Kathie Nielsen, Deputy Superintendent, Educational Services, has announced she will retire at the end of the school year in June.
“I have been so honored to be a part of the amazing Tustin Unified School District leadership team these past 20 years and am so proud of the work we have done to transform teaching and learning,” Nielsen said. “I have incredible confidence in the new team and am excited to see continued growth and progress throughout the District.”
Nielsen has worked in public education for 36 years – the past 20 years in TUSD. During her career in Tustin Unified, she has served as chief academic officer, director of elementary education, principal of Red Hill and Marjorie Veeh elementary schools, coordinator of literacy training for grades K-3, and teacher on special assignment in reading. Prior to TUSD, she was an elementary teacher in the Irvine Unified School District for 15 years.
Nielsen oversees the K-12 instructional program for TUSD, which has achieved academic growth for nine consecutive years in all subgroups and seen an increase in the high school graduation rate of 98 percent. She supervises 30 schools, as well as the English Learners, Kindergarten Readiness, and Adult Education programs; organizes curriculum and professional development for 900 teachers and administrators; and provides oversight of the District’s Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). She also launched a successful transition to 21st century learning, including instructional transformations in the classroom, technology integration, and transition to the Common Core State Standards.
Additionally, Nielsen has successfully pursued grant opportunities for Tustin Unified, including California Partnership grants for two high schools, Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) grants for three middle schools, after-school education and safety grants for nine schools, and the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation science grant for 18 elementary schools. She has also maintained strong relationships with community organizations such as the Tustin Public Schools Foundation, The Irvine Company, Assistance League of Tustin, Orange County Rescue Mission, and Philharmonic Society of Orange County.
Among her accomplishments, Nielsen has been named TUSD Administrator of the Year in curriculum and instruction four times – 2017, 2014, 2011, and 2010 – and represented the District in the Orange County Administrators of the Year Awards Program, sponsored by the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), Region 17. As principal of Red Hill School, she received the Irvine Company’s Principal of Excellence Award for outstanding leadership, creativity, and commitment to the students and school community.
“Kathie is a dedicated, knowledgeable, and outstanding educational leader who has played an integral role in our efforts to prepare students to thrive now and in the future,” TUSD Superintendent Dr. Gregory Franklin said. “She has been exceptional and we will miss her.”
Chris Matos and Maggie Villegas, Directors, Educational Services, have been promoted to Assistant Superintendents in that department and will take over for Kathie Nielsen. They will begin July 1.
This restructuring of positions in the Educational Services Department will not add additional administrators or increase the administrative budget in any way. The directors positions will be reduced to a single position.
Chris Matos has worked in public education for 25 years. During her career, Matos has served as a director of intervention and assessment in Educational Services and principal of Tustin High School, A.G. Currie and C.E. Utt middle schools, and Jeane Thorman Elementary School. She joined TUSD as an elementary teacher at Tustin Memorial Academy and later served as assistant principal at Thorman School.
Among her accomplishments, Matos was named 2017 Orange County Secondary Principal of the Year and 2010 Orange County Middle Schools Principal of the Year by ASCA, Region 17. Under her leadership at Tustin High, the school was selected as a 2015 Gold Ribbon School by the California Department of Education. As principal of Currie, she led the school to receive Title I Academic Achievement School honors in 2014.
Most recently, Matos was named 2019 Curriculum and Instruction Administrator of the Year by the Tustin School Management Association (TSMA) and represented TUSD in the Orange County Administrators of the Year Awards Program, sponsored by ACSA, Region 17.
Maggie Villlegas has worked in public education for 26 years, primarily in TUSD. Prior to serving as a director in Educational Services, she was principal of Arroyo Elementary School. Under her leadership, Arroyo was named a 2014 and 2006 California Distinguished School, 2007 National Blue Ribbon School, Exemplary SMART Showcase School, Cotsen Art of Teaching School, and 2006-2014 California Business for Education Excellence Honor Roll School. Villegas was also selected as 2008 Orange County Elementary Principal of the Year by the Association of California School Administrators, Region 17.
Prior to Arroyo, Villegas was principal of Barbara Benson Elementary School – a California Distinguished School in 2004, assistant principal at C.C. Lambert Elementary School, and taught fourth and fifth grades at W.R. Nelson Elementary School. She was named Nelson Teacher of the Year in 1997.
Among her honors, Villegas received the prestigious Tracy Gaffey Award in 2018 from ACSA, Region 17, for mentoring administrators, dedication to the profession, and educational leadership. She was also nominated as Curriculum and Instruction Administrator of the Year in 2016 by TSMA and represented the District in the Orange County Administrators of the Year Awards Program, sponsored by ACSA, Region 17.
"Chris and Maggie are hard-working, high-caliber educational leaders who will do a terrific job in their new roles,” TUSD Superintendent Dr. Gregory Franklin said. “They will continue to work with our amazing teachers, administrators, and staff to ensure our students continue to excel and thrive.”