Modesto taps Sacramento educator as next schools leader. Board member resigns.

Sara Noguchi
Sara Noguchi

A "star" from the Sacramento area is expected to be the next superintendent for the Modesto City Schools.

Sara Noguchi, associate superintendent of innovations, research and design in the Twin Rivers Unified School District in Sacramento County, is expected to officially be appointed to lead the Modesto district on June 4 at a regular meeting of the Board of Education, pending a validation visit and final contract negotiations.

The board voted 6-0 Monday to hire Noguchi, with board member Steve Grenbeaux absent, according to board president Amy Neumann.

Grenbeaux, a longtime trustee, later resigned from the board, citing displeasure with the superintendent search. He said Monday evening he wanted an in-house candidate to succeed Pam Able in the top post.

Grenbeaux served on the board from 1979 to 1991 and returned with the 2007 election. The board could appoint a successor for the seat, which is up for election in 2020, under the new system of choosing trustees by area.

Grenbeaux attended Modesto schools and was a longtime teacher in Empire. "It's been a fun ride," he said. "I've enjoyed the people."

Noguchi is a native of the Sacramento Valley and lives in Elk Grove. "I am confident that working together, we can create the conditions for all students to be successful," she said in a statement released by Modesto City Schools. "I am intensely passionate about the work that I do in service of students and the community and I am looking forward to becoming a part of the Modesto City community.

"During my first 100 days, I will focus on looking, listening and learning as much as I can about Modesto City Schools and the community at large. I look forward to working with Modesto City Schools’ students, staff and community as we strive to provide a high level of instruction where each child can learn and achieve his or her fullest potential."

A July 2015 editorial in The Sacramento Bee when Noguchi was named to her Twin Rivers district position said she was highly regarded. Noguchi "was a star at Sacramento City Unified before she was passed over for the top job and moved on to the county Office of Education," it said.

The MCS school board made its decision with input from "key stakeholder groups," a district news release said. Sally Frazier, Juan Garza and Eric Andrew, consultants from the firm Leadership Associates, assisted in the search.

"Based on the feedback received from our parents, staff, and community members, we had a good profile of what was being sought in our new leader," the release said. "What we learned tells us Dr. Noguchi will be a collaborative, energetic leader who values our accomplishments and wants to continue our efforts to provide the quality education our students deserve and our families expect."

The release also said the school board appreciates the work of Interim Superintendent Craig Rydquist for his dedication to Modesto City Schools "and for stepping up to assist the district during this time of transition."

In November, Able announced to staff her plans to retire. She had led the 30,000-student district since 2011. Then-Deputy Superintendent Rydquist, who has worked for Modesto City Schools since September 1984, was appointed to the interim post in mid-January.

According to Transparent California, Able's total pay and benefits for 2016 added up to $295,934. Noguchi's total pay and benefits in 2016 totaled $237,680.