Dana, Kozel and Gordon: New Leadership at Orcutt School District


   With lifetime roots deeply involved in the Orcutt Union School District, both as students and educators, Joe Dana and Julie Kozel assume positions leading the district in teaching and curriculum development in the new school year beginning this month.  

  Joe Dana, in his thirty-second year as a teacher, principal, and administrator, assumes the position as Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services.  

   Julie Kozel began her education career as a classroom teacher and principal in the Lompoc Unified School District and came to the Orcutt district in 2001.  She assumes the position of Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction.  

 Interestingly, both began their Orcutt education in Mrs. Nadine Crosby’s kindergarten class at Alice Shaw school in 1971.  Both went to Lakeview Jr. High and Righetti High schools.  And all their children are going or have gone through Orcutt schools.   

 Dana was the news and sports editor at the Santa Maria Times before, as he says, he had an “epiphany to get involved in education”. He secured his bachelor’s degree at the University of California at Berkeley, his teaching credential at Chapman University and a master’s at University of La Verne.   He began his career teaching fifth grade at Joe Nightingale school and has served as principal at Joe Nightingale, Ralph Dunlap, Pine Grove, Orcutt Academy and Olga Reed school in Los Alamos.     Dana has also directed the Independent Study Program for the district.   

 Julie Kozel is also well-known in the district.   She served four years as vice principal and principal at Joe Nightingale and four years as principal at Pine Grove school.   She received her bachelor’s at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.   She has a master’s in curriculum and an administrative credential from Cal Poly.  

 “I am excited to be able to support teachers and principals move forward in their efforts to help students, especially after the difficulties of last year,” she says.   “I am especially grateful to work with Joe, my lifelong friend since early school days.”   Dana is very excited to be involved in all Orcutt District schools. “Up to now I have been more school focused.  Now it’s exciting to be focused on all the kids in the district. And I am so happy to be able to work with Julie.   One plus one equals more than two!”  

 Kozel agrees.  “We are just at the beginning of something great.”

 Also new to district offices this year is Rusty Gordon.   After serving as Director of Special Education for the Santa Maria-Bonita Elementary School District for the past five years, on July 1st, Gordon assumed a similar position with the Orcutt district.  

 Prior to coming to the Santa Maria Valley, he began his educational career in teaching and administration in Northern California.  

  Gordon has a master’s degree in education, an administrative credential and two teaching credentials.  Of his twenty years in education, ten have been teaching in classrooms.

      Asked on how he feels about coming to Orcutt, Gordon says, “I am grateful for this opportunity to continue what the Orcutt district has been so successful at - providing the least restrictive environment for special education students and developing an inclusive atmosphere for children to thrive.”      

Steve Southwick reporting


                      From left to right- Leadership in Orcutt Union School District

                               Rusty Gordon, Joe Dana and Julie Kozel