APRIL 2023 | DR. CHRISTINA KISHIMOTO
I had the pleasure of welcoming in the month of April by participating in the CALSA Women’s Leadership Network convening in San Francisco. I knew that this convening would allow me to make new connections with inspirational leaders, and it certainly did! I had the pleasure to sit down with one incredible leader that I had not yet met, but that other women leaders had encouraged me to seek out in this impressive crowd.
Dr. Rebeca Andrade is the proud school superintendent of Salinas City Elementary School District in Monterey County, California. She is in her third year in the lead seat and is deeply enjoying her community. I remember Salinas as the birthplace of one of my favorite authors in high school, John Steinbeck. In his novels, Steinbeck often referred to the great agricultural lands of Salinas. Today, Salinas has a predominantly Latino population with more than 75% of residents, over 90% Latino student population, with a long history of contributions by the Mexican community that developed and maintained its fresh produce industry and vineyards that serve our tables. And just like all stories have a throughline in life, I want to share my introduction to a school leader leading in this special place, a place I first came to know in the novels East of Eden and Of Mice and Men.
Rebeca immigrated with her family from Mexico to Southern California at the formative age of fourteen, enrolling in eighth grade. She took ESL classes – English as a Second Language – because she did not speak English. Thus began this grand adventure in the U.S. public school system. While she did not know what the future held for her, she did know that her parents had a deep appreciation for what it would take to move as a family through career opportunities successfully. Despite her parents’ educational attainment in Mexico, her parents believed that they could not be successful in the U.S. without a college degree from a U.S. institution of higher education. And so they started again from the beginning in their new community.
There is no surprise that Rebeca is deeply committed to the field of education, and this value comes from a family that took steps together to support one another through multiple degree attainment. Upon relocating from Mexico, her parents enrolled in their local community college and did not stop until both had attained doctorate degrees. This meant that her parents, her siblings, herself, and eventually the grandchildren, supported and celebrated one another as a familia – an authentic example of life-long learning! Rebeca shared one photo of her parents, her siblings, herself and her youngest son in caps in gowns as she told her story from her parent’s perspective of the American dream.
After twenty years in education in Southern California, Rebeca moved to Salinas City for her current role as School Superintendent. She shared with me that while there is a lot of movement of educators within California, which leads to a collaborative network of teachers and leaders that know one another, she found that the density in Southern California provided richer conditions for recruitment and retention of staff than in her current school system in Salinas City. As an educator who understands the power and opportunities that come from a career in education, one of Rebeca’s immediate areas of focus has been to partner with local colleges and partner organizations including the The City of Salinas, Natividad Medical Center, Hartnell Community College, and Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas (CSVS), to build out the pipeline necessary to continuously recruit and retain a diverse and dynamic team to join the educator workforce in her community from her own community.
Rebeca not only values the empowerment of a community to lead its public school system, she is also a leader who understands the necessity of having a cohesive governance structure to advance the equity of access agenda for all students. At the CALSA WLN conference, I sat in on her session as she facilitated a conversation with two of her women board members currently serving in Salinas City, to talk about women in leadership, Trustee Jessica Powell and Trustee Angela Der Ramos.
They each shared their personal stories of grit, challenges, and voice as women of color. The workshop approach clearly showed that Rebeca has a style of bringing along others to share education leadership stories to inspire others to lead. Her take away to a room full of women educators? Everyone in the room can run for public office, everyone can pursue executive leadership, everyone has the power to solve the equity-based changes of today, and everyone should inspire others through networking and collective leadership.
Rebeca’s life story has been about the power of education on self, others and community. She is a superintendent to watch as her bold leadership and personal story continues to impact the field of education and others education leaders. La doctora Andrade es una voz por la equidad!
Dr. Rebeca Andrade is the Superintendent of the Salinas City Elementary School District in Salinas, CA. She has over twenty-five years of public school experience that includes classroom teaching, early childhood, social emotional learning systems and three years as a School Superintendent. Dr. Andrade has served on the board of CALSA – the California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators.