Here I am with my father. Alexander Joseph Mucerino was a Teamster, Local 282. He worked for the same construction company for his entire career. G. W. Clark & Sons built roads. “Big Al” dug ditches and drove a dump truck. He completed the 8th grade before leaving school to help support his immigrant family of eight, interrupted only by WWII when he joined the US Army and fought in Germany. He and my mother, a high school graduate before heading to the workforce, instilled in my sister and me a work ethic that above all has served us both well as we exceeded our parents’ dream of attending college and “making something of ourselves” as they always insisted that we do, without complaint.
My passion for equity and my mission to help students just like me whose trajectory was not headed to the top of the pyramid is a fire that burns deeply in my soul. If I could do it, then so could every other hard-working person who is given direction, resources, and a helping hand when needed. I have always assumed that my students do not all have the same level of direction, resources, and support or perhaps none at all. Schools are the modern engines of social justice. When our schools fail, we as a people and a country fail. The mission to embed social justice in schools is just and necessary. Highly qualified teachers should teach all of our children, and the most disadvantaged pupils need the most highly of highly qualified teachers. Until we value teachers and educators and compensate them appropriately, we as a society are at the least partially complicit in failing our youth.
I view school districts through the lens of a learning organization. The value of learning by individuals and organizations for continuous improvement and adaptability to the ever-changing environment is the primary driver in successful school districts. The learning organization concept originated in the business world. As a member of the Education Leadership faculty at California State University, Fullerton, I prepare education leaders to use the four integrated aspects of learning organizations - organizational learning, learning at work, learning climate and learning structure - as a framework for analysis.
Regarding teaching and learning, both are active, constructive processes that are understood within the context of the learning environment as well as the overall environment. Effective teaching is a deliberate and planned activity. It involves a purpose (goal-oriented). It is coherent (structured). It is meaningful (creates cognitive dissonance). It is functional. New knowledge is acquired in relation to previous knowledge. As the lead learner it is my responsibility to support a system that enhances teaching and learning. Among the most successful frameworks that enhance teaching and learning are Professional Learning Communities (PLC). PLCs have proven to be effective drivers for improved student achievement. Based on the principles of teamwork, trust, and strong leadership, highly effective PLCs create an environment where individuals feel valued and are willing to work together to learn and thrive.
Finally, politics at the board and superintendent level plague all school districts. Our board has assured me that they are committed to the five key principles for organizational success: (1) Clarify roles and expectations for board members and superintendent; (2) Establish and implement a clear process for communication between board members and administration; (3) Actively work to build trust and mutual respect between the board and administrative team; (4) Evaluate the whole team: and (5) Actively work on improved decision‐making.