When Dr. James Brescia goes to the polls to vote Tuesday, he won’t see his name
on the ballot for San Luis Obispo County superintendent of schools. Since he was uncontested in the June primary, he officially became superintendent-elect.
For several months, his training has been intensive. He will assume leadership when Dr. Julian Crocker retires in December.
Brescia said Crocker has mentored him for the position for 25 years.
“Every five or 10 years, he’d pop up and encourage me to consider an opening that would give me more experience to do this job. I respect what he’s done and honor what people love about his tenure as superintendent and will do my best to honor that as well.”
Before winter break last year, Crocker asked him to consider the position. Brescia talked to district superintendents, Cuesta College and Cal Poly presidents, and received blessings from his wife before telling Crocker and his Cayucos Elementary School District staff that he planned to run. He then began to research the office by shadowing Crocker. Once the race was uncontested, he officially started training “ … by attending boot camp for California superintendents.”
Although a former superintendent for Cayucos and Paso Robles districts, there is a key difference between that job and county superintendent, he said: “A district superintendent is hired by their school board. The county superintendent is elected by the people.”
Brescia is among 16 new superintendents elected in the state's 58 counties in 2014.
The job is multifaceted and includes fiscal oversight of all county schools “ … especially with Gov. Brown’s new accountability program,” Brescia said.
The superintendent’s office handles credentialing and printing checks for all county personnel, operating the court and community schools, and acting as liaison between the state and county schools.
Brescia’s credentials are as diverse as his new position. He taught in a magnet school in San Diego, then math in Northern California and Paso Robles. Fluent in Spanish, he became a Migrant Education Program supervising specialist. He served as principal and business administrator for St. Rose Catholic School in Paso Robles. Once he received his doctorate, he trained student teachers in Cal Poly’s School of Education.
Crocker has trusted him to transition into key areas, such as mentoring the new administrators countywide that he’ll inherit, including Anne Hubbard, his Cayucos replacement.
What’s his advice?
“Develop a supportive relationship with your school board and accept the reality ‘the buck stops here.’ ”
Brescia said his priorities include building public trust and creating a strong performance team that leverages unique talents. Ultimately, he said, he hopes “ … to help each county school establish a strong arts program for the 35,000 students we serve.”