My experience as a member of PLI Cohort 20 was an unprecedented year of firsts. Personally, it was the first time I felt comfortable showing up as my full, authentic and intersectional identity. PLI was refreshing in that I was fortunate enough to experience a journey alongside a community of social justice leaders and educators committed to self improvement and discovery. Dr. Bettina Love’s quote “Education cannot save us. We have to save education,” continues to motivate me in personal path in disrupting and eradicating educational inequality for students of color. Ultimately, my multifaceted PLI experience added more fuel to the inner flame that emboldens me to share my story and use my voice for this immensely difficult and important work toward social justice.
The PLI Leadership Team includes Director, Nancy Parachini, Assistant Director, Tonikiaa Orange, and two Faculty Co-Directors, Robert Cooper and John Rogers. In addition, there are PLI faculty members, a program coordinator, and a student affairs officer.
Nancy Parachini is Director of the UCLA, Principal Leadership Institute. She specializes in leadership development and teacher learning, language acquisition, bilingual/dual immersion education, and international education for teachers and leaders. Dr. Parachini has 25 years of experience as an instructional leader within the Los Angeles Unified School District, serving in many roles including bilingual classroom teacher, principal, evaluator, and professional development specialist for administrators. She served as a Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute for Learning, a Program Evaluator for the UCLA School Management Program. In 1997, she received her doctorate in Educational Leadership from UCLA. Dr. Parachini is passionate about preparing social justice educators to transform the inequitable conditions in urban public schools. Dr. Parachini has been awarded several grants from California Department of Education and private funders focused on supporting leaders who serve marginalized populations. She collaborates with government and private international agencies in Argentina, Kenya, Taiwan, China and Mexico to provide professional learning for educational leaders.
Tonikiaa Orange is the Assistant Director for PLI. She is a former teacher and principal of a K-8 school in Los Angeles that was specifically designed to serve Standard English Learners (SEL) and English Language Learners (ELL) through Culturally Linguistic and Responsive Pedagogy. Her commitment to education spans over 20 years, and her experience and interest lie in culturally linguistic and sustaining pedagogy and evaluation. She has participated in the evaluation of urban school reform initiatives such as the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, the Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Restructuring Initiative and the Ford Foundation’s Devolution Initiative. In addition, she provides professional development on the implementation of cultural sustainability and responsive leadership. Tonikiaa Orange co-teaches Theories of Curriculum and Instruction in PLI. This course examines the philosophical, ethical, political and cultural underpinnings of curriculum and instruction and its impact on students that are most underserved in schools.
Robert Cooper is Faculty Co-Director of the Principal Leadership Institute and Associate Professor in the Urban Schooling division at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education. He specializes in the politics of education, and the implementation and replication of equity-minded reform. Dr. Cooper has served as a Sloan Public Policy Fellow at Brandeis University, a CORO Public Affairs Fellow, and in 1996 earned his Ph.D. in Education from UCLA. He is driven by a passion to encourage poor and minority youth to view themselves as lifelong learners. In PLI, he teaches ED 443: Social and Political Context of Urban Schools.
John Rogers is Faculty Co-Director of the Principal Leadership Institute, Faculty Director of Center X, and Associate Professor in the Urban Schooling division at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education. He studies strategies for engaging urban youth, community members, and educators in equity-focused school reform. Dr. Rogers earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University and draws extensively on the work of John Dewey to explore the meaning of and possibilities for democratic education today. In PLI, he co-teaches Education 448A, Principles of Leadership and also co-teaches ED 440C: Democracy, Democratic Leadership, and Public Accountability.
Raúl Alarcón is the Founding Principal of City Language Immersion Charter (CLIC), a dual language elementary school in the West Adams neighborhood in Los Angeles. Mr. Alarcón has been a bilingual educator for over twenty five years. He has worked at the UCLA Lab School for nineteen years serving in various leadership roles such as the Coordinator of the Learning in Two Languages Program and Summer School Principal. He worked on various professional development institutes at the lab school such as the Summer Institute of Archaeology for Teachers, The Critical Thinking Institute and the Primary Sources institute. He has also served as the Director of the annual Bilingual Educators in California Symposium at UCLA and was a BCLAD instructor for the UCLA Teacher Education Program. Mr. Alarcón is a graduate of the UCLA Principal Leadership Institute and co-teaches ED 420A: Theories of Curriculum and Instruction.
Kelly Barnes has exclusively practiced education law for over twenty years. Dr. Barnes currently serves in the Office of General Counsel for Los Angeles Unified School District. She was previously counsel for the Orange County Department of Education, which also provides legal services to all districts in the county. Prior to joining OCDE in 2013, Dr. Barnes was in-house counsel for the Los Angeles Unified School District for ten years and the Los Angeles County Office of Education for five years. Dr. Barnes graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in Secondary Education, English and an emphasis in Japanese, and taught for three years before attending UCLA School of Law. Dr. Barnes earned her doctorate in Education from UCLA in 2004. Dr. Barnes has extensive experience in advising schools, with specialization in student and employment issues. She is dedicated to educational equity for all students and has particularly focused on students experiencing homelessness, expelled students, and adjudicated youth. In PLI, she teaches Education 296 G & H: Law and Educational Practice.
