county boards
What do county offices of education do? A perspective from Mendocino COE
The primary job of the Mendocino County Office of Education is to support all students within the county. This work is done primarily by supporting school districts, because they provide most of the direct instruction. Mendocino COE staff spend most of their time facilitating, training, coaching, developing programs, solving problems, networking, collaborating and advocating for the unique needs of the students and districts within this rural, geographically challenged county. The county office works in partnership with local districts to provide students with a large variety of services. The following areas are some of the largest on which Mendocino COE focuses.

Student services

Mendocino COE provides instructional programs for students with unique needs, including special education for severely disabled students, court and community schools for incarcerated and expelled youth, and programs for students with children. Child care and child development programs are also provided.

Fiscal accountability

In addition to direct student services, one of the biggest county office responsibilities is examining and approving school district budgets and expenditures before they are sent to the California Department of Education. If budgets aren’t sound, teachers and administrators can’t afford the resources and professional development they need to be successful.

Curriculum and instruction

Districts’ efforts to continually improve are aided by the county office, which provides leadership and support that enhances classroom instruction, student assessment and teacher preparation. The county office also coaches new teachers and hosts professional development opportunities for teachers, classified staff, administrators and school board members.

Administrative services

Another essential function of Mendocino COE is administrative support, especially for the smaller districts. These supports include helping with technology and telecommunication infrastructure; staff recruitment and retention; and facilities issues, such as long-term planning and compliance with safety regulations.


Mendocino COE also serves as a liaison between Mendocino County and state education leaders and lawmakers, advocating for the unique needs of rural districts and counties, including the need for funding and other resources for local districts. The needs of metropolitan districts are very different than small and rural districts. However, sharing some of Mendocino’s daily struggles — such as transporting students from the most remote parts of the county — helps garner needed support.

Building for the future

The Mendocino COE is always striving to build an organization full of dedicated, competent people. “Our most important functions require a high level of expertise,” said Mendocino County Superintendent of Schools Michelle Hutchins. “We cannot provide training to school districts unless we have the experts in-house. We cannot advocate for hundreds of thousands of dollars from state coffers unless we’re credible and well-informed. We cannot develop new programs and services unless we have the knowledge and experience to do so. We know we’re often better off developing local talent than recruiting from afar, because people who are already embedded in our local communities are more likely to stay for the long-term and more likely to understand the unique needs and challenges our county faces.”

Mentorship is important and as longstanding county office employees retire, the remaining employees are sharing their commitment and drive with new recruits, perpetuating the shared values and service-oriented mindset of Mendocino COE.