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Study highlights the importance of diversity in school leadership

A study from the Diversity in Leadership Institute emphasizes the importance of diversity among administrators across schools in Los Angeles County. The report, which was released Tuesday, highlighted how schools can invest in that goal and what impact it would have on families and teachers.

Though Los Angeles County is home to a more diverse group of education administrators than the rest of the state, numbers have yet to reflect the diversity of the county, according to the report. Black and Latino administrators make up nearly half of administrators in the area, but LA County is home to a population that is nearly three-quarters Black and Latino.

The study recommends that school districts track and monitor recruitment and retention data and create intentional pipelines to administrative positions to expand accessibility for Black and Latino individuals. It also recommends that school leaders work with families to build a welcoming school environment and uplift teachers of color by making sure to provide learning opportunities.

The need for diverse leadership is something acknowledged by Nadine Staine, a second grade teacher in Los Angeles Unified, who at times has been the only Black teacher at a school.

“I think having people of color, having leaders like yourself, makes you bring a safe space where you feel like, ‘you know what, I can go and talk to this person. They will understand my plight,’” she said.

The study found that teachers of color are more likely to teach at schools where there are administrators of color and that teachers of color are more likely to stay in their district when that is the case. 

The impact of administrators of color on retention is something noted by Kemi Mustapha, a director at a charter school in LA County. She said that having administrators of color helps maintain diversity among teachers, remembering back to her time as a teacher.

“If I’m successful with my students but I feel like I’ve got to fight for my very existence, or for my expertise, I’m not gonna hang around long,” she said.

From its research, the Diversity in Leadership Institute concluded that administrators of color have typically striven toward curating school culture, elevating teachers’ voices in decision-making and defining clear school missions, while also emphasizing staff connections with students and their families. 

Building community is something Letitia Johnson-Davis would strive for when she was principal at Baldwin Hills Elementary School before leaving the district. She said she would make sure to know all her students by name and take the time to reach out to them on a personal level.

“There’s a level of connectedness and rapport, relationships, routines, even the language — so many things that can be drawn upon and communicated in building community,” she said.

LAUSD has committed to expanding the number of Black educators in the district after passing a school board resolution in January to invest in analyzing and planning further recruitment and strategy based on its numbers. The district released its report in May outlining strong current levels but acknowledging a need to invest in recruitment and retention as many Black educators retire or leave the district.


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