Split Anaheim School Board Appoints New Superintendent

An outspoken advocate for multicultural education has been chosen to lead Anaheim Union High School District, officials announced Tuesday evening.

Mike Matsuda, who oversees professional development at the district and is also a North Orange County Community College District board member, is set to take the reigns as superintendent on Monday.

In a brief interview, Matsuda said he was “very excited” about his new position and will focus on “college and career readiness with purpose.”

His appointment was revealed at Tuesday night’s Anaheim Union board meeting after a 3-2 vote.

That was the vote tally, according to board member Brian O’Neal, who indicated that he and board member Anna Piercy opposed Matsuda’s appointment. District staff declined to confirm a vote count.

Matsuda has been vocal in calling for more dual immersion language programs and a more holistic approach to education.

He has been actively involved in the Partnership for 21st Century Skills or P21, which calls for focusing on the skills students will need to succeed in a modern, globalized economy.

Subjects emphasized under P21 include global awareness, financial and entrepreneurial literacy, civic literacy, health literacy and environmental literacy.

The initiative also calls for a focus on creativity, innovation, critical thinking, problem solving, technology and communication skills.

The district’s Savanna High School has been designated an “exemplar school” by P21, which produced a video case study of the school.

Matsuda is also a member of Voice of OC’s Community Editorial Board and in that capacity has written several opinion pieces about education.

Jose Moreno, president of the community group Los Amigos of Orange County, endorsed Matsuda’s appointment.

“He knows our community,” said Moreno. “We couldn’t have asked for a better person at this time.”

Board member Katherine Smith also supported Matsuda.

“I think he’s an excellent educator,” said Smith.

Not everyone was happy with his appointment; O’Neal and Piercy publicly took issue with Matsuda’s promotion.

In an interview, O’Neal said Matsuda lacks “experience at the site level,” such as being a principal of a school.

“He has a very, very, very steep hill to climb,” O’Neal added.

Piercy also raised concerns from the dais early in the meeting, according to O’Neal and others.

That didn’t sit well with local activist Amin David, who took the two board members to task during public comments.

“It’s a slap in the face to all of us here standing tall for Mr. Matsuda. It was uncalled for. Have you no shame Mrs. Piercy, Mr. O’Neal?” said David.

“Their lack of cultural sensitivity is showing. You both should be censured.”

Later in the meeting, O’Neal was striking a more upbeat tone toward the new chief executive.

“I want to congratulate Mr. Matsuda,” O’Neal said.

The district oversees the education of about 32,000 students from Anaheim, Cypress, Buena Park, La Palma and Stanton.

The student population is 64 percent Latino, 16 percent Asian and Pacific Islander and 12 percent white.

Matsuda’s first board meeting as superintendent is scheduled for Thursday, March 27, at 6 p.m.

Please contact Nick Gerda directly at ngerda@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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