The Superintendent Comes Full Circle – Itoco Garcia’s TBC Journey

Itoco Garcia, the newly appointed superintendent of the Sausalito Marin City School District, is about to prove that you can go home again.

As the first bilingual head of the district, he returns to SMCSD after 20 years as a Bay Area teacher and instructional leader, committed to producing high academic achievement and strong outcomes for students and families.

SMCSD’s one school, Bayside Martin Luther King, Jr. Academy, is a Title I, public school serving 120 students in grades K-8. The district is also the authorizer of Willow Creek Academy, an independent, 380 student, K-8, charter school.

Garcia comes equipped with a fresh perspective and personal insight. He grew up in southern Marin County and attended high school with students from both Sausalito and Marin City before Sausalito became the chic, bayside town it is today.

At the time, Garcia was one of ten Latino students in his class. Although he did well in school, he didn’t share the life experiences of his peers, and he never felt as welcomed or validated for his achievements. He did, however, maintain a diverse group of friends and learned to navigate his environment, which he said was critically formative to his identity and youth development.

“I wouldn’t have the cultural and linguistic competencies that I have today, which led to a really successful career as an educator in Oakland and Hayward, without my adolescent experiences here,” he said. “To come back and be the superintendent is a great honor.”

Garcia arrived with another tool that served him well as principal: exposure to, and mastery of, The Breakthrough Coach principles and practices. As former principal at Cherryland Elementary School in Hayward, CA, Garcia led a much larger, more diverse school of 780 students. As soon as he joined Cherryland, a colleague suggested he attend The Breakthrough Coach Foundations Course with his office manager. The course immediately transformed his point of view about the role of the school leader, and the critical partnership he needed to build between his office manager and himself.

“The Foundations Course allowed me to finally understand what an effective relationship between a “school executive” and school secretary looks like, and how to function well with my assistant,” he said.

Their newfound partnership flourished and led to improved student outcomes at Cherryland, fueled by Garcia’s ability to be in classrooms daily, complete 10 hours of classroom visits weekly, and be on supervision before and after school – all of which he accomplished in a 45-hour work week!

During Dr. Garcia’s time at Cherryland, the school made the single biggest jump in proficiency from CST to CAASPP. Out of twenty-one Hayward USD elementary schools, Cherryland moved from 21st in ELA and Math achievement, to 10th overall. In addition, more than 65% of the English language learners made adequate progress. Garcia is particularly proud of the fact that during his tenure, the school earned a PBIS Gold Star for its culture and climate, and had “zero expulsions.”

Once on board as SMCSD Superintendent, Garcia attended the Foundations Course again with his new secretary and his school principal who, Garcia said, was “completely blown away.” For years this principal had intended to spend more time in classrooms but was never able to do it.

“He now sees The Breakthrough Coach system as a roadmap, a pathway, for actually getting into classrooms, and for me to spend more time with him in the process,” Garcia said.

“As a principal, The Breakthrough Coach practices liberated me,” Garcia said. “I was present and able to observe ‘the game’ while it was being played on the playground, during arrival and dismissal, and in the classrooms. This is what I want for my principal.”

In similar ways, he said, The Breakthrough Coach frees him up as a superintendent. “When I am with kids and in classes I can observe instruction, support my principals, and be an instructional coach for our teachers. I can also advance our community-wide conversation for greater equity, diversity and inclusion.”

In short, Garcia is confident in his ability to transform SMCSD by improving the educational outcomes that other kids in Marin County enjoy. “The Breakthrough Coach has freed me up to develop the relationships and partnerships necessary to advance the entire organization. This is the work that I am committed to and passionate about.”