Everyone in the School Board meeting room seemed excited about the new superintendent at the gathering Friday where district personnel turned out to meet and greet Michele Barraza Lawrence, the new superintendent.
Except one, that is.
“I can’t believe Northern California has stolen her away from me,” said the superintendent’s daughter Kimberly Barraza-Lawrence, a former high school Spanish teacher, now getting her doctorate in education at UCLA. The younger Barraza-Lawrence was accompanying her mother, helping her with house shopping in Berkeley.
A crowd of administrators, city officials and parents lined up to meet and greet Lawrence, 53, who appeared to give undivided attention to each. Her first day on the job will be July 16, although she will be in and out of the district before that date.
“She comes to us from a community that loves and respects her and honors her,” said Board of Education President Terry Doran in his formal introduction, going on to say that the people of Berkeley will be there for her. “Even if you don’t call on them, they will be there,” he promised, with a smile.
Lawrence acknowledged that the move from Paramount in Los Angeles County will be a big one for her. “I’ve lived and worked within 20 miles (of where I was born) all my life,” said Lawrence, whose parents were both from Mexico.
The crowd applauded when she spoke of her mission: “The children will always come first,” she said.
Lawrence will be paid $185,000 annually and will receive $15,000 for relocation costs. Expenses such as travel, conferences or a car allowance, sometimes paid separately, are included in the annual salary. The previous superintendent earned about $170,000, including the various business expenses which were paid separately, Doran said.
The school superintendent will remain the highest-paid official in the city. City Manager Weldon Rucker earns $154,000 annually.