Did you know that at one point in his life, Tony Signoret wanted to be professional athlete?
PALM SPRINGS — When the Palm Springs Unified School District Board of Education in November named Interim Superintendent Dr. Tonatiuh ‘Tony’ Signoret to serve as the District’s Superintendent of Schools effective Jan. 1, 2024, through June 30, 2025, it made history.
Signoret is the first Hispanic Superintendent of Schools for PSUSD.
“The past six months as our Interim Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Signoret has consistently exhibited strong leadership, commitment, dedication, and devotion to PSUSD.,” said Board of Education President John Gerardi.
Signoret’s contract is for $290,000 per year.
Not only did he make history, but Signoret also brings to the office integrity, morals and values. He replaces Mike Swize who took a pay cut to take a leadership job in Perris. Within a month, he was gone.
Signoret has spent the majority of his 33-year career in education with PSUSD. He began as a bilingual teacher at Agua Caliente Elementary and has also served as a District assistant principal and principal at the elementary and middle school level before becoming PSUSD’s Director of Certificated Human Resources in 2011. He also served as Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources at Desert Sands Unified School District for two years before returning to PSUSD as the District’s Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources in 2017. Raised in Mexico City, Signoret is also fully bilingual in Spanish.
Uken Report sought to get know Signoret a bit better, so we posed some questions to him. To our delight (and we hope the delight of readers), he had fun with the questions and was refreshingly candid.
UR: How do you pronounce your last name? (Can you provide a phonetic spelling?)
TONY SIGNORET: This is probably the best way to make it phonetic: Siñor-ray
UR: Superintendents inherently carry a great deal of responsibility. Since you are the first Hispanic Superintendent the District has had, do you feel even more pressure? If so, how?
TONY SIGNORET: First of all, I am very grateful for the trust and confidence placed in me by our Board of Education. I am extremely humbled and honored to be the first Hispanic Superintendent of our district. This appointment is a huge milestone for our community, as it represents hope, inspiration, and that the doors of opportunity are available to our Hispanic students.
I’m very cognizant of the pressure as this responsibility extends beyond the Hispanic community. I am committed to helping ALL students achieve their full potential and doing whatever is necessary to help ignite their passion or nurture their talent.
So yes, I deeply understand the significance of this moment. And since I am such a strong believer in our kids, our community, I embrace this opportunity, as this appointment is a collective step forward for our entire community!
UR: Who has been your most influential mentor and why?
TONY SIGNORET: I have been blessed to have had many outstanding professional mentors throughout my career, such as retired superintendents Dr. Gary Rutherford, Dr. Sandra Lyon, and Mr. Scott Bailey. From the California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators (CALSA), Dr. Ken Magdaleno and Dr. Lee Vargas. They were all extremely influential throughout my career.
But perhaps the most influential were the late Dr. Bill Diedrich (retired superintendent of PSUSD) and Mr. Mauricio Arellano (current superintendent of San Bernardino City Schools). Dr. Diedrich inspired me to pursue a career in leadership when I was a new teacher at Agua Caliente Elementary and, thanks to him, I started my career in a leadership role as assistant principal. He was phenomenal at inspiring others, and he truly brought out the best in me. Mr. Arellano gave me my first opportunity to lead at a central office level by appointing me as the first Director of Certificated Human Resources for PSUSD. Mr. Arellano is the ultimate professional that strives to achieve excellent customer service, strong positive relationships, and high expectations in every aspect. Both of them have been extremely influential in my career.
UR: Was there ever a class in school in which you did not do particularly well? If so, what was it? How did you overcome the challenges?
TONY SIGNORET: Without a question it was Geometry! I did not struggle in other aspects of math; I did fine in Algebra, Statistics, etc. But for some reason Geometry was such a struggle. At first I got frustrated, but fortunately I spoke with my father, and he helped me get a tutor. Although the concept of geometric proofs was still hard to grasp, the help I received got me through it. I learned the importance of reaching out for help.
UR: What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?
TONY SIGNORET: My goals evolved as I grew up. I wanted to be many things, such as a dentist, a professional athlete (soccer goalie), a biologist, just to name a few. When I got to college, I wanted to follow my father’s footsteps and majored in business administration. But midway through my college career, having coached my little brother’s sports teams during the summer, I changed direction. The inspiration of working with kids, helping them achieve their goals, led me to pursue a career in education. I’m so glad I did, as this will be my 33rd year in this wonderful profession. I’m very grateful that throughout my childhood, even in my college years, my father never tried to impose any goals upon me. He truly wanted me to pursue whatever inspired me, and he was very true to that statement.
