School Board Unanimously Appoints Bowes as the New Superintendent

John Bowes at Community Chambers prior to the board meeting
John Bowes at Community Chambers prior to the board meeting

The Davis School Board was unanimous in voting to appoint John Bowes as the next Superintendent of the Davis Joint Unified School District.

The school board hired a consulting firm to conduct a nationwide search and Dr. Bowes was the preferred candidate because of “his long and distinguished record of successful leadership in diverse educational environments, his commitment to youth and demonstrated skills in community engagement.”

“We are confident that we have found a superb match for our school community. He is the perfect fit for Davis, both in his experience and his values,” Board President Madhavi Sunder stated. “Dr. Bowes will be a strong superintendent who will bring intelligence, deep experience in all areas of school administration, a tireless work ethic, a positive approach to challenges and, most importantly, an inspired commitment to children and the promise of public education.”

The board had used Leadership Associates, a national school executive search firm, a press release noted. The search advisors recruited regional and national candidates to best assist the board in developing a broad and diverse field of candidates to find the best match for Davis.  The board interviewed six candidates from the pool last week and selected John Bowes as the preferred finalist.

Dr. Bowes leaves his present position as Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources in the high-performing Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District.

Board Member Susan Lovenburg stated, “During our recent visit to Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District, the board met with twenty-nine of Dr. Bowes’ colleagues including teachers and support staff, principals, district administrators, board members, parents, and the superintendent.  Solo and chorus, they described John as open, honest, thorough, patient, thoughtful, respectful, transparent, conscientious and unflappable.

“They praised his integrity and sense of humor, and his strength as both a good manager and an instructional leader.  It was clear to us that our initial impression was well-founded and that John Bowes is the right fit for the Davis community.”

Vice President of the Board Barbara Archer added, “We are so pleased to welcome Dr. John Bowes. His deep experience as an educator and administrator coupled with his student-centered approach and his interest in social justice make him a great fit for the Davis superintendency.”

John Bowes told the Vanguard, “My career goal has been to be a superintendent and I wanted to find the district that was the right fit.”

He said that there are three things which attracted him to Davis.  First, he said, is that “they have a tradition of success in trying to develop innovative programs focused on students.”  Second, there is “really strong community support.  That’s evidenced by the number of parcel tax ballots that have been passed over the years.”

Third, Dr. Bowes noted that a huge difference between his 25 years at LA Unified and his last few at Palos Verdes has been the “community environment.”  “Being able to try to craft local solutions… to local programs and challenges has had a real impact on my work.  I’ve been able to apply everything I learned at LAUSD in a much more focused and wise way and that’s led to pretty good outcomes.”

He said, “Putting all of those things together is what attracted me, sparked an interest in Davis when the opportunity arose.”

There are clear challenges facing this district, especially with regard to the parcel tax and the renewal of Prop. 30 and “the positive or negative impacts those could have on district finances.”

Dr. Bowes has previously served in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) in many capacities, including as a bilingual teacher (English and Spanish), principal, and administrator.  As a principal in the LAUSD he led an elementary school with a diverse student population to high achievement for all students.

Dr. Bowes earned his Ed.D. from UCLA, a Masters of Arts in Educational Administration from California Lutheran University, his Professional Administrative credential from UC Santa Barbara and his B.S. degrees in Finance and Management with minors in English and Sociology from Virginia Tech. Additionally, he holds Leading Edge Digital Administrator Certification and a California Association of School Business Officials Certification.

Dr. Bowes is fluent in Spanish and describes himself as someone empathetic to language learners who are often facing multiple challenges of learning to read, write and acclimate to a new culture.

“I am excited that Davis has a two-way Bilingual and a Spanish Immersion program in the district.  Bilingualism is a wonderful skill to come out of a K-12 experience and can lead to greater opportunities in the future,” Dr. Bowes stated in the district press release.

Board President Sunder noted, “Dr. Bowes’ early work in the Peace Corps in Guatemala will also help him advance what we hope to be the District’s increasingly global outlook.”

Dr. Bowes will officially take over the DJUSD Superintendent post on July 1, 2016.  As part of his transition to Davis, he met this week with Davis school and department leadership.  He will be moving to the area in June with his fiancée Cheryl, with whom he will be celebrating a ten-year anniversary in August.  Dr. Bowes and his fiancée each have two adult children. The older two recently have graduated college and the younger siblings will be entering their junior years at university.

