Joining the Tracy resident in the race are Jeff Tilton and Michael Gillespie, all seeking to replace the retiring county Superintendent Mick Founts. It’s a position that comes up for re-election every four years, and Founts is leaving after serving one term.
Mousalimas, 57, became the deputy superintendent for student programs and services for San Joaquin County in 2013, after five years as the assistant superintendent of county-operated schools and programs.
Mousalimas gained his first experience in education — after earning a bachelor’s degree in economics from University of California, Berkeley — when he entered the Peace Corps in 1985. He taught health and physical education and coached basketball in South Africa.
After two years, he got his teaching credential and took a position as a math teacher in Richmond Unified School District. He stayed two years before moving to the American International School in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to work as a teacher, assistant principal and principal.
In 1998, he began work in Tracy Unified School District as an administrator and spent a decade as director and assistant superintendent of human resources. He holds an administrative services credential from California State University, Stanislaus, and a Master of Education degree from College of New Jersey.
Mousalimas said voters can rely upon his career in education.
“I’m running because I believe in what we do and the leadership I can provide,” he said. “They (voters) are hiring someone for a job. Look at people’s backgrounds carefully. Look at mine. I’ve made a commitment to organizations and I’ve been promoted within those organizations.
“I think I have the track record for my candidacy for superintendent of schools.”
To make education successful at the county level, Mousalimas said, officials need to build relationships with districts.
“Our role is to support school districts, and we can best do that when our relationships are positive,” he said. “I’ve been creating partnerships so if I do become superintendent of schools, we can use those partnerships with business, law enforcement and community-based organization and labor. We need those supports. We should not be competing with the school districts. We should be working in partnership with them.”
Mousalimas has received political endorsements from 12 of the 14 school district superintendents in San Joaquin County — including those from Tracy, Jefferson and Lammersville school districts.
Those connections, he said, could prove valuable as the county prepares for the next level of educational changes.
“In public education, we have two major initiatives brought about by the state of California that we have not seen of this magnitude probably ever, but certainly in over 30 years,” he said. “The last 15, 20 years, there was too much of a focus on teaching kids how to perform on a multiple-choice test. Common Core (State Standard’s) focus is more on problem solving and critical thinking skills, and that is absolutely the way I taught and what I believe in. We have to teach students how to think and solve problems, and I think there is an opportunity to do that.
“We have to make sure the county office of education supports teachers and staff to implement it,” he added. “It’s a huge task to take on a new curriculum. We have to provide them the time, training and materials necessary to do this properly. If we’re all on the same page from the top down, things will run even better. That’s the piece I will put into place immediately.”
Mousalimas said he is a proponent of alternative education, such as charter schools, and was involved in the charter for Tracy’s Discovery Charter School, the first school at what is now Tracy Learning Center.
“I think charter schools have a clear role in public education,” he said. “They’re public schools that offer parents options and provide competition within public schools.”
He also wants to make actions at the county level more accessible to the general public.
“If I’m elected, I think we can do a better job,” he said. “I’d like it to be more like a school district, (provide) transparency. In the public realm, I always felt that the more open we are, and the more honest we are, the better relationship we are going to have with the public as an agency.”
Married for 23 years, he and his wife, Diane, have raised three daughters in Tracy, all educated in Tracy Unified School District.
“I’m committed to public education and my kids benefited from public education,” Mousalimas said.
“If interviewing for this job, who would get past the paper screen for this job? I would,” he said. “I’m the deputy superintendent currently; I have held positions of leadership in large organizations. Beyond that would be the partnerships and support that I’ve established — they are a clear indication (that) if I am elected, I would be able to work toward improvements in public education.”
Voters go to the polls June 3 to cast their ballots in the state primary election.
• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at firstname.lastname@example.org or 830-4225.
Editor's note: Michael Gillespie declined to be interviewed by the Press Editorial Board. Click here to read the profile for Jeff Tilton. Click here to read the Press endorsement for Superintendent of Schools.