Working in the education industry is something that Folsom Cordova Unified School District Superintendent Sarah Koligian has not only been doing for over three decades, it’s something she has poured her heart into with great passion, a trait that has enabled her to make a positive difference in each school district she has worked in during her decorated career.  The Folsom Cordova Unified School District is one such district that has benefitted from Koligian’s expertise in her time locally and many that have worked by her side are sad to see her go.

While her office is nearly all packed up and her final official day of work is a mere a week away, Koligian emphasizes that her departure isn’t necessarily a full-fledged goodbye to education. Instead, it’s more of a “see you later” for the educator that has an enduring love of learning. 


“I don’t plan on being a stranger after I leave,” said Koligian, who plans to focus on prioritizing time with her family ahead, including her husband who is a retired educator himself as well her adult children and her seven grandchildren. “If there’s any way I can give back in the future, I would love to do that because I feel like I still have a lot to give. Throughout my career I have been grateful for many mentors along the way. If I can continue to help others in education, especially in this district, either formally or informally I certainly will do so to help others.”

Dr. Koligian spent the last seven years of her 37-year career in public education serving Folsom Cordova schools, where she has supported over 20,000 students and some 2,800 employees across 36 schools. During her tenure, Folsom Cordova has opened two new schools, increased its educational offerings to include expanded Transitional Kindergarten, Extended Day Opportunities, Community Schools and seen the growth of Career Technical Education programs and facilities. 


“I am grateful for the expertise and collaboration of Team FCUSD and for a supportive Board dedicated to student achievement” Koligian states. “When we see students thriving in class, graduating from high school and becoming the best version of themselves, it’s a result of the people in their lives. I’m honored to have led a district of remarkable and caring certificated, classified, and administrative staff who make each day a great day for students to learn.”  

Dr. Sarah Koligian waves to graduates during her final Folsom High School graduation as the FCUSD Superintendent earlier this month. Folsom Times photos by Bill Sullivan

Koligian grew up in the Central Valley where her family and community were very much involved in agriculture. She first found her place in the education work when she became a resource teacher at Madison Elementary School in Fresno’s Central Unified School District and held various administrative positions in the district leading to her first superintendency in 2007 in Golden Valley Unified School District in nearby Madera County.  She later joined the Tulare Joint Union High School District as superintendent in 2011, a very unique role as it was a high school district rather than a K-12 district as she worked previously.


“At that time I thought I would like to dive deeper into the secondary learning environment so I applied for high school district and I was hired,” said Koligian. “I was there for six years and we had 11 districts that fed into the high school district and we offered students opportunities in the real world through linked learning similar to Career Technical Education (CTE) like we have in the FCUSD.”


In 2017, Koligian decided to take her K-12 leadership experience in two different districts and apply it to her next chapter of her life. She applied for her current position with the FCUSD. After landing the position out of many top candidates, she made Folsom her “forever home,” and took the wheel of the Folsom and Rancho Cordova communities 

“It was a very competitive field of candidates when I applied for the position here seven years ago,” explained Koligian. “I was able to take my past experience in smaller K-12 districts and then in a high school district and bring it together here where we were K through 12. We made Folsom our home and we don’t plan on changing that ahead as I retire, we love it here. 


One of the reasons Koligian was comfortable with her decision to retire this year, was her confidence in the current strong state of the FCUSD. She believes the school district is strongly structured with highly qualified and caring leaders and positioned to thrive with new leadership ahead that can carry on with the strong foundation that has been built in what is one of the top-performing districts in the region with award winning schools, programs and educators that are focused on making sure making sure every student has opportunities to achieve their full potential, something that has been a priority for Koligian and has made her an award winning leader for educational equity and excellence.

Dr. Sarah Koligian came to the Folsom Cordova Unified School District in 2017 and is retiring after 37-years as an educator.

When it comes to accomplishments during her time at FCUSD, Koligian has a long list of them. Topping that list, however, has always been making decisions that insure the well-being of students and staff, while maintaining high educational expectations for all learners.  It’s not something that has gone unnoticed. In 2021 Koligian was recognized by her peers and named the ACSA California Superintendent of the Year.  

More recently she was honored with the ACSA Exemplary Woman in Education Award. Additionally, FCUSD had four schools named to the list of California Distinguished Schools in 2024. These are just a few of the many awards the FCUSD has garnered under Koligian’s leadership.

