Mentoring Latino School Leaders: There Is a Clear Need to Increase the Number of Latina and Latino School Leaders, and to Provide Mentors to Help Sustain Their Success in the Job

Article excerpt

In November 2004, the first eight mentor and protege pairs of the California Latino Superintendents and Administrators Association Administrator Mentoring Program convened in San Diego to develop goals and a mentoring agreement for the coming year, signifying their two-year commitment to the newly formed program.

The programmatic basis of the Administrator Mentoring Program from the group (now the California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators, or CALSA) was the result of my doctoral dissertation study (Magdaleno, 2004). The data collected as a result of this research revealed a statistical shortage of Latina and Latino school district superintendents and administrators in California, especially when compared to the percentage of Latina and Latino students attending California schools.

In a public school system where 2.96 million students, or 47 percent of the student population, are Latina or Latino, 2004-2005 demographic data indicated that Latina and Latino administrators serving as public school educational leaders totaled only 4,077, or 15.4 percent of California's administrators (California Department of Education, 2006).

For members of CALSA, the news was even more disturbing. Data indicates that in 2003-2004 there were 1,056 school districts in California led by school superintendents; only 75 (7.1 percent) of these superintendents were either Latina or Latino. Of that group, 61 were males and only 14 were females (CDE, 2004).

Increasing growth and retention rates

With the increasing number of Latina and Latino students in California schools, the need was clear for a mentoring program that not only increased the growth rate, but also supported the retention rate of Latina and Latino school superintendents and educational leaders. Such leaders are most often perceived by Latina and Latino students as positive role models who represent their future.

Having encountered years of lower expectations and the continued presence of a career "glass ceiling," Latina and Latino educational leaders frequently find it difficult to ascend to, and sustain, positions at subsequent levels of school administration. As a result, the number of positive role models in leadership positions for Latina and Latino students is limited, and the educational system runs the risk of reduced legitimacy in the eyes of the Latino educational leadership community and the millions of students it serves.

Obstacles and issues faced

Implementing and sustaining a same-race administrator mentoring support program that improves the probability of success for future Latina and Latino educational leaders is essential to the future of California's educational system. Such leaders are readily conscious of the obstacles and issues members of their ethnic group face in leadership roles.

Veteran Latina or Latino mentors skilled in confronting and overcoming the difficulties of serving as district and site leaders can guide their proteges through the racial and gender barriers they face, based on the mentors' own personal and professional experiences.

The CALSA Administrator Mentoring Program connects its proteges with mentors who can be of assistance as current and future leaders navigate the inherent land mines that come with leadership positions. Learning from mentors who have gone before them and who share significant lessons learned brings added value to program participants and makes position success and sustainability more likely to occur.

George F. Dreher (1996) wrote of mentoring: "The formation of a mentoring relationship has clearly been shown to have positive career effects for the protege. Previous research has found that mentoring is related to advancement in organizations, organizational influence, salary attainment, and satisfaction with salary and benefits."

For Latina and Latino educational leaders, mentoring by an experienced educational leader is a priority; mentoring by an experienced educational leader who understands and shares common experiences, a common language, similar racial and equity concerns, and who can also relate to the specific cultural experiences of his or her protege is even more crucial. …