Alex Cherniss, who’s been the superintendent of the San Marino Unified School District for the last five years, has been chosen to become the next head of the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District, school district officials recently confirmed.
The Board of Education is expected to vote on approving a contract with Cherniss during its next meeting, scheduled for Wedneday, Aug. 29.
If approved, Cherniss would replace ex-Superintendent Don Austin, who left in late June to become head of the Palo Alto Unified School District in Northern California.
Among the qualities that made Cherniss stand out, according to the district’s Board of Education, were his familiarity with and success in districts similar to PV Peninsula Unified; his demeanor and ethics; knowledge of school business and funding and achievement in high performing districts; and his willingness to commit to the Palos Verdes Peninsula for the long term.
Before heading the 3,000-student San Marino Unified School District, Cherniss was chief financial officer for the Los Angeles County Office of Education, where he certified the budgets of 80 school districts in LA County, totaling more than $14 billion and managing the office’s internal operations.
“The majority of my professional career has been in high performing districts,” Cherniss said Aug. 24. “What I’ve always wanted to be is part of a large, high performing district. And there’s no better one around than Palos Verdes Peninsula.”
“That’s where I’ve always wanted to be,” he continued. “So, I see this as the culmination of my career.”
Cherniss, 42, is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and earned his Ed.D. degree from the USC Rossier School of Education, where he has served as an adjunct professor teaching a doctoral class in school economics.
He and his wife, Liz, have three young children, Finn, Leo, and Harper. They live in Los Alamitos.
Cherniss said that his targeted start date with PV Peninsula Unified is Oct. 1. Former PVPUSD Superintendent Ira Toibin, who has been serving in an interim role since Austin’s departure, is expected to assist Cherniss with the transition to his new position, according to the school district.
“One of my top priorities is looking at student achievement in PV and seeing if there’s ways that we can improve that,” Cherniss said. “I’ve always wanted to be a coach, so I see leading a school district as being like the coach. I want to join the team and work with the teachers, work with the parents in the community to try to move the district forward.”
PVPUSD enrolls 11,400 students in grades K-12 and includes 10 elementary schools, three middle schools and three high schools.
School board President Anthony Collatos said in a statement that Cherniss is “the ideal superintendent” for the district.
“His collaborative approach and his school business acumen perfectly fit the profile that both the board and the community sought in our next superintendent,” Collatos said.