SLA COHORT VII-VICTORIA B. SALDALA
Victoria B. Saldala
Director, Bilingual/ESOL Department for Broward County Public Schools, Fort Lauderdale, FL
What is your current role?
I currently serve in the role of Director, Bilingual/ESOL Department for Broward County Public Schools. My department is responsible for the ESOL Program, World Languages, Dual Languages, Bilingual Parent Outreach Program, and all interpretations and translations for the district.
What is the enrollment of your current school district?
Broward County Public Schools is the sixth largest district in the nation and the second largest in the State of Florida. We serve over 270,000 students speaking over 190 different languages and representing over 200 countries.
What are some of your career highlights?
The opportunity to develop new initiatives which impact students, teachers, and parents is one of the reasons I have found my thirty years in education gratifying. I’ve received various awards recognizing the work in Broward County Public Schools as it revolves around English Language Learners. Immigrant Students, and Bilingual Education. The Hispanic Women of Distinction Recipient and ALAS Leaders in Education Latino Administrator of the Year were two honors bestowed upon me which I am proud of and consider a career highlight.
What are you most proud of professionally?
In the last four years of my career I was able to establish a process to ensure we were identifying students properly for Title III Immigrant student funding. As a result, our district has earned over a million dollars each year to provide our recently arrived immigrant students and families support and resources to ensure their transition to Broward County Public Schools. We have provided our community with elementary students “Family Literacy Nights” in collaboration with local libraries. They also participate in “Cultural Academy for New Americans (CANA)”. Our middle school students have been exposed to cultural events and a program to begin preparing them for life readiness. Our high school students participate in “Rally to the Tally for New Floridians” where they have the opportunity to travel to the State Capitol to learn about our government, develop policy, present to elected officials, and take three college tours during this 4-day trip. Interacting with students and parents throughout all these activities has brought me profound joy and commitment to provide our most vulnerable students opportunities and exposure to all the endless possibilities they can pursue.
What is one of the biggest challenges facing educators today?
One of the biggest challenges we are facing is meeting the social-emotional needs of our students. Until we assist in meeting our students where they are, we are going to struggle to move them forward. Sometimes we are the only constant in a child’ life. We need to ensure they have breakfast and lunch at school as those may be the only meals they have in a day. I always remind myself “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes”. Let’s not be quick to put blame on parents, but rather ask ourselves how we can help and make a difference.
Why is a program like SLA important for Latino educators?
Imagine bringing together fifteen individuals from across the nation to learn from each other, while learning from others who have been in our shoes and are now in Superintendent positions. The dynamics of telling stories of hardship and success ignite a passion to go out and make a difference. Leading a district can be overwhelming and lonely but the Superintendent Leadership Academy provides a year-long program to develop the necessary skills and strategies for success. A bonus is the bond created amongst cohort members which can only be described with one word, Familia. That’s why the Superintendent Leadership Academy is important.