An Inspiring Presence on Social Media

Type: Member Spotlight
Topics: School Administrator Magazine, Technology & AI

March 01, 2023


Zandra Jo GalvanZandra Jo Galván was 12 years old when she first learned what a superintendent was, and when she realized that meant being somebody’s boss, she was instantly hooked. However, once she became one about five years ago, she’s been on a mission to expand others’ perceptions when it comes to viewing the superintendency.

“The title of the superintendent is kind of a title that might have some assumptions about it in the world,” says Galván, who leads Greenfield Union School District, a 3,400-student district located almost 100 miles south of San Jose, Calif. “Some of the assumptions are that we’re not real people, that we’re stuffy, that we wear suits, that we’re not active people or sometimes we give so much to the job that we’re not necessarily our best version of ourselves. I honestly wanted to break the mold.”

It doesn’t take much scrolling through any of Galván’s social media accounts to find evidence of her trendsetting. Video collages of her dancing, jumping and exercising appear almost daily (“Zumba is my jam,” she admits) amidst other colorful posts full of infectious smiles, selfies and inspirational quotations. She also doesn’t shy away from sharing the goings-on of her family on her professional accounts.

“We need to give ourselves permission to be well first, and I cannot pour from a cup if it’s empty,” Galván says. “So if I’m not taking care of myself, I’m not going to be in this job for very long because I’m not going to be happy and I’m not going to be healthy.”

Although joining a social media group called #FitLeaders was initially about having some accountability at the beginning of the pandemic, she has since found it a great vehicle to dispute some assumptions held by others about the job. What Galván didn’t anticipate was becoming an inspiration to others around the country who approach her in public settings to let her know they’ve lost weight by copying her daily regimen.

“I did not do it for recognition. I did it to encourage other people because one of my core values is ‘kindness matters,’” Galván says of her social media videos. “That’s been the sweetest part of the whole deal — knowing that the simplest thing like that can influence and impact others in such a big, positive way.”

Galván is not one to leave her district behind, especially because it’s where she attended school and where she began her teaching career exactly 30 years ago. All five schools in Greenfield now have fitness classes and beach cruiser bikes. Each is an approved site for Blue Zones®, an international wellness program.

“People are happier,” Galván says. “We’ve also noticed in our school district that our turnover has significantly decreased over the last six years. I used to hire 80 teachers every year and now I’m hiring maybe 10 to 15.”

Recognition has come in other ways as well. Galván’s social media presence caught the eye of Lupita Hightower, superintendent of the Tolleson, Ariz., Elementary School District, a few years ago and they struck up a virtual relationship before finally meeting each other in person at AASA’s 2022 national conference in Nashville, Tenn.

“It was so exciting because we had met via social media and communicated through technology,” Hightower says. “Then she became one of our mentors for the Aspiring Superintendents Academy® for Latino and Latina Leaders and she’s outstanding at mentoring. She’s a joy to be around and she just has so much energy that it really inspires us all.”

Juli Valentine is digital content editor at AASA.

BIO STATS: Zandra Jo Galván

Currently:  superintendent, Greenfield Union School District, Greenfield, Calif.

Previously: assistant superintendent of educational services, Gonzales Unified School District, Gonzales, Calif.

Age: 52

Greatest Influence on Career: My parents taught me resilience and tenacity. Being a person of color was not the easiest life for them to endure, and through their struggles and lived experiences, they taught me to persevere and be bold.

Best Professional Day: As I finished speaking to a 1st-grade class during a College and Career Day, I asked the children what they wanted to be after hearing me talk about my job. Most shared teacher, doctor, policeman, etc. The last child, Ruby, looked me in the eyes and said: “I am going to be YOU! I am going to be a superintendent.” I replied, “Well then Miss Ruby, we are going to have to have lunch next week so I can help you start preparing!”

Books at Bedside: Fearless Schools by Douglas Reeves; and Brené Brown’s books Rising Strong, Dare to Lead and How Women Rise by Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith.

Why I’m An AASA Member: It is amazing to be in a space like AASA’s national conference where you are surrounded by leaders who are making pragmatic moves in their organizations that can impact in big ways.