Gilroy, CA – At the January 12, 2023 regular board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Deborah Flores announced that she will retire from the Gilroy Unified School District on June 30, 2023. Dr. Flores has been the superintendent of Gilroy Unified School District for 16 years. She is currently the longest-serving superintendent in Santa Clara County.
During the meeting, Dr. Flores shared the following with the school board, staff and the public:
This was one of the hardest decisions I have made in my life. I love Gilroy Unified and will miss working here. It has been my home for 16 years. This is a great district with so many wonderful people, and those people are who I will miss most now that I am moving on to the next chapter of my life. I have been very fortunate to work with dedicated school board members who work as a team to create the best outcomes for our staff and students. My Cabinet, executive assistant and PIO are incredible and I feel so blessed to have worked with them. The principals and management team are a dedicated, hardworking group who do a great job. There are so many talented staff in our district at our school sites and in the departments, who make such a difference in our students’ lives. We have wonderful students and parents. I feel so honored to have been your superintendent all these years.
Since joining the district in July 2007, Dr. Flores has made it her mission to reduce the dropout rate, increase the graduation rate, increase academic performance for all subgroups and close the achievement gap for students in Gilroy. Significant and steady progress has been made on all these indicators and many more until the district and nation were immersed in the pandemic. During Dr. Flores’s tenure, the Gilroy Unified School District, and it schools have received a number of awards and recognitions:
- In 2022, the Gilroy Unified School District was named a California Pivotal Practices District by the California Department of Education, and GECA was named a California Pivotal Practices School.
- In 2021, the Dr. TJ Owens Gilroy Early College Academy was named a National Blue Ribbon School by the US Department of Education.
- Seven district schools have been recognized as California Distinguished Schools: GECA (2013 and 2019), Las Animas Elementary (2008), Rod Kelley Elementary (2018), Solorsano Middle (2007 and 2013), Glen View Elementary (1997) and Gilroy High School (1994 and 2009).
- Solorsano Middle School received the California Department of Education Gold Ribbon Award for their Restorative Justice Program as well as the federal Title I Academic Achieving School Award in 2007.
- Four other GUSD schools received the California Gold Ribbon Award: Las Animas Elementary and Rod Kelley in 2016, and GECA, Christopher High, and Brownell Middle in 2015.
- GECA, Gilroy High, Christopher High, Las Animas Elementary and Rod Kelley Elementary were recognized as California Honor Roll schools in 2020.
- Rod Kelley Elementary also received the School of Excellence Award from the California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE) for its Dual Immersion Program (2017) and was named one of the top schools for underserved students by Innovate Public Schools in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
- Las Animas Elementary also received the CABE award for its Dual Immersion program in 2016.
- Gilroy High School’s Biomedical Science Academy was the recipient of the Santa Clara County School Boards’ Association Glenn W. Hoffman Exemplary Program Award in 2017; and,
- The District’s Dual Immersion Program located at Las Animas Elementary, Rod Kelley Elementary, South Valley Middle and Gilroy High all received the California School Board Association’s prestigious Golden Bell Award in 2015.
Dr. Flores successfully led the district through the most challenging time in our District’s history during the pandemic through the shutdown of schools, distance learning and then the return to in-person learning at the school sites. She worked tirelessly to gain the support of Gilroy voters for two bond measures, which led to the completion of hundreds of millions of dollars in renovations at most schools in the district and new construction: Christopher High School, Brownell Middle School and South Valley Middle School. Following the Garlic Festival Shooting in 2019, GUSD played an integral role in providing resources and support to the Gilroy community.
Over the past 10 years, Dr. Flores took the lead in creating a top-notch and comprehensive district-wide safety plan, which includes: security fencing around all school perimeters, the installation of state-of-the art-security cameras, remote access entry systems, and a strong relationship with the Gilroy Police Department and School Resource Officers.
Thanks to her leadership, the district now has two specialized academies: the Biomedical Science Academy at Gilroy High School and the Computer Science Academy at Christopher High School. The Dr. TJ Owens Gilroy Early College Academy, which is the result of a strong partnership with Gavilan College, is routinely recognized as one of the top-ten high schools in California and nationally.
She is very proud of the Dual Immersion program at Las Animas Elementary, Rod Kelley Elementary, South Valley Middle and Gilroy High. Gilroy Unified is one of only 19 districts in California to offer a full K-12 Dual Immersion programs. In addition, she is also proud of the district-wide events that provide support to families and students, including the annual Run for Fitness event, and the Future Chefs competition.
Dr. Flores is grateful for the strong partnerships with community organizations and groups that include: the City of Gilroy, Gilroy Police and Fire Departments, South County Youth Task Force, the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, the Gilroy Foundation, Gilroy Rotary and Exchange Clubs, Rebekah Children’s Services, Community Solutions, the Don Christopher family, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, the Superintendent Parent Advisory Committee, and many others who support District initiatives and our school communities.
Dr. Flores earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Education from the University of Massachusetts, and began her career in Western Massachusetts in 1975 as a special education teacher and teacher lead. She moved into administration as a special education administrator and was Pupil Services Director for 10 years. From 1990-2004, she worked for the Santa Barbara Unified School District, where she was the Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services, Deputy Superintendent, and then Superintendent for almost five years. While there, she earned her doctorate at the University of California in Santa Barbara in 1996. She was superintendent of the Lucia Mar Unified School District in San Luis Obispo County for three years before coming to Gilroy Unified in June 2007. She serves on the South County CalSOAP Board of Directors, SELPA Executive Council, Gilroy Chamber of Commerce Business and Education Committee, and has been a member of the Gilroy Rotary since 2008.
Throughout her career, Dr. Flores has received a number of awards including:
- Amherst-Pelham School District, Massachusetts Teacher of the Year (1979)
- Riverside County Woman of Achievement (1989)
- Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) Central Office Administrator of the Year (1999)
- ACSA Region 8 Superintendent of the Year (2016)
- ACSA Superintendent of the Year (2016)
- Gilroy Chamber of Commerce Woman of the Year (2021)
In retirement, Dr. Flores plans to travel with family and friends, backpack in national parks around the country, and go skiing in Mammoth. She will visit her husband’s family and dear friends on the East Coast and her family in the Southwest, as part of a cross-country road trip with her sister.
She looks forward to spending more time with her son in Santa Barbara and daughter in Orange County, and taking her dog Simba on all the walks she can. She is excited about having the time to participate in a few Masters track meets, and to stay active by running, walking and cycling.
In the future, she may do some limited consulting in her fields of interest, but for the first time since she was a teenager, when she worked on an assembly line to pay for her college expenses, she hopes to sleep past 4:00 a.m., read more books, watch Hallmark movies, go to some 49er’s and Giants games, volunteer in the community and just relax.