I am the son of my mother, who served for 42 years as a second grade teacher, and my father, who was a high school dropout, an orphan, a professional hockey player, an illegal alien, a decorated World War II U.S. Marine, and a business owner.
I grew up in my mother’s classroom, watching her teach, helping create bulletin boards, and tutoring struggling students. I also watched as her classroom burned down in the mid-1970s when she was the only white teacher working at a school serving “minority” children. I watched her tears, and I watched the community come out and embrace her and her work as she refused to leave the school, rebuilt her classroom, and replaced all the personal educational materials that had been destroyed. I learned from her the power of education, and the strength, courage, and resilience of the public school educator.
During high school I went to college and high school at the same time. I grew up with everyone telling me to become an educator, and out of a typical bout of teenage rebellion, went on a police ride-along, got an AS Degree in Law Enforcement and a BA in Criminal Justice Administration, and became a police officer to make the community and world a better place. During my five years as a police officer I asked every person I arrested if they had a high school diploma. I never heard “yes,” and I realized you do not transform lives and communities by putting people in prison. I resigned and started my career in education.
When I started teaching in Los Angeles, it was in the Lincoln Heights community, serving Wilson High School students that were receiving outpatient services at County USC Medical Center. This community gave me my wife, my incredible in-laws, and my church, and was also the location of my first K-12 school principalship. I learned the history of this community and the barriers that have impacted its residents going back many generations. I learned about what caused this community to thrive, and what causes it to decline. I learned that in prosperous economic times it did not matter if you had a diploma or citizenship, and in difficult times it does matter. That is why people were let go from their jobs, and why this community struggles. I learned this through talking with community leaders, grandfathers, compadres, grandmothers, comadres, students, families, and employers.
What has motivated me through my education experience was to gain knowledge and skills that could be brought back to daily interactions with students and faculty. I have a master’s degree in Counseling and Education Leadership. I wanted a doctorate so that I could gain skills and knowledge in academic research that I could then bring to my schools and translate into action research. I also wanted a program that specialized in urban education. That led me to Cal State Los Angeles and the Joint/Doctoral Program with UC Irvine.
The educational researchers that have influenced my vision and daily work are Paulo Freire, Dr. Pedro Noguera, Dr. Lois Andre-Bechley, Dr. Gil Conchas, Dr. Diego Vigil, and Dr. Stephan Kreshan. My grounding is that of social justice.
My vision is to remove the economic and social barriers that impact our students and their families. I believe that through schools providing high quality education programs with clearly defined outcomes that directly relate to employment and self empowerment, our students and community can be transformed, have self direction, and have residents that reach self actualization. I also believe that working in collaboration with the business community, both economic and educational empowerment can occur that can produce a transformative effect for the urban, inner city community.
The “operational” pathway to that vision is to provide the community with instructional programs in English as Second Language, Adult Basic Education, Adult Secondary Education, and Career Technical Education. I currently serve as Principal of the Wilson Lincoln Community Adult School, which has 60 sites and serves downtown Los Angeles to El Monte. I also serve on the Board of Directors for the Lincoln Heights Chamber of Commerce.