Dr. Gary Waddell’s introduction to the Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) happened in a whirlwind. At the start of July, he was an employee at the Santa Clara County Office of Education. Just a few weeks later, he was appointed as the District’s interim superintendent.
“The team here has been just amazing and really welcoming. So, it’s been exciting to just become part of the SCUSD family,” said Dr. Waddell, who believes his experience at the Office of Education helped prepare him for his current role.
“Between the county offices where I worked before, I worked a lot at the policy level, but my areas were assessment, accountability, instructional programs, early learning, communications,” said Dr. Waddell. “So, those are kind of the driving forces of a district as well. So, I think that kind of prepared me for this transition.”
Dr. Waddell says the choice to join the District was an easy one.
“I think it’s the opportunity to really work with a district, in a forward-thinking district that has a lot of exciting initiatives underway. So, that was very appealing to me,” said Dr. Waddell.
Two months into the job and Dr. Waddell is focused on building on the foundation already in place.
“We have a strong focus this year on supporting our English learners. We’re expanding TK programs for our youngest kids. So, I think the opportunity to keep those initiatives moving forward, to explore partnerships, to look at STEM opportunities,” said Dr. Waddell. “So many of the good initiatives that are underway, just kind of to double down on those and then see how we can continue to…it’s all about, for me, expanding opportunities for kids. So how can we create more pathways and more opportunities for kids that really are transformational over the course of their lives?”
He is also working on strengthening the ties with the teachers, administrators and the community with a focus on empathy and respect.
“This district has an amazing and really noble history in labor management partnerships. So, the opportunity to revitalize those and really think intentionally about how we’re building strong connections and collaborative spaces,” said Dr. Waddell. “I’m really committed to creating collaborative spaces we want to engage with the community. We’re partners, I really think it’s it takes all of us coming together to make things happen for kids.”
As for whether or not he’ll be up for the permanent Superintendent position, Dr. Waddell says he’s focused on the now but he’s enjoyed his time at SCUSD so far.
“I have had an amazing experience here. This is a phenomenal district, it is a place where I really believe we have everything we need to be the top district in California, and I think we’re on a path there. And I’m excited to see us move forward there,” said Dr. Waddell. “It’s such a great team, and our kids are amazing; our teams are amazing.
“Having said that, I’ve been here two and a half months. So, it’s probably a little early to answer that,” continued Dr. Waddell. “And I’m really focused right now on getting my hands around the district, getting a deep understanding of the initiatives, getting to know the people that make up the district…I’m just really just focused on that work right now. But, really have enjoyed being part of this space. And it’s exciting to think about what might be in the future.”