It was a busy morning of making students feel welcomed and excited for their first day of school for the newly appointed Coachella Valley Unified School District superintendent.
Maria Gandera was recently appointed to the top position in the district and Thursday was also her first day of the academic year under that title.
“I have excitement and joy for the first day of school,” Gandera said. “It’s always about excitement, It’s always about the beginnings we are starting today and how far can we take our students.”
Gandera was previously the assistant superintendent of human resources and risk management for the district and she keeps close tabs on the 24 schools now under her purview.
Before entering the administration side of education, Gandera taught students in elementary school and later became principal.
Gandera finished her K-12 education in San Fernando Valley, she said the Coachella Valley and her hometown are very similar. She said she only spoke Spanish when she started kindergarten and she would be punished by teachers whenever she spoke her native language in class.
She said those experience inform the challenges her students face, from rural education to dual-language learning.
“I remember that kindergarten year, very, very, well and it wasn’t a positive school year for me,” Gandera said. “I don’t want that same experience for any of my students and when I talk about my students, I am not just talking about my two children, I am talking about my 18,000 students in the Coachella Valley who are my students.”
She said the theme for this school year is, “reach for the stars” she wants students in the East Coachella Valley to know of their education and career opportunities outside of the desert and maybe one day they will return to give back to their community.
Gandera said, “Like we talked about earlier today is full of excitement and joy so it’s a wonderful day and it has nothing to do with my birthday it just has to do with the fact that students are back.”