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California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #11-44
June 14, 2011
Contact: Communications
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Superintendent Tom Torlakson Announces New
Superintendent for California School for the Deaf, Fremont

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today announced that Sean M. Virnig has been selected to serve as the new superintendent of the California School for the Deaf, Fremont (CSD), where he graduated as class valedictorian in 1992.

Virnig is the school's 10th superintendent since its inception in 1860, and its first Deaf superintendent. Virnig succeeds Dr. Henry "Hank" Klopping, who is retiring after 36 years.

"I welcome Sean back to CSD, which has earned an international reputation as a leading school for the Deaf," Torlakson said. "He brings the skills, training, and experience that parents, students, staff, and the CSD community called for in a new superintendent.

"I also bid farewell to Hank, who has been passionate and unrelenting in his advocacy for quality educational opportunities for Deaf and hard of hearing students," said Torlakson, who last week presided over a moving tribute for Klopping and officially announced that the school's little theater would be renamed the Dr. Henry "Hank" Klopping Theater.

Klopping said he is especially pleased and proud that the school's new top administrator was once a student there.

"I am a believer that the success of any person in education can be measured by their students coming back to replace them," Klopping said. "As a CSD graduate, Sean Virnig's appointment verifies that we have done our job."

Virnig was selected after a nationwide search and an extensive process of seeking engagement and public input to find the best Deaf-centered leader for CSD.

"Sean is a bright and articulate Deaf leader who will provide strong leadership at CSD and throughout the field of Deaf education," said Dr. William J. Ellerbee, Jr., Deputy Superintendent of the Special Services and Support Branch, which oversees California's state special schools. "I am looking forward to working with him and the CSD community as they set new heights for our students."

Virnig will be tasked with providing full direction, planning, organizing, and administering of all programs and functions at the school. He will be responsible for a student body of more than 450 students and a staff of 350 educators, residential care workers, and support services personnel.

Virnig said he is delighted to be back at his high school alma mater.

"I am honored to return to the CSD as its new superintendent who truly believes in everything this school represents in the education of children who are Deaf in Northern California and elsewhere," Virnig said. "It stands to reason that the CSD is in an enviable position to propel toward the future as a leading school serving the Deaf through teamwork, dedication, and authenticity."

Virnig had been the director of education for the Texas School for the Deaf in Austin until his CSD selection. Prior, he was director of strategic projects at the Minnesota State Academies for the Deaf and the Blind, director of education for the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf, K-12 principal for the same academy, public policy specialist with the Minnesota Department of Human Services, education specialist for the University of Minnesota, and a classroom teacher at the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf.

A native of St. Paul, Minnesota, Virnig graduated cum laude from Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. with a Bachelor of Arts. He earned a Master of Education in Educational Psychology from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and is currently completing his Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Administration, also from the University of Minnesota.

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Tom Torlakson — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Monday, February 24, 2020
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