CALSA Transforming the Power Structure: All Leaders Should Understand How Cultural and Racial Differences and Changing Demographics Affect Those with Whom They Share the Future of Education

Article excerpt

The notion that one generation can guide the next is certainly not new and seems fundamental. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine how modern civilization would have evolved, or even survived, if each successive generation did not build effectively on the lessons of the past (Reinarz and White, 2001). Throughout history and across cultures, elders, often called "mentors," have been called upon to pass along their knowledge and skills.

In today's challenging times, as the pool of district and school administrators shrinks and fewer people are willing to carry on the role of educational leadership, a new generation of leaders must step forward and serve the students of California. This is also a critical time to provide a mentoring program that supports these new leaders. For too long, district and school site administrators have been expected to "suck it up" and "be strong" as they struggle to guide their schools and districts in the "exhausted loneliness of administration."

CALSA Administrator Mentoring Program

In 2004 I had the opportunity to partner with the California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators in order to design and develop an administrator mentoring program for the organization. Now serving its sixth cohort, more than 100 mentors and proteges have participated in a program that is now widely recognized in California, and perhaps the nation, as the premier mentoring program for the development of Latina and Latino school administrators.

As with most endeavors, we have faced both difficult and joyous moments. Nevertheless, the fact that many of our mentors and proteges have gone on to serve at the national, state and local levels as educational leaders provides empirical evidence that the program has been successful. Recently, Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, a protege in Cohort No. 1 and a mentor in Cohort No. 5, was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as assistant secretary of education for elementary and secondary education.

Larry Aceves, a former school superintendent who is currently running for state superintendent of public instruction in California, was a mentor in Cohort No. 1 and is a proud spokesperson of the CALSA Administrator Mentoring Program.

Ken Noonan, former superintendent of Oceanside School District, also served on the State Board of Education; and Tony Monreal (Cohort No. 5 mentor), newly named superintendent in the Oxnard Elementary School District, recently served as deputy superintendent, Curriculum and Instruction Branch, California Department of Education.

Cohort No. 6 began its two-year commitment to the mentoring program in July of 2009. This cohort is twice as large as any previous cohort and the 20 program proteges represent 18 different school districts across the state. Program mentors also represent 18 different school districts and organizations from across the state.

Twenty of the previous proteges received promotions during or after completing the mentoring program, and seven others were accepted to doctoral programs. Four of those have completed their doctorates, while the other three are nearing completion.

Although we have since become a more diverse program, the initial primary motivation for the development of a Latino-based mentoring program was the inequity in the number of Latino school administrators when noted in comparison to the percentage of Latina and Latino students attending California schools. For school superintendents the data was even more disturbing. In 2005-2006 there were 1,056 school districts in California led by school superintendents; only 83 (7.9 percent) of these superintendents were Latina or Latino. Of the 83, 61 (5.8 percent) were male and 22 (2.1 percent) were females (California Department of Education, 2004b).

Currently, 49 percent of California students are Latina or Latino, while just 17. …