“Davis is a terrific community with a rich tradition in quality instruction, strong community support demonstrated by volunteerism and the local parcel tax, and a commitment to students. I am excited Davis has taken the lead on areas of social justice, restorative practice and equity,” said Dr. Bowes in the press release.  “Davis is a great match for me. I am looking forward to working with everyone to move good programs to great programs and great programs to exemplary ones.”

On Thursday evening, Dr. Bowes took part in a reception prior to the board meeting at which his appointment was confirmed. At that reception, he was introduced to parents, staff and community stakeholders.

“I look forward to joining the community and building strong connections in Davis Joint Unified,” said Dr. Bowes.

President Sunder summarized the board’s decision, “He understands the demands and aspirations of a community that values excellent public schools. He has big shoes to fill in the superintendent position; we are confident that he will fill those shoes well.”

Dr. Bowes told the Vanguard his early focus will be on meeting people and getting to know the community better.  The Vanguard will have the full interview with him this weekend.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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      1. South of Davis


        > How can an individual be “diverse”?

        They can something other than white…

        Every “diversity” program I have ever read about was designed to “reduce” the number of white people.  I would be interested if anyone can post a link to a “diversity” program that had a stated goal of “increasing” the number of white people…

        1. quielo

          Some are designed to prevent Asians for doing whatever it is they are qualified to do. But yes your point it true. The LA Times recently ran a story about the BET awards which they headlined as a “model of diversity”. Clearly they use a different dictionary than I do.

      1. South of Davis

        quielo wrote:

        > An Asian language would be more useful in DJU

        Do you think there are more Asian kids in the Davis schools who don’t speak fluent English than Latino kids in the Davis schools that don’t speak fluent English?


        1. quielo

          Hispanic or Latino of Any Race 1,666

          Asian, Not Hispanic 1,371

          So it’s close.

          Pugilist: given the limited number of Latino candidates while almost every district in CA has a similar or higher number of Latino students. Why would you want one of that limited pool to come here? Would you accept an inferior candidate who had been passed over at other districts in preference to a better qualified candidate from another ethnic group?

        2. The Pugilist

          Quielo: To be accurate, I didn’t say we needed an Hispanic, but I do think there is more need for someone who can speak Spanish fluently than an Asian language.  And remember, multiple languages from Asian countries depending on where they are coming from, whereas Spanish is largely Spanish.  Even Spaniards can mostly communicate with Mexicans even though the language has some variations.

        3. wdf1

          TP:  Broader point is that Asians aren’t disadvantaged, Hispanics are.  Achievement gap.

          There are more Latinos who come from families with parents who have a high school degree or less, and because of that, they are not able to provide their kids with the same level of preparation and enrichment as their counterparts from families where the parents have college education.

          I know Latino parents who are on the faculty at UC Davis, who work at the UCD Med Center, and who work for the California State Legislature, as part of their professional staff.  Do you think they would be part of the achievement gap? Knowing their kids, they don’t appear to perform any differently from their white or Asian counterparts.

          One reason why having college education is likely a threshold point is that with college education the parents are likelier to speak English, and they are likelier to be able to understand their child’s school work.

          And it’s not just the achievement gap.  That phrase means standardized test scores in English and math.  These students (whose parents have a high school degree or less) are less likely to be on the high school yearbook staff, the high school newspaper, in student government, on the robotics team, on varsity athletics, etc.  They are more likely to drop out of school and be involved in disciplinary issues.

        4. wdf1

          If Superintendent Bowes can speak conversational Spanish well enough to have a meaningful conversation with Spanish speaking parents who don’t have college education, then that would be impressive, especially if he committed to following up with them on a regular basis.

      2. Tia Will

        Misanthrope and quielo

        I believe that the fact of being bilingual may be far more important than which languages are spoken. The very fact of being fully bilingual gives the possessor of this trait a flexibility through simply being able to perceive the world and express oneself from more than one linguistic and cultural point of view.

  1. quielo

    Pugilist, “Why Not” This comment originated from your expression of disapproval of the current candidate. It’s up to you to say “why”. The previous guy was from an ethnic minority yet I didn’t see how that elevated the district. You are unhappy so please what you expect from a preferred minority that the previous incumbent did not deliver or the new candidate in unable to deliver? Otherwise it appears you are just a racist.

