By Eliza Partika
The Glendale News-Press spoke with Vivian Ekchian to talk about her time as GUSD superintendent, retirement and her future plans.
Q: Why are you retiring at this time?
A: If you look around California and around the country, the average tenure of a school district superintendent is less than four years. For women superintendents, it’s considerably less. These jobs are incredibly rewarding but also incredibly time-consuming and complicated. I always hoped being superintendent of GUSD would be my last job in public education.
Helping lead our district through some really important changes such as closing the digital divide, expansion of child care, partnerships with health and wellness organizations and the city of Glendale, as well as navigating the pandemic — where we were able to come out the other side in better shape than many others who saw significant enrollment declines — was very important to me. So, after setting and accomplishing several important goals and 38 years in public education, it was time for me to step aside for the next generation of leaders.
Q: What do you plan to do in retirement and where do you plan to retire?
A: Right now, I am focused on helping facilitate the leadership transition at GUSD. The planning for 2023-24 is in full swing and my priority is assisting in whatever way is helpful for that transition to be successful.
I was incredibly blessed to be able to conclude my career in public education here in my hometown of Glendale and I am exactly where I want to be. Because of that, I am excited to continue advocating for the needs of children in our community. What that looks like exactly, I don’t know but I am looking forward to what opportunities may present themselves for me to continue to be an advocate for Glendale children and families from a different perspective.
Q: What have you enjoyed the most about being GUSD superintendent?
A: It is, hands down, the opportunity to spend time with students. Whether it is in graduation ceremonies, athletic competitions, fitness rooms, student voice panels or science fairs, it was always a deeply rewarding and honoring experience to share those times with our students.
As administrators, we spend a lot of time talking about and making plans for students with so little opportunity to speak to students, those we are passionate about serving. When I am with the students, I get to hear firsthand about their experiences, get their perspectives and let them tell me in ways that data never can about how they experience school, how they relate to their peers, etc. Spending time with them also helped me get a feel for how our policies were impacting them in a personal way.
Q: What advice would you give to an incoming superintendent?
A: One constant piece of advice would be to always put the needs and interests of students first in everything you do. While that may sound like obvious advice, it is surprising how quickly one can get pulled into adult agendas that may not align with the best interests of students. We all sort through our priorities in finding personal and professional meaning in these extremely challenging times, but kids come first.
First published in the July 15 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.