Adult Education Administrator and Confidential Employee of the Year

Sept. 21, 2017

ACSA is honoring this year’s Administrator of the Year Award recipients, and each is being profiled in EdCal leading up to the formal awards gala at the 2017 Leadership Summit in San Jose.

Impacting adult learners: Gary Sutherland, principal of Adult Education Programs at El Dorado COE

Gary Sutherland was motivated to become a school administrator by a desire to positively impact the lives of the students and teachers he serves. It is evident ACSA’s 2017 Adult Education Administrator of the Year found the right calling.

“Mr. Sutherland is an exceptional administrator whose experience, leadership and compassion have played a significant role in the development and implementation of a robust range of high quality adult education programs throughout El Dorado County,” said County Superintendent Ed Manansala.

In fact, Sutherland enjoys wide approval for the job he has done as principal of Adult Education Programs at the El Dorado County Office of Education since 2015. He brought with him three decades of experience in correctional education for the county and for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

“There is something uniquely satisfying about observing each student as they individually recognize the importance of improving their skills through education and making practical application in their daily lives,” Sutherland said.

It’s the same with teachers, he added. Good teachers become better with professional development that stimulates and refines classroom skills, increasing student success.

“As an effective administrator, I have the responsibility to identify, support, and influence teachers who exhibit leadership qualities and consider administration as a goal,” Sutherland said. “Very few careers would have provided me with the privilege and opportunity to positively influence the lives of so many.”

At the EDCOE, Sutherland has played a key role in developing a shared vision for what adult ed services will look like for his large, primarily rural region. Carefully listening to stakeholders and community partners, he introduced a clear, new mission for programs that offer a variety of educational options, while strategically maximizing resources, and staying within budget constraints.

ACSA 2017 Adult Education Administrator of the Year, Gary Sutherland

“I draw inspiration from the many professional partnerships I have developed in the community,” Sutherland said. That includes operating the education program in two jails for the Sheriff’s Department; providing education services for the Probation Department’s “One-Stop” employment services center; providing Adult Basic Education and tutorial service for the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians; operating ABE programs for a low-income housing association, as well as ABE and English learner programs for several school districts; and opening and operating the county’s only Pearson VUE Test Center.

Collaborative partnerships with government agencies and county organizations are essential, Sutherland said, since they provide additional opportunities to students and the community.

“Whatever the purpose, community partnerships offer an effective and practical approach in assisting us in accomplishing our adult education mission: To provide our adult learners with a wide range of rich learning experiences tailored to meet their unique needs,” he said. “Our students are an integral part of this community, and in order for us to be successful in our mission, partnerships must be forged in the community.”

Sutherland is appreciated for his deep personal conviction that all students – no matter what has transpired in their lives or the number of times they have struggled – can be supported and encouraged to lift themselves into a better future.

“I make every effort to do something every day that will enhance the lives of students and colleagues,” he said. “Just recently, I had the privilege of presenting a high school diploma to a student who had come back to school after dropping out more than 50 years ago. There are no words that can describe the emotions that ran through all who had the privilege of watching her cross the stage.”

Although he admits to being an ACSA member for only a short time, Sutherland has come to appreciate the leadership role the association has assumed in the field of education.

“The association activities, inspirational networks and the mutual commitment to excellence we share in ACSA have been instrumental in my success as an administrator,” he said.

Citing the privilege to work with a dynamic team of professionals who meet high standards for positive student outcomes, Sutherland reflected on the theme for the 2017 ACSA Leadership Summit: Leading Beyond Limits.

“Over the last several years, EDCOE has been proactive in narrowing the achievement gap and meeting regulatory and educational standards by enriching the lives of more than 28,000 students,” he said “I am most proud of the opportunity to lead and to share with students, staff and the community a solid vision for our adult school; knowing this vision makes a difference in every student’s life.”

