During the March 7, 2023, special school board meeting, the Salem-Keizer School Board of Directors announced the selection of Andrea Castañeda as the next superintendent of Salem-Keizer Public Schools upon the retirement of current Superintendent Christy Perry. The school board finalized and took action to approve the hiring and contract negotiations for Castañeda, who will assume duties as the superintendent effective July 1, 2023.

“Andrea is a visionary leader with a depth of experience that will drive Salem-Keizer Public Schools to achieve extraordinary outcomes for our students,” said Salem-Keizer School Board Chair Ashley Carson Cottingham. “I am proud of the work the board has done throughout this process, with the input from our staff, families and community members to guide us. We could all see Andrea’s immense talent, coupled with her empathy and self-reflection – making her the clear choice to serve as our next superintendent at this critical moment for public schools.”

Castañeda has more than 20 years of experience serving in complex school systems to improve education, most recently as the ​​chief talent and equity officer and formerly as the chief innovation and strategy officer for Tulsa Public Schools in Oklahoma. With experience leading at the state and district levels, Castañeda has a track record of success and a reputation for leading with humility and heart. In addition, she has a wealth of practical experience leading finance, career and technical education, teaching and learning, talent, operations and more.

“I wish to thank the board for a thorough search process and their trust and confidence in me,” said Castañeda. “I am grateful to the community members who participated in thoughtful conversations throughout the selection process. As we move forward together, I am eager to listen, learn, and work with you to write the next chapter of Salem-Keizer Public Schools.”

Andrea Castañeda and Salem-Keizer

From the start, Castañeda made it clear that she did not aspire to be a superintendent just anywhere but specifically wanted to lead in Salem-Keizer to serve students, families, and the community. This was evidenced, in part, by the fact that this role was the only superintendency she pursued.

“I was raised in Oregon, so this is a homecoming for me,” said Castañeda. “When I spend time in Salem-Keizer, I see parts of my own history and story: students bursting with potential, a community that sees its diversity as an asset and a gift, and a school system wholly dedicated to students. I am honored to join and serve the Salem-Keizer community.”

Castañeda takes the idea of community seriously. She has worked for more than two decades in only two communities and believes wholeheartedly that community isn’t just a place you live, but that it is a feeling you build over many years.

“Andrea is a fiercely dedicated and optimistic leader,” said Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist. “In more than a decade of working together, I have seen again and again Andrea’s extraordinary ability to take on incredibly complex and challenging issues and develop effective, sustainable, and innovative solutions grounded in the best interests of children and families. She has an uncanny ability to unite people around a bold vision for what is possible when we come together to dream big for all students. Our district is stronger because of Andrea, and she will be greatly missed. We are all, of course, also excited to see what she’ll do as the next superintendent of the Salem-Keizer Public Schools!”

Selection process

The selection of Andrea Castañeda comes after a nearly six-month national search process led by the Salem-Keizer School Board with the support of Human Capital Enterprises. Throughout this process, the board and HCE collected feedback from district stakeholders to reflect the community’s voice in the selection of the next superintendent.

In the fall of 2022, the firm opened an online survey, which resulted in feedback from more than 1,200 staff, students, parents, and community members, and conducted 20 focus groups, including 331 participants, resulting in the creation of the ideal profile for the new superintendent. The school board and all participants involved in the hiring process used this profile to screen, interview, and evaluate all candidates for the critical role of serving as the next superintendent of Salem-Keizer Public Schools.

After the school board narrowed down candidates to three finalists, three community stakeholder panels were held, which included one panel conducted in Spanish, before the board identified Castañeda as their ideal candidate and officially took action on her contract at the March 7 meeting.

“Andrea Castañeda brings extensive experience in various and critical leadership roles in education in multiple states,” said Salam Noor from Mountain West Investment Corporation and community panelist. “I was impressed with her bold vision, commitment to equity and growth, and working together with our entire community to support our students and their success.”

The community stakeholder panels included:

  • Seven students (one each from North Salem, West Salem, South Salem, Roberts, McKay, McNary, and Sprague high schools)
  • Eight parents/guardians
  • Seven community members
  • Ten staff (including licensed, classified, and administrative)

“From first reading her résumé to hearing her share her story through the interview process, Castañeda demonstrated that she has the experience, skill, self-awareness, and growth mindset this role requires,” said West Salem High School Senior and School Board Student Advisor Isaac McDonald. “Castañeda authentically articulated her ability to lead effectively through challenges and implement meaningful action while finding creative ways to engage students and communities. I feel that she will become a strong member of our community, having the empathy and humility needed for our district to unite.”

Next steps

Before her July 1, 2023, start date, Castañeda will make monthly visits to the Salem-Keizer community throughout the spring. During her visits, Castañeda intends to tour schools and engage with staff, parents, and community partners.

“I want to hit the ground running on July 1,” said Castañeda. “For me, that means taking this spring to listen and learn.”

Current Salem-Keizer Public Schools Superintendent Christy Perry plans to work closely with Castañeda over the next several months as the district prepares for the transition of leadership.

“I’m thrilled for our Salem-Keizer community to meet their next leader, and I’m thankful to know I am leaving our staff, students, and community partners in Andrea’s hands,” said Perry. “I know she is just as excited as I am for her upcoming visits, which will allow her to see our students in action and to begin building deep connections with our families and community partners. Although it’s hard to believe I only have a few short months left serving as our district’s superintendent, I leave this role confident that we have found the right person to lead the important and necessary work ahead.”

Additional voices – Hear what they have to say

Angelica Lagos Vazquez – Parent/Community panel participant

Being able to participate in the panel with the finalists for this role was such an important part to me as a parent of elementary and middle school students. Ms. Castañeda showed her high level of professionalism, passion and desire to be our next superintendent, and demonstrated her ability to problem solve in a way that included parents, centered on empathy and common sense. She has a lot of experience working in districts during difficult times and moving work forward despite barriers.

Corri Falardeau – Executive Director, Keizer Chamber

It was a pleasure taking part in the interview process for the next superintendent for Salem-Keizer Public Schools. I am very excited to support Andrea Castañeda in her new position and the Keizer Chamber looks forward to seeing what the future holds for the district. Andrea has amazing experience and a wealth of knowledge she brings with her and I am excited for her to bring that and her energy to Salem-Keizer.

Shawna Mott-Wright – President of the Tulsa Classroom Teachers’ Association

Andrea has been a breath of fresh air. She listens closely and works hard to make sure that decisions are inclusive and respectful of teachers. Andrea engages the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association as a true partner. We are involved and not merely informed in the work of the district. When we bring a concern, Andrea stops and we have a thoughtful and meaningful discussion that often results in change. Andrea is an honest, hard-working, straightforward partner who truly cares about students and teachers. We will miss her and our loss is Salem-Keizer’s gain.

Stacey Woolley – Tulsa Public School Board of Education President

Andrea is a talented but humble leader with deep interpersonal and professional integrity. She is equity-focused and has the courage to stand in convictions. Andrea always, without fail, keeps students at the center of her leadership. Salem-Keizer is fortunate to hire such a committed, experienced, and capable superintendent.

Yadira Juarez – Program Director at Salem/Keizer Coalition for Equality

The voices of Latino and Latina parents, immigrants, youth and diverse communities had the opportunity to be part of the selection process for the superintendent of Salem-Keizer Public Schools. We will continue to collaborate further to foster equity, engagement, leadership and collaboration across all of our diverse communities.