Important Year-End Message from ESUSD Superintendent Regarding the Spring 2021 Semester

Dear ESUSD Families, Employees and Community,

Happy Holidays! As we wrap up our final week of school in 2020, we look forward to the future and the hope that a vaccine brings to our city, state, nation and the world.

Board of Education Reorganization:

The El Segundo Unified School District held a reorganization meeting on December 14, 2020 that included a swearing-in ceremony for its newly elected Board of Education members. Two of the five BOE seats were open during the November 3, 2020 general election; Dieema Wheaton and Michael Wagner were elected to serve alongside continuing Board members Tracey Miller-Zarneke, Emilee Layne and Paulette Caudill, who each have two more years of service remaining on their four-year terms. Board members Wheaton and Wagner step into their new leadership roles during one of the most challenging times for public education, and I am grateful for their commitment to our students and willingness to lead. 

At the reorganization meeting, the Board sets the meeting dates for the new year and elects new officers among the existing Board of Education members. The election of officers resulted in the following assignments for the 2021 calendar year:

            President:                   Tracey Miller-Zarneke

            Vice President:           Emilee Layne

            Clerk:                           Paulette Caudill

            Member:                     Dieema Wheaton

            Member:                     Michael Wagner

Board members also have committee assignments and school site assignments that rotate as well. The 2021 assignment information has been shared with our PTA Leaders and principals, and our Board members look forward to their serving in these roles within our community. 

Our two new Board members bring a wealth of relevant experiences to the Board, and I would like to share a little bit about each of them:

Dieema A. Wheaton, Member:

Prior to being elected to the Board of Education, Dieema Wheaton served our school community in various leadership roles including PTA Treasurer at both Center Street Elementary School and El Segundo Middle School. She was awarded the El Segundo PTA Honorary Service Award in 2016 for revamping the PTA’s financial process. She is currently a PTA member at all four main school sites and is a proud Superintendent’s Round Table contributor.

Dieema earned a bachelor’s degree in economics/accounting from Tougaloo College in Mississippi and was licensed by the State of California as a Certified Public Accountant in 2000. 

With more than 20 years of professional experience, Dieema began her career with the global accounting firm KPMG in Los Angeles. She later worked as senior management in the finance departments of Universal Music and Sony Pictures Entertainment. Currently, she is Chief of Staff for Palm Tree LLC, an M&A consulting and advisory firm in El Segundo. She works to develop, implement, and oversee Palm Tree’s internal finance processes and procedures and manages Palm Tree’s human capital and internal operational initiatives.

Highly involved in the schools since 2011, Dieema moved to El Segundo with her husband, Andrew, and three children in 2014. She is an active volunteer both for the schools and in the community. Dieema and her daughters volunteer for the National Charity League where she has held the positions of Vice President of Communications and Grade Level Advisor. Dieema is proud to serve on the ESUSD Board where she will work to achieve continued excellence at our schools through compassion, empathy, and dedication.

Michael D. Wagner, Member:

Michael Wagner is a dedicated educator and athletic coach with more than 20 years of experience in administration, teaching and coaching at public and private schools. Michael currently works as an Adapted Physical Education Specialist for the students in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District. He previously held administrative positions including roles as an Assistant Principal/Dean of Students at Animo Locke High School, and as the Principal at Junipero Serra and Saint Matthias high schools.

He has served as the Athletic Director at Saint Monica and Junipero Serra high schools and has coached multiple campus sports throughout his career as an educator. Since 2004, Michael has also been part of his local community youth sports, serving El Segundo Little League, El Segundo Youth Football and El Segundo Youth Lacrosse in board, managerial and coaching positions. In 2014, Michael began serving as an assistant football coach at the high school and continues to be a part of the youth coaching community in El Segundo.

Michael earned a master’s degree in education at Mount Saint Mary’s College in Los Angeles. He obtained an administrative services credential in education from Loyola Marymount University, and a special education credential from Azusa Pacific University. Prior to obtaining his degree in education, he received his Juris Doctor from Loyola Law School, and a bachelor’s degree in Law and Diversity at Western Washington University.

Michael is husband to Sylvia, father of four, and 25-year resident of El Segundo who enjoys being active in the community. He plans to bring a student-first approach to his role on the Board of Education and is committed to continuing the tradition of success the ESUSD Board has established for the community.

TK-2 School Reopening:

Both Center and Richmond Street TK-2nd grade Hybrid students completed their second week of in-person instruction. It was heartwarming to see the children back on campus for the first time this academic year. Our teachers and staff have persevered in evolving in their work styles while practicing rigorous safety protocols and managing the anxiety and stress of reopening during a pandemic. We cannot thank them enough and honor their commitment to serving our students and families during this challenging time.

All staff did an outstanding job carefully instructing the children in the necessary health and safety protocols. As expected, the children quickly adjusted and for the most part, they did exactly what was asked. Parents and students quickly acclimated to the student drop-off process, including daily completion of the health screener. The health screener allows site personnel to know exactly which students have been screened and are cleared to come on campus.

I would like to remind everyone to continue to abide by the current health orders, and if someone in your household is showing symptoms, please err on the side of caution and keep your child home. If there is any doubt, use an abundance of caution at all times for the safety of all our staff and students.

COVID-19 Update:

As I have shared previously, superintendents participate in a weekly call with LACDPH and LACOE. We pose questions in advance which are thoroughly answered by Dr. Ferrer and Dr. Gilchick. Schools are allowed to remain open for now.  The COVID-19 data from schools serve as evidence that the protocols work and COVID rates are significantly lower than the general public:

  • 0.3 % of teachers and staff working on campus have tested positive in LA County schools (Less than 1%)
  • 0.1% of students attending on campus have tested positive in LA County schools (Less than 1%)

COVID-19 case rates in Los Angeles County are rapidly multiplying, and unless everyone abides by all of these restrictions, cases will continue to rise. Our schools are part of society; thus, as cases increase in El Segundo, it is inevitable that we will have instances in which a case is identified at a school. The ESUSD COVID-19 Dashboardoutlines any student or employee case of COVID-19 over a 14-day period. There have been a few cases, and the fact is that we will continue to have cases. Our realistic goal is not to be case-free, but to minimize any opportunity for community spread through pre-screening individuals, wearing masks, frequently washing or sanitizing our hands, and remaining six feet apart. These measures work and our schools remain some of the safest places outside of your home, while also delivering essential and fundamental instruction to our students. For more details, please read the ESUSD reopening guide that outlines the protocols and practices we have in place regarding exposure and other health and safety practices.

Elementary Second Semester Program Selection Form:

This form has been distributed to all elementary parents this week. Each parent needs to complete the form in order to register your selection for the instructional model for your child(ren) second semester – the choice you make will determine how your child will participate in instruction for the duration of second semester which will begin on January 25, 2021 and conclude June 11, 2021. This commitment is for the entire semester term and changes are not possible due to staffing teachers based upon the selections. To ensure accuracy, we ask you complete a separate selection form for each child who attends an ESUSD elementary school. Elementary selection forms must be completed no later than Monday, January 4th at 11:59 pm. Failure to select will result in your child remaining in their current learning model (Fall 2020). 

Undoubtedly, 2020 has been a challenging year with unexpected twists and turns. Let us move forward, united together in the holiday spirit of kindness, compassion, understanding and gratitude every day of the new year. Stay safe during the winter recess.  

With gratitude that we are in this together,


Melissa Moore, Ed.D.


El Segundo Unified School District