SLA COHORT VII-KRISTINA DAVIS-SALAZAR
Assistant Superintendent, Teaching and Learning West Chicago Elementary School District 33, West Chicago, IL
What is your current role?
My current role is as Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning in West Chicago District 33. My department oversees the district’s curriculum and instructional program as well as assessment and accountability.
What is the enrollment of your current school district?
District 33 is a suburban school district situated 30 miles west of Chicago in DuPage County. It serves 4,500 students in grades PreK-8. Although West Chicago D33 is located in the third most affluent county in Illinois, it is 57 percent low income. As of 2017, 80 percent of the district’s population is Hispanic, with over 52 percent of the students designated as English Language Learners.
What are some of your career highlights?
I have served in various roles over the past 20 years. My career began as the first bilingual teacher in an Illinois farming community of migrant workers. I then started my administrative career as a principal and district administrator in the third largest district in Illinois. Nine years ago, I was hired in West Chicago, and it has been a career highlight to be a part of a progressive district where diversity is respected and celebrated. I have come to know our families, staff and community leaders personally through my involvement in various community events such as the Mexican Independence Day, Miss Mexican Heritage Scholarship program and annual kermes event. Most recently, I have been involved in organizing community fundraisers and cultural events while serving as a voting member on the Mexican Cultural Center of DuPage Board.
What are you most proud of professionally?
Having been an administrator for over 15 years, I have been involved in numerous initiatives that have promoted equity and helped to close opportunity gaps for learners. Research has found dual language programs to be the only method of second language learning that promises to close the achievement gap between English learners and English speakers. Over the past three years, I have led our district in expanding our dual language program from a magnet school to a district-wide program to ensure that all students have the opportunity to become bilingual, biliterate and cross-culturally competent. I proudly lead a district in which the dual language program is highly regarded by the community. This was done through empowering our Hispanic parents to advocate for programs that value our students’ linguistic and cultural strengths. Over the past couple of years, the expansion of this program has flourished into an amazing cultural arts program that now boasts a ballet foklórico dance troupe, mariachi band and student art gallery. This has dramatically increased student involvement and parent engagement among our Hispanic families. I have supported these growing initiatives through professional development of staff, parent and community advocacy work and leveraging of funds. I credit the amazing teachers and administrative colleagues that I have worked with and grown from for the success of these initiatives.
What is one of the biggest challenges facing educators today?
As our nation’s demographic landscape changes we need to be leaders for equity. This requires courage and conviction as well as political savvy. Hispanics are one of the largest and fastest growing minority groups in the U.S. As well, students living in poverty now comprise a large majority of public schools. At the same time, our schools and neighborhoods have become more segregated with fewer resources available to those who need it most. It is both a challenge and a responsibility for educators to shed light on the culturally exclusive practices in our nations’ educational system and lead changes that close opportunity gaps.
Why is a program like SLA important for Latino educators?
What started as a cohort is now a “familia.” SLA is an important program for Latino educators to build a network of support. For me, it has been career changing to learn from some of the most respected and accomplished educators in the country.” Dr. Jose Leyba, our SLA leader, has been a teacher and mentor by providing us with experiences to prepare us for the next steps in our leadership roles. There are big career leaps ahead for many of us, but we know we have the wisdom and experience of our “familia” to back us up!