By Cayla Conway, ESSA Stakeholder Outreach Coordinator, Education, NCLR
NILSL Fellows Jesús Sanchez (left) and John Montoleone (right)
John Monteleone and Jesús Sanchez are members of the same gym in Lorain, Ohio. Besides their shared affinity for physical fitness, you might not think they have much else in common. Jesús is originally from Puerto Rico, while John is a native Ohioan. Jesús is an environmentalist, having studied biology, wildlife management, and plant ecology and physiology, while John’s roots have been firmly planted in Ohio’s public schools; where he ascended from teacher, to principal, to assistant superintendent. It was when they finally struck up a conversation that they realized they had a lot in common. They share a deep history with Lorain City Schools – both attended during their childhoods, and Jesús’s mother was a teacher, principal, and deputy superintendent there. The two also found that they are both passionate about education and strong advocates for the youth in their communities. In the fall of 2015, they both learned that they would be participating in the two-year National Institute for Latino School Leaders (NILSL) fellowship.
Currently, John is the Assistant Superintendent for Oberlin City Schools and Jesús is the Education Director at Cuyahoga Environmental Education Center in Ohio. Both are actively participating in NCLR’s NILSL fellowship; a program established in 2011 to bridge the divide between school practitioners and education policymakers. One of NILSL’s requirements tasks fellows with leading an advocacy project or policy-related activity related to the new education law, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), in their home state. A NILSL fellowship, though only lasting up to two years, is intended to provide the connections and training needed to create diverse education leaders for life. In the cases of John and Jesús, it appears to be doing just that.
Marisol Rerucha (pictured second from left, with the mic), is passionate about improving education for Latinos.
This past December, current and former members of NCLR’s National Institute for Latino School Leaders, or NILSL, convened in Los Angeles to talk about the current state of education and the impact of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The meeting was also an opportunity for current and former fellows to connect and talk about ways to work together. We caught up with one NILSL fellow, Marisol Rerucha of San Diego, to talk about her participation in the fellowship and what it’s meant for her. Below is the first of our semi-regular series in which we profile NILSL members.
NCLR: The December meeting was for NILSL alums and the new cohort of fellows. What were some of the biggest takeaways you left with?
Rerucha: Part of the meeting was getting an update on all of the new ESSA provisions, for getting a legislative update on where we are. What’s really important for me as an administrator is that that’s not something we as administrators are able to keep up with in our daily or even monthly work. Public policy is something I would say the vast majority of school leaders do not get to. We also got the chance to talk about potential policy work. We also spent time getting to know the new cohort.
NCLR: What specific projects did you get to work on during the December meeting?
Rerucha: I actually had a project that NCLR funded. I’m going to be creating a local NILSL for San Diego County school educators. In my work, I focus on the alternative school population. The work is going to be inviting in experts to give a legislative update and we’ll also be using the workshops that NCLR has created. The funding will also be used to take educators up to Sacramento to make recommendations for alternative schools and for ESSA implementation.
The fight continues at the federal level for educational equity, but states will be key to protecting Latino students
By John Marth, Senior Content Specialist, NCLR
The New York cohort of National Institute of Latino School Leaders
Nine educators met in New York’s Financial District for a two-day training about using their experiences with students and parents to advocate for state-level policies. It was the first of three training modules they’ll attend over the next eight months.
The group represents the sixth cohort of the National Institute of Latino School Leaders, or NILSL. NCLR developed the program five years ago to train educators working with Latino students to become more involved in education policy.
Previous NILSL groups consisted of fellows from across the country learning about lawmaking on the federal level. With the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) about to take effect, the program was modified to focus on states. “Now that ESSA’s passed, we need to make sure states are following it,” said Jessica Rodriguez Boudreau, NCLR Education Outreach Manager, who led the training. This year’s fellows come from Colorado and New York.
By John Monteleone, Fellow, National Institute for Latino School Leaders, NCLR
I often find that within educational circles, the word equity can be controversial and confusing. Those who are more affluent and privileged often become squeamish, while those from economically-disadvantaged districts become increasingly engaged. However, while this conversation can be difficult to have with different audiences, the difficulty only emphasizes its importance. Pursuing equity in education can prevent some districts from falling into the achievement gap—and help prevent deeper inequality from taking root in our society.
In a country that prides itself on the mantra that “We The People” are treated fair and just, providing every child with an equitable education should not be controversial.
By Ana Martinez, Midwest Regional Executive Director, New Leaders, National Institute for Latino School Leaders
I am a U.S. citizen who was born in El Salvador at a time of civil turmoil. Like many others from that country, my family fled to the United States in search of the American Dream. One could argue that their journey, at least in terms of my life’s prospects, has paid off. I was the first in my family to go to college and graduate, and the first in my family to have a career of my choice.
However, the reality of the current state of Latinos in our educational system is one in which my story is the exception, not the norm. Now more than ever, the future success of Latinos in our educational system is at stake, and we have a moral obligation to ensure that we are steadfast in our commitment to advancing the Latino community.