    1. The Pugilist

      What I said was: “I hope the district made the right call.  I would have preferred more diversity in the hire.”  You have since inferred from that a more strongly held position than I hold

  2. Misanthrop

    One of the big problems in education is the difference between the ethnicity of the teachers and  administrators and that of the students. Its important for kids to have role models they can identify with. If kids have at least one adult in their life who they view as a role model outcomes for those kids improve. Language is a second barrier and since the new Super speaks Spanish it is likely that he will do a better job of understanding and communicating with a large population that has historically not been as academically successful as some other groups. I am going to go out on a limb and guess that since he spent two years in Central America in the Peace Corp and worked in LAUSD for many years his Spanish is pretty good. It would be great if he also spoke a dialect of Chinese. In melting pot California its good to know English, Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Japanese, Vietnamese, Urdo and Hindi just for starters. At least he has two languages that we know of.

    When Hammond was brought on we were so lucky because he brought both diversity and expertise in addressing the achievement gap. At that moment the board rightly felt that the district needed to project a more diversified leadership. Under Hammond and then Roberson a more diverse and tolerant tone was set. Also a more diverse staff was hired. At this point these issues are not as pressing as they were a decade ago. In my opinion what we need now is a different kind of leadership. We need a leadership that will hold its staff accountable because this hasn’t really been done over the last seven years. The other big issue is we need to tackle the problem that was here a decade ago that never got the attention it deserved once Hammond left, the achievement gap.

    I am hopeful the new Superintendent is up to the task. His HR background might give him the skills needed to value the many great people who go to work in the district everyday and do their best and serve our kids well. At the same time I am hopeful he can help those who aren’t working well enough to improve or find something more appropriate to do. At the same time his Spanish language skills suggest that he is sensitive to the needs of our English learner population that comprises a large component of the districts other big challenge, the achievement gap. If he can rise to these two large challenges then his leadership will be remembered in a positive and fruitful light. I wish him the best in trying to lead this district to a better place.

  3. quielo

    “One of the big problems in education is the difference between the ethnicity of the teachers and  administrators and that of the students.” So you think we should have a White Superintendent? You have your wish.

    1. wdf1

      I have sat in on a number of hiring committees where I work.  Regularly there is a question that gets at sensitivity of interviewees to diversity in the work community and in working with clients.  Among the worst responses are when a candidate from a racial/ethnic minority group says only, “I’m sensitive to diversity because I come from a racial/ethnic minority group.”

      More satisfying and interesting answers will attempt to address a broader range of diversity beyond just race/ethnicity and acknowledge other kinds of diversity, including gender, sexual orientation, class/income level, physical/mental disabilities, age, veterans’ issues, family background, family/marital status, limited English language ability, etc.

      Successful candidates often find ways to incorporate volunteer/community service experiences into their responses.  One thing behind asking the “diversity” question is that it begins to get at how an individual looks at community, in being welcoming and engaging with others.

      1. quielo

        Totally agree. The more filters you put in place the smaller the candidate pool and you end up picking people like Pacifica Radio does and see how that works.

    2. Misanthrop

      Too bad you stopped quoting me when you did because the sentence you quoted was the set up for the next part where I express my hopefulness about his second language giving him the right type of sensitivity to our diverse populations.

      Perhaps identity politics is the most important thing right now but after a decade of identity politics I think and my guess is the board agrees there are other issues that are more pressing right now. I’m willing to give the unanimous board the benefit of the doubt until his performance leads me to a different conclusion. They hired the right search firm and did the interviews, perhaps he was chosen because he was far and away the best applicant.

  4. Marina Kalugin

    what we have been lacking is “diversity” on the upper end of the intelligence scale….was a time the school board was full of professors and other highly educated professionals…

    people who all scored high on the National Merit exams….

    what do we have now?   what do we hope to achieve?

    that is who you hire…..someone successful where the students succeed…. educated and not just because they got a hand up along the way…

    not someone from a failed school district of mostly low income and low achievers…..isn’t that the background of the prior “more diverse” super?

    look what that guy did to our best program in town…. GATE……..maybe we should start a new campaign and call AIM “special ed” and GATE what it truly is….oh wait…aren’t they ALL  the same thing.

    Anyone who ever took some ECE units (in this case Early Childhood Education rather than Electrical and Computer Engineering) may have a clue….some housewife may not

    oops for some years I was a housewife….no offense…

    and that is when I took graduate level ECE units, ran my own company, stayed home with my brilliant chldren and worked on my MBA>>>>>

  5. Marina Kalugin

    anyone who thinks the color of the super makes a difference truly is clueless and hardly worth wasting time on….

    unless of course, the super is of color and has an agenda of crashing good programs because there are not enough of HIS color….


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