San Luis Coastal Unified School District Superintendent Ed Valentine recognized for 30 years of service

San Luis Coastal Superintendent Ed Valentine retired last week after logging more than 30 years in various administrative and teaching roles.

He is recognized for his efforts to help close students’ achievement gap and for creating a strategic plan that will continue to guide the county’s second-largest school district for years to come.

Valentine was hired as superintendent in January 2005 after working as the district’s assistant superintendent of education services for eight years. Before San Luis Coastal, he served as a curriculum director for seven years in Escondido Union School District near San Diego. He began his career as an English teacher and was later an elementary and middle school principal.

During Valentine’s tenure, eight San Luis Coastal schools were honored as California Distinguished Schools, two received National Blue Ribbon recognition, and Morro Bay High School was named by U.S. News and World Report as one of America’s top high schools two years in a row.

While many credit Valentine’s leadership in attaining such accomplishments, he will quickly tell you that he was not alone.

“It’s easy in retirement to look back and try and take credit for good things that have happened on your watch,” Valentine wrote in an e-mail. “The reality is that those things don’t happen unless you are surrounded by competent, talented people ... If good things have happened, give credit to them, they deserve it.”

Critical issues facing the district include responding to the needs of students struggling with language and poverty, he said.

“We know that if we do not support kids who are struggling with language, with poverty, with disabilities, that we risk losing them,” Valentine said. “Frankly, we have a long way to go, but we’re on the road with our resources, our training and ourselves.”

Valentine said the budget will continue to be a critical issue. San Luis Coastal Unified School District has been protected from some of the larger cuts other local districts face because it is mainly funded through property taxes. However, the district was recently forced to make more than $8 million in cuts — about 11 percent of its budget for the 2010-11 school year.

“The savings associated with an educated populace compared to the costs associated with an uneducated population make it difficult to understand how eviscerating public education can be viewed as an economic strategy,” Valentine said.

He said he’ll miss the camaraderie of his colleagues.

“I am the most proud of the heart of our school district. We have always believed that schools are for all children and that no failure rate is acceptable,” he said. “What’s new is that we are getting better and better at translating that belief into action for kids.”

Valentine said his retirement plans include teaching education leadership classes at Cal Poly and UCSB.