Home Means Nevada
Home Means Nevada… for Superintendent Dale Erquiaga
On August 26th he was officially back. Dale Erquiaga (er-kee-AH’-gah) was back in Nevada after some time in Arizona living closer to his children. Dale, a native Nevadan in a state where you often meet more transplants than natives, came back at a crucial time for a big job: State Superintendent of Public Instruction. (Author’s note: The formal title, Superintendent Erquiaga, still feels quite unnatural to those of us who have always just called him “Dale.”)
I first met Dale a few years ago and instantly took a liking to him. It is hard not to like someone whose passions are family, the arts, animals, Nevada and more specifically, Nevada students. And his resume connects his passions to his career choices, including work with the Clark County School District, Governor Brian Sandoval’s office, the Arizona Humane Society and Western States Arts Federation. I asked Dale what it meant to him to come back to Nevada for such an important job, and he shared his personal connection to Nevada’s education system. “My family came to Nevada from Spain more than 100 years ago. My parents would have been classified as English Language Learners when they entered school, and they both graduated from high school at the top of their class. As state superintendent, I feel I have the opportunity and responsibility to build a system of education that is as beneficial for families today as American education was in lifting up my family.”
Dale’s Nevada roots run deep. Born in the city of Fallon and a graduate of the University of Nevada-Reno (UNR), you can sense his state pride and enthusiasm for sharing interesting facts about Nevada. For example, his home town, Fallon, is also home to the TOPGUN training program (yes, that TOPGUN), and Nevada has one of the largest Basque-American populations in the U.S. (Dale serves on the advisory board of the Center for Basque Studies at UNR).
When it comes to challenges facing him as Superintendent, Dale understands that some of Nevada’s biggest challenges are also some of its greatest assets: diversity and growth. Nevada is a diverse state, where Clark County School District (which includes Las Vegas) has more than 300,000 students while a rural district may have less than 100 students. Population booms have transformed the schools of Dale’s youth, yet the same governance and finance structures have been in place for 50 years. Dale believes Nevada must modernize and customize for new realities. But while he is mindful of the many challenges he will face on the reform road, Dale feels up to those challenges and he truly believes Nevada’s best days are ahead.
As for his favorite things about the job thus far, Dale enjoys delving into the laws and determining what Nevada should be doing and what authority the superintendent has to be an effective change-agent. He also loves spending time in Nevada’s schools, especially kindergarten classes, where he finds the most joy. A visit to an elementary for Dale might include a brightly colored tie, reading to students, introducing himself as “Dale”, and telling the students more about his job and asking if any of them might like to be a school Superintendent when they grow up (some of which Nevada News 3 captured during a recent visit to Lois Craig Elementary School in North Las Vegas. )
These students will have will have plenty of time to get to know Dale, as he has pledged to stay on as Superintendent for at least five years. And Nevadans, including this author, will have plenty of time to get used to calling Dale by his new title, Superintendent Erquiaga.
We at ExcelinEd congratulate him on this new job position and exciting opportunity to improve the lives and futures of Nevada’s students.
Welcome home, Superintendent Erquiaga!
About the author
Jess is the National Advocacy Director for the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Prior to joining the Foundation, Jess worked for a political consulting firm in Nevada on local, state and national campaigns. Prior to that, Jess worked for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Romney for President 2008, the Florida House of Representatives and the Legislative Affairs office of Governor Jeb Bush. Jess is a graduate of Florida State University. In addition to helping coordinate nationwide advocacy efforts, Jess’s portfolio of states includes: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington DC and West Virginia.