Westminster School District selects Dr. Gunn Marie Hansen to fill superintendent vacancy

After reviewing more than 30 qualified candidates, the Westminster School District has a new superintendent. 

Westminster’s Board of Education voted Thursday to confirm the appointment of Dr. Gunn Marie Hansen, who previously served in the same role for the Orange Unified School District. She succeeds former Westminster Superintendent Dr. Cynthia Paik, who resigned in October.

Dr. Gunn Marie Hansen
Dr. Gunn Marie Hansen

As part of a scope of duties aimed at providing “fiscal, operational and educational leadership,” Hansen will be tasked with creating plans for improving student learning with an emphasis on innovation while building on Westminster’s strengths, the district said in a news release

“I am incredibly honored to be the superintendent of the Westminster School District,” Hansen said, “and I look forward to collaborating with the Board of Education and the entire community of learners to continue to accelerate achievement and develop state-of-the-art programs for students.”

Experience and achievements

The Westminster School District, which recently celebrated its 150th anniversary, serves more than 8,000 students from preschool through grade eight at 17 schools in the cities of Westminster, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach and Midway City.

Hansen brings a resume that includes more than 32 years of public-school experience, along with numerous academic achievements, awards, and community and business partnerships. Having earned a doctorate in educational policy and administration from USC, she’s spent nearly all of the last 13 years working for the Orange Unified School District, where she was promoted to superintendent in 2017. 

Among her accolades as superintendent, she won the Orange County School Boards Association’s Maureen DeMarco Award for exemplary leadership in service of young people in 2021, and she was honored with the Fourth District PTA’s Administrator of the Year Award in 2022.

Before arriving in Orange County, Hansen held administrative and teaching positions in the Compton Unified School District and the Montebello Unified School District, as well as at the Los Angeles County Office of Education. She also served as a professor at California State University, Los Angeles. 

Her tenure in Orange Unified ended in January after a split board voted 4-3 to terminate her contract during a contentious meeting. 

‘In alignment with our goals’

In announcing Hansen’s appointment, Westminster officials noted that she has spent her career “focusing on the core value of supporting educational excellence and ensuring successful operations of award-winning schools.”

The district added that Leadership Associates, a consulting firm that assisted with the selection process, touted the field of applicants that included Hansen as “one of the best superintendent candidate pools of all time.”

In a statement, Westminster school board President David Johnson said the district is becoming a desirable place for discerning parents, staff and teachers, with an ever-growing list of awards and specialty programs that include dual-language immersion and STEAM offerings. 

“Now we will also boast one of the best superintendents in the entire state and she is in alignment with our goals for excellence,” he said. “Welcome home Dr. Hansen! We are so fortunate to have you take the lead at WSD.”