Deborah Flores, who has led Gilroy Unified School District as superintendent for 16 years, will retire on June 30.
Flores made the announcement during the Jan. 12 GUSD Board of Education meeting.
“This was one of the hardest decisions I have made in my life,” she said. “I love Gilroy Unified and will miss working here. 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.”
Flores, who joined the district in June 2007, 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 arriving in Gilroy.
Since joining the district, Flores said her mission was to reduce the dropout rate, increase the graduation rate, increase academic performance for all subgroups and close the achievement gap for students in Gilroy. Steady progress was made on all these indicators and many more until the district and nation were immersed in the Covid-19 pandemic, according to district officials.
Over the past 10 years, Flores led the creation of a comprehensive district-wide safety plan, which includes security fencing around all school perimeters, the installation of security cameras, remote access entry systems, and a relationship with the Gilroy Police Department and school resource officers.
Under 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. Dr. TJ Owens Gilroy Early College Academy, which is the result of a partnership with Gavilan College, is routinely recognized as one of the top-10 high schools in California and nationally.
Flores led the district through the pandemic-induced shutdown of schools, followed by distance learning and then the return to in-person learning at the school sites. Earlier, she worked 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 Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting in 2019, GUSD played an integral role in providing resources and support to the Gilroy community.
“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,” Flores said. “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.”
In retirement, 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 friends on the East Coast and her family in the Southwest, as part of a cross-country road trip with her sister.
She also 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.
Flores hinted that 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 4am, read more books, watch Hallmark movies, go to some 49ers and Giants games, volunteer in the community and relax.
The Board of Education was scheduled to meet Jan. 19 in closed session to discuss the next steps in finding a new superintendent.