Mauro Bautista is the principal of Mendez High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District. In addition, Mr. Bautista is a recipient of the famed Mathematics pipeline at James Garfield High School, that gained national attention through Mr. Jaime Escalante’s teachings and methods. He earned his bachelor’s degree in history and chicano studies and not only finished his undergraduate degree as a Bruin but also received multiple master’s degrees, teaching credential and an administrator’s credential − it is safe to state that he is as much a Bruin as one can be! In PLI, Mauro teaches ED 470A, Large Systems and Individual Schools: School Management and Operations.
Minnie Ferguson is a co-founder and Director of Education of Semillas Community Schools, a Mexican Indigenous, non-governmental, community-based, educational organization whose mission is to cultivate higher education and advance social justice as Indigenous Peoples. Ms. Ferguson is also Head of School of Anahuacalmecac International University Preparatory of North America Charter School in East Los Angeles. She earned both a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Arts in Urban Planning from the University of California, Los Angeles. She also holds a Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential, an Administrative Services Credential and a Master’s in Educational Administration from the California State University, Los Angeles. Ms. Ferguson is a trained consultant, program evaluator, and workshop leader for the International Baccalaureate.
As a student at UCLA, she helped lead a student movement which designed and founded the Cesar Chavez Chicana and Chicano Studies Department. Beginning with this experience, Ms. Ferguson has been involved in educational transformation for over two decades. Ms. Ferguson is a PLI Field Supervisor and instructs ED 498A/B/C: Field Experience.
Chuck Flores, Ed.D.has been an educator for over thirty years. He has served as a Teacher, Bilingual Coordinator, Dean of Students, Assistant Principal, Principal and Coordinator of Operations for Local District 4 (LAUSD).
A native of Southern California, Dr. Flores was born and raised in the city of San Fernando, and is a product of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
A graduate of the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California, Dr. Flores earned his Ed.D. in K-12 Leadership in Urban School Settings. His dissertation, Preparing Leaders for the Challenges of the Urban School, looks at the work of principals in urban schools, and the support they receive from their districts to build teacher capacity as instructional leaders. Dr. Flores also has a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Studies from California State University, Northridge; a Master’s Degree in American Studies from Pepperdine University; and a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from California State University, Northridge.
Dr. Flores first started with the Principals’ Leadership Institute as a guest lecturer in the summer of 2007, before joining the staff as an instructor in School Management and Operations. He has also taught in the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Administrative Academy, working with newly appointed administrators on school management, operations, and safety.
Dr. Flores believes that education is the true path by which Social Justice will be fully realized, and one whereby Equity and Access for all students will one day be attainable. In PLI, he co-teaches ED 411A: The Principal as Researcher.
Megan Franke is a Professor in the Urban Schooling division at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. Dr. Franke’s work focuses on understanding and supporting teacher learning through professional development, particularly within elementary mathematics. As a part of Center X, she works with UCLA’s Teacher Education Program, Principal Leadership Institute, the California Subject Matter Projects, university researchers, community administrators and teachers to create and study the development of learning opportunities for students in Los Angeles’ lowest performing schools. In PLI, she co-teaches ED 448A: Principles of Leadership.
Leyda W. Garcia has been an educator for over twenty years. Her ideal classroom represents a space full of possibilities to transgress and to make education the “practice of freedom” (bell hooks). Ms. Garcia prides herself in being an advocate for subaltern voices in the field, from immigrant students to students with special needs. Her social justice orientation guides her shared-leadership approach to create vibrant school communities where all voices are heard and elevated.
Ms. Garcia holds a B.A. in Psychology and a M.A. in Education from Stanford University. She graduated from UCLA’s Principal Leadership Institute program in 2007. She is a doctoral student in the LMU Social Justice Leadership Program. As a researcher and scholar Ms. Garcia wants to focus on the experiences of unaccompanied minors who represent a vulnerable population of students. She hopes to engage in youth participatory action research to showcase the powerful stories of immigrant-origin youth. Leyda W. Garcia was born in Guatemala and immigrated to Los Angeles in 1986.
Louis M. Gomez is Professor and MacArthur Chair in Digital Media and Learning at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies. He is also a Senior Fellow at The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. His scholarship focuses on understanding how to catalyze organizational change in schools and other institutions that aim to improve the life chances of learners. In PLI, he co-teaches ED 448B: Educational Leadership Laboratory: Improving Complex Systems.
Among his recent publications are:
Bryk, A. S., Gomez, L. M., & Grunow, A. (2011). Getting ideas into action: Building networked improvement communities in education. In Frontiers in Sociology of Education, (Ed.) Maureen Hallinan. New York, NY: Springer Publishing.
