Santa Barbara Unified School District superintendent Cary Matsuoka announced Tuesday night that he will retire at the end of this school year, on June 30, 2020.
“Forty years sounds like a great number to conclude an amazing career that began in Santa Barbara,” Matsuoka said.
Matsuoka made the announcement at Santa Barbara Junior High during a school board meeting in front of a large crowd at Marjorie Luke Theatre. The news comes after growing criticism and fiery public comments made at recent meetings calling for Matsuoka to resign or be fired.
Some local parents are unhappy with how the school board has handled incidents under Matsuoka’s leadership, including the contentious removal of former San Marcos High School principal Ed Behrens last year and the controversy surrounding former MAD Academy director Dan Williams this spring.
Others are unhappy with the district’s academic performance or how safe their children feel at school.
Matsuoka said criticism did not lead to his decision to announce his retirement now.
“Nothing you do or say will move me off my identity, my integrity and how I do my job,” Matsuoka said. “I will continue to lead with courage and integrity until my last day, and beyond.”
Matsuoka says he had been planning on retiring this summer before deciding to stay in his position for one more year to help fill four district principal openings and resolve legal matters the district is facing. He says he planned to announce his decision in December, but chose to move the announcement up to allow for more time for the school district to find a replacement.
Matsuoka’s contract was set to expire in June 2021. Santa Barbara Unified School District president Wendy Sims-Moten said the board did not pressure Matsuoka to retire early.
“I want to thank you for your leadership,” Sims-Moten said to Matsuoka after the announcement. “I’m going to miss you… so I struggle with this decision, but I respect it.
“I want to thank you for your perspective,” board member Kate Ford said. “For your perseverance in the face of lots of challenges.”
Parents both against and in support of Matsuoka spoke during Tuesday’s early public comment period, before the announcement.
Critics are happy to hear the announcement. Parent James Fenkner told NewsChannel 3 that it “was a necessary decision” because “the serious educational issues were piling up too fast.”
Matsuoka took the position of district superintendent in 2016. The school district will now begin to search for a new superintendent.