It’s Time We Had More Latino School Leaders

Latino superintendents make up approximately 2 percent of the leadership in the over 14,000 school districts in the United States. Data from the Pew Hispanic Center released in 2012 showed that Latino students comprise 51 percent of all K-12 students in California. Additionally, earlier this month, U.S. Census data showed that Latinos now outnumber whites in California. Similarly, in New Mexico, Latino students represented 57 percent of student enrollment. The country’s growing Latino population requires a pipeline of school-system leaders who reflect the changing demographics.

Serving the Needs of All Students

The  Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS) was established in 2003 to address the lack of national advocacy and representation of Latinos by existing mainstream professional organizations. ALAS, which means wings in Spanish, aims to provide leadership at the national level that assures every school in the U.S. effectively serves the educational needs of all students with an emphasis on the growing Latino youth population. In 2011, ALAS established the Superintendents Leadership Academy to train and help aspiring Latino superintendents learn how to lead a school district. Our goal is to prepare Latino school administrators to become superintendents of districts with an emphasis on places that have a Latino student population of 25 percent or higher. This past May, the academy graduated its fourth cohort of Latino administrators. We have now trained over 60 administrators and a quarter of those graduates are now in superintendent roles.

Hosting Discussions That Matter

One area where our organization has focused training administrators is around the issues that confront English language learners. In the 2012-2013 school year, in California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas, 10 percent or more of the public school students were ELL. In California, alone, 22.8 percent of public school students were ELL students. We realize that Latino students are a predominant group within the ELL student body, so we want to prepare administrators to tackle this issue and to be knowledgeable of the data around English language learners so they can support these students in their districts. We have discussed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act with the most recent cohort and its implications. We want our administrators to understand what is in the bill and how changes might impact the implementation of policies at the district level. As an organization, ALAS supports provisions in the ESEA that would hold schools accountable for the achievement of underserved students. We also would like to see a formula funding component to serve ELL students and the creation of a competitive program that invests in the educator pipeline of school administrators.

Building A Network

One of the most positive things to come out of the academy is that cohort graduates are connecting with each other and hiring fellow members within their districts. We are building a network of high-level K-12 administrators that advance Latinos professionally, while ensuring that Latino students succeed. Until we created this leadership program, there weren’t any programs that specifically targeted Latino administrators to address the challenges Latino students are having in the public school system. In broadening knowledge in the areas of leadership, strategic planning, curriculum alignment, instruction and student assessment, and management systems, the academy is providing Latino administrators the wings needed to elevate themselves to superintendents and beyond. Latino administrators who are interested in applying for the academy are encouraged to visit the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents website. Applications are accepted between October and April, and final selections are made during June and July of each year.  
Veronica Rivera is the executive director of the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents.
Veronica Rivera is the executive director of the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents. She previously served as legislative staff attorney at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, in Washington, D.C., and is a former schoolteacher.

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