‘It’s time for me to take on new challenges’

Superintendent to resign from position


Matt Austin

After 27 years of working in the Pascack Valley Regional High School District, Superintendent Erik Gundersen is resigning. His resignation becomes effective on June 30.

Sarah Buttikofer, Staff Editor

District Superintendent Erik Gundersen is resigning from his position after having worked in the Pascack Valley District for 27 years.

“I was a teacher for seven years.” Gundersen said. “Then I became a supervisor of the Science and Technology Department, for seven years. I was the Director of Curriculum for the district for two years. Then I’ve been the superintendent now for the last 10 years. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Gundersen says that although he is excited for the next chapter of his life, he is also sad to be leaving.

“I had a lot of great opportunities starting off as a teacher,” Gundersen said. “The leadership of Pascack Valley gave me opportunities to experiment in my classroom, as well as experiment with designing a new curriculum.”

Gundersen started working at PV as a physics teacher in 1994.

“Mr. Kennedy and I paired up,” Gunderson said. “As a team, we taught the Physics and Technology course together for a number of years. So, Mr. Kennedy and I go way back. And we had had a great experience doing that, and really experimenting in that classroom and really making physics come alive for so many students.”

Technology Education and Physics teacher Jim Kennedy describes Gundersen as “an exceptionally bright, kind, and fair person.”

“We shared a classroom together for 10 years, “ Kennedy said. “He turned out to be my boss, then he turned out to be the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the district, then he ultimately became our Superintendent. He helped me in the beginning as a teacher to learn the Pascack Valley system and how to teach effectively, and I’m so grateful that he was in a classroom near me to help me develop as a teacher.”

Gundersen said that he wants the students to take full advantage of all the opportunities they are presented with in the Pascack District.

“Not all high schools have the same types of opportunities that we provide for you,” Gundersen said. “Try different things and really enjoy these four years at Pascack and use those four years to propel you to what’s next.”

Gundersen said that the students in the Pascack District are going to have a bright future.

“I think that opportunity there, at the beginning of my career, knowing that administrators gave me and the people I worked with the license to experiment and take risks really helped shape the way I became an administrator in this district as well,” Gundersen said. “I’m all about supporting teachers and helping them take risks, well-calculated risks, but figure out how they can create experiences for kids that make educational outcomes better.”

Gundersen grew up in Ridgewood NJ and attended Ridgewood High School.

“I spent my summers in Norway,” Gundersen said. “My family has a really tight connection back to the old country in Norway. I speak fluent Norwegian. I used to have summer jobs there.”

Gundersen graduated from the University of Delaware as a physics and education major and started working at PV when he was 22 years old.

“I was a physics major [at the University of Delaware]. I had a lot of fun at Delaware,” Gundersen said. “Delaware was a great place. I was really involved with the sailing team down there. I was the captain of the sailing team. We sailed all over the eastern coast of the United States, and had a lot of really cool opportunities there.”

Gundersen said that he met his wife at the University of Delaware and now lives with her, his two sons, and dog in Allendale.

“My dad was a teacher, an industrial arts teacher, and a computer science teacher,” Gundersen said. “I looked up to what he did, ever since I was probably three or four years old. He would take me to the games at the school, or I would go to bring your child to work day. I always thought being a teacher was such a cool thing. It really is a cool profession to be in where you’re blessed to be helping to form the minds of young people.”

Gundersen is very proud of the idea of providing students in the PV and Pascack Hills with more choices and allowing them to “forge their own path through their four years of high school.”

“We’ve really put a larger emphasis on equity, making sure that all of our students are feeling welcomed, all of our students recognize that they’re part of the Pascack family, and the work that we’ve done to promote that,” Gundersen said.

Science Teacher Al Cann describes Gundersen as loyal and very passionate about this district.

“He’s maintained his integrity,” Cann said. “He is the same guy I knew when he first came here, just a little older like we all are, but he’s done a lot for the school and I think his absence will underline how much he actually has done. We’ll feel his absence a lot stronger.”

Gundersen said that he is going to miss the friendships that he developed after all these years in the Pascack district and hopes to continue them.

“I honestly consider [the staff members] here to be like a second family,” Gundersen said. “So many of them, I’ve spent well over two decades with. I’ve hired some of them, and some were here when I was hired.”

Gundersen wants to give a big thank you to the faculty for all the support they have given him and describes the staff in the district as, “a wonderful team of professionals that’s going to be tough to replicate anywhere.”

“I’m very much excited about the idea of going to a district where I’ll be able to set the vision and implement a strategic plan for students [Kindergarten] through 12[th grade],” Gundersen said. “I think that if we’re telling students and teachers to embrace new challenges, then I should be embracing the challenges as well.”

Gundersen said that the Board of Education will be gathering feedback and searching for ideal candidates based on what the community is looking for in a new Superintendent while there is an Interim Superintendent.

“We’ve done a tremendous amount of work with a whole variety of things, creating a vision where students are focused on inquiry, innovation, individuality, and inclusivity,” Gundersen said. “I felt like I’ve been able to accomplish what I can accomplish now after 10 years. So, it’s time for me to take on new challenges.”