SMMUSD Mourns Tragic Loss of Asst. Superintendent Dr. Jacqueline Mora


The following is an open letter from SMMUSD Superintendent Dr. Antonio Shelton

Dear SMMUSD Family and Community,

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.

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 Santa Barbara USD, shared his thoughts:

“I am deeply saddened to hear the news of the passing of Dr. Mora, a truly remarkable friend and educator. 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.

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. Her commitment to this cause was unparalleled, and her impact on the lives of those she touched will be remembered for years to come.

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. Her legacy as a compassionate educator and advocate for educational equality will continue to inspire and guide me in my own endeavors.

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

Dr. 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.”

Dr. 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. Dr. Mora was a dedicated public servant who worked hard to help SMMUSD meet its goals. 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 Unified and Glendale Unified and previously served as assistant principal, categorical program advisor and teacher in LAUSD.

Board of Education President Maria Leon-Vazquez plans to open the September 21, 2023, school board meeting in her memory, and she shared these thoughts:

“Our SMMUSD family lost a crusader and champion for equity and inclusion for ALL our students, especially for our most diverse and vulnerable students. When you look at our District for positive academic changes for the betterment of ALL our students you will always see Dr. Mora as the initiator or supporter, including initiative and programs such as our diversity, equity and inclusion focus, the expansion and enhancement of our District English Learner Advisory Committee (DELAC), our EL program, career technical education programs, social justice standards integrated into our curriculum, family engagement, anti-racism resources and our American cultures and ethnic studies classes. Dr. Mora will be sorely missed but SMMUSD pledges to continue her work.”

We are shaken by this news and understand our SMMUSD family will be heartbroken, as well. We had been hopeful for her complete recovery and supported and encouraged her along the way as she battled her illness. Employees may reach out to the Employee Assistance Service for Education (EASE) program, 800-882-1341, or, for grief or counseling support. 

Dr. 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.

Our hearts and thoughts go out to her family, fiancé, friends and all who knew and worked with her. We do not have any memorial or funeral information at this time. Once we have more information, along with ways you can express your love and support, we will share with you.

If you would like to send a note or card to the family, please send to:

Maria Mora

144 W. Lerdo Hwy.

Shafter, CA 93262

Please take care of yourselves and each other as we all grieve this tremendous loss.


Dr. Antonio Shelton


Damien Newton
Damien Newton
Damien is the executive director of the Southern California Streets Initiative which publishes Santa Monica Next, Streetsblog Los Angeles, Streetsblog San Francisco, Streetsblog California and Longbeachize.

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