St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Joe Gothard was recognized Thursday as the 2024 National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators.

Gothard was one of four finalists for the award, announced at the association's National Conference on Education in San Diego. He became eligible for the honor after being named Minnesota's 2024 Superintendent of the Year in October by the Minnesota Association of School Administrators.

The criteria used in judging the applicants included leadership for learning, communication, professionalism and community involvement. Gothard will receive a $10,000 college scholarship to be awarded in his name to a student at the high school from which he graduated.

State Education Commissioner Willie Jett said in a news release that he admired Gothard's "hard work, community participation and student-centered focus."

"This well-deserved recognition is a testament to his passion for student achievement; and we applaud and thank him for his tireless work," Jett said.

Gothard did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday night.

Gothard, who came to St. Paul in 2017 after four years at the helm of the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District, is among the nation's longest-serving urban school leaders and a veteran of public appearances with U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

His administration has earned praise for how it handled its $319 million COVID-19 pandemic funding windfall. Under Gothard's direction, the St. Paul district created an innovation office to direct the use of federal American Rescue Plan money.

Gothard has worked closely with parent advisory groups, leading to this fall's opening of the East African Elementary Magnet School. He has been credited with boosting four-year graduation rates for Black and American Indian students and those who identify as biracial.

In January, he was announced as a finalist for the top schools job in Madison, Wis., where he was born, raised and began his career as an educator. Gothard, in the first year of a three-year contract in St. Paul paying his $256,000 this year, said in October there was work to do in the area of student achievement "and a lot of aspirations."