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Dana Eaton (Brentwood Union School District)

BRENTWOOD -- Former Brentwood educational leader Dana Eaton is coming home to lead the Brentwood Union School District as its new superintendent.

On Wednesday night, the Brentwood school board announced the hiring of the former Pioneer Elementary School principal and BUSD director of student services, who has spent the past four years as the superintendent of the Jefferson Union School District in Tracy. Eaton first came to the district in 2003 to open Pioneer and he lives in Brentwood with his family.

Eaton rose to the top among 40 applicants because of his financial expertise and people skills, according to Brentwood trustee Emil Geddes. He added that Eaton has similar qualities to former, beloved Brentwood schools superintendent Bill Bristow.

"It is so exciting because he has grown so much. I see the same kind of character and skills in this individual," Geddes said. "A month before Pioneer opened, he went to every parent's home before the school opened. His communication is open and transparent."

Even while working elsewhere, Eaton remained committed to Brentwood through his longtime leadership with the Brentwood Regional Community Chest, according to Brentwood school board President Carlos Sanabria.

"He considers Brentwood his destination. It is not a steppingstone," Sanabria said. "He is someone who is willing to invest his time in the community and we feel that is what embodies the Brentwood spirit. He is definitely a relationship-driven individual that thrives in getting the best out of folks."

Eaton said his goals are to foster "clearer communication, listening, learning from the past and moving on together."

"I am really going to try to continue the process of rebuilding trust in the district," he said. "I want to get out and see what is going on in the schools."

Eaton has a son who will be a third-grader at Pioneer and a daughter who will be a sixth-grader at Edna Hill Middle School next year.

During the recent search for a new superintendent, community members and schools staff stressed that they were looking for a leader who is equitable, sincere, empathetic, visible, child-focused, community-oriented and able to manage a crisis.

The superintendent post opened up when the school board fired former Brentwood Superintendent Merrill Grant after a Brentwood special-education teacher was convicted of kicking a student with special needs and a major public outcry followed.

The finalists for the position were interviewed by a panel of teachers, parents and educational leaders in late April and went on to the school board interview a few days later. Eaton is expected to officially start working on July 1.

"This is his community and he wants to stay here," interim Superintendent Doug Adams said of Eaton. "The transition should be real smooth."

On Wednesday night, Eaton indicated he plans to work closely with the community. "It is critical to build partnerships," he said. "Great school districts are built on those partnerships."

Jefferson school board President Debbie Wingo said that Eaton embodies the spirit of community and family. Eaton formerly served on the Brentwood Diversity Committee, Contra Costa County Autism Focus Group and East County Forum to Accelerate Middle School Reform and is chair of Superintendents for Proactive Educational Leadership.

"Dana is a great communicator and he is definitely a people person. He puts students first and he is a team builder," she said. "I told the board that they would be foolish not to hire him."

Reach Paula King at 925-779-7174 or pking@bayareanewsgroup.com.