Gilroy Unified School District Superintendent Anisha Munshi
Gilroy Unified School District Superintendent Anisha Munshi sits at the dais in the district’s Board Room. Munshi started her new role in July. Photo: Erik Chalhoub
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During a back-to-school kickoff event at Christopher High School on Aug. 14, staff and students lined up to greet new Gilroy Unified School District Superintendent Anisha Munshi and welcome her back to the fold.

It’s a scene that has played out at the numerous visits throughout the district and community functions Munshi has attended since she officially started the role on July 3.

“She’s like a rockstar,” said Public Information Officer Melanie Corona, who works closely with Munshi. “People are so excited that she is here.”

Munshi, who has been involved with the school district as a parent, teacher, volunteer, principal and trustee over the last 20 years, was hired in May to her new role, taking over from longtime Superintendent Deborah Flores, who retired in June.

Over the past month, Munshi has had a series of firsts as superintendent: she attended the Adult Education and summer school graduation earlier in August, and she gave her first superintendent’s report at the board of education meeting last week.

Now, over the past few weeks, Munshi has been gearing up for her first “back to school,” with classes returning to session on Aug. 16 after the summer break.

“It’s been going really well,” she said during an interview in her office two days before school kicked off. “There’s a lot of good energy. The vibe is really positive.”

Munshi earned her doctorate from San Jose State University. She also holds a Master of Arts in Education and a Bachelor of Science degree, both from National University. 

She began her career in education with the Gilroy Unified School District, first as an elementary school teacher, and then as an assistant principal at South Valley Middle School and Ascencion Solorsano Middle School. She was the principal at South Valley Middle School from 2011-2016, and served as a trustee for the GUSD Board of Education from 2018-2020. 

Prior to rejoining the district, she served as the Associate Superintendent of Professional Learning and Educational Progress Division for the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE). She had also been the Assistant Superintendent of the Human Resources Division and the Director of Human Resources for SCCOE. 

Munshi resides in Gilroy with her husband, and is the mother of two adult daughters, both of whom are graduates of Gilroy High School.

“Gilroy has been my home,” she said. “It means a lot to me to be in this position. It’s something that’s really close to my heart.”

Munshi and her team have set a number of priorities and goals as they face the challenges in the next year and beyond.

Academic success for all students is a chief priority for the district, she said, and with that comes various factors that play a major role in achieving that: addressing student mental health and creating safe learning spaces.

The Covid-19 pandemic brought to the forefront the struggles many students face at home, she said, such as food and housing insecurities, which impacts their social and mental wellbeing and negatively affects their academic performance.

The district needs to continue building relationships with students and parents in order to create inclusive learning environments, Munshi said, especially important when chronic absenteeism is on the rise not just in Gilroy, but throughout the state.

“Kids will come to school only if we create welcoming spaces, where they feel like they can belong, they feel protected, and they feel they are able to get a good education,” she said.

Another issue that’s not unique to Gilroy is declining enrollment, with a projected 10,173 students for this year, a 1,310-student drop since 2016, and the financial implications that come with it.

Munshi said the district needs to expand on its already sizable offerings of programs, which include computer science, culinary arts, biomedical science and more.

“I want our district to be a district where parents who are thinking about moving to a new community, they consider Gilroy as that next district,” she said. “Every child that comes through our doors are so unique. How do we offer something where every kid will shine?”

Munshi pointed to the district’s motto, “Excellence: It Takes Everyone!”, as an example of her shared leadership style.

“No one person can generate great ideas all the time,” she said. “Relationships are very important to me. With strong relationships also comes trust.”

Munshi noted that “it’s a hard act to follow” taking the reins of the superintendent role after Flores’ 16 years at the helm, but said her predecessor left the district in great shape.

“Dr. Flores was my mentor, somebody I respect so much,” she said. “I learned a lot from her. She’s a great leader, and she inspired all of us.”

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.

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