Another Fresno County superintendent is retiring after nearly 40 years serving students

María G. Ortiz-Briones/

Another Fresno County superintendent is leaving her post at the end of the school year.

After serving Sanger Unified students for 36 years, five of which were in the district’s top seat, Superintendent Adela Jones, 61, is retiring to spend more time with her family.

“It felt like now was the time,” she said. “It was a difficult decision to make because I love my district and the career I’ve had here.”

Jones is most proud that Sanger Unified could employ dedicated staff to educate students and meet their needs, especially during the pandemic.

“I’m really proud of the team we’ve built, from the teachers on the front lines who work with our kids daily to our classified staff,” she said.

Some of those Sanger Unified employees are Jones’ former students from her time as either a teacher or principal.

Those former students/current employees still remember how Jones liked to sing in class, what she taught them and how she’s helped them along the way.

As a longtime educator, she finds it rewarding to see what they’ve accomplished, such as the district’s payroll director who was Jones’ fifth grade student.

Jones informed her staff and community members of the retirement on Jan. 23, and the school board accepted the resignation during a regularly scheduled meeting the following day.

The resignation will be effective on June 30.

There wasn’t much pomp and circumstance around Jones’ announcement.

“I’m not the only one retiring from the district,” said Jones, who didn’t want recognition for retiring because so are other staff in Sanger Unified.

‘I can make an impact’

Joining education nearly four decades ago first in a Coachella School District classroom, Jones never intended to become an administrator.

Jones wanted to make an impact with 32 students.

Sanger Unified hired her in 1987 as a Wilson Elementary first grade teacher. During that time, she obtained her master’s degree in bilingual education and cross-cultural studies, which she used at Del Rey Elementary to launch its bilingual program. Her career continued as a teacher supporting her colleagues and administrators in educating English learners, which is when she realized the impact principals could also have.

Jones called a principal to ask about English learner students, and the “principal knew every student by name and by need,” she said.

“That’s the type of principal I wanted to be,” Jones said. “I can make an impact on 400 students versus the 32 in my class.”

When she entered administration, she worked as an elementary school vice principal empowering hundreds of students before becoming an area administrator leading implementation of the Common Core standards, the associate superintendent, then superintendent in 2018.

“I was blessed to have the career I’ve had in Sanger, which makes it all that much harder (to retire),” she said. “Now as superintendent, I hope I made an impact on 13,000 students.”

During her tenure, Sanger Unified has had:

  • Three California School Boards Association Golden Bell awards, which recognize outstanding programs

  • Two administrators named Fresno County Administrator of the Year, including the 2022 recipient

  • An educator named Fresno County Teacher of the Year

  • All its middle schools recognized as Schools To Watch

The school district has also opened a second high school, Sanger West, and been awarded an $8 million-plus implementation grant to develop six community schools, according to Sanger Unified. An Oakland-based education nonprofit Pivot Learning recently ranked the school district as being strong “for launching and sustaining improvement and innovation.”

The accomplishments are not because of Jones but because of her team, she said.

Over her superintendency, she’s also faced challenges, the greatest being the pandemic-related closing of schools.

“The minute we had to tell our kids and our teachers they can’t come to school was the hardest thing I ever had to go through,” Jones said.

But it brought her team closer together, she said. It even connected her and other Fresno County superintendents.

Along with Jones, Clovis Unified School District Superintendent Eimear O’Brien is retiring at the end of the school year after six years as the high-achieving school district’s leader.

Within the next couple of months, CUSD will find its next top official through a subcommittee of three board members rather than hiring a consultant or search firm.

The Sanger Unified School Board, which meets the second and fourth Tuesday each month, hasn’t yet discussed the process of finding Jones’ replacement.

“We’re a growing district,” Jones said, so accommodating growth will be one of the biggest challenges the new district leader must face.

The Education Lab is a local journalism initiative that highlights education issues critical to the advancement of the San Joaquin Valley. It is funded by donors. Learn about The Bee’s Education Lab at its website.