Santa Maria-Bonita School District Superintendent Phil Alvarado announced to district staff on Thursday that he will retire at the end of the current school year.


Superintendent Phil Alvarado

Alvarado has been superintendent for more than six years and has nearly 38 years of service to SMBSD, where he started his career in education as a bilingual instructional aide.

“I have spent most of my life in this district,” Alvarado wrote in an email to district employees. “First, as a student, then with almost 38 years working here to make it the best it can be for our students and staff. My years with SMBSD have been the best years of my life, and I have loved every day of my job.”

While at the helm, Alvarado has overseen and guided the district through some of its most formative and significant years as student population vastly grew and new local and statewide educational programs and initiatives came into effect. During his tenure as superintendent, a new campus was constructed and a historic bond measure to build an additional school and fund modernization at all 19 of the district’s existing schools was passed.

In his letter to district staff, Alvarado explained that there are a number of large projects the district will be focusing on in the next few years, including implementing Common Core State Standards and Measure T’s multiple construction projects.

“As I considered retirement, I realized that it would make for a more natural transition to avoid a change in leadership in the middle of those important endeavors,” he wrote. “Those projects are vital to the present and future success of our students, and I believe a cohesive effort is needed to ensure the best possible results. It wouldn’t be fair for a new superintendent to come in and try to pick up where I left off, nor expect success from disjointed progress.”

Alvarado’s last day will be June 30. The SMBSD Board of Education is working on the process of recruiting and hiring his replacement. Over the next few months, the board will accept applications from qualified candidates and conduct interviews. The board hopes to make its decision by June, with the next superintendent officially being hired at the June 17 or July 8 board meeting.

“We are saddened by Mr. Alvarado’s decision to retire, but are grateful for his many years of dedicated service to the Santa Maria-Bonita School District and the Santa Maria community,” board president Jody Oliver said. “He has been a humble and caring educational leader for 38 years as well as an outstanding role model for students and other educators. We wish Phil and his family a long, healthy and happy retirement.”

Alvarado was equally as complimentary of the board.

“The board believes in our students and our employees,” he said. “The board takes great pride in who we are as a district and holds the well-being of our students at the forefront.”

He added that the support he has received from board members throughout his career, including the current board, has been invaluable.

Alvarado also noted that the people he’s worked with since the beginning of his time at SMBSD have had an immeasurable impact on his life.

“I treasure the friendships that I have made and the skills that I learned throughout the years,” he wrote. “Those friendships and knowledge have served me well and will last a lifetime. I would not be the person I am without the influence of so many friends, colleagues and mentors from SMBSD.”

Alvarado was born and raised in Santa Maria. He attended SMBSD elementary and junior high schools and Santa Maria High School. He began working for the Santa Maria-Bonita School District as a bilingual teacher’s aide shortly after his high school graduation in 1973.

He received his bachelor of arts degree and teaching credential from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and his master’s degree in education from Pepperdine University. Alvarado started working full-time for SMBSD in 1977 as a teacher at Oakley Elementary School. He also taught at Fairlawn, Robert Bruce and Miller elementary schools. His classroom teaching experience includes second, third, fifth and sixth grades.

Later, Alvarado held the position of assistant principal at Adam, Miller and Fesler junior high schools. He became the principal at Fairlawn School for four years. He was also the first principal of Ontiveros School and led there for four years. Prior to being named superintendent in 2009, Alvarado was the director of curriculum and instruction and the assistant superintendent for instructional services. In addition to his work in the district, Alvarado serves on various boards and committees for a host of nonprofit organizations that benefit the youth of Santa Maria including Cruzin’ For Life, Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley, Gen Span, IEC Computer Connections Committee and World to You.

“I still plan to be involved in many community organizations and activities,” Alvarado said. “Retiring as superintendent doesn’t mean retiring from my commitment to children or our community. Santa Maria will always be home.”