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Lifelong Educator Cary Matsuoka Announced as New Santa Barbara Schools Superintendent

Matsuoka is currently the Milpitas Unified School District superintendent and will start at the Santa Barbara Unified School District on July 1

Cary Matsuoka was announced as the new Santa Barbara Unified School District superintendent Tuesday night.
Cary Matsuoka was announced as the new Santa Barbara Unified School District superintendent Tuesday night.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education welcomed Cary Matsuoka to lead the district as the new superintendent beginning July 1 upon the retirement of Dave Cash.

“There’s no better job than education,” Matsuoka said. “It is the most important work in the nation and I hope that I do it with a smile every day. It’s Santa Barbara, how can you not?”

Matsuoka was among 39 applicants from across the country considered for the position and was chosen because of his focus on improving student achievement and his diverse experience as an educator, the Board of Education announced at Tuesday night's meeting.

Matsuoka said an important part of his work as superintendent will focus on the success of Latino students, who make up the majority of the district.

“I will be a champion for the underdog in our schools and in our community — for immigrants, Latino students and families that have to work hard to make it in this country,” Matsuoka said.

“I will be present in their neighborhoods and schools. I will be the voice to their needs and aspirations.”

Matsuoka offered his sense of loyalty to the public during the Board of Education meeting. 

“You have my commitment to lead with integrity, wisdom, patience and with tremendous hard work,” he said. “This is not an easy job. I commit to keeping the interests of children as the most important thing. Hands down, that has to be a top priority.”

Matsuoka said he aims to lead and mentor the district staff while working collaboratively with the board of trustees, teachers and parents. 

“I believe the equity work of public education is more important than ever,” he said. “We have to support everyone who has obstacles to overcome.”

Santa Barbara City College President Lori Gaskin said she knows firsthand of Matsuoka’s hard work collaborating with higher education.

“I’m so happy for this district,” Gaskin said. “You grabbed onto a real gem and a jewel. He is knowledgeable about all things as students transition into college.”

Matsuoka will receive a $260,164 annual base salary, the same as Cash's current salary.

Matsuoka has 10 years of experience as superintendent between two districts, Los Gatos-Saratoga High School District and Milpitas Unified School District, where he currently works.

He spent 17 years as a teacher, mostly in a high school setting, and 19 years in administrative leadership roles including high school assistant principal and principal. He taught AP computer science, chemistry and physics at Saratoga High School in the Silicon Valley area.

At UC Davis, he studied nutrition science and earned a master’s degree in educational administration from San Jose State University.

Matsuoka introduced his wife, Polly, a 1975 Dos Pueblos High School alumna, and said his family roots run deep in Santa Barbara for more than 30 years.

SBUSD is the second-largest school district in Santa Barbara County with K-12 enrollment during the 2015-2016 school year at more than 15,000 students.

“We got a real good person,” board member Ed Heron said. “He is a calm mentor and coach.”

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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