Collaboration key to success, California school superintendent says

Profiles in Power highlights public officials nationwide who are improving their communities through their dedication, enthusiasm, creativity and experience.

This week’s profile is Luis Valentino, superintendent of California’s Coachella Valley Unified School District.

Public career highlights and education: My career in education spans 35 years. I started as a classroom teacher in Los Angeles Unified School District and after a short career in film, I came back to education. Later on, I received a doctorate degree from UCLA, thinking I may move from K-12. But three years later I became the principal of a local school. While I was a superintendent in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I started a podcast called District Leader where I would interview superintendents from across the country. My next stop was Portland, where I focused on helping minorities in the school district.  After 3-1/2 years I felt the need to come back to Southern California, and that is how I ended up as a superintendent here at Coachella Valley Unified School District.

What I like best about public service: I grew up very poor in in South El Paso in Texas, right along the Mexican border. My grandmother, who raised me, and other amazing people gave up their time and energy to teach me, to mentor me and to support me along the way – especially the teachers. So it was not a great leap to end up in education because it was something that I believed in myself.

The best advice I’ve received: One of my mentors, who is still a dear friend of mine, told me to remember that the work I do is about people. That made me realize that I really had to be more collaborative, more open minded, more aware of my context and who I was working with and talking to.

People might be interested to know that:  Before I came to Coachella, I was an avid snowboarder, which I did for 15 or so years. I even wrote a book about snowboarding for older adults because when I first started snowboarding, given my age, I was probably the oldest person on the hill as a snowboarder. I noticed that over time those kids started to get older and other people decided to snowboard because it was easier on the knees, so I was no longer was the older person.

One thing I wish more people knew about school districts: From the teacher to the yard supervisor to the principal to the superintendent and even those who carry out non-traditional jobs, such as after-school programs, they are out there day in and day out wanting to do right by those they serve. However, all too often our elected officials and government leaders make decisions that work against those things. There is a chasm between those who make policy and law and those who implement it in a way that actually benefits the end user – who in most cases is the student.

Government Market News Staff

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