Borrowing from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s inspirational declaration, I have a dream for an effective, supportive, secure, and happy school environment for our community’s children. Despite setbacks of the past, I think it’s possible if we take an honest look at the student population and its needs.
The largest ethnic group of students in this district is Latino. Data from Education Data Partnership show that while the total student population has declined from 4,627 in 2012 to 4,564 in 2017, the Latino student population has increased from 2,480 in 2012 to 2,615 in 2017. The number of Latino teachers in the district in 2015 was 22. The number of white teachers for the same year was 213. No figures were available for 2016 or 2017.
We desperately need appropriately qualified teachers and leaders who reflect our student body. Statistics from the 2016 U.S. Department of Education show that the overwhelming majority of U.S. teachers are white. However, numerous studies including “Representation in the Classroom: The Effect of Own-Race Teachers on Student Achievement,” by Egalite, Kisida, and Winters, indicate that students benefit from having a race congruent teacher.
They report that when students and teachers share the same race/ethnicity, these teachers can serve as role models, mentors, advocates, or cultural translators.
My dream is for our Latino students to benefit from having more Latino teachers, and this standard can also be applied to administrators.
The search for a new permanent superintendent is underway. This person will set the tone for a district desperately in need of unification and positive forward direction. My dream is that this person will have the background that allows him/her to understand the challenges our Latino students and families face, linguistically, economically, and politically. What a genuine statement of inclusivity it would be to have a bilingual, bicultural superintendent.
I encourage the board and search committee to be culturally sensitive during this process. A national organization, Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, can assist with recruitment postings. Within our state, the California Association of Latino
Superintendents and Administrators is an invaluable resource for counsel on the need for race congruous leaders and how to reach those candidates.
David Verdugo, Executive Director of the California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators, explains the critical need for minority leaders in education:
“Latino students have lower graduation rates, higher high school drop-out rates, and few transition to our UC system. Thirty percent of Latinos drop out of high school and only 29 percent of Latino graduates complete college preparatory classes.”
Verdugo continues, “Thirty-eight percent of Latino children in California live in poverty – a far larger percentage than their non-Latino peers.”
Verdugo believes that “to change these entrenched inequalities, we need more Latino and Latina superintendents to lead our school districts. There is a growing understanding that leaders of the same background and race as their students can foster increased engagement, confidence, trust, relationships, and comfort. They understand their community, the barriers Latinos face, and many of the supports they need. “
Whether you have students attending Sonoma Valley schools or not, everyone has a stake in their success. You can express your preferred qualities for a new superintendent through a survey offered online through February 7. Go to the Sonoma Valley Unified School District website at sonomaschools.org and look for Superintendent Search to access the survey in English or Spanish.
What is your dream?