One key element Koligian developed when she arrived at FCUSD that has had great success was setting focus on building positive and constructive relationships in the form of a listening campaign, by asking staff about their glows and grows, accomplishments and challenges. This component to her management role included strong communications with teachers and all district staff as well as labor partners, students, parent groups and community partners across both the Folsom and Rancho Cordova communities. It also involved being engaged with local legislative leaders. 

Koligian has stressed the need to always have a laser focus on student learning and success. This has included setting a vision for each year with her leadership team, urging all educators to get to know all of their students to fully understand their needs, assessing them and adjusting the path for them to insure they not only succeed, but do so with a “sense of belonging.” She has stressed how student empowerment has been essential to growth and success of students not only academically but socially and emotionally as well.  

Success to Koligian is all about student well-being. Under her leadership, the FCUSD became the first school district across all of Sacramento County to return to in-person learning coming out of the pandemic, a task that was no easy feat to hurdle at the time. During her term, the district has also expanded its support staff, including counselors, mental health services and behavioral specialists and was the first district to implement mobile communication device restrictions for grades K-8 in 2023 to better the learning environment and focus. 

“I always use the example of my own children, who are all grown adults and each one had their own personality and way of finding success, but they needed different ways to support them,” said Koligian. “Often times students need a different pathway to get to the end result, whether its special education support, a program or maybe its Career Technical Education (CTE), we as leaders have to differentiate to help them be successful on their path. I am very proud of these last seven years where we have worked to meet our students individual needs.”

Like many across the communities of Folsom and Rancho Cordova, Koligian has watched the area grow rapidly in population and enrollment, calling for expansion of facilities, programs and complete school campuses across the district. Some of the highlights under her watch were the complete construction of two state of the art elementary schools, a state of the art Career Technical Education Physics, engineering and advanced manufacturing building, expanded learning programs in both cities with nine hour day programs offering before and after school care as needed. 

“These two communities have been growing rapidly over the last several years,” Koligian said. “Just in my time here we have grown by 800 employees and more than 2000 students. Through all of that growth we have continued to be laser focused on the well-being of students and staff and I am extremely proud of that. Growth is challenging, there will be challenges in the path ahead but keeping the well-being of the students first and foremost will always be crucial.” 

She has also seen the district take great strides in its expansion of college and career opportunities, working in alignment with Folsom Lake College and Sacramento State University in the way of dual enrollment programs and articulated classes as well as in CTE pathways and internships that have grown to more than 11 industry sectors with 20 pathways, 24 courses and numerous industry certification programs.

“We have 11 industry sectors that didn’t exist before I got here and a state of the art CTE facility with an amazing coordinator who works hard to apply for millions of dollars and grants to help not only the facilities but the program and the opportunities for students,” these programs are so important as they provide students with an industry specific opportunity where they can learn if that’s something they want to do, or not do. We didn’t have these types of opportunities when I was in high school.”

As soon she will no longer have to set an alarm each morning, Koligian looks forward to her time ahead with family the most. Within that, she wants to give them the support she had when they were growing up.

“I was fortunate to have the support of others who helped care for my children as I was busy in my career, I look forward to now being able to support our children at that time in their lives and help them as they juggle their careers along with raising a family. This job is not for the weak hearted, there were a lot hours I put in through the years and they welcomed the support of others when I was working, now it’s time to provide them with that kind of support for our grandchildren.

Dr. Koligian’s last day as superintendent will be June 30. After a several month search, the FCUSD named Erik Swanson to fill Koligian’s position last month. As she packs up the remaining personal items from her office that will soon become Swanson’s, Koligian is leaving feeling grateful for all of the team support she had at FCUSD. According to some of her colleagues, that feeling is mutual.

“The FCUSD School Board is deeply indebted to the leadership of Superintendent Koligian.  In her seven years as superintendent of the FCUSD, Dr Koligian has navigated unprecedented challenges,” said FCUSD Board President Tim Hooey. “Through each obstacle, her devotion to the students of FCUSD has remained at the forefront.    While we will miss her steady hand, desire for every student to succeed, and wisdom, we are excited for her to begin this next phase of her life.  We wish Dr. Koligian the very best in her new adventures.”

Dr. Sarah Koligian is headed into her final week as FCUSD Superintendent before she retired after 37-years in education.
Folsom Times photo by Bill Sullivan.