Jay Simmonds had no direction in life after getting kicked out of Beyer High School for poor attendance and earning his GED in 1980.
“I was a lost soul,” he said.
Simmonds, 60, was among a host of retiring Ceres Unified School District employees recognized during the May 26 Ceres School Board meeting. He has been employed by CUSD for 35 years.
“It shows the importance of mentors,” said Simmonds, assistant superintendent for CUSD’s Student Support Services for the past 12 years. “If my friend’s father Jack Leach hadn’t been in my life and pointed me in the right direction who knows what I might have been.”
“Ceres has been a part of my life for so long,” he added. “It’s been a wonderful district to work for. I love the families and staff. I’m going to miss it.”
Simmonds began his career with CUSD as a paraprofessional in Special Education. He filled that position at Walter White Elementary School for three years.
He was a sixth-grade teacher at Caswell Elementary School from 1990-2000. He was director of Educational Options for five years (2004-09). He served as coordinator for the same department from 2000-04.
“I felt blessed to have the positions I had,” Simmonds said. “The most rewarding part is seeing students succeed and having their own children go through the (CUSD) system. The biggest change has been the attention to accountability in the students. We look at the whole child now—academics, social, emotional and behavioral growth.”
Simmonds won the Stanislaus Partners in Education Peter Johansen Award in 2019-20.
He was named Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) Career Technical Education Leader of the Year in 2015-16.
He was 2001-02 ACSA Region 7 Educational Options Administrator of the Year.
“I had no intentions of being an administrator,” explained Simmonds. “I was pulled out of the classroom by Dr. Bea Lingenfelter (CUSD’s former superintendent) and she said I needed to make a decision. I was doing after-school program, summer school and intersession while I was teaching at Caswell.”
Simmonds made $15 an hour while working in the oil fields in west Texas for a year before deciding to pursue a career in education.
“I came back home and worked as a baker then a ranch hand,” he said. “I went to Modesto JC and Stanislaus State to become a teacher. I had an interesting career path.”
Simmonds has two children and two grandchildren.
He plans to visit his daughter and her two kids in San Mateo.
“I have mixed feelings,” Simmonds said about his retirement. “But it’s time. I need to spend more time with my family. I’m looking forward to that."