San Diego County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gothold has been honored with the 2021 Executive Leadership Award from the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) and the 2021 Justus A. Prentice Award from the Association of Educational Service Agencies (AESA).
Gothold was selected for the awards based on the San Diego County Office of Education’s creative and innovative approach to providing educational services for unaccompanied children between the ages of 5 and 17 who were housed at a federal emergency influx center at the San Diego Convention Center. This spring, state and local leaders contacted Gothold to request that the office provide an educational program for the 1,450 youth who traveled to the United States from countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The resulting Futuro Brillante program ensured the students would have access to a quality education while they were in the region, a right guaranteed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1982 Plyler vs. Doe ruling.
“I’m humbled and honored to receive this recognition,” said Gothold. “But it’s really a reflection of the San Diego County Board of Education’s commitment to serving all students, and of our staff members’ work each and every day to take care of all children. I’m proud to be part of an organization that rises to the challenge to make sure our most vulnerable youth have what they need and deserve to thrive.”
Gothold was named San Diego County superintendent of schools in 2017 and has made educational equity a priority as leader of the 1,400-employee San Diego County Office of Education.
“As far as anyone knows, nothing of this caliber and in these large numbers has ever been asked of our county offices of education,” said CCSESA Executive Director Karen Stapf Walters. “(Gothold) didn’t blink at the challenge of providing a quality education for these children, almost overnight.”
The program is even more impressive “when you think of it in the context of all this happening while still in the middle of a pandemic and navigating intense pressure to physically open campuses at the same time,” she added.
Nathan Fletcher, chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, echoed this sentiment in a letter nominating Gothold for the AESA award.
“Dr. Gothold and his team [rose] above what had already been asked of them and [accepted] a new challenge: to serve even more students in a way that had never been done before,” he wrote, calling Gothold “a wonderful partner and leader” who always keeps the needs of students and teachers at the forefront.
The CCSESA Executive Leadership Award is given annually to an individual for contributions through executive leadership in the advancement of county office of education programs at the regional, state, and/or national levels. Recipients are chosen for further displaying the advancement of the goals and philosophies of county offices of education, outstanding accomplishments and innovative practices, and exercise of leadership and service to county offices of education.
In a letter to Gothold on behalf of AESA's Executive Council, AESA Executive Director Dr. Joan H. Wade wrote, “We commend you for your leadership, hard work, and dedication to all learners throughout your region.”
The Justus A. Prentice Award acknowledges contributions through executive leadership in advancing regional educational service agency programs at the regional, state, and national levels. Wade will present the award to Gothold at AESA’s annual conference in December.
CCSESA helps strengthen the service and leadership capabilities of California's 58 county superintendents to support students, schools, and communities. AESA is a professional organization serving 553 educational service agencies in 45 states.