SLA COHORT VII-SOFIA FREIRE
Area Superintendent, San Diego Unified School District, San Diego, CA
What is your current role?
What is the enrollment of your current school district?
San Diego Unified serves more than 130,000 students in preschool through grade 12 and is the second largest district in California. The student population is extremely diverse, representing more than 15 ethnic groups and more than 60 languages and dialects.
What are some of your career highlights?
- For over 20 years I have served as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, director, and area superintendent for some of the most underserved communities in Los Angeles and San Diego - Watts, South Central, Boyle Heights and City Heights.
- I was formerly the principal of Roosevelt High School - one of the largest high schools in Los Angeles Unified with a student enrollment of over 5,000 students. In an effort to provide students with the quality instructional program and personalization they needed and deserved, I led the reconfiguration of the school from a large, comprehensive high school into seven pathway academies. These academies experienced significant gains in graduation rates in subsequent years.
- As a Director of School Transformation for the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (a nonprofit managing 18 LA Unified schools serving approximately 14,500 students; one of the largest, in-district public school transformation organizations in the United States), I led the development of Restorative Practices programs in middle schools in South Central LA and Watts. These efforts significantly decreased suspension rates and began to close disproportionate gaps within subgroups.
What are you most proud of professionally?
- I am most proud of my efforts in growing leaders. I have coached 10 vice principals into principal positions and many teachers into administrative positions. I firmly believe that leadership matters, and I am committed to growing equity leaders who can create thriving school communities worthy of our children.
What is one of the biggest challenges facing educators today?
- Despite more than two decades of service in public education, I have yet to accomplish significant changes in eliminating the predictability of success and failure that currently correlates with social and culture factors. We continue to see significant gaps in the performance of our African American and Latino males, our English Language Learners, and our students with special needs.
Why is a program like SLA important for Latino educators?
- The Superintendent Leadership Academy provides Latino Leaders an opportunity to learn about the most critical components of the Superintendency. The insights gained in the Academy are not accessible to leaders in their current roles as principals, directors or area superintendents. Having access to learn from and interact with current Superintendents throughout the country is absolutely invaluable.
- Of equal importance and value, SLA cohorts become a familia whose members learn from and support each other in solving the major issues our school districts are facing nationwide. In addition to sharing best practices and innovative strategies, cohort members provide each other moral support and peer coaching, which is so critical given the complexity of our work.
- As Latino educators, we have first-hand knowledge and experience with the challenges that our Latino students encounter in their schools and communities. Consequently, our experiences and passion for closing achievement gaps and delivering equitable results for all students enable us to better serve all underperforming student populations. SLA makes it possible for Latino leaders to become well positioned to obtain top leadership positions and provide the quality leadership that our students deserve.