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Superintendent Dr. Daniel Moirao Bids Farewell After Weathering Challenging School Year

June 29, 2021

“The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all.” – Walt Disney

The conclusion of this academic calendar will include changes at the Dublin Unified School District (“DUSD”) Office. Dr. Daniel Moirao has successfully concluded his interim contract and helped the district to navigate its most challenging year in recent memory. After the unexpected departure by Interim Superintendent Dave Marken in June,2020, the district sought out an interim replacement. The second interim would serve the 2020/21 year while a concurrent process would continue through a search firm to identify a permanent superintendent.

For anyone familiar with Dr. Moirao, they know that he is both fascinated and inspired by all things Disney. In June, he led the process of recognizing “Imagineers” throughout the district for staff members that led beyond expectations. However, the aforementioned quote becomes far more relevant when we consider what has actually occurred during his tenure. First, DUSD was facing the prospect of a full year of distance learning while COVID-19 remained the nation’s primary health threat. Second, a set of unforeseen and tragic circumstances within three months could have derailed all the progress that had been made. We recently sat down with Daniel and he graced us with an enlightening and very candid visit.

Dr. Daniel Moirao, Interim Superintendent, Dublin Unified School District. Photo by: Michael Utsumi

OneDublin.org: In addition to the fact that you had previously served DUSD in a different capacity, the opportunity arrived to serve as the Interim Superintendent. However, your contract would commence while the country was still in the throes of COVID-19. What was your mindset as you approached this challenge?

Daniel Moirao: “When I was called by the Dublin Unified School District Board of Trustees, I had a lingering desire to serve the Dublin community. I truly believed that there was an opportunity to serve in a way like I had never served before.  I was up for and wanted to take on the challenge.”

OneDublin.org: Your tenure was on a linear track with a national awakening on racial justice issues in the shadow of the George Floyd killing. Locally, Acacia Tripplett successfully funded and launched the “Our Dublin” shirt project. The following month, Denel McMahan organized a “Sign Garden for Justice” event at City Hall despite being threatened online. How do these events and actions by students speak to your philosophy on equity and social justice?

Moirao:“I have long echoed the phrase, ‘from the mouths of babes!’ I truly believe if we listen to the voice of the students, they will tell us what engages them and what they want us to know. Acacia and Denel are two extraordinary examples of this belief.

We as educators, we as adults, know many things and know both the art and science of teaching and learning. However, we were raised in a generation different than our students. It is from the student voice, we can learn what is important and relevant to our learners today!”

OneDublin.org: The period between winter break and late March brought sudden tragedy when the district lost both a Classified staff member and a Trustee. You had mentioned that “people need strength.” Please articulate your role in being a leader and healer. 

Moirao: “This was a difficult time for me professionally and personally. Due to COVID, I lost three family members within seven-days of each other.  In addition, we as the Dublin community had suffered several loses, one of an extraordinary teacher and two of our classified family members. Then we experienced the tragic loss of Catherine Kuo on one of our own school campuses. My heart wanted to guide me, but I looked up and my head told me, be strong, help the Dublin community know they will come through this difficult time and that they can have assurance that the leadership of the school district has got us covered.”

OneDublin.org: Over the past 15 months, many superintendents have faced a similar dilemma of competing interests. On one hand, your role is to support your clients – students and their families. On the other, you have a duty to ensure the health and safety of the staff. Please share how you elected to navigate this matrix.

Moirao: “My very first video to the community I stated that given the choice between bringing students and staff back onto campus while putting them into harm’s way, including putting one’s life in peril, I choose life and will take the path of one’s health and safety.”

OneDublin.org: As your current engagement comes to an end, please describe what makes you proud of your time as Superintendent. Lastly, here is an opportunity to speak to your colleagues and peers throughout the district. 

Moirao: “What I am most proud about is the grace and dignity that so many staff, classified and certificated members demonstrated as we asked them to redefine their role while in motion and then redefine again and again. So many of our classified staff continue to make our schools operational, kept them clean and safe for those working on campus. They flexed daily, hourly.  So many of our certificated staff worked tirelessly, putting in innumerable hours to make the teaching and learning the best it could be in a world so different than what we knew. And our administrative staff who flexed hourly.  I have said this year has been like a constant whiplash . . . as soon as we thought we had it figured out and ready to go, the rules changed and we had to redo what we did, literally in a moment’s notice.

There is so much talent in DUSD, so much creativity, so much commitment.  If we unleashed more of the talent of our Classified and Certificated staff, DUSD will be a school district like no other. As I say my final farewell as your superintendent, I take credit for little, thank many and simply say, “I tried.”  Thank you for the opportunity to serve the DUSD community.”

Over the years, we have observed a unique working relationship within the DUSD district office. It is the vital – almost symbiotic interconnection between the Superintendent and their Administrative Assistant. The partnership becomes even more distinctive when one considers that the district employs over 1,200 staff and serves 13,000 youth clients and their families. There are just many moving parts. We thought that it would be appropriate to gather the impressions of Vicki Bustos. She has now served under three superintendents during her time at the Dublin Unified School District.

Ms. Vicki Bustos, Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent. Photo by: Michael Utsumi

OneDublin.org: You had a relatively short period of time to transition to Dr. Moirao from his predecessor. How did each of you facilitate the transition to ensure the wheels kept turning?

Vicki Bustos: “Both Dr. Moirao and I have been around the block a few times, and each of us is experienced in breaking in new work partners. We are also well versed in our respective roles, so doing the work didn’t really require a transition. It did, however, take us a while to learn how best to communicate effectively with one another. I had to adjust my approach to some things, and even some of my language, but we managed to figure out how to work well together as a team. For example, early in our working relationship, Daniel asked me to stop using the phrase, “Dr. Moirao directed me . . .” because he thought it made him sound too strict. I was annoyed at first, but quickly came to appreciate the directness with which he communicated his preferences. It helped both of us reach a better place in our working relationship.”

OneDublin.org: In addition to your daily duties, the Superintendent’s Secretary often serves as gatekeeper and confidante. What might others not be aware of your role?

Bustos: “Much of my role has to do with preparing for board meetings, and helping the superintendent keep the board informed on important issues. Since the superintendent reports directly to the Board, that relationship is an important one, and one that can be greatly affected if I don’t do my job well. A former boss in the corporate world once told me that he considered it his job to make his boss look good. I’ve always remembered that, and I try to put this maxim to work for the superintendent.”

OneDublin.org:  In late 2020/early 2021, Dr. Moirao experienced deep personal loss that was largely kept private. Please speak to his ability to remain focused for the benefit of students and staff. 

Bustos: “I wish I could tell you how Dr. Moirao was able to continue performing his job in the face of such a tragedy. I really don’t know. It truly speaks to his determination to honor his commitments. Above all else, Dr. Moirao is an honorable man who sincerely cares about kids and education.”

OneDublin.org would like to thank Dr. Daniel Moirao for his service to DUSD – particularly during such a very demanding and arduous period. We hope that he will now be able to enjoy retirement with his wife, Anita, and their three grandchildren.

We would also like to acknowledge Ms. Vicki Bustos for her contributions to this profile and for the support she will offer to the next superintendent.

Editors Note: On May 6, 2021, the Dublin Unified School District announced that Mr. Chris Funk was selected as the next superintendent and will commence his employment on July 1, 2021. Mr. Funk served as superintendent of the East Side Union High School District in San Jose for the previous nine years.

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