courtesy of Dr. Gonzalez
“My goals for Westfield are [to] listen and learn from all of you as students, from your families, from the teachers and from the Board of Education, what the dreams and aspirations for the school district [are],” said Westfield’s newly appointed superintendent, Dr. Raymond A. Gonzalez, in an exclusive interview with Hi’s Eye.
On May 4, via an online meeting, the Westfield Board of Education selected Dr. Gonzalez as the new superintendent of the Westfield Public School District. The unanimous decision will be effective as of August 1.
Dr. Gonzalez graduated cum laude from Princeton in 1996 with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. He earned a Masters in Urban Education in 2002 from the New Jersey City University and a Masters in Educational Administration and Supervision in 2005 from Rutgers University. In 2012, he received a Doctor of Education (E.D.) in Educational Administration and Supervision from Rutgers University.
Dr. Gonzalez has held a variety of positions in several school districts over the course of his 20-year career in education. He began his career as an elementary school teacher in the Paterson Public School District and was later promoted to assistant superintendent. Dr. Gonzalez then moved to Hackensack Public Schools as an assistant superintendent, which evolved into an interim superintendent position. Before serving as the superintendent in his current district, Westwood Regional School District, Dr. Gonzalez was also the superintendent in the Township of Wayne.
Having worked in many different districts, Dr. Gonzalez has experience working with both small and large townships. Although Westfield’s 6,000 students and nearly 900 staff members is a large increase from his current school district, Westwood, which has approximately 2,800 students and 400 staff members, Dr. Gonzalez’s past experiences have prepared him for this increase in responsibility and management.
Walking into Westfield, Dr. Gonzalez says he is open to anything. Although he has no preconceived notions, he made it clear that large decisions will be made “in conjunction with the Board of Education, administrators and other key folks.”
One of the primary issues that is important to Dr. Gonzalez is prioritizing mental health at all levels of education. He wants to make sure students know that school is a place for them to learn and a place for them to feel safe.
In previous districts, Dr. Gonzalez has brought his own ideas and modifications to school administrations, specifically the way that power and responsibility are distributed between supervisory positions within the administration. Although this may have been an effective plan in his other districts, he says that “what works in one district doesn’t always work in another” and there is “no ‘Dr. Gonzalez’ way” to do things. Dr. Gonzalez’s general method of rule is based upon a plethora of information and perspectives, which give the necessary detail and depth for his visions to become successful.
He plans to be active in the community by being both accessible and approachable. An important aspect of his job is being able to connect with his staff and students. “I’d love to be able to hand the diploma to a student who recognizes [me] as a senior-level administrator,” Dr. Gonzalez said. Being a large presence in the school community and having interactions among the students is important to Dr. Gonzalez and he will make sure that students know not just his name, but also his face.
Dr. Gonzalez looks forward to the fact that this new opportunity allows him to grow as a superintendent. “Being able to contribute in terms of my experience and expertise as well as being able to learn and grow with all of you [is] part of an ongoing journey [and] as an educator I’ve always sought out opportunities.”
Dr. Gonzalez is excited about his new role. “I’ve been able to see the schools, I’ve been able to see the community, but all from the outside. So now to become an insider is equally important for me [to be] the best that I can be and hopefully make all of you proud as well.”