Oceanside schools chief is named to state board
April 22, 2005
By Sherry Parmet

OCEANSIDE Oceanside schools Superintendent Ken Noonan was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday to the state Board of Education. Though it is a highly sought-after position, the governor's office courted Noonan for one of three vacant seats. He was asked to apply and then flown to Sacramento for an interview a few days later.

The state Board of Education sets policy for more than 6 million kindergarten-through-12th-grade students enrolled in public education. That policy includes adopting textbooks, establishing state academic content standards in the core subjects and approving a statewide testing program.

Noonan, 64, will continue as superintendent of Oceanside Unified while he serves on the 11-member state board.

Noonan was tapped for several reasons. Under his leadership in Oceanside, test scores have soared, the achievement gap between white students and minorities has narrowed, and a $125 million school construction bond was passed.

"It's such a sought-after position, and to choose our superintendent to participate in guiding the policies and the standards of education in the state of California is just a tremendous compliment to the leadership of Ken Noonan and the strides the district has made," said school board member Janet Bledsoe Lacy. "This recognized the talent that we in Oceanside have long been recognizing."

In 1999, no Oceanside school had reached the state's goal of 800 on the Academic Performance Index, which assigns schools a score between 200 and 1000 based on test scores. This year, five schools exceeded that benchmark, and the number of schools surpassing 700 since 1999 quadrupled to 16.

Noonan thrust Oceanside Unified into the spotlight with his implementation of Proposition 227, a voter initiative that largely dismantled bilingual education. Many districts continued to offer bilingual instruction to students who submitted waivers. But Oceanside Unified denied most waviers. And the test scores of English learners showed immediate improvement in the first couple of years after the switch to English-only instruction.

Noonan and administrators of El Camino High School were among representatives of four schools nationwide recently invited by the U.S. Department of Education to explain to an educational task force in Washington, D.C., how they closed the achievement gap.

In 2003, Noonan was named Superintendent of the Year by the Association of California School Administrators.

Noonan's educational career spans nearly 40 years; he began as a high school teacher in Montebello. He later became a director of a bilingual education program in Pomona. He was superintendent of the Corcoran Unified School District in California's Central Valley for six years and superintendent of Gilroy Unified School District in Santa Clara County for 13 years before coming to Oceanside in 1997.

"Ken has the focus and the common sense that other education leaders don't always possess," said trustee Emily Wichmann.

Noonan's new post will pay $100 per meeting, and his term is for four years.

Noonan could not be reached yesterday because he was returning from a vacation to Italy.

A second appointee to the state Board of Education is Yvonne Chan, principal of Vaughn Next Century Learning Center in Los Angeles. One vacancy on the state education board remains.