Please Wait a Moment

2022 Superintendent to Watch: Guadalupe Guerrero

The Superintendents to Watch award recognizes up to 25 school district leaders each year who have fewer than five years of experience as a superintendent and who demonstrate dynamic, fast-paced leadership with strong communication at its core. 

Guadalupe GuerreroGuadalupe Guerrero
Portland Public Schools
Portland, Ore.

What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership – particularly in school settings – means setting the tone and establishing a clear direction. Leaders keep everyone focused on their organization’s core goals and values, and establish and cultivate the organization’s culture. They are the role models to whom everyone is looking and noticing – and they’re the catalysts behind every organizational action. Good leaders are careful and deliberate, and they deeply engage with the members of their organization. Organizations reflect these leadership qualities. Well-led organizations are joyful, busy with purpose, and productive. There is an implicit and inherent way of work and doing things, and people support and celebrate each other’s success. There’s strong communication and collaboration. Well-led schools are supportive and nurturing places where students can spend all day consumed in reading, discovery, problem-solving, and enjoying their community.

How have you integrated communication into your district’s strategic plan?

Portland Public Schools' Strategic Plan, adopted in June 2021, identified, "Implement[ing] a Proactive, Effective, and Creative Communication Practice" as one of our core strategic outcomes. Through 2025, we’ll develop a communications practice that proactively informs internal and external stakeholders while being timely, respectful, transparent, and accessible. We aim to reach linguistically and culturally diverse communities, and utilize a variety of data and media. Two years in, we’re making excellent progress. We’ve grown our communications team by hiring a talented array of professionals with deep experience in writing, visual storytelling, and media relations. We’re expanding and refining how we support communication by school leaders and central staff while holding firm standards for clear, accessible, and meaningful communication. Together, we’re telling our story – a story of high-quality teaching and learning, and growth and achievement by our brilliant students.

What communication initiative are you most proud of that have you implemented in your district?

I’m proud of our attention to culturally-specific, multilingual communications. Language and cultural access are the heart of a socially-just education system. Our work has increased our standing within Portland’s culturally- and linguistically-diverse communities, and it makes us stronger as a district. Beyond our core commitment to direct translation and interpretation – not simply punching materials into Google Translate – we strive to ensure our leaders write or speak in plain language. This makes translation and interpretation easier while enabling our translators and interpreters to preserve intent, style, tone, and context. It also recognizes a basic right of every listener or reader, regardless of your spoken language: to understand the terms of your child’s education. Technical jargon, inside terminology, passive voice, and overly-long sentences all stand in the way of that worthy goal for English speakers as much as non-English speakers.

Anisa Sullivan Jimenez

Anisa Sullivan Jimenez, APR
Director of Communications
Oconee County Schools
Watkinsville, Ga.

Alma Mater:

B.A. - Mississippi State University; MPA - University of Georgia

I believe school PR/communications is what I was born to do! One of the biggest decisions a parent can make is where to send their child to school, and it’s an honor to share with our parents the engaging work that their children are doing under the guidance of world-class teachers and leaders. On any given day, in any given school, there are many stories to be told and I take that charge seriously. As school communicators played a key role in COVID-19 communications, storytelling was more important than ever – not only did I share information with parents about our protocols, but I also made over 80 visits to schools last year and told a variety of stories about how students were thriving with both in-person and distance learning options. I also worked with principals to determine best mitigation practices and helped make those pervasive, because positive action must be the foundation of what we are ultimately communicating. School public relations is incredibly complex and I love that each day brings a new challenge.

My greatest school PR success was completing 11 nationally-innovative school communication audits using a process of research, planning, implementation, and evaluation. I am now in phase two of this project and am attending school council meetings to garner feedback from parents about school-level communication and how I can better support the work of their schools. One of the most significant findings is that as students take more ownership of their learning, they also take more ownership in parent communication. Therefore, next steps are to better prepare parents for this transition and to also determine best practices from exemplar teachers and coaches at the secondary level so we can strike the right balance with parents feeling informed and fostering student independence.

My greatest school PR challenge is overcoming rigidity. Like many PR professionals, I am detail-oriented and a self-described perfectionist. It’s a blessing and a curse to see when something is one pixel off, but the greatest challenge I have faced in my 13 years in this field is to learn to be more flexible. I might have an aversion to Comic Sans or Curlz, but it’s not the end of the world if those are a font favorite elsewhere. What’s more important is the bigger picture – staff and parents feeling well-informed and students growing and learning in positive school cultures. Instead of telling someone their website isn’t formatted properly, I now make a 2-3 minute screencast if I think there’s a quick tutorial I can offer to provide ongoing professional learning. By being much more flexible, I have deepened relationships and become better at supporting the most important job that occurs in our school system: teaching.

My favorite part of my job is the relationships. I often say that there is no substitute for showing up, and that’s why I make so many school visits each year. From getting to hold a gorgeous monarch butterfly to watching a vibrant student musical to seeing 3-D printing in action from engineering students, I have witnessed countless unique opportunities, and these experiences are just a small piece of what our students get to take part in each and every day. If I didn’t take the time to form relationships, I wouldn’t know that what students value is knowing that the photos I take may show up in their yearbooks. I wouldn’t know the myriad of annual activities that teachers do across our schools because I wouldn’t have witnessed them firsthand. I wouldn’t know about the families of our principals or what they believe makes their school unique. All of that is invaluable because at the end of the day and at the end of this career, relationships are what will remain – both professionally and personally.

The communication tool I use the most is Canva! I would be a brand ambassador if they asked! I am not very mathematically-minded and it can be challenging for someone with an eye for good design – but not an eye for rulers and gridlines – to be a graphic designer. However, Canva has made it possible and I am able to create aesthetically-pleasing graphics with short turn-around times. I have trained communication ambassadors at our schools how to use it as well. Right after Canva, the tool I most use is iMovie. I am completely self-taught in videography and using iMovie and Canva together has made me someone who can add “videographer” to their list of expertise.