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As AASA’s Incoming President, Balderas Uses 3rd General Session to Share His Personal Story to Inspire a Narrative about the Value of a Public Education

AASA president-elect Gustavo Balderas, superintendent of Beaverton School District in Beaverton, Ore., delivered an address at the AASA national conference closing session in San Diego.

He will assume the AASA presidency at a July ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Balderas told the audience his story of being a first-generation, English language learner with a speech impediment as a child in Nyssa, Ore. His family had migrated from Mexico to the United States to work agricultural jobs at a labor camp in hopes of securing a better future for Balderas and his siblings.

He cited his humble upbringing and challenges in school because of his learning disabilities as the reason for his career in education.

“Who would think that this migrant kid who can’t speak or see well would be standing and speaking before you as a superintendent?” Balderas said. “We all have a story to tell.”

Balderas’ 34 years working in education haven’t been without their challenges, and he says that being a leader in K-12 education has only become more difficult, especially with increasing political divisiveness across the nation.

“Education has always been political,” he said. “Education is a political football. The difference now is that the politics are so partial.”

Despite this divisiveness, Balderas stressed the importance of focusing on what is best for the children school leaders are serving. He implored school administrators to work collaboratively with teachers, students, and the community to establish core community values.

To do so, Balderas reminded school leaders about the profound impact communication can have in changing the public opinion about education.

“We have to be able to tell our narrative. We have to be able to tell our stories to counteract the narrative that is out there,” Balderas said. “Otherwise, our story will be told for us.”

As superintendent in Beaverton, Balderas has worked hard to ensure that every single family that walks into his district feels a sense of belonging. He shared a video of a cultural night put on by an elementary school located in his district that invited students and their families to share their culture with one another.

This event, he said, has helped students, staff, and families garner a sense of belonging and gain a better understanding of those around them.

In closing, Balderas reminded attendees to never forget the reason why they became educational leaders.

“The great thing about public education is that we educate all kids without hesitation,” Balderas said. “That’s my why. Remember, that migrant kid who can’t speak? That kid is in your school right now.”

(Eugenie Budnik is a senior majoring in journalism/advertising at San Diego State University and a reporter  with AASA’s Conference Daily Online.)

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