The Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education unanimously selected Jill Baker as superintendent of schools today. She will succeed Christopher J. Steinhauser, who is retiring after 18 years as superintendent.
Baker, a Long Beach resident, will start as superintendent on Aug. 1. She has worked for the school district for nearly 28 years, first as a teacher, then as a principal and central office administrator. She is currently deputy superintendent of schools, overseeing leadership development, curriculum and instruction, early learning, and supervision and support of schools. She is well known by community members and employees for her encouraging presence and her longtime commitment to systematically improving achievement for all students.
“Dr. Baker is a key reason why our school system is considered nationally, and even internationally, to be a high-functioning organization,” Board of Education President Felton Williams said. “She is a thoughtful, strategic planner who has served our schools extremely well. On behalf of the school board, I congratulate Jill and thank her for accepting this challenging assignment.”
The school board will consider a formal contract for the new superintendent at a future board meeting.
Baker, 50, is the first woman selected as superintendent in the school district’s 135-year history. She was chosen after a statewide search that included several community forums, advisory committee meetings, multiple interviews of candidates, and electronic surveying of constituents to determine which qualities they would like to see in their next superintendent.
“I am deeply honored to be selected as superintendent of such a high quality organization,” Baker said. “Thank you to the Board of Education and to everyone in our communities who provided their input during the superintendent selection process. We’re facing unprecedented challenges because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but I so appreciate everyone who continues to support our students and their families. Please be assured that I am working closely with Superintendent Steinhauser to ensure a smooth transition of leadership so that we can best support our school communities in the weeks and months ahead, and I look forward with all of my heart to the day we can gather again in our beloved schools and classrooms.”
Steinhauser’s retirement was announced in December. His last official day on the job will be July 31.
“Dr. Baker is an outstanding choice for superintendent,” Steinhauser said. “I have worked with Jill for more than 20 years, and her tireless efforts have positively impacted so many aspects of our organization. She has excellent interpersonal skills and is widely respected for her ability to motivate people to do their best work. Her deep knowledge of instruction and the various central offices that support schools – and her work to make those efforts more intentionally collaborative – already have made us more effective. I look forward to seeing even greater progress under her leadership.”
Baker leads the implementation of the principal supervisor learning community, a structure developed through a multi-year effort focused on improving principal supervisors’ skills in coaching and supporting principals.
She advocates for high expectations and support for students in need, including through her work to focus on equity in the school supervision process. She has also worked closely with community organizations such as the California Conference for Equality and Justice, and Californians for Justice, to include student voices in the development of programs and policies that recognize diversity while focusing on equity and inclusion.
Her work with new and aspiring administrators is credited with helping to build a high-quality leadership pipeline that will benefit local schools for many years to come. She helped to develop evaluation systems for classified and certificated personnel. She co-chaired an English Language Learner/Social-Emotional Education task force on closing achievement gaps, developed the school district’s site visitation process for accountability, and served on the bargaining team for union negotiations.
Baker spends much of her time in local schools, maintaining an “in-the-field” perspective and interacting with teachers and administrators, with a focus on equity and readiness for college and career. She is a strong advocate for early childhood education, and she has overseen early learning initiatives and schools. She has helped to author several nationally published, scholarly articles on LBUSD’s work, particularly on the topic of leadership development.
Starting as an exemplary teacher at Burnett Elementary School (now Smith Elementary) in 1992, Baker later worked as a successful principal at Garfield Elementary School. She has served as a central office administrator in LBUSD for nearly 14 years, including as Leadership Development Office administrator, assistant superintendent, chief academic officer, and most recently, deputy superintendent.
Baker completed her tenure as a fellow in the Broad Urban Superintendents Academy. She earned her Doctorate in Educational Leadership at the University of Southern California in 2004, a Master’s in School Administration at California State University, Long Beach in 1998, and her Bachelor’s in Sociology at University of California, Irvine in 1991. She is the proud mother of an LBUSD graduate who is currently a college sophomore, and she married an LBUSD graduate, Trevor Baker, more than 27 years ago. Her husband also works in Long Beach.
Baker was born at Beale Air Force Base in Marysville, Calif. Her parents had earlier met in Japan while both working on a U.S. Air Force base there. Her mother was teaching for the Department of Defense, and her father was an officer in the Air Force. Her parents settled in Santa Cruz, Calif., where Baker was raised until she left for college.
Baker’s work as an educator has been recognized with numerous awards and accolades, including the Education Champion Award from the Mayor’s Fund and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, and the Secondary Education Award from the Long Beach Branch NAACP, which also recognized her with an Outstanding Women Award.