TALAS Executive Director on Advancing Latino Leaders and Learners in Texas
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5 Questions with Dr. Stan Paz
Despite the fast-rising numbers of Latinos in Texas schools, there are few Latino top administrators in education. The Texas Association for Latino Administrators and Superintendents (TALAS) advocates for the growth and advancement of Latino learners and leaders in Texas—something the state desperately needs given the critical shortage of Latino leadership.
Executive Director and Founding President of TALAS Dr. Stan Paz’s 45 year-long career in education has spanned the gamut as a former superintendent, deputy superintendent, vice president of McGraw-Hill Education, and regional vice president of Sylvan Learning.
In this interview, Dr. Stan Paz explains how TALAS helps district administrators succeed in order to improve public education for all students—with an emphasis on improving the educational and career opportunities of Latino youth.
Can you tell us more about your role at TALAS and what kind of work you do with district leaders?
I am the Executive Director at TALAS, the Texas Association for Latino Administrators and Superintendents, which falls under the umbrella of TASA, the Texas Association of School Administrators. We have a two-pronged vision: Latino Learners and Latino Leadership Development. By focusing on how we can advocate on behalf of the Latino Leaders in Texas, we can start developing opportunities for new people who want to become superintendents and/or cabinet-level associate superintendents and deputy superintendents. This year, our priority is reaching out to affiliates or different regions in Texas and developing additional organizations as official TALAS affiliates.
Can you share more about your success with developing TALAS affiliates?
At this point in time, we have two that are very established and mature. One is the Hispanic School Administrators in Houston. And the other one was Dallas Hispanic School Administrators. Both of them already had over 300 members and were already pretty active over the last 30 to 40 years. It was a big gain for TALAS when they became affiliates. Since then, we've had affiliates established in Garland, Greater Central Texas in the Austin area, El Paso, and Lubbock/West Texas. We're so excited about these affiliates and the potential memberships that they bring to the table. We can now all work together and begin developing leadership at the grassroots level.
Another success that we've had is partnering with them to advocate for us on various issues. For example, we started calling upon our legislative leadership to support some of the legislation that's important to English Language Learners. Right now, we’re really active with the Latino Task Force on redistricting. That, in particular, is a very important subject for us. We have a seat at the table and are representing TALAS in this conversation. Because of these affiliate relationships,we asked the president of the El Paso affiliate to sign up and testify in El Paso.
To put it into perspective, Texas currently has 1,020 school districts, and only 83 of those school districts are led by Latino leaders. Considering that over 53% of the Texas student population is Latino, we can plainly see that there is insufficient Latino leadership representation. We have a long way to go, but we are eager and motivated to make a difference.
How can the leadership pipeline be more diversified to better represent the Latino population?
First, I believe that every superintendent in Texas should join TALAS, whether or not someone is Latino. It is not an organization just for Latino Leaders or aspiring Latino Leaders. It is open to anyone who wants to address the issues of educating Latino Learners and share our vision and values. We have a significant number of our members that are African American. More diversity is great, especially in TALAS.
Secondly, it's crucial that school districts and leaders understand what we're trying to accomplish here with our efforts. The goal is to make every superintendent successful, not just Latino superintendents. We have some ideas, strategies, and best practices to share that could help every school district in Texas, and we want to make sure that we don't hold on to that knowledge but rather disperse it via collaboration with other districts.
What is an example of a resource you provide your members with to help them succeed?
We wanted to establish a partnership with a university that would help us create a doctoral program that our members could complete in two years. The reason being that if they're going to become a superintendent, and if they want to be competitive, most often the differentiating factor is if they have a doctorate. Walden University was eager to work with us on this initiative, and they were willing to collaborate with us on our vision on behalf of our members. As an added bonus, they are an online university, and someone can enroll anytime and complete the program according to their needs and work schedules.
We already have three cohorts that enrolled with Walden, and several of our members have graduated with doctorates. Walden University is a perfect example of the partners that we bring in that will not only support us but will help us to reach our goal.
What advice do you have for other districts that need help getting students to meet the benchmarks for 2021-22 and beyond?
Honestly, the secret sauce for our success and achievement in working to close the gap in some of our districts like Ysleta, Fabens, and El Paso was the influence of our first-generation Latino families. First-generation Latino families are similar to any other first-generation family in the United States. Meaning, if school leaders asked the parents to bring their children to the school at 7:00 AM and leave them until 5:00 PM, they would do it. If they told them we wanted them to come to school Saturday morning from 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM, they would be there. This is because they understand that education is the ticket for them to be successful.
Moreover, we learned that you can't teach English until a student has a solid Spanish literacy foundation. Therefore, we didn't start to teach English until the students were fully literate in Spanish, and they continued to develop the literacy all the way through Middle School. Now, if they wanted to be in Spanish language programs in high school, they could do that. But we didn't promote it past middle school. We looked at the research very carefully and acted accordingly. If we had students exit our bilingual programs prematurely, they tended to drop out of school altogether. So, we knew what we had to do, and we did it the best way we knew how by relying on our expertise to get it done.
That being said, my advice to school districts that are struggling with the achievement gap is to intervene with the appropriate solution, or else you're going to create some real inequities. Meet the students and parents where they are at, do your research, get to the root of the issue and work with the parents and staff to adjust and create long-term plans to support the students where they need it.
TALAS is here to help and promote success for all students and especially Latino learners.