School & District Management

Sacramento City District Poised to Hire Seattle’s Superintendent

By Lesli A. Maxwell — July 07, 2014 2 min read
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The city school district in Sacramento, Calif., has made clear that José Banda, the schools chief in Seattle, is the guy it wants to become superintendent.

Or so it seems.

Late last month, officials in the 43,000-student Sacramento City Unified district announced that Banda—an educator who spent his career in California public school systems before taking the Seattle job in 2012— is the finalist for the superintendent’s job, The Sacramento Bee reported.

Curiously, however, the night before announcing that Banda is the only finalist for the job, Sacramento’s school board president put the brakes on actually appointing Banda, saying that board members needed to do more “due diligence” by making a trip to Seattle to talk to people there about his leadership, according to The Bee. Shouldn’t that kind of vetting have come before any public announcements were made?

In any case, Banda confirmed his interest in the job in a letter to the Seattle community, saying that while he would find it difficult to leave his current post, moving to Sacramento would put him closer to his family.

And in an interview with a Seattle public radio station, Banda was even more frank about the appeal of the Sacramento job: “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.

Jonathan Raymond, who was Sacramento’s superintendent for more than four years, stepped down last December. Raymond ushered in controversial changes in the Sacramento district, including closures of a handful of elementary schools, and an agreement to join several other districts known collectively as the California Office to Reform Education, or CORE, in seeking a special waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act. The district has since withdrawn from participating in the waiver.

Banda is no stranger to controversy either. Last year, he found himself smack in the middle of the escalating national debate over testing when teachers at one of Seattle’s high schools refused to administer a standardardized assessment to students that had been in use by the district for several years. Banda threatened disciplinary action against the protesting educators.

The Sacramento school board is scheduled to vote on Banda’s hiring on July 17.

If Banda does leave the 51,000-student Seattle district, he will be the fourth superintendent to depart that urban system in three years. Seattle’s last permanent schools chief was Maria Goodloe-Johnson, who was fired in 2011 in the wake of a financial scandal. She died in 2012.

*Correction: An earlier version of this post suggested that the Sacramento school district had withdrawn from a coalition of districts that share resources and strategies to implement the common-core standards. While the district did withdraw from participating in the group of districts’ special waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act, it remains a member of CORE, or the California Office to Reform Education, as the districts are collectively known.

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.