SBUSD Superintendent Cary Matsuoka Announces Retirement
Cary Matsuoka (Photo: SBUSD)
By edhat staff
Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD) Superintendent Cary Matsuoka suddenly announced his retirement at Tuesday's packed school board meeting at Santa Barbara Junior High’s Marjorie Luke Theatre.
As a large portion of the crowd cheered at this announcement, Matsuoka cited the need to spend more time with his family as a reason for retirement and not the recent criticism on his job performance.
Matsuoka was hired in 2016 under a three-year contract making over $330,000 a year. His tenure has been plagued with several controversies including the demotion of San Marcos High School Principal Ed Behrens in 2018, a potential lawsuit by conservative "watchdog group" Fair Education over the district's contract with Just Communities, and allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct at Santa Barbara High School's MAD Academy that have yet to be fully explained.
A petition organized by members of the Fair Education group has garnered over 850 signatures opposing any extension of Matsuoka's employment contract. The petition cites poor academic performance; unacceptable school facilities; reckless financial oversight and budgeting; inadequate community outreach, communication, and responsiveness; and irresponsible management style.
Last week Matsuoka informed SBUSD in a special meeting that he will not extend his contract after it ends June 30, 2021. On Tuesday he announced his last day will be June 30, 2020, but according to a statement from SBUSD he originally planned to retire this past June.
"He postponed retirement when he identified three pressing needs that required his on-going presence – first, the hiring of the next cohort of principals at McKinley, La Cumbre, La Colina, and San Marcos High School; second, getting a major lawsuit resolved and have now received a favorable judgment; and continuing to build up the leadership team for the district. 'I was determined to build culture and systems that would survive the next transition of leadership and I can now retire knowing that I did my best to leave Santa Barbara Unified in a better place,'" according to the statement.
School Board President Wendy Sims-Moten made it clear the board did not ask Matsuoka to leave and respects his decision to retire. "Cary is a very effective leader who has had the instincts, wisdom and courage to make tough decisions and take needed action. It has pained me to hear the way that some members of our community have mis-characterized Cary, perhaps not understanding the kind of leader and man he is. This has been a rocky road at times, but I’ve been so impressed with his ability to stay grounded and on course," said Sims-Moten.
Former Santa Barbara School Board President Kate Parker echoed these sentiments. “It was a pleasure to work with Cary during our time together at Santa Barbara Unified. It's never easy to be a school district superintendent, and I'm forever grateful for his educational leadership and for his calm, measured guidance on district challenges,” Parker said. “I send him many congratulations on his retirement, and I wish much success to the Board as they search for great candidates to step into his shoes.”
With 40 years under his belt as an educator, Matsuoka said his experience leading Santa Barbara’s public school system has been rewarding.
“I am proud of what we have accomplished these last three years, the changes in leadership standards and culture, and I commit to finishing my career with everything that I have inside of me,” he said. “I look forward to the next eight months as we turn the corner to 2020 and enroll our incoming kindergartners - the future class of 2033 - and graduate the class of 2020.”
At the November 12, 2019 meeting, the school board will initiate the process for the search and hiring of the next superintendent. SBUSD states there will be multiple opportunities for input about the next superintendent and the district will begin posting information on the district website about the timeline and process for the search.
- October 16, 2019: SBUSD Superintendent Will Not Renew Contract