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Cary Matsuoka

Paul Wellman

Cary Matsuoka


School District Selects New Superintendent

Cary Matsuoka Says He’ll Be a Champion for the Underdogs


The five-member Board of Education of Santa Barbara Unified School District on June 14 unanimously selected Dr. Cary Matsuoka as the district’s new superintendent. While Matsuoka comes to town from the Bay Area ​— ​where he’s served over the past 10 years as superintendent of the Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint Union High School and Milpitas Unified districts ​— ​he said his new job represents one of life’s full circles. Matsuoka, 59, and his wife, Polly ​— ​a graduate of Dos Pueblos High School ​— ​were married in Santa Barbara 37 years ago, and her father taught chemistry at UCSB for 30 years.

In his acceptance speech, Matsuoka offered his commitment to students, teachers, staff, and parents. “I will be a champion for the underdog … for immigrants, the Latino community, and for parents who have to work so hard just to make it,” he said.

The process to select a replacement for retiring Superintendent David Cash started more than four months ago, spearheaded by HYA Executive Search. “It was really a thorough process,” said HYA’s Rudy Castruita. “The board really sought to engage the community, and they kept the search very confidential,” which helped them glean from sitting superintendents outside the region ​— ​such as Matsuoka ​— ​and candidates locally without revealing potential employment shifts.

Of 39 applicants, the board interviewed five and narrowed the field to four. Another round of interviews left two contenders, both of whom were subject to background checks. On June 6, boardmembers Kate Parker and Ed Heron visited Matsuoka’s district to meet with teachers, parents, and city and union leaders and to drop in on classes. “They came back with a very favorable report,” Castruita said.

Heron praised Matsuoka’s demeanor, experience, and his ability to mentor teachers and administrators alike. Matsuoka starts July 1 and will receive an annual base salary of $260,164.

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