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October 21, 2014

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Former Sandoval aide appointed as state education superintendent

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AP Photo/Cathleen Allison

Dale Erquiaga gives a press briefing Friday, May 27, 2011, at the Capitol in Carson City. At the time, Erquiaga was a senior adviser to Gov. Brian Sandoval. Erquiaga is now the state superintendent of public schools.

Updated Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013 | 3:59 p.m.

Dale Erquiaga, a former senior adviser to Gov. Brian Sandoval, is going back to work for Sandoval – this time as state superintendent of schools.

Sandoval announced Erquiaga’s appointment, effective Aug. 26, in a news release today. The state superintendent position pays $124,908, and the appointee serves at the pleasure of the governor.

“Dale has extensive experience working with the state’s largest school district, the Department of Education, and the Legislature on education reform in Nevada,” Sandoval said in the news release. “I believe that as Nevada continues to reform the delivery of education, Dale is the right individual to lead the state forward.”

Erquiaga, who was Sandoval's chief policy adviser on education for two years, resigned from his administration in May 2012 to move to Arizona to be near his children. During his interview last month, Erquiaga said his children were adults and were pursuing opportunities.

Erquiaga, 50, said he was encouraged by his friends, family and former colleagues to apply for state superintendent. He said he was not asked by the governor to apply for the position.

"I spent a lot of time thinking about it," Erquiaga said in July. "It was not an easy decision."

He replaces Jim Guthrie, who abruptly announced his resignation in late March without giving any reason. Guthrie was at the helm of the state's education policies for nearly a year, during which he sparred with legislators over class-size reduction plans.

Erquiaga, who was a well-liked and trusted adviser to Sandoval, was chosen over two finalists for the position: Interim Superintendent Rorie Fitzpatrick, who carried the governor’s education program during the Legislature, and Rene Cantu, executive director of the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce’s Community Foundation.

The state and state school board also reviewed several other local and national candidates, including the former education commissioner of Massachusetts. Michael Sentance was dropped from the running because of his opposition to a new, more rigorous academic standard known as the Common Core State Standards.

Erquiaga said putting into practice Common Core curriculum and tests would be among his first priorities as state superintendent. He plans to reside in Reno and work out of his Carson City office, but he said he would spend "a good portion of every month" in Las Vegas.

"We have to be sure that the new assessment will match up with the Common Core. We have to be sure that the professional development of teachers is working in sync with the standards," Erquiaga said. "That's a really critical priority for us to help the (local school) districts. We have several busy months ahead of us."

The new state superintendent said he planned also to focus on administering a new teacher and principal evaluation system and conducting a study of how Nevada distributes state per-pupil funding to local school districts.

Elaine Wynn, president of the state Board of Education, said Erquiaga “has a passionate commitment to lead us through this next challenging period of Common Core standards, new tests and our ambitious English Language Learner initiatives.”

Erquiaga said it was too soon to say whether he would reorganize the state education department, adding he hadn't made a decision about whether to keep Fitzpatrick on as deputy superintendent. Clark County Schools Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky announced a reorganization of his administration last week – about three months into his tenure.

Most recently, Erquiaga was interim executive director for the Arizona Humane Society. Before serving in the governor's administration, Erquiaga was executive director, government affairs, public policy and strategic planning for the Clark County School District where he was responsible for the development of the district’s strategic planning and legislative and local government relations.

Prior to that, Erquiaga was the principal at Get Consensus LLC, an independent consultancy with clients in five western states including the Nevada Association of School Superintendents and the Clark County School District. Erquiaga was also a longtime executive with public relations firm R&R Partners.

Erquiaga is an UNR graduate who holds a master's degree in leadership from Grand Canyon University.

Erquiaga, whose grandfather helped start a school in Nevada, said Sandoval's announcement today was "humbling."

”For my family, this is a fulfillment of the promise of Nevada education," Erquiaga said. "For me, this is very personal. Public education put me into this job. It's a humbling day."

CORRECTION: The story has been updated to reflect that Erquiaga does not come from a family of educators, but that his grandfather helped start a school in Nevada. | (August 13, 2013)

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