By Srishti Prabha | OBSERVER Staff Writer

Sacramento City Unified School District Superintendent Jorge Aguilar
Sacramento City Unified School District Superintendent Jorge Aguilar. Courtesy of CapRadio

Sacramento City Unified School District Superintendent Jorge Aguilar will be stepping down from his position on June 30. 

The announcement, made by district officials on Wednesday evening, was preceded by a school board vote on June 28

The vote, which was 5-1-1 in favor of the resignation, came after a series of conversations with the board, Aguilar, and other people who have been part searching for superintendent, said SCUSD Board President Chinua Rhodes. 

He confirms that the change was “a mutually agreed” transition between the board and Superintendent Aguilar. 

“We constantly have conversations around our superintendents,” Rhodes said. “I can’t tell you the time-length, but it wasn’t a drop of a hat [decision]. It comes to a point where we say, ‘I think that this is the best route.’ And the superintendent agreed with that.”

Aguilar served as superintendent for six years — one of the longest terms the district has seen. One week before his departure, he joined the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s board of trustees. 

Aguilar said he remains committed to the SCUSD board’s vision and supports their continued efforts toward equity, access and inclusion. 

“Sac City Unified has highly talented and dedicated staff across the entire district, including educational leaders in key district management roles who reflect the rich diversity of our students,” he said at the SCUSD board meeting on Wednesday. “I thank them for keeping students at the center of our decision-making and fostering a culture of balancing student and staff needs.”

Under Aguilar’s leadership, the district saw a multi-day strike by teachers and support staff in 2022 over wages and working conditions. SCUSD school board trustee Jasjit Singh acknowledged that labor relations may continue to be an ongoing struggle, but seeks community engagement to abate tensions. 

“There’s a lot of pressure from the community around some of the decisions that had been made … teachers and staff had gone on strike multiple times,” Singh said. “Those are always going to be pressure points — like labor relations — and trying to understand the needs of the community are always going to be an important piece of the work that a superintendent does for a district moving forward.”

Rhodes recognized that Aguilar’s job posed its own set of challenges. “You have seven different individuals who have seven unique viewpoints around what their communities want to see, and you have to balance seven bosses,” he said, referring to the school board members.

However, like Singh, Rhodes feels that the district has faltered in getting buy-in from their community members.  

“For instance, we want to provide transportation fares for community members who want to access a certain program and that’s a proposal in the budget,” Rhodes said. “But if no community knows about it, that proposal dies on the vine.”

For the interim, Deputy Superintendent Lisa Allen will be acting superintendent for the district until a replacement is found. Singh said he is confident in Allen’s abilities to take on the role as the board begins their search.  

“She’ll be able to hold it down while we have the time to put together a good job posting that’s understanding of the community in order to find that next leader,” he said.

For Singh and Rhodes, this is their first time exploring the protocols of hiring a superintendent. 

“This is going to be a learning experience for me,” Rhodes said. “But I’m hoping to learn with my colleagues and the community alongside us. That’s how we make a better education system for our students. And that’s how we make it better for Sacramento.”

Singh has high hopes for the future superintendent, a role that accompanies a myriad of expectations. 

“I would pay attention to what we look for in the next superintendent, because what we’re looking for is probably something that we feel like is missing in the first place,” Singh said. 

District officials said the search for a successor is set to start immediately. Rhodes and Singh added that they are looking forward to moving the district in “a new direction” and are optimistic about finding a qualified person for the position. 

“I would love to see a superintendent that’s focused on equity, student outcomes and [on] the Sacramento community,” Rhodes said.

Srishti Prabha is an education reporter and Report For America corps member in collaboration with CapRadio and The Sacramento Observer. Their focus is K-12 education in Sacramento’s Black communities.