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Dr. Gustavo Balderas Named Nation’s Top Superintendent

4J leader says he’s “a proud product of our public school system” in accepting top honor

Dr. Gustavo Balderas, superintendent of Eugene School District 4J since 2015, has been named the nation’s top superintendent.

In his acceptance speech, Dr. Balderas identified himself as “a proud son of a migrant family from Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico” and “a proud product of our public school system.”

“It is truly an honor to serve in the role of superintendent of Eugene public schools. I am blessed to be in my community,” said Dr. Balderas. “Seeing that kids are succeeding because of the changes we’re making drives me. We, as leaders, need to be champions for our profession. Education is the backbone to our democracy.”

Dr. Balderas was quick to acknowledge that all the nation’s K–12 superintendents are deserving and that the honor was not his alone, thanking his family, school board members, the district’s 2,700 employees, from one-day subs to full-time staff, and the 4J community.

“This is a ‘we’ award,” he said, “not a ‘me’ award.”

The American Association of School Administrators named Dr. Balderas the 2020 National Superintendent of the Year among 50 state awardees and four finalists at its national conference in San Diego on February 13. The Oregon Association of School Executives and Confederation of Oregon School Administrators had previously named Dr. Balderas the Oregon Superintendent of the Year out of Oregon’s 197 school districts.

Daniel Domenech, the association’s executive director, called Dr. Balderas a champion for children. “We truly appreciate the tremendous work he is doing to promote academic achievement in the Eugene School District and beyond,” he said.

Dr. Balderas was raised in eastern Oregon, a child of migrant farm workers, and developed his love of learning and passion for education in Oregon public schools, from kindergarten learning English as a second language through his doctoral degree in educational leadership at the University of Oregon. He has spent most of his nearly 30-year education career in Oregon and is known as a statewide leader in educational equity.

During his tenure in Eugene, Dr. Balderas has championed systemic improvements and educational equity, including efforts to increase the diversity of the K–12 education workforce. The district has made significant strides toward this goal, growing the diversity of the teacher workforce and establishing an administrator team unparalleled among Oregon school districts for its diversity compared with student enrollment.

The National Superintendent of the Year Award is the nation’s highest honor for school superintendents.

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