Wednesday, March 21 , 2018, 12:09 am | Mostly Cloudy 56º


Santa Barbara Schools Superintendent Brian Sarvis a ‘Student of Life’

The retiring leader will be honored Saturday with a Santa Barbara Education Foundation HOPE Award

Santa Barbara School District Superintendent Brian Sarvis may get bored easily, but his life is anything but boring.

“In many ways I get bored rather quickly,” he told Noozhawk. “When I taught college courses, I would ask to teach courses not in my field because they were exciting.”

Sarvis, who plans to retire in June, grew up “living in the mist” in Edmonds, Wash. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Cal State Stanislaus, one of the eight schools Sarvis attended.

“I always have been a real student of life; I took all kinds of courses in every subject,” he said. “I graduated with a full year’s more (credits) than I needed to but still had no clue what I wanted to do.”

Sarvis received a master’s degree in psychology, a doctorate in educational administration and a post-doctoral study in technology. He has worked as an assistant superintendent, principal, university instructor, school psychologist and director of various divisions responsible for accountability, evaluation, technology, curriculum, staff training and special education. He would teach classes he had never studied just to learn a new subject.

He said he diagnosed himself with a serious case of “career ADD.”

“Every two or three years someone would come along and say, ‘I need you to do this,’” Sarvis said. “I wasn’t prepared for it, but I found out that by jumping in head first and working hard at it I was able to be successful.”

Sarvis said he approaches his travel plans with a similar attitude. Whether it’s a war in Chiapas or a tsunami in Thailand, Sarvis and his wife would dive in head first.

“I tell the kids, if the plane goes down sell the cars first because you need the money to pay the mortgage,” Sarvis said as he joked about Santa Barbara’s housing prices.

But for most of the past decade, Sarvis has dedicated all of his attention to the Santa Barbara School District. Appointed in 2004, the superintendent oversees all operations, educational strategies and strategic plans for 21 elementary and secondary schools, including 16,000 students and 1,800 employees.

“Most of the heroic work is done by the teachers who come into work every day with enthusiasm and new ideas about how to connect with students,” Sarvis said. “They are wonderful people with teaching and education in their hearts. The best teachers are our best students.”

The school district has narrowed the achievement gap. The Academic Performance Index measures student achievement on a scale from 200 to 1,000. There was a 230 point gap between Latino and white students in 2003, which has been reduced to 140 points, Sarvis said.

He also has taken pride in the gains of Santa Babara schools, specifically La Cumbre Junior High.

“There has been a lot more team planning and discussion about ways to help teachers and students be more effective,” he said. “There’s a much stronger effort to ensure that students cannot fail and they aren’t allowed to limp through the system.”

But Santa Barbara is faced with $10.4 million in potential cuts on top of the $20 million in cuts it has made in the past four years. It also plans to issue about 160 layoff notices to classified positions — on top of the 120 it already has sent out to certificated staff.

But the district is pursuing unification, which could save $6 million, and all district employees technically would have their jobs protected for two years. But some jobs would more than likely still be eliminated this year.

“If we could unify we could pull back $6 million in cuts;  however, we need to know where the state is at the beginning of June in their anticipated budget,” Sarvis said.

The school board, in an effort to combat the budget deficit, decided to pursue 10 days of furloughs for administrative, classified, certified and confidential staff members and shorten the school year by 10 days.

“Ten furloughs would be equivalent to a 2.5 percent salary decrease,” but would potentially save $8 million, Sarvis said.

Sarvis will be honored Saturday with a Santa Barbara Education Foundation HOPE Award, which is given to those who support public education. He will be honored along with philanthropist Virgil Elings. The event will begin at 5 p.m. at the Santa Barbara QAD facilities, 100 Innovation Place. Click here for more information and to order tickets.

Sarvis’ tenure will end June 2, and search firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates is working with the school board to find and hire a successor.

“It’s the longest job I’ve held,” Sarvis said. “It’s time to reinvent my life again.”

Noozhawk staff writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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