Superintendent Polly Bove retires

After+16+years%2C+Superintendence+Bove+retires+from+her+position+and+wishes+the+best+for+her+successor.

Photo by Bennie Chang

After 16 years, Superintendence Bove retires from her position and wishes the best for her successor.

Bennie Chang

“Superintendent Polly Bove has been, in my time at Lynbrook and FUHSD, the most influential superintendent we’ve had,” Principal Maria Jackson said. “She’ll be very hard to replace, and I’ve personally found her a role model for women in leadership.”

A native Illinoisan, Bove was adopted at 9 months old, growing up the daughter of an engineer. Because of her father, overhauling car engines, putting up roofs, building fireplaces and reading construction plans became the norm. Studying mathematics and rhetoric at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, she went on to work in computer science firms.

“My dad said I had to study chemistry, physics or math, so I chose math because it was the most appealing,” Bove said. “I cannot count the number of times I’ve thanked him for that in my heart.”

After moving to California, she started teaching at the San Ramon Valley Unified School District in 1973, becoming one of the few women to teach mathematics and computer science. Seventeen years later, she joined FUHSD as an assistant principal at Homestead and went on to serve in district-wide positions, overseeing special education and human resources.

Eventually becoming deputy superintendent, Bove was then named the interim to replace her predecessor, who had a falling out with the school board. While she never sought the position, she cared deeply about the community, so she accepted the offer to guide the district through the challenging period. After eight months, the board made her appointment permanent. 

Through her 32 years in FUHSD and 15 years helming the district, she has revitalized school facilities and buildings and furthered alternative education programs, including those for special education students and 18 to 22 year-olds. Amid the 2004-05 downturn, she worked with the teacher union to create a revenue sharing model, preventing union fighting. When the 2008 recession shook America, FUHSD fought the nationwide trend and kept all of its employees.

“Out of that adversity, we came together,” Bove said. “So was that the biggest challenge? Or was that the biggest opportunity to build trust?”

When the COVID-19 pandemic rolled around, Bove knew that if she was going to keep facilities running and ask anybody to work in-person, she had to model it herself. Prioritizing community input, she initiated a task force to gather parent and student feedback and help craft the district’s COVID-19 response.

Bove’s Jan. 7 retirement announcement prompted the board’s search for a replacement, who will be named at the end of the 2021-22 school year. Bove has led a staff of nearly 1,000 and a student population of more than 10,000. She leaves FUHSD as one of the best public high school districts in the nation, touching the lives of each person she served and worked with. 

“Thank you, first and foremost, for being a role model,” Associate Superintendent Tom Avvakumovits said. “You taught us through example. You shared how important it is to listen, to all who inquire, regardless of how insignificant the concern may seem to be. You stressed the importance of standing in the shoes of others, to really try to gain perspective, so that we can better understand, and ultimately, better support the community.”