“Marvelous”: A look back on Marvin Biasotti’s legacy

Stacked in boxes outside the principal’s office, senior class posters from the ‘70s tell tales of CHS history. They are evidence of the administration’s imminent move to a new building, but for the time being, business is as usual—and, for CUSD Superintendent Marvin Biasotti, as busy as ever.

Upcoming retirement clearly hasn’t dimmed Biasotti’s work ethic, and he arrives, sharply dressed as always, to share insight from 35 years in the Carmel Unified School District.

Biasotti“I’m one of the longest-standing employees in the district, and I’ve been in a decision-making role for most of that time,” he reflects.

Indeed, it is his long-time commitment to CUSD that sets him apart: Statewide, superintendency has an average tenure hovering around three years. Biasotti has held the position for 15.

The San Mateo native came to the district in 1980 as a school psychologist, but soon undertook additional work in special education and human resources, and in 2000 he was offered a job as interim superintendent, which a year later cemented him a long-term position.

One thing led to the next, and now Biasotti’s role in expanding a culture of excellence has been indisputably cemented as well.

His magnanimous,“hands-on” presence has been felt in aspects as wide ranging as satisfying A-G requirements, improving the CHS math department, and ensuring effective bus transportation and well-received cafeteria food. Throughout the years, Biasotti has shown tireless dedication to working late and taking his job seriously.

In the words of Carmel Middle School science and drama teacher Pat Stadille, “Marvin is not one of those administrators who tees off at the golf course and then says he’s working. He’s always fair and honest.”

The psychologist-turned-superintendent has always bonded well with students and staff: For years, staff basketball games earned him the nickname “Marvelous,” and lunchtime matches pitting teachers against students were great sources of laughter.

When CUSD board member Karl Pallastrini was CMS’ principal, Friday afternoons were often spent playing Wiffle ball. “Marvin would change out of his suit and tie and come down in shorts and join us,” Pallastrini reminisces.

Truly few superintendents are as willing to put themselves out there for students and teachers as Biasotti, who has even dressed up as Santa Claus for Captain Cooper Elementary School.

When asked about the California State University Chico graduate’s contributions, his friends and colleagues—including school board President Rita Patel and Carmel River School Principal Jay Marden—point to a thriving college-going culture and state-of-the-art facilities like CHS’ recent additions of pool, theater and field.

With him at the helm, CUSD has come to the forefront of public education. Each of its eligible schools has twice been named a California Distinguished School. Biasotti himself has gained statewide recognition, recently being named Outstanding Administrator of the Year by the California Music Educators Association and Superintendent of the Year by the Association of California Administrators.

And while he is, of course, very proud of these accomplishments, Biasotti is incredibly humble.

“It’s hard for me to point to something and say, ‘I did that.’ I don’t feel that way,” he asserts, “and I think in almost all cases it’s been a ‘we.’ If I did anything, I listened to people.”

And listened he certainly has.

“The superintendent has the ability to say yes when other people can’t,” he continues. “I have tried never to forget that the most powerful changes that happen in a system happen because you said ‘yes’ to someone’s idea.”

In addition to collaborating and nurturing teacher innovation in this fashion, Biasotti’s lasting legacy includes directly helping to hire more than 80 percent of the district’s teaching and supporting staff. By expanding CHS course selections, he has sought to avoid a system that sorts students into categories of capable and incapable.

“I was the first member of my immediate family to graduate from high school,” he says. “Because of my first-hand experience with the life-changing opportunities that come with a degree from a university, I have been a strong proponent of opening those same doors for anyone who desires that possibility.”

Now, at 63, he is ready to begin the next phase of his life. Plans for retirement are deliberately open-ended, and he is looking forward to letting time unfold and opportunities present themselves.

Yet before he moves on, there is perhaps one loose end needing attention: Biasotti’s attendance record at extracurricular events—plays, games, performances—is stunning, but in 35 years, he has never once chaperoned a school dance, and now he only has until June 30 to clear up this one minor absence.

On that day, a long-time friend, mentor and leader will leave the district. Marvin Biasotti will pass on the torch, bequeathing a school district and a superintendency that have, no doubt, been elevated by his presence.

-Michael Montgomery