Sacramento schools chief talks about his tenure leading the city district - and what's next
Sacramento City Unified School District Superintendent José Banda said Friday he is open to other education jobs, including another superintendency, after he leaves his post this summer.
Banda, 60, plans to leave at the end of June when his $290,000-a-year contract expires. He arrived 30 months ago after having served as superintendent of Seattle Public Schools and as an administrator elsewhere in California.
“I look at where I’m at in my career, and I think it’s just the right time,” Banda said Friday.
Jay Hansen, president of the Sacramento City Unified School District board, said the search for Banda’s replacement began immediately. A superintendent evaluation committee composed of three trustees – committee head Ellen Cochrane, Mai Vang and Christina Pritchett – held its first meeting Friday to discuss attributes desired in the next district chief.
“We’re very focused on making our district a destination district,” Hansen said. “What can we do to expand the academic programs to market effectively to the community and to make sure the families here know the breadth of offerings? What other programs do we need?”
Banda said he has no immediate plans but expects at some point to continue to work on behalf of K-12 education.
“I may still do a superintendency” or move into an area of leadership development, he said.
Banda arrived in mid-2014 when relations between the district and teachers union were inflamed. His take-charge predecessor, Jonathan Raymond, tried to override teacher-tenure rules at “Priority Schools.” Raymond led the district during deep recessionary budget cuts that included seven school closures and layoffs.
Banda, by contrast, came with a low-key reputation and appeared to have generated little buzz during his stints leading the Seattle and Anaheim districts. He said at the time, “I don’t go out and make headlines. I build relationships.”
In his resignation letter, he cited successes that were aided by the improving economy, including “moving the district toward fiscal solvency,” reducing class sizes, establishing a five-year strategic plan and emphasizing programs aimed at closing the achievement gap, and expanding social and emotional learning.
He gained a reputation as an even-keeled, engaging leader. But trustees and other city leaders came to view him as more caretaker than mover and shaker.
His initial good relations with the teachers association hit rough shoals months after his arrival when the district unilaterally forced a change in the teachers’ health insurance provider. That decision occurred before Banda was brought on board, but he presided over the outcome. The two sides settled in early 2015 and the district began the complicated task of restoring insurance coverage for a large segment of Sacramento City Teachers Association members.
Hansen expressed appreciation Friday for the timing of Banda’s announcement, which he said should allow a smooth transition to a new schools chief.
“Nothing” precipitated Banda’s resignation announcement, Hansen said. “The superintendent’s contract was up for renewal later this year. But we had several months to decide where we were going to go on that. We wanted to make an early decision.”
Hansen said he would like the district to hire a superintendent who can step into the job with little or no learning curve, someone “who understands Sacramento or at least is familiar with Northern California and the legislative process.”
Nikki Milevsky, president of SCTA, said the group is “looking forward to having a new superintendent who has the energy, vision and passion to work with us to make Sacramento City the destination district in California.”
Banda’s time with the Sacramento district enables him to make good on a desire he shared with Seattle radio station KUOW in June 2014, when he said pension considerations were partly a factor in coming to Sacramento.
“As I near the latter part of my career, it’s an opportunity to get back into the retirement system that I spent almost my entire career in,” he told KUOW.
By completing his three-year contract in Sacramento, Banda stands to receive an extra $61,400 annually in retirement, or a combined $223,300, according to a Bee analysis reviewed in 2014 by a financial planner who is expert in public school pensions. Banda spent 32 years as a California educator.