UR: Can students and parents expect to see any changes or new initiatives from you?
TONY SIGNORET: After the pandemic we all needed time to recover in so many aspects, as the wind was taken out of our sails. But now, after we have had time to reflect and regroup, we do not need to change course. We simply need to create a consistent breeze of inspiration and motivation so our students, staff, and community can continue their routes towards success.
To achieve this, we have created an overarching goal (We commit to an anti-racist and anti-discriminatory learning community that creates safe learning spaces where all students, staff, and families are welcomed, included, and respected) and four focus areas (student achievement, safe environments, leadership development, and accountability). Our overarching goal and focus areas are all intended to create that inspirational wind flow in the sails of our students.
UR: As superintendent, do you expect to have a high profile in the schools?
TONY SIGNORET: Yes, that is absolutely my goal. As much as I possibly can, I have to be present, visible, and accessible. I cannot set the expectation of our four focus areas (student achievement, safe environment, leadership development, and accountability) and expect them to be implemented without being present.
UR; Do you have a signature motto? If so, what is it?
TONY SIGNORET: I have a few, but my favorite is: Every day presents a challenge, embrace it.To me this motto puts a positive lens on the daily challenges we face in life. Instead of feeling defeated the moment a challenge comes our way, we can embrace the challenge as an opportunity for success.
UR: Were you ever called to the superintendent’s or principal’s office as a student? If so, for what?
TONY SIGNORET: Truth be told, I did get in trouble on two occasions, once in kindergarten (believe it or not) and once in High School. In Kindergarten I thought it would be funny to scare my teacher by hiding under the stairwell, then to jump out and yell at her when she walked by. Of course, at that age, I thought the teacher completely overreacted to being startled and tossing her books into the air, since as a consequence I was not allowed to go on a field trip that day. So out of spite I decided to go on my own field trip and left school. Three hours and a police car ride later, I was back at school, in the principal’s office, and then suspended. It was the conversation with my dad on the way home that I realized how badly I misjudged the humor that stunt!
The second time was in high school. I decided I’d join in on the unofficial senior ditch day. I figured it would be no big deal, as so many seniors would be doing the same thing. So, three of my classmates and I decided to drive to Cuernavaca (as we lived in Mexico City), about an hour away, to spend the day riding go-carts at a well-known track. There were several problems in my plan. First, I wasn’t a senior, I was a junior. Second, and perhaps most importantly, there was no ditch day (one of my companions told us about the day, we later found out it was a rumor). Third, unbeknownst to us, the wife of one of our coaches happened to be at the go-cart track with visiting relatives, and she called our coach back at school. I received two full days of in-school detention.
Overall, I was a very good student, kept good grades, and was involved in athletics and extracurricular activities. I also had good relationships with teachers, students, and staff. So, as I reflect on my two ‘missteps’ I can only laugh at myself for the poor decisions.
UR: How did you learn that you got the nod for superintendent?
TONY SIGNORET: Our Board of Education had a direct conversation with me about becoming superintendent. Words cannot fully express how humbled, honored, and excited I was. I have been involved in our community since 1993, I have been with our PSUSD family for over 30 years. I feel truly blessed to have the chance to continue to support and help our students, parents, and staff in this new role.
UR: Do you have a wife and children?
TONY SIGNORET: My wife is Silvia Signoret; she has a heart of gold. She has been my inspiration in so many ways. She was also the founder and president of ‘For the Children’, a foster/adoptive parent association, for over 15 years. The group started with five people at our kitchen table, then grew to an over 200-family membership with a county-provided office in Palm Desert.
We have two children of our own, Michelle (43, lives in Cambridge, England) and Josh (37, a teacher in San Francisco). We also have seven adopted children, Rene (23, lives in Idaho), Juliette (22, teaching English in Madrid, Spain), Jonathan (20, in Arizona), Solange (18, studying Musical Theatre in New York), Daniella (16, junior at PSHS), Natasha (16, junior at PSHS), and Jordan (12, 6th grade at Cielo Vista). We are also in the process of adopting our 1 ½-year-old (he’s been with us since a week old), his name is Sebastian.
UR: Anything you would like to add?
TONY SIGNORET: All of our children either graduated, attended, or will attend PSUSD schools. I truly believe in our school district!
- Superintendent Tony Signoret: PSUSD
- Supt. of Schools Dr. Tony Signoret and school administrators congratulate PSUSD “Do the Right Thing” recipients at awards ceremony.: PSUSD