As Superintendent Terry Grier shakes hands and greets his new employees in Houston, San Diego Unified tapped a familiar face to serve as its interim chief.

William Kowba, a logistics and financial guru with a gentle manner and decades of experience in the U.S. Navy, will take over the job while the school board searches for a new superintendent. He joined the school district three years ago and has worked as chief financial officer, chief logistics officer and most recently as the head of an office that handled food services, buildings, transportation, finances and technology.

He also served as interim superintendent after the previous superintendent, Carl Cohn, left the school district in 2008. School board member Katherine Nakamura praised his integrity, honesty and intelligence.

“He’s been there before,” she said, joking, “I don’t know what he’s thinking taking this job again.”

Kowba could be sitting in the superintendency for a while: The school board has stressed that it wants to take its time with the search to replace Grier, getting ample input from the community. He will lead the school district through its third straight year of budget trouble handed down from the state.

“We will not only survive … we will flourish,” Kowba told a group of reporters.

Another board member, John Lee Evans, touted the skillful way that Kowba handled the relocation of an alternative high school to an elementary school that was closing. Such moves can be politically touchy, but the move caused barely any anxiety at all, Evans said.

Kowba is also unlikely to rock the boat with new programs or initiatives that dramatically change instruction. He has little expertise in curriculum or teaching. School board President Shelia Jackson said that Deputy Superintendent Chuck Morris will continue to handle those issues for now. But Morris, who followed Grier to San Diego from North Carolina, is considered unlikely to stay in the long term.

“Part of the strength of Bill is to keep everybody moving,” said school board member Richard Barrera. He added, “I don’t expect that Bill is going to be going anywhere.”


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