Board of Trustees Hires District’s First Permanent African American Superintendent
(A MEDIA RELEASE FROM THE WCCUSD)
The West Contra Costa Unified School District’s Board of Trustees named Othello School District Superintendent Dr. Kenneth “Chris” Hurst, Sr. as the District’s next superintendent. The Board voted 5-0 at Wednesday night’s board meeting on a three-year contract for Dr. Hurst that begins May 17.
“We are thrilled with Dr. Hurst’s background, experience, and readiness to hit the ground running here in our District and help us to the next level,” WCCUSD Board President Mister Phillips said. “His acumen in social justice, equity, and focus on accelerating student achievement here is impressive. His approach to collaborative leadership and knowledge of teaching strategies, as well as community involvement, are just what we need here in West Contra Costa.”
Dr. Hurst becomes WCCUSD’s 10th permanent superintendent and its first permanent African American superintendent. Sylvester Greenwood and Dr. Cynthia LeBlanc each served one-year terms as interim superintendents.
The Board’s vote followed an exhaustive six-month search process in which WCCUSD held more than 50 listening sessions with students, families, staff, and community stakeholders. The District also gathered more than 6,000 responses from the community on the next Superintendent’s qualities and qualifications.
“I am excited to get to work in West Contra Costa Unified and about working together to provide a world-class educational experience for students that prepares them to be globally competent and allows them to compete and participate in our diverse and global society,” Hurst said. “I have an unwavering commitment and dedication to supporting a culture of inclusion and equity throughout the district and community, and what excites me is that we have a board and learning community interested in educational equity for all students.”
Dr. Hurst has served as the Superintendent of the Othello District in Othello, Washington, since 2016. As Superintendent of the 4,500 student District located about 3 hours southeast of Seattle, Dr. Hurst increased graduation rates by 16 percent from 71 percent to 87 percent and reduced absences by 33 percent.
He also implemented Othello’s K-12 pathway, the District’s Social-Emotional Learning Standards. Dr. Hurst also tripled the number of children enrolled in preschool and increased the percent of preschool students prepared for kindergarten from 30 percent to more than 98 percent.
“We had the opportunity to serve the WCCUSD community in the highest way by hiring a new superintendent,” Board Clerk Jamela Smith-Folds said. “We hired a leader who will lead WCCUSD teachers, administrators, and staff with a united vision, transparency, and accountability. Dr. Hurst has a focused intention to plant seeds of greatness in WCCUSD students, provide resources, and create opportunities.”
In Othello, Dr. Hurst led a District with a student population that is 91 percent Latinx, 32 percent English Language Learners, and 75 percent free and reduced-price lunch through the transition to Distance Learning at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and from Distance Learning to a hybrid model this year.
“Dr. Hurst is equity-focused, has a background of increasing student academic achievement, is data-driven, works in collaboration with all labor partners and families, and is always student-centered,” Board Trustee Demetrio Gonzalez Hoy said. “Dr. Hurst is not just qualified to support our district through these very challenging times, but he has also gone through a successful school reopening in his previous district.”
Before leading the Othello School District, Dr. Hurst served as Associate Superintendent of Educational Services in Oceanside Unified School District, a 19,000 student district 35 minutes northwest of San Diego. While serving as the Associate Superintendent of Educational Services, he supervised the Oceanside Promise’s implementation to ensure all Oceanside students graduated ready for college and career and established the Oceanside Promise Foundation, a 501(c)(3).
In Oceanside, Dr. Hurst collaborated with ConnectEd California, implementing Linked Learning to establish K-12 industry-aligned pathways to prepare students to succeed in college and career. He collaborated to implement the Future Ready technology initiative, designed to create a shared vision of preparing students for success in college, career, and citizenship.
“As the incoming superintendent, I am eager to work within our learning community to confront and address issues of systemic racism, implicit bias, and ensuring growth mindset at every level of the organization,” Dr. Hurst said. “I’m equally excited about deepening our understanding of equity and systemic inequities and also moving toward what it should look like, feel like, and sound like to have an equitable and culturally responsive education for all students.”
Dr. Hurst has 23 years of experience teaching and leading equity in urban, suburban, and rural K-12 districts. He spent 6 years as a principal and assistant principal in Oceanside, including the turnaround principal for Jefferson Middle and Oceanside High schools.
At Oceanside High School, Dr. Hurst led double-digit growth in the school’s academic growth performance. He also facilitated instructional rounds for the Oceanside high school network and the LCAP development.
“Dr. Hurst’s belief in the application of research-based practices and his experience in systems thinking will add structure to our organization, yet enable our entrepreneurial spirit,” Board Trustee Leslie Reckler said. “I'm excited about this partnership.”
Dr. Hurst also served as an administrator in the San Diego Unified and Poway Unified school districts. He started his educational career in Poway Unified as a math and computer programming and computer science teacher.
“I believe that the new Superintendent will bring a nurturing environment to WCCUSD students with a focus on leadership, empowerment, and direction to the WCCUSD,” Board Trustee Otheree Christian said.
Before his career in education, Dr. Hurst served 12 years in the Marines. His military service includes Maintenance Supervisor at Camp Pendleton (1991–1993), Combat Duty (Desert Storm), Saudi Arabia (1990–1991), Communications Instructor/Supervisor at Camp Pendleton (1988–1990), Drill Instructor, San Diego (1986–1988), and Communications Specialist at Camp Pendleton (1982–1986).
Dr. Hurst earned his Doctorate in Education, K-12 Leadership (Magna Cum Laude), at the University of Southern California in 2011, and his Master of Arts Degree in Educational Administration (Magna Cum Laude) in 2008, and his Bachelor of Science, a degree in Mathematics in 1997 at California State University, San Marcos. He also holds an Associate of Arts degree from National University, San Diego.
Dr. Hurst and his wife Crystal have two grown children, a daughter who is a 6th-grade teacher and a son who is a computer scientist.
Dr. Hurst succeeds Matthew Duffy, who announced in November that he would not seek an extension to his contract. WCCUSD received nearly 30 applications for the position from throughout the country.