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AUHSD Superintendent Honored as California’s Top Administrator of Social Studies Education

Anaheim Union Superintendent Michael Matsuda is being honored today by the California Council for the Social Studies for his work promoting civic education through the social studies curriculum.


The superintendent’s acceptance of the Diane L. Brooks Award Administrative Award highlighted the annual conference of the council, which is comprised of middle and high school history and social studies teachers statewide.


“More than ever, in these times of uncertainty and declining levels of trust in public institutions, it is important that we put democracy front and center in public schools,” Mr. Matsuda said. “Where else are young people going to learn about democratic practices, which include civic inquiry and action?”


“Coming from a district with so many immigrants and refugees, we want to make sure our students understand that this country was founded on principles of democracy, which includes the notion of no taxation without representation, and that we must maintain a government that is transparent and accountable to the people it serves.” added AUHSD Board President Al Jabbar.


Anaheim Union is home to Orange County’s first California Democracy Schools—Loara and Savanna high schools. In addition, South Junior High School earned the California Civic Learning Award of Distinction, while Dale Junior High School and Oxford Academy are Civic Learning Award of Merit honorees.


Savanna High School made national news recently when students overwhelmingly recommended to the Board that its mascot, Confederate soldier “Johnny Rebel,” be rebranded, following a concern lodged by several students, their families, and concerned community members.

“The students really set an example for adults everywhere in how to have disagreements without being disagreeable,” Superintendent Matsuda said. “We had a very difficult conversation as a community regarding the fate of the Rebel mascot, and the students led the way in how to have civil discourse on the matter.”


He said the civic inquiry and action process that the school’s Social Studies Department developed was the basis for the calm atmosphere in which the students’ voices were heard. The teachers spent a week delivering to all students lessons based on research and designed to heighten awareness and understanding of the mascot issue. Students wrestled with the idea of whether the mascot should remain, be rebranded, or be changed.


To bring closure to this weeklong process, students participated in a non-binding, polling exercise, choosing one of the three options. The non-binding exercise was conducted in the same way as for officers of the Associated Student Body. The vote was announced during a student-led, student-only forum during which students also reflected on the skills they learned in the process. Trustees then voted to support the students’ recommendation to rebrand the Rebel mascot.


Mr. Matsuda’s award comes as he enters the fifth year of his superintendency. He has collected numerous honors during his tenure, including receiving an honorary doctorate from Chapman University in 2017 for education innovation. In 2016, he was selected as one of 13 “National Leaders to Learn From” by Education Week for his efforts to support English learner students. He was also honored in 2016 with California State University, Fullerton’s Visionary Leader Award.