New schools chief brings ideas, energy

January 02, 2003 12:00 am

By CLAIRE ST. JOHN

When Joe Silva takes his place as the new Tuolumne County Superintendent of Schools on Monday, he'll bring a lot of energy and ideas with him.

He is leaving his position as superintendent of Sonora Elementary School to take over for Dan White, who served one four-year term. Silva defeated White in the March election.

Silva, 52, said he's excited about the new challenge, and looks forward to settling in, although he is not new to the area.

He and his wife, Colleen, have lived in Sonora for four years with their dog and two cats. They have two grown children.

Silva said he plans to spend the first six months as chief of schools getting a feel for the needs of the 12 districts he will oversee.

"I want to build a strong cooperative effort between the districts and the county office," Silva said. "I'm going to work very hard for that."

Silva also has big plans for seminars and summits on a variety of topics to benefit educators.

"I'm going to do a healthy schools summit," Silva said. "My focus will be childhood obesity."

Teaching teachers how to deal with the media and how to foster a good relationship with local businesses are other plans Silva hopes to see come to fruition.

Schools must learn to deal with competition from a proliferation of charter schools, Silva said, and what better way to learn than through business leaders of our community?

But not all the benefits will go to the schools, Silva said. He also wants to implement a "principal for a day" program that would allow local businessmen to shadow school principals and participate in some of their duties.

"I have some ideas, yeah," Silva said.

He knows he'll have to use his ideas to overcome huge challenges as he takes office. He will have to smooth a snarled special education situation and deal with the repercussions of the $35 billion state deficit.

Special education has long been a problem in Tuolumne County — district superintendents complain that special ed programs are disorganized and drain budgets.