Administrators of the Year will be honored at the Awards Celebration and President’s Dinner Gala, Nov. 3 during the ACSA Leadership Summit in San Jose. Find out more at

Providing stellar support: Laryn Bishop, chief assistant to the superintendent, Solano COE

Exceptional leadership doesn’t require having a job title at the top of the organization. It isn’t about publicity, nor does it need to be widely seen to make a wide and powerful impact. Many times, those creating lasting change, ensuring the smooth day-to-day function of a district, and leading beyond limits are those in supporting roles.

One such leader is Laryn Bishop, chief assistant to the superintendent at Solano County Office of Education. ACSA is proud to recognize her as the 2017 Confidential Employee of the Year.

Bishop never expected to become a school leader, but her entrance into the field came, appropriately, through education.

“As I prepared to re-enter the workforce after being a stay-at-home mom for a few years, I took a couple of classes to become familiar with the latest advances in technology,” she said. “One assignment involved searching the want ads for positions of interest and composing applicable cover letters and résumés.”

She saw an advertisement for school secretary for SCOE’s court and community school program, and felt immediately drawn to the job.

“Parenthood had taught me to be much more patient; negotiate with lively, often impetuous, youngsters; juggle multiple tasks simultaneously; manage crisis situations; deliver caring discipline, as needed; choose my battles wisely; and hold people accountable, no matter what their age, all on very little sleep, making the field of education seem like a seamless fit,” Bishop said.

“That was 20 years ago. As my daughter grew, so did my desire for her to receive an excellent education in our local public schools, so, although I had not planned to become a school administrator, it has been a rewarding experience to do my part to support a quality education, not only for her but for every parent’s child.”

Solano County Superintendent of Schools Jay Speck agrees.

“I attribute much of the success of our office to the exemplary service that Laryn provides to our board, our school districts, her fellow employees, and to me,” he said. “I use the word service intentionally because at the heart of our organization and at the heart of Laryn’s work is the concept of service.

“Her work is always of the highest quality, and as a result, I have total trust in her carrying out what are often very high stakes responsibilities.”

ACSA 2017 Confidential Employee of the Year, Laryn Bishop

In her role as chief assistant, Bishop acts as one of the key liaisons of communication for the county superintendent, supporting the county’s critical initiatives, including the California Academic Decathlon, the Solano County Spelling Bee and the Stuff the Bus Campaign, as well as SCOE’s Strategic Vision. Her work impacts more than 60,000 students with diverse needs and experiences across six school districts.

“I am proud to be a meaningful part of SCOE’s well-run management team of dedicated and selfless educators who base all decisions on doing what is best for kids,” Bishop said. “We communicate effectively and combine our individual talents together for the benefit of students, staff, and the community.”

In her 16 years as a member of ACSA, Bishop appreciates the support the organization offers to administrators in confidential and classified positions.

“One of the things I value most about ACSA is that the organization recognizes the important role of classified staff. The annual Classified Educational Leaders Institute is a great event. I always leave energized and with many new ideas to implement as soon as I return to the office.

“I also appreciate ACSA’s advocacy efforts at the state level,” she continued. “As a highly respected organization, ACSA’s influence is widespread and has the best interests of students in mind while also establishing services and protective measures for its members.”

She believes one of the most important roles school leaders play is to act as mentors to a future generation of educators.

“The mentoring is not for the purpose of continuing to do tasks the same way they have been done in the past… but rather it is to share experiences, organizational history, best practices, and lessons learned as a way to avoid repeating previous mistakes and understand how we can accomplish more as a cohesive whole than as individuals.”

Her mentors include the four county superintendents she has supported, who have inspired her in “Leading Beyond Limits.”

“They have greatly expanded my compassion; helped increase my confidence, leadership abilities, and communication skills; and encouraged me to test the mettle of traditional ideas and processes.”

ACSA believes that leadership matters across the spectrum of school administration. Bishop is an outstanding example of those who lead in supporting roles, committed to ensuring student success now and in generations to come.

All ACSA Administrators of the Year will be honored at the President’s Gala and Awards Celebration during Leadership Summit in San Jose, Nov. 3. To register, go to

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