Salt Lake City School District appoints new superintendent

Timothy Gadson said he will make student mental health a priority.

(Courtesy of the Salt Lake City School District) Dr. Timothy Gadson will take over as district superintendent this summer.

The Salt Lake City school board on Tuesday unanimously voted to appoint Timothy Gadson as the district’s new superintendent.

Gadson, who is currently the associate superintendent of high schools with Anoka-Hennepin Schools in Minnesota, will begin his new job on July 1 with a two-year contract.

Board member Mohamed Baayd said he thinks Gadson’s appointment is a decision that shows that the board is “coming together as one body.” He said Gadson “left a touch” on every board member as well as families who emailed Baayd about Gadson.

Gadson said he chose Salt Lake City in part because he thinks it is a place where he can make a positive impact.

“[I was] looking for a district that needs me, not just one that needs a superintendent,” he said during a Zoom session with members of the media following his appointment.

Gadson, who is Black, will work with a school board that is majority nonwhite. District spokeswoman Yándary Chatwin said it is the first time the board has been comprised by a majority of people of color. She said this reflects the students in the district, a majority of whom are nonwhite.

Gadson said mental health in the district will be one of his top priorities. He said he wants to help teachers better understand trauma, including trauma from the pandemic, and identify how trauma manifests in students’ behaviors.

Mental health has been a big problem during the pandemic in part because of the social isolation students have faced, said Gadson. He said Anoka-Hennepin Schools has tried to reduce isolation during remote learning with tactics like video messages for students and bringing small groups to campus.

Gadson said he wants to contract therapists to come to Salt Lake City campuses and meet with students. He said his current district has arranged it so that students can receive therapy at school. Gadson said he would rather bring in outside therapists than hire district therapists so that part of the therapy bills can be charged to students’ health insurance.

When asked about other concrete changes he wants to make, Gadson said he first wants to listen and learn. He said he thinks announcing big changes now devalues the work already happening in the district.

Previous Superintendent Lexi Cunningham resigned last year, but at least one board member said she was forced out. When asked how he will work with the school board, Gadson said he thinks their unanimous decision is a vote of confidence indicating that they want to work with him. He said he plans on building individual relationships with the board members.

Gadson has previously served as the principal of elementary, middle and high schools. He received his Ph.D. from Washington State University and his undergraduate degree from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

He said he has always wanted to be a superintendent and felt like he was “on cloud nine” after learning he got the job.

When asked about his short tenure at previous jobs, most of which lasted less than three years, Gadson assured members of the media that he intends to stick around. He said each of his previous jobs gave him experiences that will make him a better superintendent in Salt Lake City, where he plans to be for a while.

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