Longtime Assistant Superintendent Shawn Carey and Superintendent Hilda Maldonado.
Longtime Assistant Superintendent Shawn Carey, left, is leaving the Santa Barbara Unified School District, the latest blow to an organization that has seen an exodus of its top leadership over the past two years since the hiring of Superintendent Hilda Maldonado, right. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photos)

Longtime Assistant Superintendent Shawn Carey is leaving the Santa Barbara Unified School District, the latest blow to an organization that has seen an exodus of its top leadership over the past two years.

Carey joins a cadre of senior employees who have departed the district under Superintendent Hilda Maldonado.

Carey is taking a position at the Santa Barbara County Education Office as director of school and district support.

Brian Rowse, the district’s chief information officer, also gave his two weeks notice on Monday, according to district spokesman Nick Masuda. 

The executive cabinet team is now left with just one of its original members, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources John Becchio, from when Maldonado was hired just under two years ago.

Maldonado told Noozhawk through spokesman Masuda that at school districts across the country, departures are commonplace.

“At Santa Barbara Unified, we are undoubtedly losing some key talent and that definitely is pushing us to calibrate where we currently stand as an organization,” Maldonado said. “And that involves both self-reflection, as well as taking a hard look at the work in front of us.”

She said she “champions” people doing what is best for them.

“And each of these employees got us to this critical juncture, so now it is my job to assess our needs moving forward and make hires that are in the best interest of our students, teachers, the school district and our community at large,” Maldonado said. “We thank all of the departing employees for giving their heart and soul to the district, and are buoyed by the prospect of welcoming new voices to the table.”

In response to news of Carey’s departure, school board member Kate Ford said, “I have no idea what her new position is, but I would imagine that she felt that her experience, skill set, and passion would have further impact and meaning working across Santa Barbara County. I will miss her, and she will be difficult to replace.”

Ford shared a text message she sent Carey Tuesday morning:

“I was dismayed but not totally surprised to hear of your resignation. I only hope you are moving on to a position that continues to ignite the fire of your intellect and passion, and I want to thank you very much for your hard work, wisdom, patience, and partnership during my tenure as a board member.

“So many of your initiatives and policies have been cutting edge, and always, always focused on students.”

Carey was principal of Dos Pueblos High School before joining the district superintendent’s cabinet. In her current role at the district, she is one of the main overseers of the Local Control and Accountability Plan, or LCAP, a three-year plan that describes the goals, actions, services, and expenditures to support positive student outcomes that address state and local priorities.

Other executive cabinet members or high-level employees who have left or given notice include:

» Assistant Superintendent Frann Wageneck, who is leaving to start an education consulting company

» Ana Escobedo, assistant superintendent of elementary education

» San Marcos High School Principal Kip Glazer, who is leaving for a principal job in the Bay Area

» Sierra Loughridge, executive director of curriculum and instruction, who is leaving for a job heading the Solvang School District

» Maria Larios-Horton, former executive director of diversity, equity and family engagement

» Todd Ryckman, former chief educational technology officer

» Anne Roundy Harter, former director of secondary education

» Meg Jette, the district’s longtime fiscal services manager, retired in 2021

» Camilla Barnwell, former public information officer who left for a communications job with the Santa Barbara County Education Office

» Chelsea Guillermo-Wann, former director of research and evaluation 

There are several others across the organization in less-high-profile positions who have departed as well. 

The totality of those who have left or who are leaving represents decades of educational experience lost for the district.

Noozhawk has reported for nearly a year about how employees have said that the culture at Santa Barbara Unified has become toxic under Maldonado’s leadership.

An explosive Santa Barbara Teachers Association survey of teachers and certificated staff in November showed that there was widespread dissatisfaction with the Maldonado’s performance.

The SBTA sent the “Superintendent and District Perception Survey” to about 700 employees About 316 people responded to both multiple choice and open-ended questions about district leadership and employee concerns. 

Many of the comments were harsh and personal, but the gist of the survey was that teachers don’t feel heard, that they think Maldonado is heavy-handed in leadership, and that there is a general lack of interest or effort in working with others.

While some turnover is expected, particularly at the end of a school year, the quantity and caliber of people leaving under Maldonado’s tenure has roiled the organization, and raised questions about the management and decision-making process at the highest level.

Still, the board members, four of whom voted to hire Maldonado, vigorously defend her and recently gave her a one-year contract extension. 

“This is an incredibly challenging and divisive time to work in public education, as demonstrated by the droves of good people leaving the profession across the state and country,” board member Laura Capps told Noozhawk. “I am sorry to learn of the departure of Shawn Carey from the Santa Barbara Unified School District. It is a loss for our district.

“I’ve learned a lot from her, and admire her depth of experience and consistently thoughtful approach, especially to the issue of equity in learning. I’m grateful and not surprised she remains committed to the students of our county by joining Superintendent Susan Salcido and her stellar team.”

Maldonado, in a statement through Masuda, said Carey’s historical knowledge will be missed.

“Shawn Carey has been a staple at Santa Barbara Unified for many years, both at the school and district levels, and her impact on the district will be felt for years to come. Her holistic and inclusive approach to her job made her an important resource not only for me, but also teachers and students alike. We greatly appreciate her years of service and look forward to seeing her flourish in her next adventure.”

Regarding the upcoming departure of Rowse, the chief information officer, Maldonado said his name is synonymous with “finding answers.”

“He is our proverbial go-to on nearly everything, albeit historical data, technology or just about anything else you can think of. In so many ways, Brian’s role is a behind-the-scenes one, but we simply wouldn’t function as well as we do without Brian’s heart — and brain — every day.”

Check back for an updated version of this story. 

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Joshua Molina

Joshua Molina, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com.