As a Chiefs for Change, Gestson becomes part of a highly selective group of influential education leaders who advocate for public education reform at federal, state and local levels.
Gestson is the only Arizona member among 38 current and former superintendents, as well as state-level education commissioners and superintendents from diverse backgrounds, regions and political contexts, serving over 7.3 million students, according to the organization.
The organization’s vision is for all students, irrespective of geography or economic means, to have regular or fair access to high-achieving schools, fully prepared and supported teachers, challenging curriculum and affordable pathways to college and meaningful careers.
Current members come from major cities such as Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Philadelphia, San Antonio, New Orleans, Newark, Denver and Baltimore, as well as Palm Beach FL; Boulder, CO, Midland, TX; Stockton, CA, Nevada, Ohio, Tennessee and Hawaii.
“We have been impressed with the approach and actions you have taken, and the results you have achieved to date, as Superintendent of Phoenix Union. As a member of Chiefs for Change, we believe you will contribute significantly to our efforts to advocate on behalf of all students and to share practical expertise among state and district Chiefs across the country,” wrote John White, Chiefs for Change Chairman and Louisiana State Superintendent of Education.
Gestson has served as Superintendent of the Phoenix Union High School District since the fall of 2015. Under his leadership, he has branded Phoenix Union as a “portfolio district” of now 21 schools, including the launch of five new schools during his tenure, from a Gifted and Talented Academy to an online school to the Phoenix Coding Academy.
He has also led the re-design of South Mountain High School into The Academies at South Mountain. Phoenix Union has seen increases in enrollment, graduation rates, scholarship totals, and college matriculation rates since 2015.
His vision for the future of Phoenix Union includes expansion to at least 25 schools by 2025, city-wide 7th-12th grade teaching and learning alignment between PUHSD and its 13 partner elementary districts and a city-wide business and industry partnership to significantly increase investment in high schools.
Gestson is also a member of the Broad Academy, an elite fellowship for school system leaders who support excellence and equity in urban public education. A program of the Broad Center, a non-profit based in Los Angeles, Gestson is participating in the Broad Academy’s 2019 cohort.