Five MPUSD Leaders Honored as Administrators of the Year

By Marci McFadden, Chief of Communications
May 5, 2023


At the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District leadership as the lever is one of the six MPUSD Way tenets and while leadership can be viewed as a position in MPUSD it is viewed as an action. Every member of the MPUSD team, including students, have the opportunity to lead.


On May 5, 2023, five MPUSD administrators were recognized by the Association of California School Administrators Region 10 as administrators of the year in their respective job fields. Region 10 encompasses administrators from Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties. These individuals were nominated and evaluated against six criteria measures, including commitment to educational quality and student achievement; advocating, nurturing and sustaining positive school culture; modeling a personal code of ethics; creativity and innovation in dealing with challenges facing public education; leadership and support; and identifying and implementing strategies that support technology-infused teaching and learning. Nearly two dozen administrators were selected and celebrated from the tri-county region.


This year’s honorees include:


Ryan Altemeyer

Associate Superintendent, Business Services

Administrator of the Year Business Services

Ryan Altemeyer firmly believes the commitment to student achievement begins at the site level and builds systems around the district’s budgeting process tied to goals. The process ties site goals to site budgets and ultimately rolls up to district goals and budget. He identified the Allovue software to help track expenditures and established regular meetings with leaders to review the budget development process to support student achievement. Ryan is not your typical CBO. While he is diligent about keeping the district fiscally sound, he fosters an environment where good ideas are rewarded. If school site administrators or departments have an idea that is beneficial to students he has an open door policy and a direct line to request support. He does not let budget restrictions put up a roadblock and allows for creativity, whether it’s monetarily, contractually or other to better support students or improve or enhance services at a school or in a department.


Rita Burks

Principal, Dual Language Academy of the Monterey Peninsula

Administrator of the Year Elementary Principal

Rita Burks’ commitment to educational quality and student achievement is exemplified in the problem of practice she and her team developed at the Dual Language Academy of the Monterey Peninsula - "How can we increase teachers  implementing culturally responsive teaching practices, so that we can support the 3 pillars of dual language. “ The 3 pillars of dual language education that she helps to cultivate  in her role as a leader being 1. High academic achievement in both program languages 2. Bilingualism and Biliteracy  3. Sociocultural competence & Critical consciousness. Rita believes in the power of dual language education not only to support students in academic gains surpassing monolingual peers but also as a tool for students' identity to be celebrated and acknowledged as an asset. Under her leadership, DLAMP has met its stretch goals compared to other schools in the district. Students in grades 5 and 6 are achieving at a higher rate in English and Spanish because of Rita's leadership. Principal Burks gives voice to her students and her staff and embodies the philosophy that we are better together. She is a trusted and respected leader in her community, and truly cares about the students and families that she supports.


Heather Cheatham

Director, Special Education

Administrator of the Year Business Services

Heather Cheatham believes all students can learn, and learning can be measured. She has shared this vision with others through various PD and PLC forums and it has lead to the adoption of district curriculum to ensure all students have appropriate materials and a method of measuring student success. She is humble and the gentle giant behind the scenes and while the work she does is critical she credits the team for the success. As part of a team she ensures the continued focus on the appropriateness of the program curriculum and the regular use of district adopted materials. She takes a knee-down approach to collaboration and any systematic changes, for example asking “What agreements can we make, how can I help, and what do you need?” She engages in collaborative conversations that value the thoughts of others and collective agreements are made to affect change. She is quick to avoid the credit or spotlight for positive shifts and changes because she doesn’t believe one person should make policies and procedures for all programs. However, she takes pride in the fact that many of the shifts that have been made were out of discussions she actively facilitated and engaged in.


Dr. Manuel “Manny” Nuñez

Assistant Superintendent, Human Resources

Administrator of the Year Personnel/Human Resources

As a recipient of an ACSA Every Student Succeeding Award in 2003, Dr. Manny Nuñez knows the value of placing an effective teacher in front of students because it is a solid predictor of student success. He ALWAYS prioritizes students when making any decision. In four years as Assistant Superintendent of HR, Manny has developed a fair, consistent and strong system to hold all employees to high expectations. He has maintained a strong relationship built on trust and transparency with our labor partners in order to ensure we are improving the outcome of all students. He is someone that school leaders trust and come to for advice, guidance and support in dealing with difficult employee situations. He has created a culture that values diversity and exemplifies MPUSD’s commitment to equity. This does not happen by accident and is because of Dr. Nuñez’s intentional actions and leadership.


Mary “Tessa” Brown
Principal, Seaside High School
Administrator of the Year Secondary Co-Administrator
Tessa is a strong advocate of maintaining school culture and builds programs conducive to student learning and staff development. She coordinates professional development schoolwide. This is her passion and as a former teacher at the school she has the benefit of leveraging her experience to support teachers. Tessa was drawn to the Seaside community because of the deep needs of students. She considers education as a vocation, not a career. Tessa sees one of the biggest challenges is supporting teachers in today's educational space. In an effort to respond to the changing environment, Tessa was part of a districtwide team to provide an experience with administrators, teachers, staff, parents and community to reflect on recent districtwide survey data. The hope was to create an experience and support connecting all levels of the system and empower stakeholders at all levels of the system.


Image of Tessa Brown, Rita Burks, Heather Cheatham, Manny Nunez, Ryan Altemeyer

(Tessa Brown, Rita Burks, Heather Cheatham, Ryan Altemeyer, Dr. Manny Nuñez)