BUSD administrator leaves for superintendent job in St. Helena district

Rubén Aurelio is the second high-level administrator to take a superintendent job at another district next year.

Rubén Aurelio, Berkeley Unified’s chief academic officer, will take over as superintendent of Saint Helena School District this summer. Credit: Rubén Aurelio

A second high-level administrator will be leaving Berkeley Unified for a superintendent position at another school district in California.

Rubén Aurelio, Berkeley’s chief academic officer, has been named as the finalist for a superintendent position in Saint Helena School District, pending board approval May 19.

In February, Berkeley Superintendent Brent Stephens announced his departure from BUSD after a three-year term. He will take over as superintendent of Lafayette’s school district. 

“I am thrilled and honored to work with our Board of Trustees in St. Helena,” Aurelio said in a statement released by Saint Helena School District. 

Aurelio joined BUSD less than a year ago in July. As chief academic officer and associate superintendent of educational services, he oversaw the district’s principals and its instructional programs, including curriculum and professional development, with the goal of improving student achievement. 

Aurelio, a child of immigrants from Argentina, said Saint Helena School District felt like the right fit. Located in the Napa Valley, Saint Helena school district serves less than 1,200 students, 53% of whom are Latino and 44% white.

“For superintendent position, fit is extremely important. You’re entering a marriage with the community. It has to work for both sides,” he said, adding that Saint Helena was the only school district where he interviewed for a superintendent position. Had he not landed the role, he said he would have happily stayed in BUSD.

Lisa Pelosi, president of the Saint Helena school board, said in a statement that having a bilingual English and Spanish superintendent would be an asset for the district, which serves over 200 English learners. She also praised his “administration experience, excellent work ethic, focus on student and family engagement, as well as establishing community partnerships.”

Aurelio has worked in East Bay schools for much of his education career. He held administrative roles at San Leandro Unified, West Contra Costa Unified, and Oakland Unified after beginning as a teacher and elementary school principal.

After Aurelio’s youngest son graduates from high school next year, Aurelio plans to move closer to Saint Helena with his wife. He is looking forward to leaving the “city life” behind in exchange for more time outdoors camping and rock climbing. “That’s where I see myself,” Aurelio said.

Aurelio, who attended UC Berkeley and had his first experience in public education volunteering at Willard Middle School, said the departure is bittersweet. He has a soft spot for Berkeley, calling the new job as a “promotional opportunity.” (For the last five years, Aurelio knew he wanted to become a superintendent).

Aurelio plans to bring some Berkeley ideas with him to Saint Helena, such as the climate literacy curriculum and the African American Success Framework that he helped develop in the last year. Pelosi said the district was looking forward to his “new perspectives and vision.”

“I am impressed with the great achievements that the district leadership staff, teachers, and classified employees have made,” Aurelio said about Saint Helena in the statement. “My commitment to lead the district is strong, and I look forward to collaborating with our staff, community members, community leaders, partners and with students along with their families.”

Aurelio will take over from Marylou Wilson, who is retiring as superintendent of the Saint Helena School District after eight years, on June 30.

In a February statement about her retirement, Saint Helena School District praised Wilson for “overcoming incredible challenges: operating during the COVID-19 pandemic, wildfires, and economic downturns for the community.” The district said the “greatest testament to [Wilson’s] leadership” was reopening schools in Nov. 2020 and keeping them open without school closures. 

BUSD has not yet announced who will become the next chief academic officer. The candidate will be chosen by the next Berkeley superintendent, Enikia Ford Morthel.

This story has been updated with an interview with Rubén Aurelio.

Ally Markovich covers education for Berkeleyside. Email: ally@berkeleyside.org. Twitter: allymarkovich.