Sacramento City Unified superintendent to step down after 6 tumultuous years with district

Jorge A. Aguilar, the superintendent of Sacramento City Unified School District since 2017, will leave the position at the end of this week, the K-12 district announced Wednesday afternoon.

Aguilar will depart the role Friday, the end of this month and the current fiscal year. The district will begin a search for a new superintendent “immediately,” Sacramento City Unified said in a news release announcing Aguilar’s departure.

“The Sac City Unified Board and Superintendent Aguilar have mutually agreed to a leadership transition for our District,” Chinua Rhodes, president of the school board, said in a prepared statement. “As one of the longest-serving superintendents at Sac City Unified, we appreciate Superintendent Aguilar’s six years of service and his dedication to SCUSD students and families.”

Deputy Superintendent Lisa Allen will serve as acting superintendent while the search for a full-time replacement is underway, according to the news release.

“I applaud the Sac City Board of Trustees for committing to make student-outcome focused governance a priority,” Aguilar said in a prepared statement released by the school district. “Additionally, I have appreciated the dedication of each of the 15 Sac City Board members with whom I have collaborated during my tenure as superintendent.

“Every day as Sac City’s superintendent, I was motivated to change the life trajectories of our students, especially our youth least well served who are from low-income families and have low achievement levels, low graduation rates, and low college and career readiness rates

Aguilar became the district’s 28th superintendent on July 1, 2017, according to the Sacramento City Unified website. The district serves more than 40,000 students at more than 70 campuses.

Aguilar’s tenure came with tumult.

Late last decade, the district faced the possibility of a state takeover amid a deep budget crisis that had set in by 2018. That fall, Sacramento County education officials for the first time ever rejected the school district’s budget due to projected deficits.

Budget woes led an independent state fiscal adviser in 2019 to say he had “no confidence” in the school district’s business staff or its data. Sacramento City Unified laid off more than 100 people, including 77 teachers, in spring 2019.

Aguilar often served as the face of the school district during labor disputes between administrators and the teachers union. Sacramento City Unified teachers and staff went on strike for eight school days in spring 2022. That followed a one-day strike in March 2019.

In fall 2017, Mayor Darrell Steinberg brokered a deal between Aguilar and the teachers union to avert a strike during stalled contract negotiations.

SEIU Local 1021, which represents maintenance workers, bus drivers, instructional aides and other staff members, also authorized a two-day strike in April 2021 over disagreements regarding reopening from COVID-19 closures; the Sacramento City Teachers Association pledged a sympathy strike. That strike was ultimately called off, but served as another dust-up in years of clashing between district workers and administration.

On Thursday, Steinberg lauded Aguilar for his commitment to racial equity.

“He served with integrity during some of the most challenging times in Sacramento history. Jorge, may you go forward with good health and great contributions to come,” the mayor said on social media.

In his departing statement, Aguilar said he remains proud of Sacramento City Unified and its educational leaders.

“I am grateful to our community for the respectful interactions that I have experienced over the past six years, including as a parent of our four children who were students in Sac City Unified,” Aguilar continued in Wednesday’s statement. “I will remain the biggest supporter of Sac City and its continued efforts to actualize an equity, access, and social justice vision that supports success for all students.”