SANTA CRUZ — Michael Watkins, who has been with the Santa Cruz County Office of Education for 37 years, and has served as its superintendent for more than a decade, will be retiring at the end of his third term in 2018.
Watkins made the announcement to his staff and the board of directors on June 15. He said he wanted to give a new person a chance to lead the office.
“At the end of my term, I will have led the organization for 12 years,” he said. “I believe in giving others a chance to bring new ideas and leadership to any organization.”
Watkins also said he wants to spend time with his wife and his three grandchildren, an 11-year-old and two 2-year-olds.
Watkins said he timed his announcement to give potential candidates a chance to run for the elected position before the March 9, 2018 filing deadline.
The office has oversight of the county’s 10 school districts and around 40,000 students, along with dozens of programs such as Migrant/Seasonal Head Start, the New Teacher Project, the Regional Educational Program and the Outdoor Science School.
SCCOE also oversees education at Juvenile Hall, and approves the districts’ Local Control Accountability Plans and budgets.
Watkins began his career in 1971 with the National Teacher Corps, which recruited recent college graduates to teach in high-need urban and rural schools.
He then spent three years in the Alameda Office of Education, and seven years working with young people in the justice system.
Watkins came to SCCOE in 1980 as a learning handicap program specialist, and then director of special education.
Watkins said he will stay involved in local education issues, such as teacher housing and universal preschool. He will also push for innovations in career and technical education. He lives in Aptos with his wife.
“I think 37 years is a significant time of my life to give to one organization,” he said.