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Here's How SB Schools Chief Said Farewell

(Editor's note. On Tuesday night, Santa Barbara Unified School District Superintendent Cary Matsuoka offered a surprise announcement at the school board meeting: He plans to retire at the end of the school year in June, a year before his contract was to end. Despite recent controversy, the schools chief said the decision was personal, not political. Here is his speech text):

Good evening school board members, Santa Barbara staff, and community members.

Tonight I begin with announcing my decision to retire at the end of this school year on June 30, 2020.

I know there has been public comment about my job performance, about my contract, and the word 'retirement' has been suggested to me over the last few months. As I share my story with you, it will be clear that my decision to retire has nothing to do with the public comments of the last six months.

I begin with my personal and family reasons for retiring in June 2020.

First, this will conclude 40 years of public service in education. When I began teaching in 1980, my tools were chalk, a slide rule, and a typewriter. I used ditto masters to print off my handouts and tests.

I know this makes me sound old, and yes, I am 62 and will be 63 when I retire. Forty years sounds like a great number to conclude an amazing career that began in Santa Barbara when Polly and I got married in this beautiful city in 1980.

Second, as we look forward to celebrating 40 years of marriage next summer, we will both be retiring from our careers and look forward to spending more time together. We have walked this life as best friends, as husband and wife, and look forward to continuing walking together into the next chapter of our lives.

Third, my mom is 87 years old and needs support. She is still spunky, playing golf, but slowing down and I want to be there for her. Lastly, we have three sons and their wives who are doing great and we look forward to spending more time with them.

I want to speak about the timing of my decision to retire.

Again, this decision has not been influenced by the events of the last year, in fact, quite to the contrary.

A few of my professional friends back in Silicon Valley know about my goal to retire in June 2019. My long standing goal was to retire at the end of last school year, but a year ago I saw three leadership tasks that needed my ongoing presence.

I chose to stay another year for these reasons:

First, we had four principal positions to fill – McKinley, La Cumbre Junior High, La Colina Junior High, and San Marcos High School.

Second, I wanted to get a major lawsuit resolved while I was still here, and we have now received a favorable final judgment.

Third, I wanted to continue to build the leadership team and culture in our district and I am extremely proud of the fifty plus leaders across our district.

Since you announce your retirement only once in your career, I want to speak briefly about the highlights of my career and my four years in Santa Barbara.

Over my 17 years of teaching chemistry, AP computer science, physics, and math, I directly taught over 2,500 students in my career. I have been proud to watch my students become teachers, principals, tech CEO’s, doctors, engineers, attorneys, artists, the list goes on and on.

Over my 23 years as an administrator, I have worked in four school districts and have been responsible for the education of 150,000 students and been involved in the granting of over 16,000 high school diplomas.

When I entered this position in Santa Barbara in 2016, the board that hired me asked me to focus on relationships and trust inside of the district, to build systems, and get our finances in a better place.

I will let others speak about the question if I have improved relationships and district culture, but I feel confident about what I am passing along to the next superintendent with regards to momentum and culture.

Second, systems are things the public doesn’t necessarily see, but they are crucial to a school district. Too often the leader is the system and when the leader leaves, there is no system. I am proud of the systems we have put in place around instructional teams, hiring practices, school safety, mental health, special education, supporting students with characteristics of dyslexia, and getting ready for ethnic studies curriculum and multilingual pathways.

With regards to budgets, I offer this evidence that we are in a solid place. We negotiated three settlements with our unions over three years under challenging financial conditions. Our district reserves are slowly climbing and we will demonstrate in December that we are reducing our structural budget deficit this fiscal year.

I will add one more global comment about my retirement.

There have been public comments that “this is not personal, but you should resign or retire”.

I agree, it is not personal from my perspective. I do not take any criticisms about my work personally. Here is what you need to know about me. My identity as a person is not tied to my job performance, what people think about me, or the approval of people. I know who I am and instead, I bring a grounded identity to my job every day.

Nothing you do or say will move me off of my identity, my integrity, and how I do my job. I will continue to lead with courage and integrity until my last day and beyond.

I moved my announcement up by two board meetings in consideration of what the school board and community are now going to embark on.

Having experienced the hiring and interview process multiple times as a superintendent, I know what is ahead for the school board. They bear the responsibility to lead the process of selecting the next superintendent and I wanted to give them some extra time for them to start the process at the November 12th meeting.

In closing, it has been deeply rewarding to lead the Santa Barbara Unified School District.

I am proud of what we have accomplished these last four years, the changes in leadership standards and culture, and I commit to finish my career with everything that I have.

I look forward to the next eight months as we turn the corner to 2020 and graduate the class of 2020.

Thank you for listening to my news tonight.

Images: Matsuoka delivering his retirement speech at the Marjorie Luke Theater Oct. 22, 2019 (Josh Molina/Noozhawk); Matsuoka in 2017 (Paul Wellman/SB Independent); SBUSD marketing.

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