Executive Director Dr.David Vedugo is a proven and dynamic California educational leader who has served diverse communities in a variety of teaching, administrative and leadership posts for over 40 years. A dedicated and nationally recognized educational leader, Dr. Verdugo continues to train and mentor aspiring administrators and superintendents since retiring in 2013. Dr. Verdugo is a distinguished member, representative, guest speaker or professional resource for a number of state and national organizations, including the Association of California School Administrators (“ACSA”), California School Boards Association (“CSBA”), American Association of School Administrators (“AASA”) and Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (“ALAS”).
Dr. Cesar A. Morales currently the Superintendent of Oxnard School District. Prior to this he was an Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Services for the Lawndale School District. He has served as a high school teacher, middle school Special Education teacher, middle school counselor, Assistant Principal, Learning Director and Principal; all prior to working in Human Resources. He also was a part-time instructor at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) teaching Organizational Management courses in the Educational Administration program (2007-2010). Dr. Morales earned a BA from Loyola Marymount University, a MA in Educational Administration from Loyola Marymount University and a Doctorate of Education from UCLA. As a doctoral student, his research interests included resiliency theory, school access and equity, parental involvement and college going culture. He is also active in the community. Dr. Morales has served as a board member and Personnel Committee member for Westside Innovative School House (WISH) Charter school in Westchester, California, a mentor in the California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators (CALSA), and has been a conference presenter for the Learning Rights Center, a non-profit organization working with parents who have students with disabilities. Dr. Morales has also been involved in the CALSA mentorning program – he was a protégé in Cohort 6 .
Martha L. Martinez currently serves as Salinas City School District Superintendent and prior to holding this position was the Director, District/School Support Services, for Santa Clara County Office of Education, providing leadership to districts in sustainable systemic change resulting in improved student achievement. Martha is the Region 8 Lead of Regional System of District and School Support, providing technical assistance and professional development on systemic reform that address the tenets of ESEA. Martha has over 30 years in education; the last 16 years in K-12 administration serving as principal, EL Administrator, and Director, Categorical and Special Projects. Her lifelong belief is that leaders must create educational equity to ensure societal equality. She works daily to reform public education to ensure that all learners have a chance at an equitable education.
Martha received a M.A in Organizational Leadership from University of San Francisco and B.A. in Child Development from San Jose State University. She believes strongly in community service as key to furthering the education of all students. As a CALSA Cohort 7 and 8 Mentor Martha works with dynamic Latina administrators and enjoys going to the mentee’s site to provide “real-time” coaching. She currently serves as Santa Clara County Office of Education Administration Association ACSA charter past-president, a position she also held twice in Gilroy Unified. She has served as President of Gilroy Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Founding Member of the Latino Family Fund, Past President of Gilroy’s Gang Task Force, President of Latina Coalition, San Jose State University Advisory Board and Board of Directors for Saint Louise Regional Hospital.
Dr. Jacqueline Perez received a BA, Biological Sciences (1997) and a M.Ed., Education (1999) from UC Santa Barbara. She moved from the Santa Barbara area and taught biology at Montebello High School in Los Angeles County. Although she enjoyed teaching science to all students, especially at-risk and English Learners, she knew that she wanted to serve a broader purpose and impact school-wide change. Jacqueline then earned a M.A. in Educational Leadership from CSU Los Angeles in 2001. She left the classroom, and became a Teacher Support Specialist, supporting new teachers and delivering staff development. Eager for a new challenge, she left Montebello USD to be a Strategy Coach for Action Learning Systems (ALS). These experiences all reinforced her background in instructional reform and research-based teaching strategies. She later earned her doctorate from the University of Southern California (USC) in 2005.
Jacqueline’s administrative experiences include serving as an Assistant Principal, Instruction at Workman High School in La Puente, CA, Assistant Principal, Curriculum at Westminster High School in Westminster, CA and Curriculum Coordinator, Temple City USD. She was the principal at Chino Hills High School in Chino Hills, CA and currently lives in the Sacramento area serving as the Associate Superintendent, Human Resources/Labor Relations in Twin Rivers Unified School District.
Alejandro Hogan is currently Assistant Superintendent to Napa Valley Unified School District. He was the Superintendent of South San Francisco Unified School District (SSFUSD) since July 1, 2011. SSFUSD with nine (9) elementary schools, three (3) middle schools and three (3) high schools is the largest unified school district in San Mateo County. With 28 years in education, his career began at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California as a Spanish language Training Specialist. He became an elementary teacher in Salinas and taught first, third and fifth grades. While in Salinas he became an assistant principal and subsequently a school principal. He also has been a director and assistant superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction.
