Luke Ontiveros mug

Luke Ontiveros has served as the superintendent of the Santa Maria-Bonita School District since 2016.

Santa Barbara County's largest elementary school district is preparing to find a new leader after Superintendent Luke Ontiveros on Wednesday announced his intention to retire at the end of the calendar year.

Ontiveros was brought on as superintendent for the Santa Maria-Bonita School District in 2016, and after the expiration of his three-year term in 2019, his contract was renewed for an additional two years.

However, at the end of the 2020-21 school year in June, Ontiveros and the district board opted to extend his contract into the fall as the district prepared for the formidable challenge of bringing students back safely for full in-person learning.

"It was my intention to retire at the end of the 2020-21 school year. However, as with virtually every plan over the past 20 months, COVID intervened," Ontiveros said at a Wednesday board meeting. "As we’ve crossed the threshold of the new year and adapted to the new normal as a result of the combined efforts of the entire SMBSD community, staff, students and families, I have informed the board that my last day will be Dec. 31, 2021."

District staff will share details regarding the upcoming search and selection process for a new superintendent at the school board's Nov. 10 meeting, according to board President Linda Cordero.

She added that district leadership has been in discussion with Ontiveros about his eventual retirement in recent months, and have had some time to make preparations. However, she inferred that the district would have been happy to further extend his contract if he wanted.

"We were holding out a little bit of hope that the circumstances would extend through the entire year, but we feel that we have a plan in place at this point," Cordero said.

By commencing the search for a superintendent in the winter, Ontiveros said he hopes the district will be able to get ahead of other districts that may be begin seeking similar candidates at the end of the school year.

Deputy Superintendent of Business Services Matt Beecher will be named interim superintendent following Ontiveros' December departure and until a new candidate is selected.

Although he still has two months until the end of his term, Ontiveros thanked the board and all district staff for their work to support students and their learning during the pandemic.

"I want to commend the entire SMBSD community for its commitment to positively impact the trajectories of the futures of all students. More important and impressive is the resolve and resiliency that has been demonstrated by everyone over the past 20 months in response to the challenges brought forth by COVID," Ontiveros said. 

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Santa Maria City Reporter

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Laura Place covers city government, policy and elections in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County. Follow her on Twitter @itslaurasplace

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