Leaders energized to serve students
9 things we heard at the 2022 Leadership Summit
November 14, 2022
More than 1,000 school leaders found new ways to ignite their passion, energize their practice and unite with their colleagues at ACSA’s 2022 Leadership Summit, held Nov. 3-5 in San Diego.
Guided by the theme “Ignited, Energized & United: Equitable Leaders Equipped to Serve,” attendees had their choice of more than 90 sessions to attend on topics that impact all levels of administration.
Attendee Kevin Despard said he purposely chose sessions related to his position as director of Human Resources at Rowland USD.
“I’ve been focusing on an HR lens, not only equity among staff, but how do we bring that through staff to our students?” he said. “I do have some ideas I want to bring back and hopefully try to implement.”
For many attendees, Summit was a welcome return to networking after two disrupted years during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to connect with colleagues that I haven’t seen in a few years,” said Richard De Nava, assistant superintendent, Business Services, with San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools.
ACSA Executive Director Edgar Zazueta recognized the difficulties school leaders have faced in the last couple years.
“Despite everything you’ve been through, you still find time to give back to yourself, to give back to your colleagues, to give back to your students, so thank you for that,” he said.
Here are a few other notes we jotted down during this year’s Summit:
“Welcome ACSA family!” Planning Committee Chair Patricia Brent-Sanco gave an energetic welcome to Friday’s general session, expressing her gratitude for attendees who are “Ignited, Energized & United” to equitably serve students.
“Trust is the glue of life.” ACSA Legal Advocates John Almond, Lloyd Wamhof, Janet Morey and Gary Rutherford presented a “Blueprint for Success” for administrators, which is built upon a foundation of trust. “If you don’t have that trust, it’s difficult to move a team forward,” Wamhof said. He shared a pitfall some new administrators fall into where they make too many changes without first establishing trust with their staff.
“This is the literacy of now.” Sophia Mendoza, director, Instructional Technology Initiative at LAUSD, explained in her session “Computer Science Equity Guide” how crucial computer science is for preparing students for academic and career success.
“Is the glass half-empty or overflowing with endless verse?” This comes from a custom poem created for Leadership Summit by students with Get Lit, a youth literacy and empowerment curriculum that transforms students into artists, activists, scholars and stars.
“I am that kid.” Los Angeles USD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho gave a rousing introduction to the Every Student Succeeding presentation, welcoming students to the stage who have stories of overcoming adversity that are not unlike his own. Carvalho experienced poverty and hunger as a child in Portugal. He finished high school — the only member of his family to do so — before immigrating to the U.S., where he worked as a laborer and experienced homelessness. “Public education turned that once homeless, poor, undocumented kid into the person I am today — an educator,” he said.
“There are some bright spots.” ACSA Legislative Advocate Diana Vu shared this during a session with Lindsay Tornatore of California County Superintendents on the California School Dashboard. Vu explained how to frame the newly released student assessment scores as a “new baseline” for post-COVID. She said districts can highlight the positives in their data as evidence of what’s working. “Show that off, send it to your communities,” Vu said. “I think that’s going to help change the conversation.”
“I was going to end up dead or in prison.” Keynote Dr. Victor Rios shared his fatalistic outlook on life during high school, when he was a convicted felon and gang member. But he also had a teacher, Ms. Russ, who said she would be there for him when he was ready to turn his life around. Now a professor and expert on the school-to-prison pipeline, Rios urged educators to stop predicting children’s futures based on labels (“thug” “drop-out”) and instead see their potential. He advocated for balancing serving the emotional needs of students with holding them to high standards — like Ms. Russ said, “Victor, I care for you, but I can’t carry you.”
“You are some of the most important people in America right now because of what’s happening in our country.” Keynote and The Who We Are Project Founder Jeffrey Robinson explained the importance of educators teaching the truth about racism in U.S. History. Robinson cited numerous examples of laws, including the U.S. Constitution, that were enacted to preserve slavery and prevent Black people from attaining education and power in our country. He also detailed how America has sought to erase this part of its history by pretending racism is not a problem anymore. Robinson pointed to vocal opponents of Critical Race Theory as an indication of the “desperation” some people have to prevent the truth from being known. “Somebody is really scared about this information becoming endemic in America,” he said.
“One of the ongoing, chronic problems that faces our field ... is the separation between theory and research and practice.” Pedro Noguera said this during day two of the ACSA/USC Rossier School of Education Leadership Institute for Superintendents. He spoke about the need for education researchers and practitioners to be in the same room together. He said researchers must find ways to make their findings accessible and useful to those doing the work in schools. School leaders must also follow the research, he said, noting that many schools place the newest, least experienced teachers with the neediest kids. “We don’t do it because the research says that’s what you should do,” Noguera said. “We do it for political reasons, because it’s politically expedient.”
Quick Takes: What was a standout session you attended at Leadership Summit?
Marci Chavez, Principal, Nelson Elementary School (Hacienda La Puente USD)
Elementary Education Council BOOM Session “There was a lot of energy and laughter. I definitely liked the speaker who talked about integrating houses in schools and the Snapchat videos. Right after that, my friend and I made a video, because we loved it! I try to go to sessions that focus on culture building.”
Steven Dorsey, Executive Leadership Coach, Equity, San Diego County Superintendent of Schools
Understanding Racial Microaggressions and Racial Battle Fatigue (Melissa Krull) “We had some rich discussion, and it wasn’t just the presenter — there was richness coming from all over the room."
Mary Chapman, Principal, Pioneer High School (Whittier Union High School District)
Keynote with Dr. Victor Rios “I think it's just a gentle reminder to maintain high expectations alongside emotional connection. That relationship piece is so big for kids to know that we’re in their corner."
Yolanda Rogers, Assistant Superintendent, Human Resources, San Diego County Office of Education
ACSA/USC Rossier School of Education Leadership Institute for Superintendents, Asst. Superintendents and Aspiring Superintendents “It’s always nice to get different perspectives and new ideas as I support and coach some of my own team members who are aspiring to get to those roles.”
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