After working at San Joaquin Delta College for 25 years, Kathy Hart announced earlier this month that she will retire in September from her position as the school’s superintendent and president.
Although Hart was appointed president in 2012 — making her the first woman to serve in that capacity — Hart’s career at Delta began in 1994 when she moved from her home state of Indiana to work as assistant division chair for communication skills, according to a Jan. 8 press release.
Hart then became dean of planning, research and regional education, vice president of instruction and eventually became superintendent/president, the press release said.
“I think I’ve really created a lot of good will in the community, created a lot of important partnerships,” Hart said on Monday.
“I think, even when I haven’t been able to deliver something that part of the district wanted, I think the relationships I’ve built with individuals in the community have been very beneficial.”
When Delta was uncertain about its future after the previous president was let go, Hart said the relationships she had already developed around the school allowed her to inspire confidence in the administration and motivate people to work together to grow the school.
“I helped the college to not only move forward, but also to heal because of everything that had happened over those eight to 10 months,” Hart said.
Although Hart is proud of partnerships she helped to develop such as Middle College High School with Lodi Unified School District, dual-enrollment programs in Lodi and Galt schools, adult education programs throughout the county and a possible robotics academy with Lodi Unified, she said there are still projects she wishes she had been able to complete during her tenure as superintendent/president.
“I wish I had been able to work through a way to satisfy people in the North County by building something, or at the very least having plans in place to build something,” Hart said.
Bill Huyett, a former LUSD superintendent and chairman of College Lodi Citizens Group, said that although he and his group were disappointed when the Delta satellite campus in Lodi they had advocated for was canceled, he still respected Hart as she was always willing to listen to their concerns.
“Lodi Unified worked with Kathy to establish Middle College High School, and a lot of students have benefited from that program,” Huyett said. “From my perspective as a fellow educator, I respect her and what she was able to do while she was there.”
As Delta’s attendance area includes San Joaquin County as well as Galt in Sacramento County and parts of Calaveras County, Huyett hopes that the next superintendent/president will look at other community colleges that serve areas of similar size and learn from them.
“I hope whoever comes next has a vision of serving all communities in Delta’s attendance area, and not just the central campus,” Huyett said.
Finding a way to increase enrollment is another goal Hart was unable to accomplish, she said, and one her successor will likely have to contend with as well.
Although Hart said she is glad to see more people finding jobs, she said that often leaves them with less time to take classes, just one of the factors she believes has contributed to Delta’s enrollment numbers declining for the past six years.
As the search begins for the next superintendent/president, Hart said the ideal candidate would take their time to get to know the college and community before making any large changes.
“We need someone who’s steady and who doesn’t change their mind all the time, and who has a vision for the college and will pursue that vision, but also get all of those constituency groups involved with that vision and to claim it as their own,” Hart said.
Even as Hart retires from the school itself, she said she plans to keep working with various groups in the community to help Delta College as it continues to grow.
“I love this community, I love the county and I will stay here after I’m finished with this position,” Hart said. “Perhaps I’ll be able to work harder on some of the initiatives I’ve started.”
Dr. Charles Jennings, who represents Lodi and Galt as trustee of Area 4 and serves as vice president of Delta’s board of trustees, applauded Hart for her two-and-a-half decades of service to the school.
“Dr. Hart has selflessly dedicated significant time and energy to the college and its growth, and has certainly contributed a great deal over the years,” Jennings said. “The college will certainly be indebted to her for years to come.”
As Delta continues to grow, Jennings said he looks forward to working with his fellow trustees to find a superintendent/president who will help encourage that growth.
“I’m hoping we find a dynamic, visionary leader who can build on the successes the college has had over the years, and who will be able to relate to our community and the various ways we support our students,” Jennings said.