Governor names Dale Erquiaga as state superintendent of public instruction

CARSON CITY — Dale Erquiaga, a former Clark County School District government affairs director and longtime state government agency officer, was appointed Tuesday by Gov. Brian Sandoval as the state superintendent of public instruction.

Erquiaga, who served as Sandoval’s policy adviser until resigning last year to move closer to his children in Arizona, startled many this summer when he applied to become state superintendent.

James Guthrie, who held the job for a year, resigned abruptly in March in the wake of disputes with legislators over the merit of class-size reduction programs. There has been widespread speculation that he was fired by 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. “Dale is the right individual to move the state forward.”

Rorie Fitzpatrick, the deputy superintendent, has been serving as interim superintendent since Guthrie’s abrupt departure. She was one of the final applicants for the position.

Rene Cantu, executive director of the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce’s Community Foundation, was the other finalist for the job.

State Board of Education President Elaine Wynn saluted the selection of Erquiaga.

“It will be a great advantage to have someone with Dale’s life experiences to guide us as our next state superintendent,” she said. “He has a unique combination of deep-rooted Nevada heritage, policy-making skills, and diverse educational background. Above all, he 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.”

In a July interview before the Board of Education, Erquiaga pledged to give at least five years to the superintendent’s job if he received the appointment. Board member Mark Newburn had expressed concern about Erquiaga’s history of moving from job to job.

Erquiaga said his work with the governor on education reform at the 2011 Legislature and experience with the media in explaining Sandoval’s budget and education initiatives, helped prepare him for this position.

“I was there in the beginning,” he told the Board of Education, adding that his experience in politics and communications are vital to win the public’s support for these changes.

Erquiaga was Clark County School District’s executive director of government affairs, public policy and strategic planning 2009-10 before becoming Sandoval’s senior adviser, a position he held less than two years.

From 2006 to 2009, he was the principal at Get Consensus LLC, an independent consultant with clients in five western states including the Nevada Association of School Superintendents and the Clark County School District.

Born in Fallon, he worked in Las Vegas for the Howard Hughes Corp. and as vice president of brand services for R&R Partners.

He served as chief deputy secretary of state under then Secretary of State Dean Heller and was the state director of the Department of Cultural Affairs under Gov. Kenny Guinn.

Erquiaga had been serving in as interim director of the Arizona Humane Society.

A graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno, Erquiaga holds a Master of Science in Leadership from Grand Canyon University. He served on the Clark County School District’s Superintendent’s Education Opportunity Advisory Committee from 2009 to 2010 and was a member of the Year-Round Schools Study Group in Clark County in 2007.

He begins the $125,000 a year superintendent job Aug. 26.

Reporter Trevor MIlliard contributed to this story.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900.