Prior to his arrival in South San Francisco, Mr. Hogan was the Associate Superintendent of Human Resources for the Salinas Union High School District. He received his Master’s degree in Spanish and Latin American literature from the University of California Santa Barbara in 1982, and a Bachelors Degree in Foreign Languages in 1980. Mr. Hogan is a member of the Association of California School Administrators where he served as the Region 10 representative on the Board of Directors from 2009-12. In 2003 he received the award of Negotiator of the Year in the State of California. He is also a member of the California Association of Bilingual Education (CABE), the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). He is also an adjunct professor for San Jose State University in the Administrative Services Credential Program. He served as an Equal Opportunity Commissioner for the Monterey County Board of Directors.
Director of Mentoring Program
Socorro Shiels currently serves as the Superintendent of the beautiful Santa Rosa City School District located in Sonoma County, California. In her second year leading the district, she serves over 17,000 students across 26 comprehensive schools. Ms. Shiels has nearly 20 years of public education experience. She values her diverse experience, which combines elementary and secondary instruction and site leadership experience as well as passion and expertise in quality second language instruction, curriculum and assessment and in meeting the needs of advanced learners at the elementary and secondary level. Prior to joining Santa Rosa City Schools, as the Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services in the Morgan Hill Unified School District, she led several key district initiatives including building a common benchmark assessment system, creating new magnet schools including a Dual Language program, and becoming a standards driven school district. These new endeavors included the voice and professional expertise of teachers, administrators and parents. The thorough implementation process also included powerful professional development that ensured growing organizational capacity to meet the needs of students. This work demonstrates her commitment to professional collaboration, high quality instruction, and the involvement of many stakeholders.
Prior to Morgan Hill, she was the Program Director of District and School Support Services for the Santa Clara County Office of Education. In this position, Ms. Shiels assisted schools and districts in various stages of program improvement, leverage resources for school reform, and increased educational opportunities for all students. She began her career as a bilingual teacher and has worked both as a high school vice principal and an elementary principal. She also served as the Director of Multicultural Education and Professional Development in a secondary district in Sacramento. Ms. Shiels led her district out of the Comite/ Office of Civil Rights review process for districts failing to meet the needs of English Learners. Additionally, she ensured that same urban secondary district passed the Categorical Program Monitoring process (CPM) with no areas of non-compliance, a rare occurrence for secondary English Learner (EL) programs. Ms. Shiels is currently completing her PhD at UC Davis. She is specializing in issues of English Learner assessment.
Region 1 – Bay Area
As a long-standing CALSA member, I have experienced how valuable and essential our organization is for the advocacy, leadership, & mentoring of the next generation of Latina/Latino school & district leaders.
I currently have the privilege serving as the Executive Director of Achievement & Innovation for the Napa Valley USD. Our district serves 18,400 students in which 55% are Latina/Latino. Prior to coming to Napa, I had a successful tenure as a High School Principal at Dixon High in Dixon, CA in where I led our school to achieve the highest college going rate in the county & received the prestigious California Distinguished School award.
As a proud member of CALSA my volunteer efforts include serving on the Scholarship Committee, presenting at various Summer Institutes & mentorship workshops. Being a protégé in Cohort 4 & serving as a mentor in Cohort 7 has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career & has given me the opportunity to continue serving as a graduate of the ALAS Cohort 3 Superintendents Leadership Academy.
Region 2 – Sacramento/Sierras
Having worked in the Bio-Tech field prior to becoming an educator, Dr. Armstrong holds a rooted passion and commitment for students to be both College and Career Ready. One simple concept “of growing her classroom” motivated her as secondary teacher, middle school counselor, Assistant Principal, Principal, Coordinator, Director, Assistant Superintendent, and now as Woodland Joint Unified School District’s Superintendent.
Region 3 – Central Valley
My name is Ruben Diaz and I reside in Fresno, California. As the CALSA Regional Representative for the Central California Region 3. I have been fortunate to serve as this regions representative for 4 years already, and look forward to serving again.
In the past 15 years, I have served as a vice principal, principal and charter school director in various school settings, ranging from elementary school through high school. A good bulk of my administrative career was spent at the middle school level. Currently, I am now serving as the Principal for Teague Elementary School for Central Unified School District in Fresno, California. Our district serves just over 15,000 students while employing just under 2,000 staff members. Our school site is over 700 students and is home to a 98% free and reduced lunch population. While we have our challenges, our staff embraces this challenge on a daily basis.
My heart and soul is my family. I have three children, son Bailey who is a freshman at Clovis North High School, daughter Shelby who is a 7th grader at Granite Ridge Jr. High and my youngest son Heatley, who has begun his educational career this year in kindergarten. In between work and school, I love to coach and cheer on my kids on as this year has included marching band competitions, water polo junior olympics and soccer tournaments.
