When Jim Cambridge graduated from high school, he admits he faced the same daunting question that many SD62 students face – what am I going to do after high school?
Heading into university, he realized there were so many fields he could potentially get in to, but there was one experience in particular that helped shape his future. When he was a teenager he helped coach soccer and enjoyed the support the coaching staff provided to players, and wanted to provide that same support to students as an educator.
“It seemed like something worth doing,” Cambridge said. “I struggled a bit as a student myself and so I had a fair amount of empathy for any kid that struggled in learning as well and thought it would be great to have an opportunity to work with them.”
And that’s exactly what he’s been doing. Now, after dedicating the past 36 years to the Sooke School District, including the last nine years at the helm as superintendent, Cambridge has decided to hang up his hat.
“School District 62 has been such a big part of my life for so long, it’s hard to imagine it not being,” Cambridge said.
“I’m excited. It’s the right time for me to retire, I’m leaving the district in really good shape. I’m excited about all of that, but I admit, I have a bit of anxiety, I’ve been working since I was 15, so I’m not sure what it’s like to not have a job.”
Cambridge’s career with the school district began in 1981 at Sangster Elementary school. Over the next several years, he bounced around to numerous schools including John Muir and Ruth King elementary schools, as well as Spencer Middle School. He also held a number of portfolios within the board office, and has been the superintendent and CEO since May 2009.
During his time as superintendent, Cambridge has led the district through a time of unprecedented growth. When Cambridge first came to the school district he described it as “sleepy,” but it has since transformed into the fastest growing school district in the province.
When asked what his proudest accomplishment was, Cambridge was quick to note his successes were those of the school district. Those successes include the opening of Royal Bay and Belmont secondary schools in 2015, the growth of sports academies and French Immersion programs, as well as the district becoming one of the first to support nature kindergarten programs.
Cambridge said there has also been a shift in parents’ expectations for education, with more of a focus on creating well-rounded students that have a strong education, and are involved with extra-curricular activities such as sports and arts.
“I think in the old days, people were quite satisfied with the education they were receiving, but I think now families are expecting more for their kids, which they should, so they’re looking at making sure they have opportunities that obviously have excellent education, but we also have the largest sport academy program in the province for example,” Cambridge said. “Those types of things have made a really big difference.”
Cambridge believes the school district will continue to grow in the coming years, but noted the challenge will be ensuring there is enough classroom space for students.
School board chair Ravi Parmar said Cambridge has mastered being an educator and balancing the needs of a growing district, and will leave a lasting legacy.
”I can say this with full confidence that Jim Cambridge is the best superintendent in this province. While we’re so happy that he’s moving on to the next stages of his life, we’re so thankful and sad in a way of Jim leaving, because he’s such a phenomenal superintendent,” Parmar said.
“He’s just left an outstanding legacy for so many people in this district … He’s quite a remarkable person.”
The school district board has appointed Scott Stinson as Cambridge’s replacement.
Stinson has worked in education throughout Greater Victoria for more than 30 years, including the Sooke School District where he was once a principal at David Cameron Elementary in Langford.
He is currently assistant superintendent for the Saanich School District.