ACSA at 50 | Past leaders: Don Iglesias
February 7, 2022
Don Iglesias joined ACSA as a “newbie” principal and, through the association, found the guidance he needed to change students’ lives. He was active at the charter and region levels before being encouraged to join the ACSA State Board of Directors, where he gained insight into the organization and the meaningful work that it does on behalf of educators. He went on to be elected to serve as ACSA’s President in 2001-02, becoming ACSA’s first Latino president.
What led to you becoming an ACSA member? I began my administrative career as a 29-year-old newbie principal. Although I had taken administrative classes through our local university, I did not have direct experience dealing with the challenges of becoming a principal. The ACSA Principals’ Academy was life altering for me and helped me to realize the significance of my mission and the gift and opportunity I had been given to make a difference in the lives of all of the students we served.
What issues were at the forefront during your time on the board? During my time on the State ACSA Board and as state president of ACSA, there was political turmoil and anti-immigrant state legislation that challenged our ability to educate our students. There was legislation that attempted to prohibit us from teaching students in their first language and additional legislation that was demanding we check citizenship as part of the enrollment process. As educational leaders, we rose together to face these issues. ACSA’s board at the time opposed Proposition 227 that limited our opportunity to teach students through bilingual education. Additionally, many of us refused to check immigration status of our incoming kindergarten families and eventually, this requirement was challenged and thrown out in court.
What impact do you think ACSA has had on education and California’s students over the last 50 years? ACSA has become a strong political force in its advocacy for members and for students. There was a time when ACSA members and leadership were reluctant to take on political issues, but ACSA evolved into an educational organization that relentlessly pursued resources, training, legislation, advocacy and partnerships that would strengthen our ability to make a difference for students. We’ve come a long way as an organization and ACSA has matured and stayed flexible and quickly responsive to the needs of our schools. I’m proud to have been an ACSA leader and it is my hope that educational leaders will continue to meet the challenges that confront us and fearlessly step up as leaders in the organization.
How did ACSA support your ability to be a successful education leader? ACSA’s network of peers, some of whom have become lifelong friends, provided me with informal connections with fellow educators who I could contact to share best practices, commiserate and strategize. As I transitioned from site administrator to district office, the academies and training provided by ACSA gave me a better understanding of the roles and road that were ahead. I was proud of my urban, working-class background and ultimately was able to give back in my role as superintendent of San Jose Unified. The pathway from the classroom to the superintendency can be a rocky road and was more easily traveled together with like-minded educators that I encountered through my participation in ACSA.
Iglesias during a news conference in the 2000s.
Iglesias with first ACSA Executive Director Bill Cunningham in a photo from the early 2000s
ACSA at 50
Keep watching for ACSA at 50 features in EdCal each week and find out how you can help celebrate at
Contact Us
© 2022 Association of California School Administrators