EUGENE, Ore. – Superintendent Gustavo Balderas of the Eugene 4J School District has been named a finalist for superintendent of Edmonds School District in Washington state.
"While I am not eager to leave 4J or Eugene, I am open to exploring new professional challenges and opportunities," Balderas said.
The Edmonds School District named Balderas as one of two finalists for the job on Tuesday.
Balderas is Eugene 4J’s 23rd superintendent and took the reigns of the district in 2015. Balderas also serves on the Oregon State Board of Education.
“We are very excited to move forward with our top candidates and are confident one of them will be the right fit for our district’s needs,” said Deborah Kilgore, president of the Edmonds School District.
Eugene parents and teachers gave mixed reactions to the news.
Eugene Education Association president Sabrina Gordon said that if Balderas gets the job, the search for a new superintendent could steal the focus from other important priorities, including the allocation of Student Success Act funds, bargaining with teachers and multiple projects related to 2018's $319 million bond measure.
"We have to stop and think about all of the things that are already going on and taking energy and time," she said. "So thinking about all of that happening right now and to potentially add on the search for a new superintendent, seems like a lot."
Parent Isiah Wagoner said that Balderas's efforts to increase equity and inclusion in the district would be missed, though he believes Balderas has created a firm foundation for future leaders.
"He's really rolled up his sleeves when it comes to diversifying the portfolio across the board for 4J, adding more qualified members of color to our society, getting kids involved and saying, 'Hey, these people on our administrative team look like me and are someone I can trust," he said.
Anne Marie Levis, 4J board president, said the district was aware of Balderas' job search.
"Gus has been open with the board about this position and we wholeheartedly support him in his work, whether it is in Eugene or elsewhere," she said.
Earlier this month, Balderas was named superintendent of year at a national conference on education held in San Diego. Gordon said some 4J staff were unsurprised about the interest in Balderas after he won the title.
According to the Edmonds School District, Balderas will attend a candidate meet and greet in Lynnwood, Wash., on March 2. The board is expected to choose the new superintendent after a final round of interviews the following day. The board anticipates announcing who they select by late March or early April.
Below is the full statement from 4J Chief of Staff Kerry Delf:
After nearly five successful years as superintendent of Eugene School District 4J, Dr. Gustavo Balderas is being considered to take the helm of a larger district in Washington. Dr. Balderas has been announced as a superintendent finalist candidate for Edmonds School District, a larger, more urban, more diverse school district of 21,700 students in the Seattle metro area.
Dr. Balderas has been superintendent of the Eugene School District in July 2015. Under Dr. Balderas's leadership, the district has significantly raised high school graduation rates; seen 4J students outperform the state in assessments of learning in every grade, every subject and nearly every student group; gained overwhelming voter approval of a bond measure to rebuild schools and invest in other capital improvements, as well as a renewed operating levy to maintain class sizes and school days; brought the school meal program in-house; implemented a consistent school schedule and calendar so all students receive enough and equitable education time; and made substantial gains in workforce diversity, including administrator diversity unparalleled among Oregon districts.
Last fall Dr. Balderas was the first Latino school leader ever named Oregon Superintendent of the Year. Earlier this month he was announced as the National Superintendent of the Year.
"It is my honor and pleasure to lead the Eugene School District, a remarkable school system in a remarkable community," said Dr. Balderas. "While I am not eager to leave 4J or Eugene, I am open to exploring new professional challenges and opportunities. In the meantime I remain invested in our 4J students, staff and community. I’m proud of the work we’ve accomplished in the past 5 years, strengthening the foundations of our educational system and implementing essential systemic improvements. I am confident that the great momentum we've developed in the district will continue and lead to ever-growing successes for our students and schools."
"Dr. Balderas is an exceptional education leader and our district is lucky to have his skills and vision to guide us. The board has worked in partnership with him towards lofty but attainable education goals and we have made significant and lasting improvements for our students," said school board chair Anne Marie Levis. "Gus has been open with the board about this position and we wholeheartedly support him in his work, whether it is in Eugene or elsewhere."
Dr. Balderas is one of two finalists for the Edmonds superintendent position. He will take part in a community forum and final interviews next week.