C&I Administrator of the Year: Leading learning transition

A critical role in school district offices right now is the curriculum and instructional leader. These education leaders are tasked with ensuring all schools are ready to teach to the Common Core State Standards and to test using Smarter Balanced assessments. After years of STAR testing, this is a major overhaul.

Because of this, Valley Center-Pauma Unified School District counts itself extremely fortunate to have the services of Mary Gorsuch, assistant superintendent for Educational Services. Gorsuch is so accomplished in her field that she has been named by ACSA’s as the state’s 2013 Curriculum and Instruction Administrator of the Year.

Indeed, Valley Center-Pauma Superintendent Lou Obermeyer expressed her appreciation for having Gorsuch as a part of her team.

“Mary is an extremely talented and bright administrator who always has a smile and kind comment for everyone,” Obermeyer said. “People enjoy working with her, and she has made a difference in every position she has held. She’s the best!”

Gorsuch has been with Valley Center-Pauma USD since beginning there as a teacher in 1991. She said her transition to administration was made easier by having excellent role models and mentors, including Harry Weinberg, Sarah Clayton and Karen Jobe. She said these folks gave her opportunities in leadership as a teacher that led her to become an administrator and to serve as they did.

As all school leaders know though, it’s the students who make the biggest impact on an educator. Gorsuch recalled early in her career spending extra time during a summer working with three fifth grade students who had struggled with reading during the school year.

“We met a few days a week in my classroom, and over that summer they really became confident readers,” Gorsuch said. “They are successful adults now, and I know I learned as much from them as they did from me.”

Curriculum and instruction educators are facing the big task of transitioning schools to the Common Core, including a shift from paper and pencil to computer tests. Gorsuch is tackling that challenge with enthusiasm.

 “I’m excited about the shift to computer-adaptive testing, and think that it will give us more relevant data about students, and will be more engaging and effective for students,” she said. “We are very fortunate to have a visionary superintendent and supportive school board, who continue to support the technology needed for 21st century learning.

“Our network infrastructure underwent a recent major upgrade at every school, and we have iPad one-to-one home deployment for all students in grades 3-6, classroom sets of iPads, and laptops in many classrooms. We’re getting ready now with keyboarding and online benchmark testing, and hope to be selected for the Smarter Balanced Field Test. We’ll be ready!”

Gorsuch has been an active ACSA member, serving in leadership roles in the ACSA Palomar Charter, including as president since 2010.

“I was asked to be charter secretary my first year as an administrator and have been active ever since,” Gorsuch said. “From day one ACSA’s motto ‘Leadership Matters’ resonated with me and reminds me to give my best.

“I’ve met administrators from all over San Diego County through ACSA and appreciate the camaraderie and sharing. Working in a rural district, it is so helpful to build friendships with colleagues in ACSA, share ideas and support each other in our work. We count on each other as a network of administrators and count on ACSA for up-to-date information, guidance and support.”

Gorsuch’s success in her distract is remarkable. In 2012, the district exceeded state and federal goals for student achievement, earning an API of 822. That score represents a 45-point growth since 2008 under Gorsuch’s leadership. Five of Valley Center-Pauma’s seven schools were recognized as Distinguished Schools in that time. Indeed, all seven of the district’s school principals signed a letter of support for Gorsuch’s nomination for the ACSA award.

“We heartily endorse the nomination of Mary Gorsuch for ACSA’s Administrator of the Year Award,” the letter stated. “As an assistant superintendent, Mary works alongside us, supporting our efforts to ensure the success of all our students. She is our leader, our wise mentor, and our collaborator – all in one.”

Now, for her hard work and efforts on behalf of Valley Center-Pauma USD students, Gorsuch is receiving this statewide honor. She was notified personally of the award by Obermeyer.

“That was very special, since she was the ACSA State Superintendent of the Year in 2011,” Gorsuch said. “I was stunned, and so honored to represent our entire district leadership, our charter and Region 18. Our regional ‘Honoring Our Own’ Awards Night was a real highlight, when my immediate family and Valley Center-Pauma family joined me on the stage to receive the award together.”

Now Gorsuch will be honored with all 2013 Administrators of the Year at a gala presentation during the Leadership Summit in San Jose, Nov. 7-9. Visit www.acsa.org/leadershipsummit for registration materials and more information.