Education · Visalia/Tulare

Visalia Unified’s new Superintendent makes first introduction. Here’s what he said.

With less than two months before he officially starts with Visalia Unified School District, incoming Superintendent Kirk Shrum penned an open letter to the community expressing his excitement to lead the district. 

Shrum will work alongside Interim Superintendent Douglas Cardoza starting on May 16 before officially taking over on July 1. 

In the letter, Shrum wrote about the quick connection he felt with the district and the Visalia community from when he first applied for the job. 

“From the moment I first learned about Visalia, I was drawn to the community and the work of the District. VUSD is a community that values education and believes in creating futures for all students,” Shrum wrote. 

“Since I first stepped foot in the community, I felt welcomed and at home. I cannot wait to listen and learn with you, and multiple opportunities for conversation and dialogue together will occur beginning in late May.” 

Shrum’s 25-year career in education all started with his desire early in life to be a teacher. 

“Since I can remember, I wanted to be a teacher,” the letter reads. “I come from a family of educators. My mom taught 1st grade her entire career. I saw the impact she and others had on kids and knew that teaching was the career for me.” 

His first teaching job came in 1997 in Chattanooga, Tenn., where he taught second grade. 

He was the third teacher that the class had that school year, and he said he quickly learned that the opportunities he had as a child were not there for all of the children in his class. 

“As I became a school and district administrator, I saw the impact policies and systems have on creating the conditions to ensure all students have opportunities and access, and all schools provide a solid foundation,” the letter reads. 

“It is vital we create a system where every individual student and employee feels that they belong and have access to the instruction and supports necessary to be successful. That is the work that I am committed to advancing as I join you in Visalia Unified.” 

To wrap up his letter, Shrum addressed the challenges that VUSD has faced over the past two years with the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in different and unusual learning environments for the students. 

“Students, so much was interrupted, but despite that you kept learning under unprecedented conditions. Parents and families, you faced new and unimagined challenges, yet you ensured that your children stayed focused on learning,” the letter reads. 

“Visalia community, you found new ways to provide supports to families and support education. Because of each of you, we are stronger, more unified, and focused on ensuring that the absolute best place for a student to learn and belong is in a Visalia Unified School District classroom.”

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.