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SAN DIEGO – A longtime figure in the San Diego Unified School District will serve as its next superintendent.

On Monday, the district announced Lamont Jackson, a district employee of more than 30 years, was unanimously approved by its board to lead San Diego Unified. Jackson has been serving as the district’s interim superintendent dating back to last year when ex-Superintendent Cindy Marten joined the Biden administration as the U.S. deputy secretary of education.

He was one of two finalists for the role along with Susan Enfield, the superintendent of Highline Public Schools in Washington.

Speaking in a news conference held on the lawn of the Eugene Brucker Education Center, Jackson said he was “truly humbled and honored to be in this position.” A native of southeast San Diego, he has deep ties to the community and holds degrees from San Diego State University and the University of San Diego.

He pledged to work with the community to lead San Diego Unified out of the COVID-19 pandemic, to bring in a challenging curriculum for the district’s students and to foster diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

“This is not going to be a new book we’re writing; this is a new chapter,” Jackson said.

San Diego Unified is California’s second-largest school district — behind only Los Angeles Unified — and currently touts about 95,000 students, some 15,000 employees and a roughly $1.6 billion budget.

Under his leadership, Jackson said he wants to be sure “every child is seen and heard” to open up college and career possibilities beyond their time at San Diego Unified. To do it, he said the district must focus on wellness and mental health, which he said it’s doing by putting mental health clinicians in every school.

“This work is about all of us,” he said. “Not just those who are standing here … but our entire community. We have to come together and do this for our children and for our city.”

Jackson was lauded by district officials, including Board of Education President Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, board Vice President Sabrina Bazzo and trustees Richard Barrera, Michael McQuary, Kevin Beiser and student board member Zachary Patterson. Whitehurst-Payne said the fact Jackson was standing there Monday should say to every district student and family that “you can rise to the top” regardless of background.

Emerging from the pandemic, she said San Diego Unified does not intend to recover, but to lead again.

“We have the opportunity to do that again so with Dr. Jackson at the helm and us helping him — not just the board, but the community, the students, all of us — engaged in helping him to become the best superintendent of San Diego Unified and the best superintendent of the city of San Diego,” she said.

According to the district, a 48-member search advisory committee — made up of elected officials, nonprofit and civic organizations and student, staff and parent groups — guided the selection process. Thirty-four community input opportunities were held throughout the recruitment process and both Jackson and Enfield participated in a community forum held Feb. 26.

Bazzo said Jackson has been “amazing” to work with over time. As a result, she said people often would ask her, “When are you going to hire Lamont?”

“That was the running comment, every staff member almost that I ran into wanted us to get Lamont hired,” Bazzo said. “But we had a wonderful process. I think it was very community-oriented, community-driven. I’m very proud of the process we ran.”

She continued, “I’d offer support for him. His equity, inclusion and alignment goals for the district I’m fully in support of and the new opportunities to make up for learning loss and student and staff’s well-being and social-emotional issues. We’re going to work on all of that. I’m very honored to be working with Dr. Jackson and I look forward to our adventures together.”

Hear more from Jackson on Tuesday when he’s a guest on the FOX 5 Morning News at 7:15 a.m.