Santa Ana Unified School District names Dr. Stefanie Phillips as new superintendent

Following a nationwide search, the Santa Ana Unified School District has tapped a rising star currently serving as the district’s chief financial officer to be the next superintendent.

Dr. Stefanie Phillips was formally approved by the SAUSD Board of Education on Tuesday to succeed Dr. Rick Miller, who will retire Aug. 1. She brings 16 years of experience in educational leadership, including three years as the district’s deputy superintendent of business and operations.

An image Santa Ana Unified School District Superintendent Stefanie Phillips and a student
Dr. Stefanie Phillips, who has 16 years of experience in educational leadership, has been tapped to serve as the new chief of the Santa Ana Unified School District. (Photo courtesy of SAUSD)

As superintendent of the Santa Ana Unified School District, Phillips will be responsible for leading Orange County’s largest school district and the seventh-largest district in the state.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to serve the Santa Ana Unified School District family as the superintendent of schools,” she said. “As our parents, teachers, staff and community continue to work together to increase student learning, my team and I will focus on engaging the community, increasing communication and connecting all of our stakeholders with the programs and supports that will assist us in ensuring each and every student in Santa Ana Unified reaches their highest potential.”

Before joining Santa Ana Unified in 2013, Phillips served as deputy superintendent for both the Clayton County School District in Jonesboro, Ga., where she had direct oversight for the academic, human resources, operations and finance divisions, and the Chino Valley Unified School District. She also served as an assistant superintendent at Ontario-Montclair School District.

Santa Ana school board President John Palacio said Phillips stood out among the candidates vetted.

“In addition to knowing the district, she brings a wealth of experience that will be invaluable as the district continues to move forward in increasing student academic achievement and opportunities,” he said. “As the district’s chief financial officer, her strong stewardship afforded the district with an opportunity to have a fiscally balanced and prudent budget while providing our employees and students with the resources they needed.”

Along with a bachelor’s degree in managerial economics from the University of California, Davis, Phillips holds a master’s degree in finance from UC Davis and a doctorate in education leadership from the University of Southern California. She has taught as an adjunct university professor in teacher and leadership preparation programs, and she’s presented at several national and state conferences.