President’s Message: Dr. Susan Heredia
A new school year brings new challenges and opportunities
Supporting students after the peak of the pandemic requires teamwork and innovation
minimal illustration of people holding up a large lightbulb together

The 2022 back-to-school season has been less anxiety-filled than the 2021 version, which for most LEAs marked the resumption of full-time, in-person instruction after months of remote learning. While COVID-19 still looms in the background, it is not front-and-center of the discussion around public schools. Instead, myriad issues like staffing shortages, declining enrollment, learning loss and acceleration and test scores dominate the conversation, with other topics like the shift to later school start times and home-to-school transportation also earning headlines.

In recent weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to explore these subjects with the leaders of organizations that represent constituent groups of school board members throughout the state, like the Asian Pacific Islander School Board Members Association (APISBMA), the California Association of Black School Educators, the California County Boards of Education and California Latino School Boards Association. I always appreciate the dialogue with these groups, as their memberships helps make up the diverse quilt of trustees that serve on behalf of California’s 6 million public school students. Our discussions always reveal fresh perspectives and urgent issues that inform CSBA’s advocacy on behalf of our state’s nearly 1,000 local educational agencies.

Susan Heredia headshot
“I never fail to be impressed by the resourcefulness that educators demonstrate in adapting to the constantly evolving nature of the work we do.”
Dr. Susan Heredia, CSBA President
Several important messages were reinforced during our meetings that should be considered as we roll up our sleeves for the heavy lifting of the 2022–23 school year. Mental health remains a critical concern for school district and county office of education board members of all backgrounds and in all locations, but special attention should be paid to students who are at risk of flying under the radar. Representatives from APISBMA rightly pointed out that the model minority myth can lead to under-identification of Asian American students facing mental health challenges and that schools should both be alert to and allocate for additional, culturally relevant resources to better support this student population. In a similar vein, the number of resources devoted to addressing the effects of poverty and mental health issues on indigenous students is insufficient to the challenges and customized interventions that are needed to fully serve a group that is often overlooked when discussing equity issues.

Of course, the issue of staffing shortages — a topic the media has been covered breathlessly in recent months — is on board members’ minds as well. I’m thrilled by reports of successful grow-your-own programs that focus on recruiting local residents into teaching or transitioning existing school staff from other roles into instructional positions. There is growing interest in these programs, not only for teachers, but for a variety of other hard-to-fill roles including many classified positions. Ultimately, in addition to the creative local efforts, we’ll need bold action at the state level to fully address staffing shortages and increase the appeal of jobs in education, and CSBA is heavily engaged in this advocacy.

At the federal level, the Biden-Harris Administration recently announced new efforts to strengthen the teaching profession and support schools in their effort to address teacher shortages as the new school year begins. This announcement includes new commitments from leading job platforms to make it easier for Americans to find opportunities in the education field, including an online job portal specifically dedicated to K-12 jobs through ZipRecruiter and virtual hiring fairs through Indeed. The announcement also came with a commitment from national organizations representing teachers, state school chiefs, governors and teacher colleges to work together to expand high-quality registered teacher apprenticeship programs, teaching residencies and grow-your-own programs.

I’ve also heard a tremendous amount about the steps schools are taking to prepare for and implement a number of mandates this year, like late school start times, universal transitional kindergarten and ethnic studies. Finding the space, time, personnel and training for these new or expanded programs creates Tetris-like challenges as boards, administrators and staff work to reconfigures schedules and facilities to accommodate the initiatives. I never fail to be impressed by the resourcefulness that educators demonstrate in adapting to the constantly evolving nature of the work we do.

This commitment to students and willingness to adapt in order to better serve them is essential to our service as school and county board members and superintendents. I applaud you for the resolve you have and will continue to show over the next nine months of the school year.