ALAMEDA -- With her time as superintendent of Alameda public schools winding down, friends, fellow administrators and city officials gathered Tuesday to say goodbye to Kirsten Vital and to wish her well.

The reception at the Elks Lodge on Santa Clara Avenue featured brief presentations from Mayor Marie Gilmore and Margie Sherratt, president of the Board of Education, before those on hand raised their glasses and toasted Vital, who is leaving to become superintendent of the Capistrano Unified School District.

The southern Orange County district has more than 51,000 students, 56 schools and covers nearly 200 square miles, which means Vital will likely take a different approach to her responsibilities as superintendent than she did in Alameda.

Kirsten Vital, right, listens as Alameda, Calif. Mayor Marie Gilmore reads a city proclamation at a party to say farewell to the departing Alameda Unified
Kirsten Vital, right, listens as Alameda, Calif. Mayor Marie Gilmore reads a city proclamation at a party to say farewell to the departing Alameda Unified School District superintendent, Tuesday, July 22, 2014 in Alameda. Vital, whose tenure began in 2009, leaves to become head of the San Juan Capistrano school district in southern California. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)

"She's not going to be quite so hands on," Sherratt joked.

Vital did not address the group during the low-key event at the lodge. She had offered her farewell at the June 24 school board meeting, her last in Alameda.

"It's hard to say goodbye," Vital then said, choking up. "Someone told me if you drink water, you don't tear up. I don't know if that's true."

Vital took over the Alameda district in January 2009 after former Superintendent Ardella Dailey retired.

"I so appreciate having been your superintendent for the past six years," Vital said. "I don't know if there is ever a perfect time to leave a district, to leave people you care about. But this is the right time for me and my family to move to the Capistrano Unified School District."


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Vital said she was proud of her work in helping to create the Alameda district's anti-bullying curriculum and its first Facilities Master Plan, as well as the community effort behind Measure A, the parcel tax that Island voters passed in March 2011 that generates about $12 million annually for public schools.

"Together, we accomplished unprecedented things and made amazing progress," she said.

Vital handled her role here with aplomb, Sherratt said.

"It's not always easy or popular and many times it's tough to be the superintendent of schools," Sherratt said.

Vital will remain in Alameda, officially, until the beginning of August.

Before coming to the district, Vital served as chief of accountability for the Oakland Unified School District and she was a director of instruction for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Her background also includes serving as co-principal of Santa Monica High School.

Alameda school officials are currently in talks with someone to become interim superintendent, Sherratt said. The goal is to have the position filled by early August.

Vital said she will miss the teachers and other employees when she leaves Alameda and takes up her new post in Southern California.

Kirsten Vital, right, shares a laugh with School Board Clerk Mike McMahon, at a party to say farewell to the departing Alameda Unified School District
Kirsten Vital, right, shares a laugh with School Board Clerk Mike McMahon, at a party to say farewell to the departing Alameda Unified School District superintendent, Tuesday, July 22, 2014 at the Elks Club in Alameda, Calif. Vital, whose tenure began in 2009, leaves to become head of the San Juan Capistrano school district in southern California. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)

"They're honest," she said. "They're trustworthy. They're resilient and dedicated to their jobs and to the children and families of Alameda."

Reach Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654 or follow him on Twitter.com/Peter_Hegarty.



Alameda Unified School District President Margie Sherratt, left, raises a glass to toast Kirsten Vital, right, at a party to say farewell to the departing
Alameda Unified School District President Margie Sherratt, left, raises a glass to toast Kirsten Vital, right, at a party to say farewell to the departing AUSD superintendent, Tuesday, July 22, 2014 at the Elks Club in Alameda, Calif. Vital, whose tenure began in 2009, leaves to become head of the San Juan Capistrano school district in southern California. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)