Head of Pasadena’s Human Services and Recreation Department Departs, Heads to School District

Published : Saturday, August 1, 2015 | 5:25 AM

Mercy Santoro

City of Pasadena’s Human Services & Recreation Director Mercy Santoro will help lead Pasadena Unified School District in her newly announced position as the Associate Superintendent for School Support Services beginning August 10.

Leaving her position as the City of Pasadena’s Director of Human Services and Recreation, Santoro said at Thursday’s Pasadena Unified board meeting she looks forward to serving the youth of the city in a new capacity.

“Mercy has been an invaluable partner to PUSD over the past several years as we’ve worked on our City’s School District Partnership. She was instrumental in developing the Collaborate PASadena,” Dr. Shawn Bird said in his announcement comments at the meeting. “I can tell you first hand she has a heart for under served youths.”

In the newly created position, Santoro will act as the mouthpiece of the Superintendent, communicating information about key initiatives or other essential information for parents and students.

“Her leadership and experience will help propel the district forward in implementing new operating principles,” Superintendent Brian McDonald said.

Santoro will also be responsible for the district’s school support programs, including after school enrichment services, enrollment, parent and community engagement, and intergovernmental relations.

Santoro said she would leverage her contacts in the City government to establish more connections for shared work.

“She may be leaving the City, but she’s still going to be serving the City because she will be here as part of the PUSD family,” Public Information Officer William Boyer said. “We’re very grateful that the City as a whole will continue to be benefitting from her expertise and the skills she brings to her new position.”

This will be Santoro’s first job outside of city government, having worked in the cities of Redlands, Rialto, Claremont, and Pasadena. In each of her roles in those cities she chose to focus on various forms of community school partnerships.

“I feel like this is a logical move for me, but not without a level of regret. The City Manager here is incredibly innovative. The executive team across the city is very collaborative and are working on some really amazing projects,” Santoro said.

The unique transition will allow her to continue working on a different side of her largest project—Collaborate PASadena—which aligns city and school district resources to improve educational outcomes and the quality of life for children, youth and families of the Greater Pasadena area.

“I see such a strong nexus between what’s happening at the neighborhood level with services and resources and what’s happening in the school setting,” Santoro said.

Her contract with the district that was voted into effect by the board Thursday night will begin August 10, 2015 through August 9, 2017 with an annual salary of $173,000.

With Santoro leaving the City of Pasadena, she widens an already large gap in permanent supervisors of now six departments.

The City currently has a nation-wide recruitment campaigns for permanent department heads for the Finance Department, Public Works, the Health Department, Water and Power, Human Resources and is expected to undertake a similar campaign to fill ther Human Services and Recreation position Santoro is vacating.

Assistant City Manager Steve Mermell has been appointed as the interim director of the Human Services and Recreation Department, a department that has 300 employees working for it over the summer. He has acted as the head of the Public Health Department since May 2014.

Assistant City Manager Julie Gutierrez currently acts as head of Public Works and the Finance Department.

“Turn over occurs in any large organization,” Boyer said.