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December 2016 Member Spotlight - Dr. Debra Duardo

Dr. Debra Duardo
Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools, Los Angeles County Office of Education, Downey, California; ALAS Superintendents Leadership Academy Alum, Cohort III

Career Highlights & Education: 
I’ve dedicated my career to empowering people who have been marginalized by society. I began with the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women to help improve the lives of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. After 10 years, I decided to shift my focus to education, working to break down barriers to school and career success for young people of all backgrounds. I served for 20 years in the Los Angeles Unified School District, most recently as director of Student Health and Human Services before being named county superintendent in May 2016.
 
What I like best about my job: 
The Los Angeles County superintendent of schools has a unique opportunity to ensure educational equity for 1.5 million students, while also advocating on behalf of our most vulnerable youth, including those who are in the justice system, in foster care, are homeless or have experienced trauma. The County Office of Education provides direct educational services to help these young people reach their full potential.
 
The best advice I’ve ever received:
When opportunity knocks, open the door. Don’t be afraid to take risks.
 
Advice you would give a new superintendent or school system leader: 
As a new superintendent myself, I’ve learned the importance of gathering as much information as possible. Ask questions, listen and observe. Build relationships and commit to active engagement with all stakeholders. Let this be your guide in leading the organization.
 
Ensure that students are always the focus of the work no matter what other issues or interests may get your attention.
 
If I ever snuck out of work early, I would probably be found: 
Hanging out with my active and dynamic 90-year-old mother. 
 
People would be surprised to know: 
I dropped out of high school when I was 15 years old and had four children by the age of 25, yet ended up earning three degrees from UCLA including a doctorate.
 
One thing I wish more people knew about ALAS: 
I wish more people knew that ALAS offers Latina/o administrators the opportunity to network, enhance skills and advance their careers. I took advantage of the ALAS Superintendents Leadership Academy and a few months later was offered the position of Los Angeles County superintendent of schools.