SMMUSD Assistant Superintendent Jacqueline Mora dies at 46

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SMMUSD Assistant Superintendent Jacqueline Mora. Photo courtesy SMMUSD.

SMMUSD’s educational services chief was remembered as a remarkable friend and educator

Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Jacqueline Mora, has died at 46 following a battle with an illness, Superintendent Antonio Shelton announced on Monday.

“It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of Dr. Jacqueline Mora, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, following a five-month, hard-fought, battle with an illness. Dr. Mora was 46 years old,” Shelton said in an email to the SMMUSD community. “Dr. Mora was a bright light to all who knew her and worked with her. Her passion for public education, dedication to students, families and staff, and her desire to see all students succeed academically and social-emotionally inspired her personally and professionally.”

Former SMMUSD Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati, who worked with her in both SMMUSD and the Santa Barbara Unified School District, said her impact on the lives of those she touched will be remembered for years to come.

“I am deeply saddened to hear the news of the passing of Dr. Mora, a truly remarkable friend and educator,” Drati said. “Throughout our time working together in both the Santa Barbara Unified and Santa Monica-Malibu school districts, I witnessed firsthand her unwavering dedication and genuine care for the education and progress of all students.”

Drati said her legacy as a compassionate educator and advocate for educational equality will continue to inspire and guide him in his own endeavors.

“Dr. Mora’s passion for uplifting underserved and under-resourced communities was truly inspiring. She constantly sought ways to create equal opportunities and ensure that every student had access to a quality education,” he said. “Personally, I will greatly miss Dr. Mora. Her kindness, empathy, and unwavering commitment to her students and colleagues have left a lasting impression on my life.”

Mora came to Central California from Mexico as a child with her parents, sister, and brother. She was an English learner, who worked hard and was motivated to succeed in order to help others achieve their goals. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Chicano studies and in Spanish from University of California, Santa Barbara; a Master’s degree in education with a concentration of teaching and learning from UCSB; a Master’s degree in education with a concentration in administrative and policy studies from UCLA, and a doctorate in K-12 leadership in urban education from USC. Her dissertation is entitled “Promising Practices that Superintendents Use to Influence Instruction and Increase the Achievement of Latino Students in Urban School Districts.”

Mora worked for SMMUSD for six years in her current capacity. In her role, she had oversight of educational programming, curriculum development, and instructional strategies to ensure optimal learning opportunities and outcomes and growth experiences for all students; she was involved in the hiring and evaluation of principals and staff, professional development programming, budgeting and advisory committee leadership and advisement. She was a mentor, teacher, and friend to staff and families in the district. She led efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic to shift to distance learning, which ultimately led to SMMUSD students not experiencing extreme learning loss felt in other districts across the country.

In her 17 years of prior public education experience before joining SMMUSD, Dr. Mora served as the director of English learner and parent engagement programs at Santa Barbara USD; served as an elementary school principal for schools in Santa Barbara, San Francisco and Glendale and previously served as assistant principal, categorical program advisor and teacher in the LAUSD.

“During this difficult time, my thoughts and sympathies are with Dr. Mora’s family, friends, and the entire educational community,” Drati said. “May her memory serve as a reminder of the incredible difference one person can make in the lives of many.”

Board of Education President Maria Leon-Vazquez plans to open the Sept. 21 school board meeting in her memory.

Mora is survived by her mother, Maria Mora; her brother, David Mora; sister, Vanessa Mora; and a niece, of Central California, and her fiancé, Eduardo Magaña.