A teary-eyed Cary Matsuoka received a lot of praise Tuesday evening when he attended his last Santa Barbara Unified School District meeting as its superintendent.
“I was going to try and do this without tears, but it’s hard,” Mr. Matsuoka said during the Zoom meeting.
“I decided to spend this last board meeting in the boardroom for just a whole bunch of symbolic reasons and sentimental one,” he said as he sat before a web camera. (Board members and other participants were in front of cameras at various other locations.)
“I’ve spent 14 years in boardrooms, feels like my entire life, and it’s been such an honor and a privilege to serve school districts up and down the state, and what a gift to finish in Santa Barbara,” Mr. Matsuoka said.
He spent 40 years in education and was the Santa Barbara district’s superintendent since the 2016-17 school year.
“This is quite a bittersweet night, and it does not do (justice to) our superintendent, what he deserves by the fact that we are remote, and we’re not having a reception, and we’re not celebrating the way that we would love to and the way that he deserves,” board president Laura Capps said. “But here we are in this reality, and it actually speaks to education that on his last board meeting, there are more difficult decisions to be made.”
“The sort of challenges that we are facing as a community, as a school district, just speaks to how integral our schools are in our community, and Cary Matsuoka has been in the heart of it for 40 years in the Bay Area and for the last several years here in Santa Barbara,” she said.
Many former school board members stopped by the meeting Tuesday to compliment Mr. Matsuoka.
“We hired you looking at the breadth of your experience,” former board member Kate Parker said.
Ms. Parker said the board at the time was looking for a superintendent who would work to meet one of the district’s main goals: promoting student equity.
“You really, really filled those shoes, you stepped up to that and you were everything that we hoped for,” she told Mr. Matsuoka.
Craig Price, the school board’s chief counsel, also praised Mr. Matsuoka.
“Cary is actually the fourth superintendent that I’ve had the privilege of working with since I started doing legal work for the district. And of course, each one of those individuals has had their own unique style, and Cary is certainly no exception.
“Over the course of the four years that we’ve worked together, I have had enormous admiration for him,” Mr. Price said.
After all the kind words, Mr. Matsouka was a bit teary eyed but also remembered to thank his wife for her part in his success.
“I just want to publicly acknowledge Polly, my wife. We’ve been married almost 40 years, and it’s great that my career coincides so much with the marriage to my dear wife. I could not have survived this job without her,” Mr. Matsuoka said.
“The really cool thing is we got married in Santa Barbara like a mile and a half away from the district office so talk about full circle so, what a gift.”
More about the meeting will appear later this week in the News-Press.