California Forum

New Sac City schools chief outlines his course to pursue

Tallahassee Democrat

As I embark on leading critical work for the students, staff and families of Sacramento City Unified School District, the responsibility reminds me of my own educational journey that brought me to this juncture.

My journey started as a child working alongside my parents in the fields picking grapes. This is where my core values stem from being the eldest son of farm working parents and the first in my family to attend college. I understand the challenges faced by many students and families throughout our region.

As a child, my family moved to and from Parlier and Tangancícuaro, Michoacán, México. I was inspired to pursue higher education, despite my family’s lack of understanding of the college-going process, after attending the Chicano-Latino Youth Leadership Project in Sacramento during high school.

During that period of my life, my father was incarcerated and my mother was unable to overcome the legal challenges we faced. That experience would later serve as my underlying motivation to pursue a law degree. I attended law school in the evening while teaching at South Gate High School in the day.

Years later, my father was detained and placed in deportation proceedings. Fortunately, my education allowed our family to navigate and overcome those legal challenges and successfully fight to end those proceedings. Today, my father is a United States citizen.

Throughout my career as high school teacher and a K-12 and higher education administrator, I have been dedicated to giving all students an equal opportunity to graduate with the greatest number of postsecondary choices from the widest array of options.

In Fresno Unified, this guiding principle resulted in, among other things, graduation rates rising from 69 percent to 85.4 percent while college eligibility rates and A-G completion rates rose from 25 percent to over 49 percent since 2009. To achieve these outcomes, we established a culture focused on responding to students by providing appropriate academic and socio-emotional supports. Equally important, we established genuine partnerships with other K-12 and higher education, advocacy, civic and business partners because we could not have achieved these results on our own.

“Equity and Access” was never a standalone initiative in Fresno Unified, nor will it be in this district. It will be the backbone of our work. Here is how we will pursue this work:

▪  We will collaborate with and support our teachers to provide great teaching;

▪  We will treat data with ultimate respect because behind every numerator is a child, and it’s our responsibility to parents and guardians to know each child by name and need;

▪  We will focus greater attention on the outcomes we are producing than the outcomes we talk about wanting to achieve;

▪  We will not view external circumstances as limiting factors for our students, but instead treat them as assets to help them reach their dreams;

▪  We will seek to change conditions for students in the present as opposed to lamenting what could have been done when data are not continuously monitored or used to “prove” rather than “improve.”

The district’s core values of equity, achievement, integrity and accountability set the foundation for a smooth transition to begin my tenure as a community member and your superintendent.

I look forward to collectively addressing the challenges our students face in order to increase academic achievement. Thank you for choosing me to be your superintendent as we take this journey together in making Sacramento City Unified a choice destination for residents throughout California.

Jorge A. Aguilar is the newly appointed superintendent of Sacramento City Unified School District. He served as special assistant to the chancellor and associate vice chancellor for educational and community partnerships at UC Merced, associate superintendent for equity and access at Fresno Unified School District, and adjunct faculty at California State University, Fresno. He can be contacted at