Recently, Dr. David Verdugo, executive director of California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators (CALSA), sat down with Mentoring Minds to discuss the importance Latino educators play in California’s future.

Mentoring Minds: Why is Latina/o educational leadership vital to California’s students?

David Verdugo: The future of the state’s economy—and by extension, the nation’s—is largely intertwined with the fate of our Latino communities, but, consistently, statistics show that Latino students continue to be the most segregated students in California, more likely to live in poverty, with higher dropout rates and fewer transitions to our universities.

The data speaks volumes. We need to redefine our leadership. Research shows that when leaders understand the community they serve from the inside out, students are more successful—so at CALSA, we work to develop Latino leadership.

"Research shows that when leaders understand the community they serve from the inside out, students are more successful."

MM: When you talk about redefining educational leadership, what does that look like?

DV: There is a critical need to equip students with the skills they need to be college and career-ready, but we also need to equip leaders to translate research into practice and develop their expertise. What’s required of administrators is a much more complex job now. Common Core, Smarter Balanced testing, technology, funding, resources. And we cannot learn alone; we must be connected. CALSA is a platform for that development, with a strong mentoring program and institutes for continued learning.

MM: With CALSA membership doubling this year alone, it sounds like you’ve tapped into a need to harness the collective knowledge and experience of Latina and Latino administrators.

DV: Exactly. New administrators often believe that they should be able to do the work on their own, but that’s not true. They need to reach out and create dialogue. I’ve found that there’s a real need for both contemporary and traditional mentors—someone on the cutting edge of research, but also someone who’s been through the ranks and can reflect back on their experiences. These two perspectives are critical.

We want to see the pendulum swing in terms of academic achievement. We want to see our students succeed. If not us, then who? If not now, then when?