Latino Superintendents Lead School Districts In Texas’ Eight Largest Cities

“I would say that this is a milestone in the history of Texas.”

By Stella M. ChávezSeptember 20, 2016 10:42 am, , ,

From KERA News:

In a school district where nearly 45 percent of students are Hispanic, Arlington superintendent Marcelo Cavazos’ bilingual skills come in handy. During a recent visit to a class of juniors at Carter High School, Cavazos asked the students in Spanish what they want to study and what career they want to have.

One student said he wants to be a doctor. Another said she’d like to be a teacher.

“Gracias,” he told her. “When can you start?”

The kids in the class laugh.

It’s not just the language that helps Cavazos connect with these students, it’s his roots. As a kid, he helped his parents pick crops in the fields of south Texas.

Experts says that kind of life experience among leaders is critical as the country’s population grows more diverse. More than half of the state’s 5.1 million public school students are Latino and more of these students than ever are in districts run by Latinos.

Molly Evans/KERA News 

Most recently, Richard Carranza was named superintendent of the Houston Independent School District – the largest school system in the state and the seventh-largest in the country. Like Cavazos in Arlington, Carranza is bilingual.

“I would say that this is a milestone in the history of Texas,” said Stan Paz, executive director of the Texas Association of Administrators and Superintendents.

It’s not just speaking the same language that can make a difference. Paz said understanding someone’s culture can create a classroom students can thrive in.

“It has a very significant impact and that’s based on research over the years on identifying effective competencies necessary to educate Latino children well…you have to have cultural competency.”

Marla Guerra, superintendent of the South Texas Independent School District in the Rio Grande Valley, has been at the helm there for 15 years.

“I think education is so complex now that it requires someone with that sensitivity and with that background,” she said.

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