Enthusiastic, innovative, hopeful and ambitious, Nuh Kimbwala is more than ready to lead Harding University Partnership School in the upcoming academic year.
Kimbwala, who was appointed principal in July, moved to Santa Barbara from Claremont just 14 days ago.
“My goal is to challenge the intellect, gauge the heart and enrich the spirit,” Kimbwala said of why he is motivated to work in public education.
He comes to Harding with 18 years of experience in education and 10 years in administering schools, serving as an assistant principal for a high school and as principal of Bloomington Middle School in the Colton Joint Unified School District in San Bernardino County.
“It’s a blessing to work backward,” Kimbwala said of his transition to elementary school administration from high school. “The goal is the same — college ready acceptance, and beyond.”
Kimbwala, who believes strongly in sustainable urban school reform, said he saw the position at Harding as a tremendous opportunity with the potential to disrupt cycles of social stratification through education.
“I believe in the partnership between top-notch universities and service institutions that serve a disproportionate population,” Kimbwala said.
Harding has several programs and initiatives that support the academic progress of its students: a partnership with UCSB’s Gevirtz School of Education, the Thrive Westside project and an International Baccalaureate Primary Years program.
The school’s slogan is, “I’m going to college.”
The district-wide implementation of common core standards is a large theme for the upcoming academic year. The state-adopted program is a new approach to assessing students and will replace the existing standards under the No Child Left Behind act.
The common core standards program — instead of multiple choice-based questions — places emphasis on a broader, deeper understanding of the subject in which students will need to know certain key points and how they are applied in a real-world setting, Kimbwala said.
Kimbwala said he was excited about the new program, but acknowledged potential challenges.
“Most of us who came into education came for this reason — to be able to challenge kids, to change kids by having them demonstrate their mastery in depth,” he explained.
Harding School, at 1625 Robbins St. on Santa Barbara’s Westside, historically has had a large English language-learner population, said Kimbwala. He added that successful implementation of the new standards will require dealing with the students’ unique needs, access and utilizing information to be able to demonstrate mastery of those standards — English language arts, math, science, history — in English.
Kimbwala is fluent in Spanish.
“It’s going to be a challenge, and it historically has been,” he said.
Kimbwala said he will also focus on the infusion of technology in the learning environment, culturally responsive teaching, and new collaborative measures to discuss issues among faculty, staff and the district’s constituents during the upcoming academic year.
“It inspires me to hear Superintendent (Dave) Cash’s plan to get technology in the hands of all students,” Kimbwala said. “(Technology) could be used to bridge the gap between students’ engagement and achievement, and it could really bridge the gap between haves and have-nots.”
Kimbwala pledged to always be working to increase communication, collaboration and cooperation among the Harding faculty, with other schools within the district, and with local universities.
“Sustainability comes back through human resources, fiscal, physical resources — all of these have to be aligned in order to meet our goals,” he said. “Some underperforming schools have a lack of alignment, or they’re aligned but not to the right goals.”
Kimbwala received bachelor’s degrees in ethnic studies and sociology at California State University, San Bernardino; a master’s degree in teacher education from Claremont Graduate University; and a master’s degree in education administration from California State University, Fullerton.
He is working on a doctorate in urban leadership from Claremont Graduate University.