Ken Scarberry, the academic decathlon coordinator for Solano County near Sacramento, has been tapped as the new director for the state competition, officials said Wednesday. Scarberry, 39, will manage day-to-day operations of the California Academic Decathlon, a highly competitive high school contest that tests students’ knowledge in 10 academic areas. Los Angeles Unified high schools – particularly those in the San Fernando Valley – have dominated the competition in recent years. “Ken has an incredible passion for the academic decathlon and has experience managing competitions and great ideas for where we can take the competition,” said Jeff McCombs, president of the California Academic Decathlon board. “We just think he will be a tremendous leader.” Scarberry said he will retain his post with the Solano County Office of Education, which will pay about 40 percent of his salary. The state organization will pay the balance. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week He acknowledged having a county director oversee the state competition was “a new paradigm” for the decathlon, but said his main goal is to increase student participation and improve the level of competition. “It is a big honor for me,” said Scarberry, who has overseen the Solano County competition for five years. “It’s now a matter of making sure folks know we’re just moving the program forward.” Scarberry replaces Susan Beatty, a part-time lecturer in mechanical engineering at California State University, Northridge, who has been serving as interim director for the past six months, following the firing of former Executive Director Marvin Cobbs. The state decathlon program also plans to hire a separate fundraising and strategic planning director. The competition, which was in financial trouble last year, is nearing the “break-even” position on its expenses, and recently received nearly $25,000 from the Riordan Foundation, officials said. It needs to raise $200,000 to $250,000 a year to cover its expenses, including $60,000 to hold the state competition. Nearly 500 high students are expected to compete next March in Los Angeles for state title and the right to compete in the U.S. Academic Decathlon. California has won 12 of the 24 national championships, with Los Angeles Unified schools holding eight of the titles. The current national champion is El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills, which has won three previous titles. Lisa M. Sodders, (818) 713-3663 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!