California superintendents finish as runners up for national award
September 2, 2019
Taft Union High School District Superintendent Blanca Cavazos and San Mateo Union High School District Superintendent Kevin Skelly finished as semi-finalists for the national Superintendent of the Year award from the National Association of School Superintendents. “School superintendents are civic leaders who strive every day to create united school communities,” said Sonny DaMarto, NASS associate executive Director. “Blanca and Kevin have each shown an incredible commitment to their students and families and are working every day to create opportunities that move students toward college and career.” Cavazos and Skelly were runners up to NASS Superintendent of the Year winner Nettie Collins-Hart, superintendent of Hazelwood School District in Florissant, Missouri. She will be recognized for her accomplishments at the ACSA/NASS IgnitEd conference in Washington D.C. Sept. 15-17. Cavazos is a member of the ACSA Board of Directors representing Region 11 and serves a district of more than 1,000 students in Western Kern County. She began her career as a bilingual first-grade teacher in the community of Arvin and eventually was named principal of Arvin High School. In 2013, she was selected as the first Latina superintendent at TUHSD. “Every day brings a new set of challenges to school leaders as education changes,” Cavazos said. “We have to think in a broader sense than we ever have before and make sure our students are competitive on the worldwide stage, not just the local stage.” Cavazos is working on an initiative focused on relationship building between teachers and students. Educators are working to address the social, emotional and academic learning of students. This initiative allows teachers and staff to step back and get to know students before jumping into the curriculum. Thus, emotional barriers can be eliminated and students will have more opportunities to look at what types of programs and services are offered to them.  Skelly’s background includes stints as a math and Spanish teacher, as well as a basketball coach. He moved up to principal and was named superintendent at SMUHSD in 2015. His district has nearly 9,000 students and a diverse student body that he embraces. “What I like about this district is that we have a great mix of students and families, from privilege to students who have come straight from central America,” he said. “When you have diversity, it makes all of us in the district work harder and I’m continually impressed with how far our kids come and how much they achieve.” Skelly believes one of the biggest challenges in supporting students is recognizing the obstacles that stand in front of them, specifically poverty and opportunity gaps that aren’t easily visible. “There are institutional barriers that sometimes get forgotten about and serve as impediments to experiences,” he said. “Some students can’t afford to spend $3 to go to a football or basketball game and that leaves them out of an event that they should be able to participate in — we’ve created avenues so our students can take part in those events.”
IgnitED Partner Spotlight: Human Rights Campaign
ACSA has partnered with the Human Rights Campaign for the 2019 NASS/ACSA Federal Advocacy Conference to support America’s students in building safe, inclusive and innovative classrooms for all. Based in Washington, D.C., HRC is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve LGBTQ equality. By inspiring and engaging individuals and communities, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBTQ people and realize a world that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all. The Human Rights Campaign envisions a world where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people are ensured equality and embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community. One advocacy area for this conference is the Equality Act, which prohibits discrimination for any school receiving federal funding against students or prospective or current employees. This means that schools will be prohibited from discriminating against an educator on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in the context of hiring, firing, or promotion. ACSA and HRC support passage of the Equality Act in the Senate and will call on lawmakers to act on H.R. 5., otherwise known as the #EqualityAct, during our meetings

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