In putting together my passions of education, family and kids, I strive to see CALSA become a leader in educational expertise not only for second language learners, but for all children looking for equity and equality in their educational experiences. Too many of our Latino students come from backgrounds that are not rich in formal education yet value work ethic, academics and family. We as Latino/a leaders must be able to harness those values and help catapult the next generation of children into positions in order to be successful in their own endeavors.
Region 4 – Central Coast Area
Ed Cora is currently Superintendent of Guadalupe Union School District. He has thirty-one years of educational experience, twenty as an administrator.
After graduating with a degree in Elementary Education from East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania, he began his teaching career in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (1984). After three years teaching, he moved to California and joined the Orcutt Union School District, where he continued teaching and later coordination the district’s Outreach Program.
In 1995, after earning a Master’s degree and an administrative credential, he began his administrative career with the Santa Maria-Bonita School District. He was hired as an assistant principal (2 years), promoted to elementary principal (7 years), subsequently becoming a junior high school principal (7 years).
Region 5 – Los Angeles
Susanna Contreras Smith’s forty-year span in education included her appointment as Superintendent of Schools at Montebello Unified School District, the third largest district in Los Angeles County. She has served in numerous and diverse roles in administration and teaching spanning TK-12 and community college. Susanna’s extensive and successful experience include 17 years as a classroom teacher, middle school Assistant Principal, Principal, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, and Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, all within Los Angeles County.
Susanna is recognized for her visionary work, demonstrated leadership, and collaborative approach. She was bored and raised in Boyle Heights/East Los Angeles and is a second generation Mexican-American.
Region 6 – San Diego/Inland Empire
Dr. Mary McNeil currently serves as Superintendent of the Needles Unified School District. Dr. McNeil has over 30 years in education serving as assistant superintendent, director, middle school and elementary principal, assistant principal, bilingual coordinator, ESL adult program instructor, bilingual teacher and bilingual aide. As a pioneer in California’s early bilingual programs, Dr. McNeil worked closely with state experts to initiate and implement effective primary language and dual immersion programs in urban settings. In her current role as Superintendent, Dr. McNeil continues to strive to provide ALL students equity and access to quality educational programs to support individual achievements, regardless of cultural or economic factors. Her lifelong belief in building capacity in others to support the collective strength in our society is evident throughout her career. Dr. McNeil has promoted women in leadership roles through educational and community organizations. ACSA recognized Dr. McNeil as the State Administrator of the Year for her work as Central Office Administrator.
Dr. McNeil earned a BA in Developmental Psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara; a MS in Education and a PhD in Policy, Planning and Administration from the University of Southern California. As a doctoral student, her research focused on identifying factors that enhanced and impeded Hispanic doctoral students in the completion of their degrees. Dr. McNeil serves as a CALSA mentor in Cohort 12 and formerly in Cohort 10. She has been a conference presenter for ACSA’s Women’s Leadership Network Conference events. She is most proud of her success as the parent of two bilingual/bicultural children, Patrick and Jessica Martinez, who have been the inspiration for her life’s work to support Latino/Latina achievement within our society.
Sal Holguín, Jr. is a partner in the Cerritos office of Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo. He represents public and private employers in labor and employment law matters which include collective bargaining, investigations, employee discipline, and defending employers against discrimination claims and contract grievances. In addition, Mr. Holguín provides advice and counsel to public school districts on general school law matters. In 2006, Mr. Holguín was named a “Southern California Rising Star” by Law & Politics and Los Angeles Magazine, based on a poll of selected Southern California lawyers. This recognition honors exceptional Southern California attorneys who are under the age of 40. Mr. Holguín received dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in both Political Science and Spanish from Stanford University and his Juris Doctor from the University of California, Los Angeles.
He served as recruitment chair of La Raza Students Association and was an associate editor of the Chicano and Latino Law Review while in law school. He is a member of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, Mexican American Bar Association, Stanford Alumni Association, the California Latino School Board Members Association, and the South Bay Latino Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Holguín gives presentations on a variety of employment and school law issues. He is able to adapt his presentations to both English- and Spanish-speaking audiences. His fluency in Spanish greatly facilitates school-related investigations involving Spanish-speaking students and parents. He is a contributor to the firm’s school law publications.
Mr. Loya has represented school districts for over 25 years including litigation through the Supreme Court, labor negotiations, business and educational equity issues. Mr. Loya began his career serving Latino clients at Centro Legal de la Raza. He has lectured at various University of California schools and numerous educational organizations. Mr. Loya has successfully represented schools and colleges in precedent setting cases including the only precedential case where a teacher was fired for incompetency. Mr. Loya has been recognized in Bay Area Lawyer as a Top Litigator and Law and Politics Magazine and a Northern California “Super Lawyer”.