School District News
● By Sandy Kauten
Both the Eugene and Springfield School Districts have new Superintendents - and they are eager to meet you!!
Eugene District 4j
Eugene schools have a new leader, and he wants to get to know you. Dr. Gustavo Balderas became superintendent of Eugene School District 4J in July.
Dr. Balderas’s roots in Oregon and in education run deep. Growing up as the child of migrant farmworkers in Eastern Oregon, he began school speaking little English and knowing even less about the American education system. A caring kindergarten and first grade teacher took him under her wing and overcame language barriers to involve his family with the school. That compassionate teacher instilled in Gustavo both a love of learning and a personal experience of how educators can change children’s lives.
Paying forward what he gained from Oregon public schools, Balderas has served as a public educator for more than 25 years, mostly in Oregon. He began his education career in the classroom, teaching U.S. history, health, and English as a second language (ESL) to high school and middle school students, and counseling high school students, before moving into school and district administration. In 2011 he was tapped to become a superintendent of schools in California.
When Balderas was selected this year to be 4J’s superintendent, he and his family were glad to come home to Oregon. He and his wife, Cindy, are parents in the district as well—the younger of their two sons attends Sheldon High School.
Since he arrived in Eugene Balderas has been listening and learning, meeting with parents and community leaders, visiting students and staff in schools across the district, and getting to know the Eugene community. He believes that parent and community involvement is a key to quality education.“I believe that we have a moral obligation to educate every child who walks into our schools,” Balderas says. “We want every student to succeed in school and in life. Schools can’t do it alone, though. We need to engage parents and our whole community to provide the best learning environment possible—not just for the six hours a day, five days a week, nine months a year we have students in schools, but at home and in the community as well.”
Community members are invited to get to know Dr. Balderas and to share their thoughts and questions about Eugene’s schools. The next “Meet the Superintendent” conversation session is on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 5:30–6:30 p.m., at Cal Young Middle School, 2555 Gilham Road. Springfield’s New Superintendent
Springfield School District
On Nov. 9 Dr. Sue Rieke-Smith officially took the helm as Springfield Public School District’s new Superintendant. In a unanimous vote, the Springfield Board of Education set the course for the future of the district.
In 2014 Rieke-Smith (pronounced “Reeky-Smith”) relocated to Springfield from Salem-Keizer School District where she was assistant superintendent. In the spring of 2015 she stepped into the role of interim superintendent, following the resignation of Hertica Martin.
With a background of teaching 5th grade English as a second language (ESL), Rieke-Smith believes a key driver of her work is an emphasis on equity of outcomes for all children. This focus is evidenced by her previous position as Principal of Houck Middle School where, under her leadership, the school experienced significant improvement in student achievement, particularly among those receiving ELL/limited-English proficiency services and free or reduced lunch. Her leadership at Houck earned her recognition as Oregon Middle School Principal of the Year in 2011-12 by the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators and the Oregon Association of Secondary School Administrators.
Rather than teaching towards test scores and memorization of facts, Rieke-Smith challenges her district to approach their work with an eye on innovation and education of the whole child. Integrating (STEAM) Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and the Arts into all areas of study will help bridge this gap.
Rieke-Smith takes charge as bond projects are in full swing, including a new Hamlin Middle School, where building design and curriculum design are being developed in tandem to maximize the functionality of the building. “This building will truly be the STEAM concept in action,” Rieke-Smith says. “I am very proud of the work our team has done so far, and believe the final work will result in a building our community will be proud of.”
Springfield has a long history of supporting the school district through community partnerships, as well as the many alumni who are now community leaders, teachers and business owners. “We are a legacy district,” says Rieke-Smith, “a district where many of our students graduated, to later send their children to walk the same school halls they did years before.” To this end Rieke-Smith says she is eager to continue to get to know the parents, families and Springfield community. The next opportunity to “Sit with Sue” will be Monday, Dec. 14, 8:30 – 9:30 a.m., at the Washburne Café in downtown Springfield.