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Peace given Vallecitos principal title

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

Michelle Peace is now the principal of Vallecitos Elementary School.

Peace had been the school’s assistant principal during the 2022-23 school year. A 4-0 Vallecitos School District vote Aug. 1, with one vacant seat, approved a one-year contract for Peace as the school’s principal.

“I’m excited to have her,” said Vallecitos Superintendent and Chief Business Officer Meliton Sanchez.

Maritza Koeppen was the Vallecitos School District superintendent and Vallecitos Elementary School principal from January 2018 until Aug. 5, 2022. That was the effective date of when she resigned to become the assistant superintendent of human resources for the National School District, which educates elementary school students in National City and Lincoln Acres.

Gary Wilson, who had been the superintendent and principal in the one-school San Pasqual Union School District, was the interim superintendent and principal with the Vallecitos district between Koeppen’s departure and the district’s hiring of Ramona Leyba as the interim superintendent and principal.

An Oct. 11, 2022, board vote approved Leyba’s contract for the interim position. Leyba’s interim status allowed Sanchez to wind up his Palo Verde Unified School District activities and join the Vallecitos district Dec. 1, 2022.

Linda Miller was the Vallecitos School District business manager before she retired Aug. 31, 2022. Sanchez had been the chief business officer of the Palo Verde Unified School District for five years prior to joining the Vallecitos district. There he undertook both the superintendent position and the chief business officer role to utilize his business expertise as well as his desire to be on campus and his previous experience as the vice-principal of an elementary school in the Brawley Elementary School District.

Sanchez was the nominal principal as well as the district’s superintendent and chief business officer. Peace was also the assistant principal while Wilson and Leyba were interim principals as well as interim superintendents. “She went through so many superintendents,” Sanchez said.

The 2022-23 school year was Peace’s first at Vallecitos Elementary School. She was previously the English learner program coordinator at San Marcos High School.

“Michelle showed such stellar leadership last year,” Sanchez said.

Her service as the functional principal caused the board to make her the formal principal. “It was beneficial to elevate her,” Sanchez said. “It just made perfect sense.”

The contract with Peace for principal services covers the period from Aug. 1, 2023, to June 30, 2024. Her annual salary will be $124,888.34, which was also her 2022-23 salary. “We just made a title change only,” Sanchez said.

Vallecitos School District employees begin with a two-year probationary period. The 2023-24 school year will be Peace’s second on probationary status. The school board may offer Peace a multi-year contract if her 2023-24 performance meets district standards.

“I’m extremely happy for her,” Sanchez said. “She takes a load off of me.”


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