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Mayra Perez

Deputy Superintendent, Instruction, Innovation and Social Justice

San Rafael City Schools

310 Nova Albion Way, San Rafael

415-492-3221

www.srcs.org

Mayra Perez, a deputy superintendent of San Rafael City Schools, is a winner of North Bay Business Journal's 2018 Latino Business Leadership Awards.

Education: BA in Psychology; masters in educational policy and administration, Ed.D. in teacher education

Tell us your story and that of your organization: San Rafael City Schools (SRCS) provides an education to students in grades K-12. SRCS includes San Rafael Elementary School District and the San Rafael High School District, with a total student population of more than 7,200 students. The two districts are governed by one school board and one district administration.

The Elementary District is comprised of nine schools. The High School District provides secondary education to student residing in two elementary districts: Dixie School District and San Rafael Elementary District. The High School District has two comprehensive 9-12 high schools and a continuation high school.

SRCS schools have successfully created welcoming school environments to ensure that our community of students, families, staff and community members are treated respectfully and consider themselves true partners in the work of educating our students.

Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?

In the last year the Education Services Team has worked diligently to create a cohesive and aligned professional development plan for teachers. Instructional Coaches and teacher leaders have offered over 80 in ongoing professional development for teachers. The team has also developed a three year professional development plan that includes high impact strategies for supporting the development of academic language for English learners and Writer’s Workshop to strengthen student writing fluency and written communication skills. Teachers are also participating in math workshops to explicitly engage in the Standards for Mathematical Practice. This alignment and focus is often difficult to achieve with so many schools. I am appreciative of this accomplishment and am proud of my team!

What is the achievement you are most proud of?

In SRCS we administer a reading assessment, Fountas and Pinell to all students three times a year. This assessment involves each teacher reading individually with a student to determine the reading level of the child. Students are also expected to answer comprehension questions and it takes 30 to 45 minutes to administer. We have studied the results over the past four years of the Fountas and Pinnell assessment and have discovered that each year more students are moving towards proficient and advanced reading levels. It is also evident that the students needing the most support in reading are receiving it and making progress. This progress has everything to do with the efforts of our instructional coaches, our talented teachers and the support staff at Central Services.

What is your biggest challenge today?

Although we have made progress in many areas we have an opportunity gap that continues to persist in our community. We must dig deep and study our data in order to understand why some students are not making progress. Our leaders need to develop a plan to meet the needs of these students and support them on their educational journey.

As a successful professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?

I consider myself a leader for equity and an advocate for underrepresented students. Providing every students with what they need can be an extremely unpopular notion.

A few years ago, I made decisions and implemented programs which provided differentiated support to a historically underserved Latino community.

Mayra Perez

Deputy Superintendent, Instruction, Innovation and Social Justice

San Rafael City Schools

310 Nova Albion Way, San Rafael

415-492-3221

www.srcs.org

I believed that the community understood that these student needed something more and different. What I discovered in the process is that they did not have an interest in achieving equity. I did my work to the best of my ability and developed programs that have indeed made a difference for students.

After I completed these tasks, I felt it best to search for an organization that was more aligned to my values. I was no longer a fit in that organization.

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?

Technology will impact not only our staff but also our students. As a digital immigrant, I often wonder if I would feel competent in the classroom. I also think about students who do not have access to technology or the internet due to limited resources.

Educators need to become facilitators of knowledge and equip students with the skills to be masters of their own learning. Teachers can no longer be the sage on the stage who holds all of the knowledge and provides it to students.

Who was your most important mentor? And tell us a little bit about that person:

Dr. Nancy A. Jude was an amazing mentor and teacher. She was my very first principal at Marshall Elementary School in Southern California. When Nancy got hold of my resume she called me daily to invite me to interview for a position at her school. I didn’t understand why a principal was calling me repeatedly on the weekend. Nancy hired me to teach a 5/6 combination class at her school and it changed my life.

I never even considered interviewing anywhere else. She ran a tight ship and was not popular with everyone. Nancy had high expectations for her staff and students. She did not allow us to waste a single minute of valuable instructional time. Nancy was dedicated to her school and she watched carefully for teacher leaders.

One day I decided to discuss my interest applying to graduate school with her and her support was impressive. Nancy decided that getting my masters was not enough. She was determined that I return to school to get my doctorate as well. Nancy made time to drive me to USC to meet her advisor and to assist me with my goals. I think I disappointed her when I decided to delay getting my doctorate until years later. Nancy was also gave the opportunity to have my first position outside of the classroom.

Many years later, I asked her to be my substitute when I was on medical leave for two months. I was an elementary principal at the time. Nancy was nothing but complimentary about my work at the school. She is a special mentor who has had a profound influence on the leader I have become and I will never forget her support.

Tell us about your community involvement: I am an unofficial mentor for former students. Many of the students I have worked with throughout my career are first generation or immigrant students.

These children are highly motivated and have a desire to get an education. Their parents often do not understand the education system in the United States and will turn to me for help. I assist them and attend meetings with them to support them with their goals. It is rewarding work and the families are very appreciative of my help. My only ask is that they pay it forward and mentor others in the future.

What advice would you give to a young person today?

When you are in a leadership position you will face challenges and even feel alone at times. Lead with your head held high and strive to make a difference each day. These are two questions I think about to help me in my daily work:

  • What lessons am I teaching in each interaction I have?
  • What stories will others tell about me in the future? ( Kouzes & Posner, 2006)

Leadership is not only a great responsibility and but a privilege.

Quick takes

Words that best describe you: Determined, persistent, stubborn, and caring, woman of integrity

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Oprah Winfrey is an amazing woman who gives back to the community in a variety of ways.

Current reading: A Leader’s Legacy by Kouzes & Posner

Most want to meet: Michelle & Barack Obama

Stress relievers: Walking, shopping, movies, and meditation.

Favorite hobbies: Reading, walking, and going to the theater