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Alamo's Sakata won't seek re-election as county schools superintendent

Countywide position up for regular election next June

Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Karen Sakata will not seek re-election for a second term next year.

The Alamo resident announced Tuesday that she would be retiring after her term ends in January 2019.

She was elected to her first four-year term in the position in June 2014, becoming the first woman and first Asian-American to hold the post in the county.

"It is one of the great honors of my life to be associated with the Contra Costa County Office of Education, and particularly serving as county superintendent," Sakata said in a statement.

"The 174,000-plus public school students and 18 school districts in Contra Costa County are better served because of the amazing programs and services our agency provides," she added. "I have had the opportunity to work side-by-side with some of the most amazing staff members and forward-thinking educators in the entire state."

Sakata, who has worked in education for 41 years, holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from U.C. Berkeley and a master's degree in speech pathology from San Jose State State University.

She's held a wide variety of positions over the span of her career, serving as a special education program specialist and administrator in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District early in her career. She has experience as a special education teacher, speech and language pathologist, resource specialist and early childhood specialist as well.

Before joining the county Office of Education, Sakata served as principal of Ayers Elementary School in Concord for 14 years. She worked as the county's associate superintendent of student programs and services from July 2008 to July 2010 before moving to the human resources department and then to the post of deputy superintendent.

When serving as deputy superintendent, Sakata also directed the county office's human resources department.

She was elected in 2014 to succeed then-Superintendent of Schools Joseph Ovick, who was retiring at the time. Sakata won the election with 60.6% of the vote in defeating a lone challenger from Orinda.

The county superintendent post will be up for regular election in next June's primary.

"Karen is an amazing, yet very humble educational leader," said Mike Maxwell, president of the Contra Costa County Board of Education. "She is and continues to be an incredible mentor for me during my tenure as an elected board member. She is patient, kind and always puts her focus and attention on students."

Sakata serves on several different committees and boards, including the fiscal advisory committee for the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association, the Region 6 Board of Directors for the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), the ACSA State Board of Directors, the Contra Costa County Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA), the Advisory Council for the Assistance League of Diablo Valley and the Board of Directors for the East Bay Leadership Council.

In 2017, she was presented with the ACSA Region 6 Presidential Award.

Reflecting on her time as superintendent, Sakata said is especially proud of the office's work to support students with disabilities and incarcerated or expelled students.

"I am particularly proud of some of our recent initiatives like our Attendance Awareness Campaign and the 'All Kids are Our Kids' Post-Election Toolkit, that provide schools and educators in our community with tangible resources with which to tackle some very complex, yet critical issues," Sakata said. "But our work is not finished. This year, I look forward to working collaboratively with our school districts on a new equity initiative that will focus on issues of culture and diversity."

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