Much of the process was kept under wraps and behind closed doors, but the word is out. At Tuesday’s Salem-Keizer Public Schools (SKPS) school board meeting, Andrea Castañeda was announced as the next SKPS superintendent.
Castañeda, who will officially take over for Christy Perry on July 1, currently works at Tulsa Public Schools, but she has Oregon roots.
She looked for an opportunity in Oregon, only putting out this one application.
For an opportunity to come, it seemed almost kismet.
“I haven’t thought about that word in a long time and I feel like it really captures the feeling of the moment for me,” Castañeda said. “When this opportunity came up I was just really hopeful and had a kind of unabashed enthusiasm, and that has just grown.”
The timing of it all offers itself to the idea that fate or destiny had a hand in it.
Her youngest child is 18, preparing to start their college journey. So for this chance to come at a time where she doesn’t have to worry about uprooting her children and altering their lives.
“Being a parent and a professional creates this balance that so many are familiar with,” Castañeda said. “My husband and I really have prioritized for the majority of our adult lives making sure that our kids have got great schools, stable peer groups and the opportunity to fully grow into themselves.”
Her current role at Tulsa Public Schools is as chief talent and equity officer.
This role has given her a new depth of meaning in her attempts to work close with staff, students and families.
“I can really see in the larger patterns the way small moves we make affect people’s lives,” Castañeda said. “Hopefully, usually, for the good. But sometimes there are inadvertent and undesirable consequences we
never would have seen. And I’m in a seat now that makes me able to find them.”
Castañeda compares the demographics in Tulsa to those in Salem-Keizer “in broad strokes.”
She said that in Tulsa they spend a lot of time trying to understand the unique stories of the community. Those unique qualities makeup the expectations and demands for the district, Castañeda said.
“A big part of my leadership style, but also our current approach in the system, is making sure that we know how to be collecting those stories and weaving them together so that we understand the school’s relationship to the community.”
Castañeda pointed out that each school is truly a centerpiece of a community, and each community has a different relationship with that school.
SKPS has a clear uniqueness with those communities, as the district spans two cities. While the Tulsa district covers just one city, it is a major metropolitan area with different geographies that are practically different places.
She recalled a bus trip with students as they traveled from one end of the city to another.
“As we started moving into a much more wealthy neighborhood a kid said ‘Oh we’re not in Tulsa anymore, no we’re obviously in a whole other city,’” Castañeda said. “Then one little voice said ‘I’m pretty sure we’re in Oklahoma City now.’ And it really stuck with me because the schema of our students and our families is very much about the place they spend their days. I think this idea of Salem-Keizer being two communities bound together through a school district probably has some of those similar vibes.”