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San Diego Unified chooses Kowba, a retired Navy admiral and insider, as superintendent

June 22, 2010 |  8:58 pm

A retired Navy officer, William A. Kowba, will become the next superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District, the state’s second-largest school system with 131,500 students.

That scenario might sound familiar: In late 2006, the Los Angeles Unified School District tapped retired Adm. David L. Brewer as its leader. Support for Brewer faded quickly with the election of a new school board majority and with critics asserting that he was hamstrung by a lack of relevant experience. The Board of Education bought out the final two years of Brewer's four-year contract.

Kowba, 58, has reportedly never taught a class, but he does have some advantages that Brewer lacked. For one thing, he’s familiar with the local school system. He started with the district in 2006 as chief financial officer. Since then, he’s served successively as interim chief administrative officer, interim superintendent, chief logistics officer and chief special projects officer. The former one-star Supply Corps admiral began his second stint as interim superintendent in September.

Along the way, Kowba has been in and out of favor under successive superintendents, insiders said, but consistently won praise for integrity and straight dealing.

"I'm certainly honored that the board has had the confidence in me to go forward in this process," Kowba said in a district release. Kowba and the San Diego Unified Board of Education still have to negotiate a contract.

In an unusually open process that included a public interview, Kowba competed with two other finalists: Debbra A. Lindo, chief executive of College Track, an Oakland-based pre-college program for students in the Bay Area and New Orleans; and Dale W. Vigil, former superintendent of the Hayward Unified School District.

San Diego Unified has been pulled in sharply different directions in recent years under three superintendents while the teachers union and business groups have battled to have their allies in control of the board.

-- Howard Blume

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