Noah prepares to take district to ‘next level’

San Dieguito Union High School District will kick off the school year this year with a brand new superintendent at the helm.

Kenneth Noah, fresh from Oregon, is taking over from Peggy Lynch, who retired on April 4 after serving seven years as the superintendent. Noah is stepping into a district, 12,588 students strong, and by all accounts, one that’s in pretty good shape.

“The challenge for me is how to take a great school district to the next level,” Noah said.

The biggest issue Noah sees is that the world they are sending their students into is rapidly changing. In the past few years as global economic situations are changing, the United States is in danger of losing its competitive edge, he said.

“We have to raise the bar for our kids, I think, to better prepare them for the 21st century world,” Noah said.

Noah is pretty much a lifelong Oregonian. Although he was born in Northern California his parents moved him to Oregon at the age of four.

Becoming a teacher wasn’t always the plan. The son of a minister, he had intended to go into the seminary as both of his brothers had.

“I struggled with it and it just increasingly was not where my heart was,” Noah said.

His uncle was a high school teacher and at some point during his senior year at high school he made the decision to become the same.

He completed his undergrad work at Southern Oregon University in Ashland and went on to do his graduate; masters and post-masters work at the University of Oregon. He started teaching in 1975, teaching high school history, political science, comparative religion and psychology. He taught for six years before switching to the administration side, becoming principal at Redmond High School. At the end of two years he was recruited to become principal at Rex Putnam High School. After another two years he was asked to be the director of education for the North Clackamus district, a K-12 district home to 28 schools. He held that title for four years until being made the deputy superintendent, a post he held for seven years.

The past six years he has been superintendent for the Gresham-Barlow School District in east suburban Portland, a K-12 district that he said is almost identical to San Dieguito as far as population.

His migration to California was a process in which many factors played a role: His wife, a high school principal, wanted to retire after 30 years in education, his daughter Marissa gradated from University of Arizona and settled in Los Angeles and then there was the family’s vacation home in Indio, purchased to get out of the rain and closer to his daughter. He found himself in Southern California more frequently.

While attending a superintendent’s conference here in late November last year, he was told of the San Dieguito opportunity.

He liked that it was a union high school district, liked that it was a high performing district “poised to be even better and not a district in need of being fixed.”

With that, his hat was officially in the ring and he was offered the position in February. Noah decided to finish out the school year in Oregon before coming down.

“It was hard to leave because things were really going well in the district,” said Noah.

It was also hard to leave all his friends and family behind, especially his parents.

He and his wife drove down to their new home in Encinitas on June 29 and wasting no time, his first day of work was July 1.

“It’s been great, both personally and professionally,” said Noah. “This is a very, very good school district with high quality staff.”

He likes the leadership he sees in the school principals, the wonderful school board, the communities, the beach and most of all, the weather.

“We love it here,” Noah said.