OCEANSIDE — Looking back on his student days at Oceanside High School, Duane Coleman recalls that academics were not exactly at the top of his priorities list.
“Sports just kind of dominated my thinking,” said the 1979 graduate.
During his Pirate days, Coleman played on the varsity football, basketball and track teams, and even performed with the high school’s band for a time.
His senior year, he was voted the somewhat ambiguous “Best Over All” by his classmates.
Following his young passion, he went to the University of Hawaii on a football scholarship and after graduating was drafter by the Denver Broncos in the early 1980s.
But a serious knee injury while he trained with the team tore up his professional football dreams.
Over the 30 years since then, Coleman has gone back to the classroom as a teacher, administrator, and now superintendent of the school district he grew up in.
Coleman has been promoted from his current position as Oceanside Unified School District’s (OUSD) Associate Superintendent of Educational Services to succeed Larry Perondi this July as the next superintendent.
An Oceanside native, Coleman finished kindergarten through twelfth grades in Oceanside public schools, attending Laurel Elementary School, Jefferson Middle School, and Oceanside High School.
“I love this town, and it’s just so much a part of me. And I just want the best for these kids… and I am going to give them my all,” he said.
Prior to becoming an administrator for OUSD, Coleman was a teacher at El Camino High School and a principal for schools in the San Dieguito Union High School District and Murrietta Valley Union School District.
Despite his years in administration, he has strived to remain connected to past and present students.
He greets former students with big hugs and brags about them to his colleagues. One of his office walls is covered in crayon illustrations created by students and his two younger daughters.
To stay in touch with students, Coleman makes a point of selecting about six students within the district to track throughout the entire year and encourage them to succeed.
He meets with each of them regularly, checks in with their teachers and counselors about their progress, and will even set up conferences with their parents.
“They know that Dr. Coleman is checking up on them because I will show up (in their classrooms),” he said.
Coleman’s main advice to OUSD students is simple.
“I will tell them what I didn’t do: They really need to listen to their teachers. I really believe that Oceanside has some of the best teachers I’ve ever been around. They’re dedicated and they’re passionate,” he said. “And if (students) don’t get it, have the courage to raise their hand to ask the question until they get it.”
“We strongly feel that Dr. Coleman possesses a number of qualities that make him the ideal candidate to continue the vision and direction of our district,” said Board President Dr. Adrianne Hakes in a statement. “His diverse administrative background, range of experience with curriculum and instruction, and his strong ties to the community will serve him well as superintendent.”
As superintendent, Coleman said he will strive to keep early literacy programs a focus in OUSD from pre-kindergarten through second grade.
He said he also wants to work on developing a support system for students to help them not just get into college, but finish college.
“When (students) graduate from Oceanside Unified, I want them to have options. They can go into a career. But if they chose to go to college, they are also prepared for college. Then the next step is, how do we get them through college? I don’t want to just get them to college. I want to get them through college,” he explained.
Coleman earned his doctorate in educational leadership and a master’s in business education. He is currently working on completing his master’s in information technology.
He lives in Carlsbad with his wife and four younger children. He has two grown children who have already completed college.