After 30 years of experience, Randal Haggard says he’s finally landed the greatest job in education.

“I just want to share that I’m of course thrilled to be here,” said Haggard, the new superintendent for the Buellton Union School District. “This is a wonderful community and wonderful school culture and these schools are really gems. I can’t emphasize that enough.”

On July 1, Haggard officially took over for the retiring Bryan McCabe, who had served in the district’s top post since 2012.

“I think (McCabe) did a great job establishing relationships and fostering a culture of trust in the schools and for schools by the community and that to me is a really great foundation that I want to build on,” Haggard said.

Despite a limited time on the job, Haggard has already gotten a good feel for the district and his responsibilities, including providing a safe environment for his students, he said. 

Haggard said he recently met with city officials about a safe route to school initiative, which is now in the planning stages.

“At this point, we’ve been in dialogue with the city of Buellton about some safe route to school plans that are in progress and those are the kinds of things that are really enhancements to the community, as well as to the schools, to ensure that the children are safe on the way to and from school,” he said.

Haggard’s previous experience includes 12 years as a classroom teacher, an elementary principal post and a stint as assistant principal at the high school level. Most recently, he served as director of curriculum for the Yosemite Unified School District.

“The biggest reason for me to pursue the position of superintendent is I want to be able to affect change for students,” Haggard said. “I have a lot of experience working with students who are struggling, but also students who are excelling and I’m fortunate to have found a home here in Buellton where I think both of those approaches are going to really serve the community.”

Haggard says he’s already noted a lot of positive achievements and efforts in his district, including strong performances by students.

“Our students are performing so incredibly well and showing that growth that we want to see,” he said.

The district also has very strong community partnerships with its residents, and parent engagement is phenomenal, he said.

“We’re not a charter district, we don’t have charter schools, but it would be something you might see in the context of charters, where parents are really engaged in working for the improvement of schools.”

The engagement, which he called a partnership, helps the school and the community.

“We’re really fortunate to have a lot of parent involvement at everything from the classroom level volunteers, to the school garden to folks turning out for events.”

In the next five to 10 years, Haggard anticipates technology to continue to play a very important role in education.

“We’re an Apple district and so we’re putting really powerful tools into the hands of children and young people to be able to augment their learning,” he said.

There’s also an effort to help increase STEM, an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, with some adding an A for Arts.

The district also has a new principal, Hans Rheinschild, who started Aug. 1 serving both Oak Valley Elementary and Jonata Middle schools.

Haggard, who will have a starting annual salary of $140,000, is on a two-year contract.

Board President Elaine Alvarado said that she thought Haggard would bring a wealth of administrative experience and knowledge to the district, adding that the board is confident he will provide strong leadership.

Kenny Lindberg covers Santa Barbara County for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter

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