You may not know it at first glance, but Cecelia Greenberg, who will take over as Superintendent of Yosemite Unified School District (YUSD) July 1, started her life as a South Carolina peach farmer.
Growing up in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Greenberg said she spent a lot of her time at her family’s fourth-generation commercial peach operation.
“I started working at a very young age, both in the fields and marketing our peaches,” Greenberg said. “Because of that experience, I have a very strong work ethic, but also a pronounced customer service attitude which has served me all my life.”
That hard-working nature is already noticeable. Immediately after the YUSD board announced her hiring last month, Greenberg spent two full days in classrooms at the district’s schools, building a rapport with staff and students.
“One of my priorities is to be an active part of the community and to be in the schools,” Greenberg said. “I have a strong passion for the success of our students, all of our students, and working together to help get them there.”
Greenberg graduated with a Doctorate of Educational Leadership from South Carolina State University in 2005, said her decision to work in education was influenced by her mother being an elementary school teacher and media coordinator.
She said within minutes of her first interview, she felt a connection with YUSD and knew it was the place she wanted to be.
“I went home and told my husband that I thought I was going to get a job offer,” Greenberg said. “I am not saying this to be arrogant, but we’ve all been in interviews where everything just clicked ... I felt that the greatest needs of the district were a good match with my strengths and governance team.”
Among those strengths, Greenberg said, are leadership, curriculum, and instruction, though through her career - including time as superintendent and chief academic officer of various districts - she’s worked to enhance her skills, particularly in finance.
Those skills will prove necessary with the challenges that YUSD faces, primarily on the fiscal end, of which Greenberg is well aware.
Last year, outgoing interim superintendent - then the assistant superintendent - Leonard Kahn noted YUSD faced declining enrollment coupled with increased pension payments, meaning its reserves faced a significant decrease over the next few years.
Greenberg said there’s also challenges with the state and federal budget, rising minimum wage, and debt for constructed facilities. But, she said, she’s ready to work with district staff to meet those issues in stride.
“I will be seeking ways to work together as a team to meet our challenges,” Greenberg said. “As with some other districts, this could include finding ways to cut costs, enhance revenues, increase enrollment, mitigate energy and utility costs, and the like. But the lines of communication are always open with me.”
Outside the job, Greenberg could be called a perfect fit for the mountains, as she’s an avid day hiker, which may have inspired her to obtain one of her three additional graduate degrees, in natural science.
“That got me in trouble a few years back when a small sinkhole opened up under my foot,” Greenberg said. “I took a tumble, so I needed surgery. But I still absolutely love hiking.”
Her other two graduate degrees are in curriculum and educational administration.
Along with hiking, Greenberg is also a fan of reading, the radio - “I listened to stations as a child and dream of these far-off places,” she said - and travel.
“One of my favorite trips as an adult was to Vietnam,” Greenberg said. “As a child, I would see the nightly news and hear about the war ... Because I had heard so many of those names as a child, I found the place of extraordinary interest to me. I was very surprised that many of the vehicles left by Americans were being used. They just put boat motors in them.”
Mostly, Greenberg said she was excited to begin serving the students, parents, and staff of YUSD.
“I look forward to becoming a part of the community and the district,” Greenberg said. “I am very passionate about the success of our students and their education. As an advocate for them, I believe that everyone involved with our schools, and that means everyone, must work together so that our students may thrive in school, college and the workplace. Our students deserve no less.”
Greenberg is happily married with children who live and work in South Carolina.
YUSD includes Rivergold and Coarsegold elementary schools, Yosemite High School, and Yosemite Unified Alternative Education.