LYNNWOOD — The county’s largest school district must find a new leader.
Gustavo Balderas, hired as superintendent of the Edmonds School District in July 2020, announced Wednesday he is leaving to take the helm of the Beaverton School District in Oregon.
The Beaverton district’s board of directors hired Balderas at a meeting Wednesday morning. Balderas, who will start July 1, agreed to a three-year contract that will pay him an initial annual salary of $330,000, plus a $20,000 signing bonus.
He makes $316,500 a year in Edmonds.
“This was a difficult decision, but the right one for me and my family,” Balderas said in a statement issued by the Edmonds School District. “My wife and I raised both our sons in the Beaverton School District, and so we are excited to return home.”
Balderas began his career in Oregon, working in the Hillsboro School District as a teacher, counselor, assistant principal, principal, district administrator and assistant superintendent. He led the Eugene School District from 2015 to 2020, was named 2020 Oregon Superintendent of the Year and 2020 national superintendent of the year.
The Edmonds School District Board of Directors hired him in March 2020 to succeed retiring Kristine McDuffy.
He took the reins that July, when public schools were shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He navigated the district through a series of challenges brought on by the unprecedented public health crisis — fully remote learning, declining enrollment, learning loss among students, state-imposed vaccine mandates for employees and, until a few days ago, requirements for mask wearing and social distancing in classrooms.
Balderas informed the Edmonds board on Monday of his decision. He will leave with a year remaining on his contract.
“While those of us on the School Board are sad to see Dr. Balderas leave, we thank him for the support and leadership he provided the district through the past two years, and we wish him well in his future,” School Board president Dr. Nancy Katims said in a statement. “He has helped us set a strong foundation for continuous improvement in the district through our strategic plan, and we have strong and resilient staff to continue the important work of meeting every student’s needs.”
Balderas did tangle early on with some employee groups.
In August 2020, with remote learning cutting demand for school bus drivers, he recommended and the school board approved laying off 175 bus drivers and transportation employees. At the time, most other districts furloughed their drivers in the event schools reopened.
“The most significant disappointment was his lack of creativity to keep his school bus drivers employed during the period of remote learning,” said Jason Powell, business agent for Teamsters Local 763, which represents the district’s bus drivers. He said the union hopes the next superintendent “places a higher value on the roles school bus drivers play in the lives of the students of the Edmonds School District.”
In Oregon, Balderas will be at the helm of a much larger district.
Balderas’ last day with Edmonds will be June 30.
“I look forward to finishing this school year strong and getting our seniors to the finish line, graduation,” he said.
The Edmonds School Board will be discussing next steps for his replacement in the near future, according to a news release.