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Leadership Profile: Gwen Gross

Meet the Superintendent of Irvine (CA) Unified School District

November/December 2008

 
 


ON THE JOB: Since 2000

HOW SHE GOT HERE: A radio/television/film major in college, she took a detour into teaching and became a professor
at age 25 and a school principal by 29.

FAMILY: Her husband, Jerry, was the superintendent for special education in New York City.

ANNUAL SALARY: $252,000

CHALLENGES: "My very first step—just one day on the job—was to correct an upside-down budget. Within a month it was clear that massive cuts were necessary. We accomplished it, but it was rough going. We had to postpone the well-deserved staff raises."

SUCCESSES: "Because the community understood our story and supported our efforts, we were able to start anew and pass a $90 million bond with 83 percent of the vote. Best of all, we were able ultimately to give the 10 percent raises we had promised."

ADVICE: "Take action and move forward without distraction. Grow thicker skin when necessary. And perhaps most important, follow through and reward collaborative effort."

LATEST COUP: The Superintendent’s Planner (2008), written in collaboration with six other superintendents. "There was a need for a practical handbook. We see so many getting into the field without the depth of insight required."

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