Skip to main content

Our Community Focus

An Advocate for Children

May 02, 2017 06:05AM ● By Becky Coburn

Joe Ovick's work leaves an impact. Photo by

The Contra Costa community is grappling with the unexpected loss of an outstanding citizen, Joseph A. Ovick, who passed away suddenly on March 30, 2017.   An ardent advocate for children, a dedicated ambassador for education, and a passionate believer in protecting our natural history, Joe, and his devotion to making the community a better place for children will truly be missed. 

Joe earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at San Jose State University, in his hometown.  He went on to later earn his Doctorate Degree in Organizational Leadership from the University of La Verne.  Beginning his professional career in education as a substitute teacher, Joe quickly developed an aptitude for working with children, specifically in a special education setting.  In Santa Clara County, Joe went on to work as an assistant principal and then as a principal. His hard work paid off as he was appointed director of special education for Santa Clara County.  Later, he continued working fervently and took posts with the Contra Costa County Office of Education, serving as the director of special education, the assistant superintendent for student services, the associate superintendent for business, and finally as the Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools, a position from which he retired in 2014 after 18 years.  Karen Sakata, his successor as the county superintendent of schools, describes Joe as “down-to-earth, warm and sincere, and he truly cared about public education and kids. And kids always came first. Every decision he made was what was best for the students of Contra Costa County.” 

In addition to his devotion to education, he was an active member in the larger community in which he lived and loved.  His generous spirit led him to serve in the Pleasant Hill Rotary Club and on the board of the John Muir Land Trust (JMLT), whose executive director, Linus Eukel, wrote, “Joe’s words were always wise and his presence in the room lightened everyone’s mood.  We miss him terribly.  Joe was one of those rare people who dedicated his life to making the world around him a better place for all of us.” JMLT’s 2017 Pure Muir Gala is dedicated to Joe’s memory.

County Education Board President Mike Maxwell, a fellow Rotarian and Joe’s great friend, says, “He was a leader. People followed Joe.  He had the mindset to serve the community first – the kids, the parents and his staff.”  Mike added, “He and I had a long history, and he was responsible for bringing me to both Rotary and CCCOE. Even after all these weeks, I still cannot believe it.”

Another fellow Rotarian, Matt Rinn, says, “Joe’s positive impact on our community may never be fully known by those who will benefit from his work, but there are numerous individuals who are in a much better spot than if he did not do what he did for their development.  Joe was one of the good ones, and his legacy will continue in many aspects.”

Joe’s passion and dedication to students and the community is evident by his life-long work and by the impressions he made on like-minded colleagues.

Joe with wife, Debbie Ovick

 Joseph Ovick is survived by his wife, Debbie, and two sons, Jon and Bjorn.  Contributions in lieu of flowers can be made to John Muir Land Trust, East Bay SPCA, the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, or the Kennedy-King Memorial College Scholarship Fund.