News Alert: New Superintendent hired to lead Sacramento city schools

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Last night the Sacramento City Unified School District Board of Education hired Mr. Jorge Aguilar to lead the district as its next Superintendent. Mr. Aguilar currently serves as the Associate Superintendent for Equity and Access at Fresno Unified School District and is recognized as a state and national education leader. He brings over twenty years of K-12 and higher education experience to the district, with a strong focus and background on issues of equity and student achievement. As a result of his work, Fresno Unified saw significant improvement in student achievement including:

  • Raising graduation rates from 69.2 percent to 85.4 percent between the 2009-10 and 2015-16 school years.
  • Cutting dropout rates almost in half from 20.1 percent down to 10.6 percent between the 2009-10 and 2015-16 school years.
  • Raising the “A-G” completion rates from 25.8 percent in 2008 to 49.02 percent in 2016.

“Mr. Aguilar has proven experience in successfully addressing the needs of students like ours,” said Jay Hansen, President of the Sacramento City Unified School Board. “I believe the work Mr. Aguilar has done in Fresno and his background working on equity and achievement gap issues make him the ideal candidate for our district. He also recognizes our district has students at many levels of achievement and each is deserving of being pushed to their full potential.”

In addition to his professional qualifications, Mr. Aguilar has a very compelling personal story that embodies the daily lives of many of our students. As the son of immigrant farm-working parents, he began picking grapes in the Central Valley at a young age, alongside his family, to help provide for their needs. Like many of the students in our district, Mr. Aguilar understands the daily struggles of having to help his parents navigate the American culture and experience while overcoming the many challenges that come with being a child of immigrants. Shortly after graduating high school and being accepted into college at U.C. Berkeley, his father was detained and Mr. Aguilar soon found himself commuting long hours to help provide translations and help his father navigate the legal system.

Mr. Aguilar says he was inspired to pursue a college degree after attending the Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project, a program based here in Sacramento. Mr. Aguilar said that experience was life-changing for him and put him on a path to pursue higher education—a path that was unfamiliar to him at the time. He would go on to complete and earn his degree from U.C. Berkeley in Latin American Studies and Spanish and Portuguese. Inspired to learn the legal process as a result of his father’s detainment, Mr. Aguilar went on to attend law school at Loyola Marymount. He completed his Juris doctorate from Loyola—attending law school classes in the evening, while teaching Spanish classes during the day at South Gate High School.

“Jorge has proven himself to be a tireless champion of educational equity and social justice in public education,” wrote Dolores Huerta in a letter to the board in support of Mr. Aguilar. The well renowned labor leader and co-founder of the United Farmworkers’ union praised Mr. Aguilar’s accomplishments further stating that “he has spent his career courageously removing barriers to student success. He also lived through experiences that mirror the students in Sacramento.” 

Dozens of community leaders came out to the Board meeting to support Mr. Aguilar’s hire, including Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. “I commend the Sacramento City Unified School District Board on making an excellent decision to hire Jorge Aguilar as the next Superintendent for our schools and kids,” said Mayor Steinberg in a prepared statement. “He proved in Fresno that preparing more kids for college and career is fundamental to growing a modern economy and I look forward to working with him to do so here in the capital region.”

During his career Mr. Aguilar has also worked as a legislative fellow in the State Capitol, and served as an Associate Vice Chancellor for Educational and Community Partnerships and Special Assistant to the Chancellor at the University of California, Merced. In 2015, Mr. Aguilar’s work earned him an invitation by then First Lady Michelle Obama, to present on education equity and access best practices at an annual White House convening hosted by the National Consortium for School Counseling and Postsecondary Success. In 2015, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson appointed Mr. Aguilar to the Advisory Task Force on Accountability and Continuous Improvement, which advises Torlakson on his recommendations for a new California system of public education accountability and continuous improvement to the State Board of Education and the state legislature.

“I want to thank the Sacramento City Unified School District Board of Trustees and community leaders that I met during this extensive search process,” said Aguilar. “I am deeply inspired by their demonstration of commitment to urgently improve the academic achievement of the district’s 43,000 students. The longstanding partnership between the University of California, Merced and Fresno Unified School District has proven that this is possible.”

In his comments to local media shortly before his contract was approved, Mr. Aguilar also stated, “What public education has done for me is exactly what I want it to do for all of our students. I strongly believe our education system needs to assure that every student will be provided with an equal opportunity to graduate with the greatest number of postsecondary choices from the widest array of options.”

Mr. Aguilar is married with four kids. He plans on enrolling his kids in SCUSD schools. He will begin his tenure as Superintendent on July 1.