Smith announces departure
September 20, 2021
ACSA Executive Director Wes Smith has announced he will be leaving the association to take a superintendent position.
Smith informed ACSA staff and members of his departure on Sept. 9, saying he enjoyed the experience of serving school administrators throughout the state for the last eight years. He has been confirmed as the new superintendent of Newport-Mesa Unified School District and said he looks forward to making a difference for students on a more local level.
The ACSA Board of Directors will be meeting to discuss a transition plan and search for a new executive director, which will be shared in a future edition of EdCal.
Read Smith’s letter to members below.
Smith to members: ACSA has been like family
It is with mixed emotions that I inform you that I am excited to re-enter the field as the superintendent of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.
I have been inspired by your courage and heroic efforts during the pandemic, and now it is time for me to join you in providing direct support to California’s public school students. These are unprecedentedly challenging times for our students, and I believe I have a unique skill set that will allow me to make a positive impact on their lives and the lives of the adults who serve them.
On the other hand, leaving ACSA is extremely difficult. The past eight years have been a labor of love for me and my family. We have gotten to know and spend quality time with so many of you. You have provided invaluable support throughout and, especially, during my health crisis. Julie often gets emotional when she reflects on the innumerable texts, emails, cards, flowers and hugs saying, “We are your family. We’ve got you.” While I know I work for all of you, our relationship has meant so much more.
I will cherish what we have accomplished working together. We rallied 350 school, district, and county leaders to attend a State Board of Education meeting and saved the Local Control Funding Formula. We co-led the creation of an accountability system that looks at multiple measures, values growth as well as status, and prioritizes and monitors equity — a system that believes in continuous improvement instead of blame and shame. As one of my friends and equity mentors would say, “We were about the equity and inclusion work.” From the creation of support networks to working with our allies to start the California Equity Leadership Alliance, creating the first Senior Director of Equity and Inclusion in the association space, and making equity presentations a part of every leadership assembly in the past eight years, we are getting closer to having equity and inclusion be a part of everything we do and not just something we do.
We were a unifying, uplifting, and influential light during the pandemic — one of the darkest periods in public education history. Most importantly, we put the rights and needs of students first. We put them in conversations and decisions that for far too long had been focused on the interests of adults.
I am excited to see ACSA’s future. Your brightest days are ahead of you. ACSA has a very strong, focused board of directors and member leadership. They are courageous and bold. They do not shy away from the difficult work; they lean in. We are wrapping up our latest strategic plan and already working on our next. Our strategic partnerships have never been stronger. Our voice is the loudest it has ever been and it is getting even louder.
Not lost on most of you, the ACSA staff are beyond comparison. More than skilled, which they are, they are passionate about this work, passionate about serving you, and passionate about helping you make a positive impact on the lives of California’s 6.2 million students. It has been an honor to work with them. Everything ACSA has done of value in the last eight years is due to your and their hard work and dedication.
My grandfather always told me, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” While he was wrong about the Oakland Raiders always being the best team in football, he was right about that. Being at ACSA hasn’t been work, it has been a blessing. Thank all of you for making it so.
I stink at goodbyes. So, let me say instead, until next time!

Dr. Wesley Smith
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