For Skelly, his time as the superintendent has been extraordinary. “I’m very grateful to have had such a great experience in this transformative district,” he said. “It’s been really fun working with quality parents, teachers and administrators, trying to make the schools better for kids.” No other district has displayed the level of commitment to student well-being among the community, Skelly says. “Hopefully, I’ve made a culture of colleague collaboration among the staff, too,” he said.
During his tenure, Skelly pushed hard to accomplish his goals, according to PAUSD School Board member Melissa Baten Caswell. “Dr. Skelly’s commitment to academic excellence and the socio/emotional health of students is illustrated by his Strategic Plan Goals, investment in Project SafetyNet and the district’s commitment to raising graduation requirements so that every student has the option to pursue a four-year college education,” Caswell said. “He worked with the Board, community, teachers, and staff, to commit to a Strategic Plan in his first year and then has managed to [stick to] that plan for the past six years.” Caswell also noted Skelly’s extensive involvement within school communities. “He is very invested in teacher-professional training,” Caswell said. “The way he has brought that value in the district is incredibly impressive to me because it’s really focused on teachers, on improv- ing their skills so that students can have a better experience in the classroom.”
According to Caswell, Skelly was more than instrumental in expanding school grounds. “He has kept it on track, ensuring that we still have money left over that can be used for additional projects,” she said.
Principal Katya Villalobos agrees. “At Gunn, we’ve definitely benefited from construction, which was built on time, opened on time, and had very few glitches,” she said. “He made sure our students had good facilities to learn in and absolutely amazing athletic facilities compared to those of previous years.”
Villalobos also believes that without Skelly, it would not have been possible to institute the A-G course requirements for admission into UC colleges. “[Thanks to him], we have different pathways for students in terms of curricular improvements,” she said. “He had three [children] graduate from Gunn and he truly understood what Gunn was about and what we needed. He really delivered and his leadership paid off.”
History teacher Chris Johnson regards Skelly as easygoing and open to hearing what others had to say. “He respected what we did in the classroom,” Johnson said. “He was there at the helm in a district that was going through transitions.” Though Johnson acknowledges the deficiencies pointed out by disgruntled community members, he understands that the position comes with its own challenges. “From my experience, I think it’s very hard being superintendent in this district,” he said. “[Skelly] did a good job.”
According to senior Eli Dawson, Skelly remained a friendly and personable figure on Gunn campus. “Among students, he’s pretty looked up to,” Dawson said. A friend of Skelly’s son, Dawson spent a lot of time around Skelly and thought of him as a second father. “He treated me just like his son, [and was] always encouraging and inclusive,” he said. Dawson also notes how Skelly always proved willing to interact with students at Gunn. “Skelly was often commonly seen on campus, not just once a year,” he said. “[He] let them know he’s not some supreme being; he’s just another person out there.”
One particular incident involving Skelly had a lasting impact on Dawson. “Freshman year, a kid came to our school, and [there was] mutual agreement that he would be better off living with the Skelly’s while attending Gunn,” he said. “[Skelly] was definitely always looking out for people, and I think that’s probably his biggest legacy, always talking to people, always looking out for them, and trying to put a smile on people’s face.”
Skelly’s youngest son, senior Patrick Skelly, says that he is most proud of his father for creat- ing a comfortable atmosphere within the district. “He hung out with the kids so much in the school district [and] ran basketball open gyms here for the community,” Patrick said. “That was probably pretty unique to him, the fact that he liked hanging out with students so much more than most people that are usually doing his job.”
For Patrick, his father maintained a good balance between his professional and personal life. “Even if there were things going on in the district, he did a really good job of working really hard at work and then came home and being a really good dad to me,” he said. “In my eyes and probably in most people’s eyes, he will be remembered for making a pretty positive impact; he was always dealing with all the adversity in the district, work- ing hard and listening to others.”
According to Patrick, his graduation in May played a part in his father’s decision. “He’s been working here for seven years, and he really likes his job, but a lot of the people that had been superintendent here before had worked here for three years,” Patrick said. “So, [seven years] was long.”
At its next meeting, the Board of Education will begin the electing process for a new superintendent. “Part of that includes going out to the community and asking people what they’d like to see in a superintendent,” Caswell said. “Then we begin the interview process, and hopefully, we’ll find someone we’re happy with.” Personally, Caswell will be looking for someone who is always learning and thinking about how the district can improve. “One of the things that Dr. Skelly did, is he created a culture where management was about being on campus, walking around, talking to teachers, staff and students, so that you’re out there [learning],” she said. “I think that’s a very good cultural norm for our district.”
Skelly believes that the next superintendent should focus attention on the students. “If you can think about the kids, then that’s the most important thing,” he said.