Gomez, L., Sherin, M., Griesdorn, J., & Finn, L. (2008) Creating Social Relationships: The Role of Technology in Pre-Service Teacher Preparation. Journal of Teacher Education. 59, 117-131
JoAnn Isken is currently the Associate Director of Academic Programs at UCLA. She recently retired as the Assistant Superintendent of Instruction at the Lennox School District. Since 1976, JoAnn has served in several education positions – first as a classroom teacher, then as a Reading Specialist, a Trainer of Teachers, and as a Principal at Jefferson and Moffett Elementary Schools, where both received the California Distinguished School Award. She was a State Approved External Evaluator for the State of California. Additionally, she has been an Instructor in graduate programs at UCLA and Pepperdine Universities and is currently teaching Transformational Leadership at Loyola Marymount University. She is a co-author of Developing Novice Teachers as Change Agents by Sheila Lane, Nancy Lacefield Parachini, and JoAnn Isken published by the Teacher Education Quarterly in 2003. In PLI, she teaches ED 441A: Leadership of Core Practices: Instruction and Student Behavior.
Letitia Johnson-Davis is an experienced educator with over two decades of instructional practice in K-5 classrooms. She has had laudable success in the development, implementation, and training of culturally responsive pedagogy. Her doctoral research examined this approach as she observed the reading acquisition of first grade African American boys in culturally responsive classrooms. She fuses her expertise and experience in her interactive presentation style; that experience is rich as she has been a “Teaching Africa” workshop presenter, a site coordinator & trainer for Freedom Schools, as well as a consultant with the Center for Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning. She just completed her seventh year of school leadership at an urban public elementary school in Los Angeles, where she was able to support leading the school in being publicly acknowledged for its work with traditionally underserved student populations; most notably however is the school receiving a 2020 California Distinguished School Award for Closing the Achievement Gap. Of particular note is the fact that she was able to guide a school, in which she carried such trust and confidence in what’s being provided, that she had her own two sons in attendance for their entire elementary experience, making her not just a proud principal but likewise a proud parent. She is elated to be part of the UCLA Faculty, supporting social justice school leaders within the Principal Leadership Institute program.
Georgia Lazo has twenty five years of experience in education including teaching, counseling, instructional coaching and administration. She has taught at the elementary, secondary and adult school levels. She was the Founding Principal of the UCLA Community School, a unique partnership between LAUSD and UCLA. This one of its kind Pilot school is part of Chancellor Block’s initiative toward civic engagement and is a model of praxis. Ms. Lazo is currently principal of the UCLA Lab School. Her areas of interest include autonomous schools and equity and access to college for underrepresented minority students. She is also interested in work which challenges deficit thinking and that challenges the school to prison pipeline. Ms. Lazo earned her BA in English from the University of California, Irvine and her MA in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University. She is also a graduate of the UCLA Principal Leadership Institute and there earned an MA in Urban School Leadership. In PLI, Georgia co-teaches ED 440C: Democracy, Democratic Leadership, and Public Accountability with Professor John Rogers.
Dee Dee Lonon is a PLI faculty member with more than 30 years experience as an educator and leader within the Los Angeles Unified School District. She holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from Pepperdine University and has served as a principal, curriculum coordinator, and bilingual teacher, and in other educational roles. Ms. Lonon teaches ED 470A, School Management and Operations as well as ED 498A,B,C, Field Experience.
Nanette Terrenal joins the Principal Leadership Institute team as a Field Work Supervisor. She is recently retired from the Los Angeles Unified School District where she served for 20 years in various capacities. During that time, Ms. Terrenal became a National Board Certified Teacher while teaching multi-level grades, served as an Instructional Coach, worked as an Assistant Principal for both general education and Special Education and as an elementary school principal. She is a proud Bruin, receiving both her undergraduate degree in Sociology and M.ED. degree in Educational Administration from UCLA. Ms. Terrenal earned her administrative credential as a member of Cohort 6 in the Principal Leadership Institute. Prior to her work in education, she was employed in the fashion industry and the non-profit sector for 18 years. Ms. Terrenal is happy to join this distinguished faculty and give back to the program that was so instrumental in developing her leadership philosophy and practice.
Nataly Birch is the Principal Leadership Institute Program Coordinator. She works closely with the PLI director, faculty, and fieldwork supervisors to support the logistics, implementation and planning all PLI related events. She provides administrative, analytical, and organization support for PLI. Nataly received her B.S. in Business from the University of California, Berkeley.
Kim Matheussens is the Student Affairs Officer/Credential Analyst for the Principal Leadership Institute. As part of the Office of Student Services, Kim is responsible for graduate admissions, graduate student services, Preliminary Administrative Services Credential processing, and miscellaneous administrative assistance to students, faculty, and staff. Kim received her B.A. from Ball State University in English and German and has studied at the Katholische Universität Eichstätt and the Westfälische-Wilhelms-Universität Münster, in Germany. She taught business English to adult learners in Antwerp, Belgium, before taking administrative positions at UC Berkeley and UCLA.
Principal Leadership Institute (PLI) Alumni
Participating in UCLA Principal’s Leadership Institute provided me the opportunity to understand that most of the challenges we face in education are structural rather than instructional. The UCLA Professors pulled back a veil obscuring inequity hidden within the blueprints of the school system and with each class provided a new set of tools to rework the structure in collaboration with parents, students, and teachers. After graduation, their coaching network continues to support me personally and professionally as I advocate to change the rules for our students and community. Thank you PLI!”