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Soledad Molinar’s outreach to groups such as the African American Parent Council has guided her work to create equitable and accessible learning environments for students in Ventura USD, where she serves as the district’s Director of Multilingual & Multicultural Education.
Molinar's efforts are creating lasting social change
October 31, 2022
Name: Soledad Molinar Award: Valuing Diversity Award Title: Director of Multilingual & Multicultural Education, Ventura USD
When there were racially charged incidents at schools in Ventura USD, the community was rightfully concerned — how would the district respond? The answer was clear: with education.
Guided by the community, Soledad Molinar, ACSA’s winner of the 2022 Valuing Diversity Award, led the district’s response.
Molinar joined Ventura USD in 2005 as an assistant principal. She brought her passion for supporting underserved students to her role as Director of Multilingual and Multicultural Education in 2014.
“Regardless of audience, Dr. Molinar is able to shape the conditions, content and quality of exchanges that promote the equitable and accessible environments we aspire to create,” said Antonio Castro, superintendent of VUSD. “Dr. Molinar possesses in equal parts the requisite humility, intelligence, preparation, background and proclivities that serve as a foundation for improving micro and macro structures.”
In response to the racial incidents, Molinar solicited broad community feedback in planning, creating and guiding the district’s Ethnic and Social Justice Studies committee in 2016. Its work included the creation of an Ethnic and Social Justice Studies course that will become a graduation requirement for all students starting with the Class of 2026 — four years before the state of California’s own ethnic studies graduation requirement takes effect.
Molinar also facilitates panel discussions with members of the Latinx, Black, Indigenous and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, as well as other marginalized groups, so educators can learn firsthand accounts of student’s experiences and how changes in curriculum and instruction can benefit marginalized groups.
“These panels offered opportunities for students, parents and community members from diverse groups to talk about times when they felt their identities were not respected, when they felt seen in high school and about educators who made a difference for them,” Molinar said.
Quiet, calm and courageous, her colleagues say one of her many gifts is the ability to bring seemingly opposed groups together through her respect for all people.
“When we have a safe space, we’re going to hear things that might push us a little bit,” Molinar said. “So, I appreciate those moments really as a chance for me to be able to learn from someone else.”
In her role serving multilingual learners, Molinar has bolstered progress monitoring for students at all grade levels. In addition to using data monitoring software, the district now has personnel at the site and district level who are charged with connecting that data to student supports and professional development. This has had a positive impact on English learners, not just with assessment scores but also with their engagement on campus.
“I feel like our biggest gain has been in shifting school climate,” she said, “to let students and families feel that someone is there to support them and cares about their progress.”
During the pandemic, Molinar created the Mucho más que miércoles (Much More Than Wednesday) parent affinity group for families who are native Spanish speakers. What began as a weekly Zoom session to help parents log their children into distance learning lessons became a space where parents took ownership of sharing resources and information, while building community.
“It was just so beautiful to see families helping each other in that space, and talking about what they’ve tried, and just connecting in a way that was so difficult to do at that time,” she recalled.
Whether she is supervising anti-racist revisions to Indigenous Education program curriculum or intentionally choosing professional learning that will transform how educators engage with their students, Molinar leads with integrity, perseverance and thoughtfulness to bring about lasting social change.
Soledad Molinar (last row, third from left) is ACSA’s winner of the 2022 Valuing Diversity Award.
During the pandemic, Molinar created the Mucho más que miércoles (Much More Than Wednesday) parent affinity group for families who are native Spanish speakers.