who would become the new interim superintendent.
"It's not something that would've caused us to question his candidacy," Chiang said.
Board member Steve Nelson said he has been aware of the Palo Alto district's problems and how the superintendent dealt with them. He said Skelly was able to admit to his mistakes and openly resolved the problems.
Skelly said current superintendent Craig Goldman, whose resignation takes effect Dec. 30, has been "tremendously supportive," and that he looks forward to working with him and learning about the district in the coming weeks.
Goldman announced his resignation from Mountain View Whisman in November, saying the district needed new leadership.
Skelly said that he plans to move to Mountain View, which he called an important part of taking the job as interim superintendent. He said living near his work helps to get a "better feel for the community."
Prior to Skelly's appointment, the board passed two resolutions: one to recognize the contributions of retiring board member Phil Palmer and one to recognize Superintendent Goldman. Both resolutions inspired emotional stories by parents and former board members, which Skelly said showed the district has a strong sense of community and a commitment to providing the best education possible for kids.
"You can be right next door to a district and not really know all the things that are going on," Skelly said. "It's enjoyable to see that sense of community and sense of caring about kids."
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