SACRAMENTO – Many of the state’s leading educators will gather in Sacramento Feb. 20-22 as the California Association of African American Superintendents and Administrators (CAAASA) convenes its annual conference, with an agenda to develop strategies for tackling some of the most difficult challenges facing Black students across California.
With President Obama’s executive order — the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans — as a backdrop, the conference will emphasize professional development and the academic, social and policy tools necessary to boost Black student achievement.
With support from the California Department of Education (CDE), the conference will be hosted at the Sacramento Sheraton Grand Hotel. Opening night of the gathering will be highlighted by an awards gala, during which the law firm of Atchison, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo will receive CAAASA’s 2013 Corporate Award.
Educators from school districts throughout the state have also been invited to participate in many of the conference offerings, with two days of events preceded by a full pre-conference schedule.
“This the first time we have had such a strong participation from the California Department of Education,” said CAAASA President Pamela Short-Powell, who has served as superintendent of the Inglewood Unified School District and in other high-ranking posts.
“I believe this is a critical link in partnering with CDE and other education stakeholders to ensure inclusion of our point of view when addressing policy decisions for Black students,” she added.
In a letter issued in support of the conference, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson summed up much of the agenda when he wrote of his concern “that our African-American students fall below national norms of student achievement and performance measures. In addition, low graduation rates coupled with high dropout rates, the [disproportionate] over-representation of African American males enrolled in special education programs and the high rate of school suspension and expulsion for African American students are critical concerns and must be addressed by California’s education community.”
Over three days, a wide array of conferees and presenters from the realms of government and academia will take part in workshops and panel discussions on these topics and more. In addition, guest speakers will give talks on such topics as legislative advances and urban school district partnerships.
Issued last summer, Obama’s order essentially created a White House office with a mandate to focus exclusively on boosting Black student achievement.
To further delineate the administration’s initiatives, the first full day of the CAAASA conference will be punctuated by a Thursday keynote address delivered by Seth Galendar, acting assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. On Friday, federal lawmakers will be invited to discuss their efforts to support African-American student achievement in the classroom and beyond.
For more information on the annual conference of California Association of African American Superintendents and Administrators, visit the organization’s website at caaasa.org.