A Tough Act to Follow

Ace retirement 1977

Ace retires at age 58. On right is Joe Coco, Director of Buildings and Grounds for the district and family friend.

The following article appeared in the County Superintendent’s Bulletin, the house organ of the Office of the Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools, June, 1977:


Delos M. “Ace” Bagby, dean of Santa Clara County district school superintendents, retired May 13 after thirty-three years as Cambrian School District’s chief administrator.

Arriving in 1944, Bagby was hired to do just about everything from driving a bus to being superintendent. The district was an orchard paradise that first year; there was only a five-room school and 179 children. Then came the crowd. Cambrian mushroomed into a ten-campus system serving 5,777 students by its 1968 peak. Then came declining enrollment.

Reflecting on his years of experience, Bagby takes most pride in having simultaneously been business manager, building coordinator, personnel manager, and superintendent during Cambrian’s boom years. During his tenure he also pioneered district involvement in special education classes for the mentally retarded, educable as well as non-educable. He was an avid supporter of outdoor education, participating in Redwood Glen’s ancestor, Camp Campbell. He established libraries before the State approved school library construction. Bagby was among the first to introduce “new math” concepts to the area, and to hire speech therapists, remedial reading and music specialists.

Treated to testimony of what he’d done right, Bagby was honored by 500 well-wishers at a spring retirement banquet. Addressing the crowd, D. Don Weichert, President of the College of the Redwoods, Eureka, said to his former 8th grade teacher, “Ace, as one superintendent to another, I want to know what you did to get me into the same business.”

Another former student, Don R. Reid, President of Success Institute, reminisced how “the hugging man” inspired positive self-images through his teaching methods; how “Coach” Bagby’s rippling effect has touched thousands of lives.

Paul Sakamoto, superintendent of the Mt. View-Los Altos Union High School District, continued the theme with his childhood: “What I remember most about Ace is that despite the fact that we were returning from relocation camps (1945), and despite the fact that I came from a relatively poor family, he treated me with a great deal of dignity and made me feel important as a student. It’s something I’ve always remembered and something I hope I do with the students in my district.”


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