Saturday, April 30 , 2016, 12:04 pm | Fair 63º

Orcutt Schools Chief Bob Bush Reflects on Hometown Path, Education Goals for Future

Retiring in June after 42-year career, superintendent proudly touts district’s accomplishments and even difficult decisions

By Gina Potthoff, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @ginapotthoff |

Bob Bush enrolled at Chico State University as a junior business major, and soon realized he had made a mistake.

A gut feeling — or perhaps fate — compelled the Orcutt native to visit local elementary schools and to volunteer.

Even then, the longtime northern Santa Barbara County educator was drawn to classroom learning.

A short time later, Bush switched his major to social sciences and earned his teaching credential.

“I’ve always known I liked kids,” said Bush, who recalled the story on a recent afternoon from his superintendent’s office at the Orcutt Union School District — a mere block from his childhood home.

Bush nabbed a job in his hometown as a sixth-grade teacher at Patterson Road Elementary in 1972, and he never left.

He will retire June 30 with 42 years in Orcutt schools as a teacher, principal and administrator. The past four years were spent as superintendent.

It wasn’t until Bush recently signed up for Medicare at age 65 that he even thought about leaving a job that has never felt like work.

“I feel healthy,” Bush said. “I’m leaving really feeling that I’ve done a great job. People keep asking what am I going to do? I don’t know.

“I don’t want to work so long that they have to carry me out of here,” he joked. “I want to go out when I’m on top, and I think I am. I don’t know how everyone else feels about it. I’ve been very lucky.”

Orcutt schools have come quite a ways since Bush returned four decades ago — eight schools compared to 10 today — and even further since he enrolled at the old K-8 Orcutt School in 1954.

Bush met his wife of 35 years, Debbie, when she was substituting at Patterson Road, and he earned his administrator credential when they decided she would stay at home with their two children.

To get to know students outside of school, Bush coached youth football, softball, baseball, track and basketball over the years, along with sports at Righetti High School in Santa Maria.

Bush was promoted to superintendent in 2010, right around the time the district was considering whether to close May Grisham Elementary as a result of declining districtwide enrollment.

Although not an ideal first task for a new leader, Bush sympathized with upset parents.

Both Bush’s kids attended May Grisham, which was named after his own fourth-grade teacher.

“It was just another right answer,” he said of closing the school, which has since become Orcutt Academy High School. “I’m proud of our community. I think this community really supports education. My goal always has been what’s the best thing for kids?”

With Bush at the helm, Orcutt has grown after absorbing an ailing Casmalia school and Olga Reed Elementary in Los Alamos.

The Orcutt Academy charter program, which was created in 2008, has also become a big hit.

“Bob is a man of utmost character and integrity,” said Joe Dana, director of charter programs. “I appreciate and admire how he always, always, always is about doing right by kids. He has been a great leader for our school district, and I feel blessed to have been able to work for him.”

Bush thinks the district is in solid position heading out of tough financial times and into Common Core curriculum changes. He also expects the high school will need a new, larger home in the coming years.

The self-described loyal workaholic plans to enjoy the final days with his school family before departing to spend more time with his own.

He’s still uncertain how he ended up in education, but is content knowing he absolutely made the right choice.

“I feel very fortunate,” Bush said. “You find something you like, you work hard, and things will happen the way they’re meant to be.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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