After Ernie Bell, Sierra Sands Unified School District superintendent, announced his June 30 retirement, it was up to the SSUSD board of trustees to come up with a gameplan on how it was going to find a suitable replacement.

The board had a couple of options to choose from when selecting a replacement for Bell, including looking at in-house candidates, hiring a firm to look for a candidate, or advertising for the position themselves.

The board decided unanimously to employ Dr. David Ostash, assistant superintendent of human resources, to replace Bell after his retirement.

“Hands down, in my opinion, he is the right guy for this job,” Bell said.

The board is currently in contract negotiations, where it is discussing the duration of the contract with Ostash.

“I’m honored I’m being entrusted to continue my journey with the district and I hope to provide opportunities for our youth so they can achieve their dreams, whether that be going to college, professional training, military, or the workforce,” Ostash said.

Ostash has dedicated his life to education, saying, “I fell completely in love with education.”

While going to UCLA, Ostash was an English major who wanted to go to law school to become a lawyer. But he got an opportunity to teach English and coach swimming, which he said is an opportunity he could not pass up.

And so, he started his career as a Sierra Sands English teacher, where he then became the dean of students, and then assistant principal, and the principal of Monroe Middle School and Burroughs High School. Ostash received his doctorate in education while working full-time about a year and a half ago.

“[Ostash] has proven himself over the past couple of years, he is a very talented young man. Dave is going to be outstanding,” Bell said, “his talents are special in so many different ways.”

Bell said that education is a lifestyle for Ostash, as it was for him, and as it is with many teachers and those who have a career in education. Bell said that, “working in education has been amazing.”

Bell has worked for the SSUSD for 35 years and has been in the superintendent position for five. Bell’s decision to retire stems from wanting to retire at a young enough age to enjoy retirement.

“I thought 35 years was a good mark,” he said.

Bell’s story is eerily similar to Ostash’s. When Bell was in college, his plans were to move to Ridgecrest and work on the base; however, he ended up with a life-long career in education after a single call. The call was from a teacher, here in Ridgecrest, saying that she wanted him to apply for an education position.

Although Bell does not have any plans set in stone once he is retired, he did say that he would like to get into counseling or recruitment for the community. Those plans would be further down the retirement line, as Bell currently just wants to spend time with his parents. He said that the job is demanding, and takes time away from family, but it is fulfilling nonetheless.

Bell will be around, he said. His entire family lives in Ridgecrest.

“We have stayed because we love the people here,” Bell said.

Ostash will take over as superintendent, barring everything pans out with the contract negotiations, on July 1.