State Superintendent, California
Long Time Ventura County Education Advocate
” 3 New R’s in Public Education…Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships… ”
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell was not inducted into the Educators’ Hall of Fame for his teaching prowess, nor his teaching longevity, but for his constant and continued support and leadership of education, both in the legislature and in the California Department of Education.
O’Connell was born in 1951 in Glen Cove, N.Y. In 1958, his family moved to Oxnard, where he attended Curren Elementary, Fremont Middle, and Oxnard High Schools. After earning his secondary teaching credential from CSU, Long Beach, he returned to his high school alma mater to teach government for years. He later served on the Santa Barbara County School Board.
O’Connell was elected to the 35th State Assembly District in 1982 and was re-elected by wide margins thereafter. In 1994, O’Connell was elected to the 18th State Senate District, serving the Ventura and Santa Barbara County areas, and easily won re-election in 1998. In 2002, O’Connell was elected to serve as California’s 26th State Superintendent of Public Instruction, earning more votes than any other contested candidate in the country. He is currently serving his second, and final,
term in this office.
As chief of California’s public school system and leader of the California Department of Education, O’Connell has focused on closing the achievement gap and preparing students for a rapidly changing global economy by holding high standards for all students.
Throughout his career, he has worked to improve public education in California. As the author of numerous landmark education bills in both the California Assembly and the State Senate, he made quality education his number one priority. O’Connell has worked to smooth the transitions between all segments of education, from preschool to college or the workplace. As a former high school teacher and author of the legislation creating the California High School Exit Exam, he has led a comprehensive effort to increase rigor and improve student achievement in California high schools. He is a strong supporter and facilitator of partnerships between schools, businesses, communities, and philanthropies in order to engage students with challenging, real-world education experiences.
O’Connell is a proven team builder with the ability to forge consensus on contentious issues, especially where challenges are strongest. He has worked to fortify California’s world-class academic standards, strengthen California’s school accountability and assessment systems and bolster state funding for public school classrooms by reducing the threshold for passage of local school facility bonds.
He also has been a leader among state school chiefs nationwide in an effort to increase flexibility and fairness in the federal No Child Left Behind school accountability system. He is a long-time advocate for smaller class sizes, improved teacher recruitment and retention, comprehensive
testing, and up-to-date school facilities. He currently is a member of the CSU Board of Trustees, the UC Board of Regents, and the California Community College Board of Trustees, as well as many other education-related boards and advisory committees. This commitment to the children of California has earned O’Connell the praise and the respect of colleagues and educators statewide.