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4J Superintendent Speaks at National Press Club

National Superintendent of the Year finalists discuss critical issues facing K–12 education 

Dr. Gustavo Balderas, superintendent of Eugene School District 4J and a finalist for National Superintendent of the Year, traveled to Washington, D.C. and spoke at the National Press Club earlier this month.

Dr. Balderas and the other three finalists for the national honor discussed the critical issues facing K–12 education during a Jan. 9 press briefing.

A few of the topics covered included educational equity, the Every Student Succeeds Act and the national teacher shortage.

As school districts work to close equity gaps, Dr. Balderas said students will have more opportunities for online learning, alternative curriculum pathways and dual-language and dual-credit programs. “The future of education, I feel, is a school without walls,” Dr. Balderas said.

He said he’d like to see a return of some traditional curriculum, including civics, and that it’s vital for school districts to teach kids how to work with each other in the era of the smartphone.

Dr. Balderas said his top concern over the past year was ensuring all students feel safe and welcome at 4J schools. Divisive national politics are impacting the most marginalized families in the district, he said. The Eugene School District is committed to supporting the success of every student and creating a safe and welcoming environment for every family.

Dr. Balderas also addressed the education workforce. He noted fewer students are entering college wanting to become teachers, contributing to an ongoing national shortage of teachers. To fill those spots, Dr. Balderas said district leaders must work with universities to ensure pre-certification teacher education courses are effective. “I think we owe it to the profession as superintendents to be champions for the profession,” Dr. Balderas said.

He also has championed efforts to increase the diversity of the K–12 education workforce. The district has made significant strides toward this goal, growing the diversity of our teacher workforce and establishing an administrator team that is exceptional among Oregon school districts for its diversity compared with student enrollment.

A product of Oregon’s public school system, Dr. Balderas has emerged as a leader in it. He was raised as the child of migrant farm workers in eastern Oregon, attended schools in Nyssa, a small Oregon town near the Idaho border, and earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Oregon universities. He has spent most of his nearly 30-year education career in Oregon and is known as a statewide leader in educational equity.

Dr. Balderas was named the 2020 Oregon Superintendent of the Year by the Oregon Association of School Executives and Confederation of Oregon School Administrators out of Oregon’s 197 school districts.

The National Superintendent of the Year Award, awarded by the American Association of School Administrators, is the nation’s highest honor for school superintendents and is designed to recognize the outstanding leadership of active, front-line superintendents.

The final selection will be announced at AASA’s annual conference in San Diego on Feb. 13.

Dr. Gustavo Balderas, 4J Superintendent
Oregon Superintendent of the Year
National Superintendent of the Year Finalist

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