Things may appear to be happening rather quickly for newly appointed Oakdale Joint Unified School District Superintendent, Dr. Dave Kline. Formerly serving as the Assistant Superintendent, Human Resources with OJUSD, Kline has begun his fourth year with the district in the big office.
He took over the new post in time for the start of the new school year, with students returning to campuses this past week, on Wednesday, Aug. 4.
The Oakdale High School Class of 1985 alum, however, didn’t enter that seat without significant past experience in education. Kline has worked in the education field for over 30 years, as well as completed additional course work to achieve this ultimate goal.
In 2016 he completed his Doctorate. An accomplishment, which is both admirable as well as impressive, yet don’t tell that to Kline.
“I don’t think it’s prudent that I’m announced ‘Dr. Kline,’ I’m Dave,” the superintendent shared, “with Oakdale School District, how can I help you?”
His new position is a responsibility the Mustang does not take lightly. In his tenure of education he’s held multiple positions with varying Valley districts, his first being a teacher in Turlock.
Eventually Kline found himself in a role where he could bring about change.
“I loved being principal,” he said of his time in Turlock schools. “I was looking for a different challenge. Turlock Junior High is the biggest junior high in the county. It had 1300 kids. I went there. I saw what we can do. I saw the teachers and I said, we’re really going for it.”
Kline shared he and his team ultimately took the bull by the horns by way of leading the school administration and improving the school’s overall SBAC scores.
In his 30-plus years of working in education he has reported to a total of 11 different superintendents.
“I’ve got to tell you, Marc was the best,” Kline said of former Superintendent of Schools, Marc Malone. “I had the pleasure of working for him for three years. Talk about learning a lot.”
Kline began showing an interest in pursuing the superintendent job, once he began settling in to his Assistant Superintendent position. He shared he thoroughly enjoyed working with and learning from Malone.
Kline additionally shared that while he was upset to hear of Malone’s retirement from a relationship standpoint, he was equally “ready to go.”
Once his interest in succeeding Malone was communicated to the school board, an interview took place during a closed session meeting.
“I’m honored to work here. I’ve been around a little bit and Oakdale is a fantastic place to work,” he stated. “I wanted to be a superintendent.”
The diversity of the job is one of the many things which made the position appealing to Kline.
“I always like a challenge,” he said of his new position. “There is some similarity to being a principal, when you’re a principal you handle many different things.
“It’s a challenge,” he continued, “and I enjoy that.”
Challenge may in fact be the appropriate word to describe the transition back to in person learning after 16 months of students off campus. As masks remain mandatory and the COVID pandemic continues to be an active virus, Kline is well aware of the conditions he’s stepped into.
He openly shared he does anticipate in the coming year there will be challenges. Yet he is both excited and encouraged that teachers are able to once again be in front of students in person, minus Plexiglas, desk structure and mandated restrictions which made it difficult for them to do their jobs.
“Through curriculum and instruction they’re very well trained on how to teach kids,” Kline said of OJUSD educators. “That’s very important to mitigate our learning loss that we’ve had to work through this past 16 months. Given the circumstances let’s focus on the here and now for a while. Let’s get kids back. Let’s get our kids safe and let’s see how these new circumstances impact us.”
The superintendent additionally indicated he believes the most important person in student learning is the teacher, noting he feels it’s extremely important to spend time on instruction and refining skills.
Earlier this month OJUSD hosted a Virtual Parent Meeting, which the superintendent shared he was pleased with the overall turnout and response. With over an hour of questions from parents being fielded, he felt it was something which would definitely be worth trying again.
“It’s not ‘normal’,” Kline acknowledged of the usage of the word versus the actual conditions, “but I’m a positive thinker. What is normal? Our kids are back. Our sports are back. Our activities are back. All those different things. The caveat is, we’re back in masks, but we’re back and that’s big!”
So as he now looks to the coming year, Kline is very clear on not just the scope of the job, its challenges and its impact, but his role in it as well.
“I work for the board. The board is representative of the community,” he said. “The community expects specific things. As the superintendent of the district I have to respond to what the community is asking.”