Board of Education in University Heights on Oct. 24, 2022.
San Diego Unified offices in University Heights on Oct. 24, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

After vacating its area superintendent positions back in April, the San Diego Unified School District on Wednesday announced its new supe hires. Many are familiar faces, but they’re not the same people who previously held the job. 

The district’s decision to vacate those positions represented a significant reshuffling. After all, they’re administrative leaders who oversee the district’s various clusters and cohorts. They tend to work closely with the leaders and stakeholders of the schools they manage.  

But the reorg was all due to a redesign of the positions. Deputy Superintendent Fabiola Bagula last month told Voice, “This is no longer the job that these folks applied for and did the last few years.”  

Still, it came as a surprise to some stakeholders who said they were not invited to give input prior to the move. 

Five of the six people who previously had the job reapplied, but only one was hired back – Mitzi Merino, who previously oversaw area 5. It’s unclear if she will continue to oversee the same area.  

The new hires include Patrick Henry principal Michelle Irwin, who sparked controversy with a plan to eliminate some honors courses before reversing course after pushback. Additional area superintendent hires Michel Cazary and Maria Gomez both worked as educators in the district for more than two decades, while Steven Dorsey has worked in positions at all levels in K – 12 education and comes to the district from the San Diego County Office of Education.

The County Office of Education conducted the search for applicants for area superintendents and multiple executive director positions.

“We are excited to welcome this team of extraordinary educators to San Diego Unified, and we are eager to get to work so we can further our commitment to creating an equitable school system that places student needs at the center, and ensures all students, staff, and families feel like they belong and can thrive,” Superintendent Lamont Jackson wrote in a statement released by the district. 

Bagula said the changes to the area superintendent positions that led to the purge fell into three broad categories – a shift away from focusing solely on instruction, that area superintendents would now lead a team of resource teachers and that they would now be expected to work with each other more collaboratively rather than in silos. The district also instituted other changes, like assigning one area superintendent for all middle schools, rather than having them integrated into the purview of area superintendents’ clusters. 

The district also announced new hires for senior executive director of human resources, executive director of special education and executive director of student services. 

Jakob McWhinney is Voice of San Diego's education reporter. He can be reached by email at and followed on Twitter @jakobmcwhinney. Subscribe...

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  1. More teachers , less woke bureaucrats.
    This looks like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
    All I want to know is are test scores up or down?

  2. In a district where just 53% of the students met state standards in English Language Arts, just 41% met state standards in Math, and just 36% met state standards in Science, one could argue that the primary focus for area superintendents should still be on instructional practices (with collaboration merely as a means toward that end). What could be more important?

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