Elk Grove schools chief to retire in September

Elk Grove Unified School District Superintendent Steven Ladd surprised staff and school board members when he announced Tuesday that he will retire in September.

Ladd, 62, has led the district for more than nine years, currently making him the longest-tenured superintendent of a large local district. The district, fifth largest in the state, serves 62,000 students in south Sacramento County.

“I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished in Elk Grove Unified,” Ladd said, citing the district’s career academies and low class sizes among the district’s accomplishments. “We have been student-focused during the entire time I’ve been here.”

During Ladd’s tenure, Elk Grove Unified opened 10 schools, increased student scores, reduced expulsions and suspensions, started an International Baccalaureate program at Laguna Creek High School and won numerous honors for its educational programs and initiatives.

Ladd said he timed his announcement largely because the district has recently completed its Local Control Accountability Plan, which determines how it will spend its money under a new state funding formula.

“It seems like the right moment” to turn the reins over to someone who “will be invested in the district for a long-term relationship.”

Ladd, who lives in Elk Grove, hasn’t made plans to move or take another job, opting instead to focus on the district’s transition to new leadership.

Board member Bobbie Singh-Allen learned of Ladd’s plan to retire in an email sent by board President Priscilla Cox on Tuesday morning.

“I’m disheartened by it,” Singh-Allen said. “But as someone that has served the district for nearly 10 years, he has earned the right to enjoy retirement. At the same time, he will definitely be sorely missed.”

Singh-Allen said the school board has seasoned veterans and new members with “strong personalities.” She said the next superintendent should have strong communication skills and be able to establish relationships with a “dynamic and diverse board.”

Ladd selected Sept. 12 as his retirement date to give the school board time to find a new superintendent and allow him to help with the transition, said Elizabeth Graswich, district spokeswoman.

Board member Jeannette Amavisca and Singh-Allen credited Ladd with getting the district through the recession and the accompanying budget cuts, furloughs and layoffs. “Dr. Ladd was right there to make sure the children and public education were not compromised,” Singh-Allen said. “True leadership shows when you can perform during the most difficult times.”

In 2011, the superintendent, who has a $273,195 salary, decided to freeze his own salary permanently because of state budget cuts to education.

Ladd has been an educator for 42 years, starting as a teacher’s aide in Dade County, Fla., in 1972. He worked his way up to serve as a regional director of 42 Dade County schools. Ladd was the superintendent of the San Luis Coastal Unified School District for four years before coming to Elk Grove.

Elk Grove Unified will now join neighboring school district Sacramento City Unified in seeking a new superintendent. It’s a position the Elk Grove district isn’t used to. Elk Grove Unified has bucked a local trend of short-term superintendents with only five superintendents in its 55-year history.

“The life expectancy of a superintendent is five to six years, and all of ours have gone on longer than that,” Amavisca said.