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Challenges for new superintendent

Dr. Soumakian, headshot.
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Dr. Gabe Soumakian
Dr. Gabe Soumakian

On Monday, Gabe Soumakian will take over as the new superintendent of Oxnard Union High School District.

Overseeing seven schools and nearly 16,000 students is a job that requires strong leadership, open communication, a positive vision for the future and a whole lot of patience.

It appears Soumakian is a good fit. With more than 30 years’ experience in education, he comes to Oxnard Union after seven years as an assistant superintendent of human resources with Burbank Unified School District, a 17-school district with about 15,000 students.

He helped Burbank Unified weather not only ongoing cuts to public education but a 2009 teacher sex scandal and the sudden death of a former superintendent in 2010. Through it all, Soumakian was a district leader despite the fact that Burbank Unified saw three superintendents in two years.

In his role as head of OUHSD, Soumakian will be faced with a number of immediate challenges.

First and foremost, state budget cuts will likely continue, requiring the district office to again make tough decisions on personnel and resources. The new superintendent will have to establish a good working relationship with the district’s teachers union and will also have to be creative in cost-cutting measures.

Oxnard Unified is planning two new high schools—one in Oxnard, the other in Camarillo. Soumakian will have to work closely with the school board and a citizens committee tasked with overseeing how the district will spend the bond money that will finance the construction of the two new campuses.

Most importantly, Soumakian will lead a district that includes a student population that encompasses a diverse demographic, both socially and economically. Raising test scores and improving high school graduation rates across the district will surely be a top priority for Soumakian and his staff.

The job of superintendent isn’t easy. It requires the ability to do many things at once and to be many places, seemingly at the same time.

The Camarillo Acorn wishes the best for Mr. Soumakian in his new endeavor, as we recognize that success in the superintendent’s office translates into success for the district, the teachers and the students.

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