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Sara Noguchi ’05, who earned her administrative credential and doctorate in educational leadership at Pacific’s Gladys L. Benerd School of Education, went back to school this year as the top administrator for the largest district in Modesto.

Sara Noguchi ’05, who earned her administrative credential and doctorate in educational leadership at Pacific’s Gladys L. Benerd School of Education, went back to school this year as the top administrator for the largest district in Modesto.

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Pacific News

Back to school: Pacific alumna rises in career to become school district’s top administrator

Aug 31, 2018

Sara Noguchi '05, who earned her administrative credential and doctorate in educational leadership at Pacific's Gladys L. Benerd School of Education, went back to school this year as the top administrator for the largest district in Modesto.

"Modesto is wonderful," said Noguchi, who oversees Modesto City Schools. The district has an enrollment of about 29,000 students in 22 elementary schools, four junior high schools, seven comprehensive high schools, and an alternative education center. "There is a small-town feel. In my short time here, I have learned that Modesto is an amazingly diverse and vibrant community. Alongside the community, Modesto City Schools are filled with remarkable students, families, dedicated educators and staff who make Modesto City Schools what they are today."

Noguchi was recently featured in a story by The Modesto Bee that outlined her rise from a high school graduate with seventh-grade writing and eighth-grade reading skills, who persisted to pursue her education at Sacramento City College, San Diego State and Sacramento State before arriving at Pacific.

"University of the Pacific has an outstanding reputation for its Educational Leadership Program," Noguchi said. "When I met with Dr. Dennis Brennan, he sealed the deal. I received a high-quality education. ... Dr. Brennan was awesome. He would ensure that he heard everyone's voice and made the connections within and between the students and their experiences."

Brennan taught at Benerd from 1980 to 2012.

Noguchi worked for Elk Grove Unified School District for 17 years and was an instructional coach in mathematics when she began attending Pacific. A mother of three at the time - an infant, toddler and a student in elementary school - she was the principal at James Rutter Middle School in Sacramento by the time she had earned her Pacific degree.

She didn't have much time for campus activities as a working professional and parent, but the Benerd program provided a valuable opportunity to network with classmates and get to know other Central Valley education leaders.

"The most important thing I learned at Pacific was that educational leadership could have a large impact on individual students, but more importantly, an impact on our community and, thus, society," Noguchi said.

Noguchi joined Modesto City Schools after being an associate superintendent for the Twin Rivers Unified School District in the Sacramento area and interim superintendent for Sacramento City Unified School District.

"During my tenure at (Sacramento City Unified School District), I learned how powerful a strong relationship between the superintendent and the Board of Trustees can have on serving students, staff and community," Noguchi said. "It was there that I focused on learning the skills required for me to be an effective superintendent. Twin Rivers provided me the opportunity to develop my leadership in improving conditions for students, parents and the community through increasing the quality and quantity of engagement opportunities."

Her passion from an early age and her later work in low-income neighborhoods drives her to make sure that all students, especially students in poverty, English language learners and refugees, have a way to express themselves.

With much enthusiasm, she shares her biggest challenge with starting her new post, "Needing to be in two places at the same time," she said. "There are so many people that I want to meet, to hear their story, and get feedback on both opportunities for growth and gaps in the system."

Noguchi offers vital advice to incoming Benerd students: "Find something that you are interested in early. Document everything that you read in APA format along the way. When the time comes to do your literature review, you will have everything you need. Also, enjoy the journey. Don't get lost in the trees. It is the end game you will want to remember."  

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