Ventura County Superintendent
38 Years of Service in Public Education
” We (Ventura County) have caring people that care about education… ”
Ventura County’s home-grown County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. James Cowan, has provided positive leadership and support for education throughout California for more than four decades.
Cowan was raised in Ventura and attended and graduated from schools in what is now the Ventura Unified School District. He served as a teacher and counselor at Ventura High School and as the dean of boys at Buena High School. In 1965, he joined the Ventura County Superintendent of Schools Office as the Director of Secondary Education and was promoted to Assistant Superintendent in 1967. Cowan was elected Ventura County Superintendent of Schools in 1969 and served in this position until his retirement on July 1, 1993, after serving six consecutive four-year terms of office, and 38 years of service in public education.
During his tenure as County Superintendent of Schools, Cowan established one of the fi rst Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) in the State and secured the 20 acres of surplus property at the former Oxnard Air Force Base (now the Camarillo Airport) for the Ventura County Superintendent of Schools Office ROP and Special Education programs, the Community College District, and the Oxnard Union High School District. Cowan oversaw the construction of Gateway, Dwire, Penfi eld, Hendershot (now Phoenix) and Triggs Schools for special education programs. He implemented the Science Fair, Academic Decathlon, Mock Trial and Top Scholars Awards programs. Cowan’s leadership directed the Ventura County Superintendent of Schools Office toward greatness and recognition throughout the state.
As County Superintendent of Schools, Cowan oversaw the unification of the Conejo Valley, Fillmore, Moorpark and Oak Park Unifi ed School Districts and served as Interim Superintendent until a permanent school superintendent could be hired.
Cowan is the only county superintendent in history to serve two terms as President of the California Association of County Superintendents of Schools in 1976 and 1977. He chaired the Cowan Commission which created the 10 service delivery regions in California that exist today. He also established the National Leadership Training Center for Gifted / Talented Education and the first federally funded teacher resource center in the State of California. In addition, Cowan served on a wide variety of local, state, and national commissions and worked very closely with State Superintendent Dr. Wilson Riles to bring extra help and teaching support to under-privileged students
in this state.
This respected educator has received numerous local, and statewide awards and recognitions, including being named one of the 100 outstanding alumni in the 100-year history of Whittier College, Tri-Counties CTA Educator of the Year and receiving the ACSA Administrative Excellence Award, to name a few. Upon his retirement, Cowan was selected as the Grand Marshall of the Ventura County Fair and his name was given to the James F. Cowan Conference Center at the Camarillo Airport. He was further honored by the Ventura County Economic Development Association when they established the James F. Cowan Educational Leadership Award which is given annually to an outstanding educational leader in Ventura County.