Main story: Longtime educator gives fond farewell to students at Live Oak High School
Lloyd Webb takes job as superintendent for Durham Unified School District
Published in the June 21 – July 4, 2017 of Morgan Hill Life
By Marty Cheek
Lloyd Webb felt a stab of emotion hit him in the throat as he stood on the podium at the 2017 Live Oak High School commencement ceremony. The graduation was the last one he would ever take part in as the school’s longtime principal.
On July 1, Webb will start his new job serving as the superintendent for the Durham Unified School District located in Butte County near Chico.
“When the students started clapping for me at the graduation, I almost lost it,” he said of his misty-eyed moment of recognition at the June 8 graduation. “That’s why I took the time to wave at them.”
Immensely popular with students, parents and staff, Webb has enjoyed a 34-year career in public education in Santa Clara County. After a two-year period of time serving as a San Jose Police Department reserves officer, he realized law enforcement was not his calling. He focused instead on the vocation of helping young people learn.
He started as a substitute teacher at Silver Creek High School in San Jose. At the beginning of his second year, a teacher died. The administration offered him a full-time job teaching English as a Second Language (now called English Language Development). He soon found himself facing students of various ethnicities who spoke little English. He taught five periods of math and science in that challenging multicultural environment.
“Breaking through the language barrier really taught me how to teach,” he said. “I had kids from Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, a kid from the Ukraine — kids spread all over the globe and from vastly different cultures, which was really kind of cool. As I got to know them, I knew them as kids. They all want a good future. They want to know that when they leave school at the end of the day, they maybe learned something and that they knew people cared about them.”
In 1995, Webb got a job at Live Oak where his brother, Glen Webb, also taught. (Glen is now MHUSD’s director of curriculum and instruction.) Besides time in the classroom, Lloyd Webb coached varsity football. After 10 years there he was transferred to Sobrato High School where he served as an assistant principal under Principal Debbie Padilla.
On May 5, 2010, Live Oak found itself in the center of a media firestorm. An incident brought national attention to Morgan Hill when several students wore patriotic clothing to the campus during the day of the Cinco de Mayo Mexican cultural celebration and Principal Nick Boden sent them home for safety reasons. The campus soon found itself surrounded by reporters from major networks and cable news stations, interviewing students on the question of whether First Amendment rights had been violated.
Soon after, Boden resigned due to the adverse publicity generated by the incident. Webb stepped into the role of heading Live Oak. In the aftermath, he played an important role in the healing of the high school’s community.
“It was a dark hour in the history of the school. It really didn’t have anything to do with the great job the teachers were doing,” he said. “It was a decision (Boden) made for all the right reasons but he could have possibly done something different.”
After a couple of days of the students being covered by the TV media which presented the high school in a negative light, Live Oak students convened a rally. Everyone wore purple. Webb feels proud of the leadership the students demonstrated in taking back their school’s reputation.
“They basically united and said, ‘That’s not who we are,’ because basically the whole school was being painted as this ‘war zone’ and this was an isolated incident. They basically told the press, ‘Get the hell out of here. This is our school.’”
The best part of Webb’s many years in public education has been the relationships he has formed with students and teachers. He remembers the “academician” students who went on to Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Stanford and other prestigious universities. But he fondly thinks about the students who struggled and persevered against the odds.
“I remember the kids who were troubled,” he said. “I think those were the ones I got along with the best because I think I was a bit in their world when I was a kid. That’s the stuff you remember.”
He found himself feeling a bit awkward when he left the classroom and stepped into an administration position requiring him to be the leader of the school.
“I don’t know if I have high-order office skills, it’s never been my bag because I’m just too spastic,” he said with a grin. “The minute I stand up, I need to move.”
He credits the teaching and support staff at Live Oak for helping him lead a school of about 1,100 students. His own children graduated from the school, which makes him feel especially proud of the Webb family connection to the campus. Replacing Webb as Live Oak’s new principal starting July 1 is Maria Reitano who served previously at the New Teacher Center in Santa Cruz.
“I marvel at the staff here at Live Oak who work so well with kids. Teaching is such a personal endeavor, it really is,” Webb said. “The people I really admire are the teachers who get in front of their kids and they think about what their kids need and they work with their kids and they spend hours with them — at lunch, after school, on weekends when they have their kids come in for study sessions. I’ve worked at six high schools, and they all had teachers like that, but I’ve never seen more teachers like that here at Live Oak. I honestly mean that.”
Throughout his tenure, Webb has been a trusted advisor to thousands of students in Morgan Hill while ushering the school community to tremendous success, said MHUSD Superintendent Steve Betando. “As a parent, educator, and coach he brought a breadth of perspective to work with him every day which allowed him to connect with students, parents, and staff even during the most challenging times,” he said. “He will be missed, and we wish him the best of luck on this new journey.”