Nearly 4,000 Stockton Unified School District staff members gathered at the Stockton Arena for a kickoff event to celebrate the start of the 2023-24 school year.

The new superintendent, Michelle Rodriguez, who started the position earlier this month after leaving Pajaro Valley Unified School District in Monterey, led the event.

“Trust in ourselves, trust in each other and trust in the system,” Rodriguez told employees from the arena stage at the Monday kickoff.

Michelle Rodriguez (at far right), the new superintendent for Stockton Unified School District, stands near a presentation board alongside district spokesperson Melinda Meza during an all-staff kickoff at Stockton Arena on July 31, 2023. (Victoria Franco/Bay City News)

A Stockton Unified spokesperson said the purpose of the all-staff event was to motivate everyone for their return back to school, which is set to begin Thursday.

Prior to the start of the new school year Rodriguez had spent much of her time conducting community listening sessions, hosting meet and greets, and sharing ideas on how to fix the district’s budget.

“There’s something magical about having everyone around.”

Melinda Meza, Stockton Unified School District spokesperson

However, although the kickoff was an opportunity for staff members to meet Rodriguez, they also watched live performances from the Cesar Chavez High School jazz band as well as a mariachi group comprising district employees who are all graduates of the district.

“There’s something magical about having everyone around,” Melinda Meza, spokesperson for SUSD said.

Cheerleaders from Edison High School in Stockton sit on the floor of the Stockton Arena on Monday during a kickoff rally celebrating the upcoming school year. Cheerleaders representing other schools in the Stockton Unified School District were also in attendance. (Victoria Franco/Bay City News)

Seated on the floor wearing their uniforms and watching the performances were several cheerleaders from different schools.

Jayon’ae Cox, a junior from Edison High School, said she was excited to start the school year and was looking forward to making new friends.

More information about Stockton Unified and its upcoming calendar can be found on the district’s website.

Victoria Franco is a reporter based in Stockton covering San Joaquin County for Bay City News Foundation and its nonprofit news site Local News Matters. She is a Report for America corps member.

Victoria Franco is a Stockton-based reporter covering the diverse news around the Central Valley as part of the Report for America program. As a Stockton native, Franco is proud to cover stories within her community and report a variety of coverage. She is a San Jose State University alumna with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism. In her collegiate years she was Managing Editor for the Spartan Daily. From her time at the Spartan Daily she helped lead her staff to California College Media Awards and a General Excellence first place. Victoria encourages readers to email her story tips and ideas at