The California Association of African-American Superintendents and Administrators (CAAASA), a group of educational leaders, is committed to identifying and addressing the critical issues in education through public policy relative to the status and performance of African-American students in California.
Michael Watkins was elected Santa Cruz County Superintendent of Schools in November 2006. Watkins had served in the Santa Cruz County Office of Education since 1980 as Director Special Education, then Director, Alternative Education. Additionally, he served as Past State President of the Juvenile Court, Community and Alternative School Administrators of California. A native of Oakland, California, he received a B.A. in Psychology, teaching credentials in both History and Special Education and a Masters degree in School Administration from Cal State University Hayward. His teaching experience includes one year as a teacher in Oakland, followed by seven years with the Alameda County Office of Education.
Welcome Interview April 2018
You’ve been connected to the California Association of African American Superintendents and Administrators (CAAASA) for about a decade. How have you seen the organization impact CA Educators/Leaders since then?
We continue to raise the awareness of the plight of African American students in California; in particular the stats around the academic “achievement rate”. What we've been able to do is, in my opinion, raise the awareness of how important it is to take a separate look at our African American student achievement and shine a light on ways in which we can improve outcomes. I strong believe that CAAASA has been a voice in development with the California Department of Education, with the State Board of Education, and our partnering organizations. The evolution has been profound - about raising the awareness. Are we changing outcomes? Yes, gradually; and I'm proud to be a part of the progress
Would you share with CAAASA members and readers, one or two things you look forward to addressing in the next year?
Number one – we will continue to advocate for increasing the number of African American teachers and leaders in the educational field in California. Our students need to see people of color in leadership roles, teaching roles, and as role models; so I will continue to work with the California DoE, the State BoE, and the CA Legislator to try to make that happen.
Number two - focus on achievement outcomes for African American Educators and Students. I’m looking forward to an opportunity to develop and offer some more professional development around ethical practices for non-African American teachers; addressing implicit bias among other key areas.
I’d also like to work with our stakeholders and partners to refine our governance model and cultivate leaders through organizations that do hiring for teachers, so we can be at the table.
What “partners” will help you achieve the goals? What barriers are in your way? How can CAAASA members help move the ball forward?
I think CAAASA’s stature is growing beyond the boundaries of California. I would like to look at this as more of a regional and national presence. We have had conversations with a few like-minded organizations about how we could partner for the advancement of our black and brown educators and students. I think our message is urgent and warrants CAAASA being part of a larger presence and impact strategy.
What is your favorite social media platform? How would you like to use that network to promote CAAASA and its value?
My favorite is Twitter and we are absolutely going to grow our web/social media presence, after we discuss more strategically our mission and how to get out our message out through these different mediums. We will discuss this during future board meetings.
What would you say to encourage CAAASA constituents?
I would say… stay involved! CAAASA is a strong support network for young African American leaders. If you are involved, you will grow, learn, and become a more effective teacher or leader in the field of public education. Stay involved, because it works!
Anything you’d like to add?
It's a two-way street for me. As much as I've given to CAAASA, it's given back to me. As I really enjoy the comradery, dedication, and professionalism.
CAAASA was reorganized and renamed in 2007. When it was originally founded in 1993, it was called the California Association of African American Superintendents. The new leadership petitioned the organization to change its focus to include both superintendents and administrators allowing emerging leaders in administration the opportunity to better prepare for the superintendency or other high level administrative assignments.
Today, its membership consists of African-American school superintendents, assistant superintendents, directors, and administrators. CAAASA has a history of hosting Institutes, state meetings, state conferences, and many special events since its inception. Serving as an informative link to California Department of Education (CDE), CAAASA makes recommendations on topics to include curriculum and instruction, staff development, parent involvement, funding and gender specific issues. CAAASA has submitted testimony to the speaker of the Assembly which would improve the status of African-American males relative to their disproportionate representation in the penal system and in the Nation’s colleges and universities.
CAAASA has worked in partnership with the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) by sponsoring events and programs that support increased student achievement and that proved to be successful in addressing the needs of African-American students. Under CAAASA’s leadership, the organization is working closely with new and proposed initiatives that impact the academic achievement of African American students including a most successful and recently sponsored statewide conference in Sacramento, “Education is a Civil Right.”
Additionally, we have met with Executive Search Firms and other stakeholders to address the under representation of African-American Superintendents in California school districts. CAAASA will continue to collaborate with California Department of Education (CDE) and other prominent organizations on projects and programs.
Dr. Daryl Camp has served as the Superintendent for the Riverbank Unified School District since 2012. Under his leadership, Riverbank Unified student learning continues to improve and opportunities for students have expanded. Dr. Camp served as the president of Region 7 of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) during the 2015-16 school year. Dr. Camp earned his bachelor’s degree at Morehouse College in 1991, his master’s degree at California State University, Hayward in 2001, and his doctorate degree in educational leadership at California State University, Sacramento in May, 2011. While at Morehouse, Dr. Camp was inducted into the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa scholar society. In 2008 he received the Valuing Diversity Award from Region VII of ACSA. Camp’s article entitled, Talking about Racism in Our Schools, was published in the April 2009 edition of ACSA’s Leadership magazine.
Dr. Tanya A. Fisher is a veteran educator with over 25 years of experience. She has proudly served as a Classroom Teacher, Mentor Teacher, Resource Specialist, Vice-Principal, Principal, Director, and Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services. Throughout each experience Dr. Fisher has placed her highest priority on educating the whole child, by working collaboratively with all stakeholders, to establish learning environments that provide all students with opportunities to develop academically, while nurturing and enhancing their unique talents.
Along with an extensive background in Curriculum and Instruction, Gifted and Talented Education, and Equity and Diversity, Dr. Fisher holds a Master of Arts in Special Education, a Master of Arts in School Administration, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership. She is a past recipient of the prestigious California School Boards Association’s “Golden Bell Award” for Innovate Programs focusing on Culturally Responsive teaching practices, proven to increase academic achievement and close achievement gaps in ethnically and linguistically diverse communities.
Dr. Marshall earned his BA and M. Ed. Degrees in Special Education at Nicholls State University; he completed his administrative certification and Ed. S. Degree at the University of West Georgia, and holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership at Auburn University. He has also completed post doctoral studies at Western Washington University and the University of California Los Angeles.
As a classroom teacher and administrator, Dr. Marshall has received numerous accolades and has been a featured presenter at local, State and National Conferences. He is equally involved in civic and community associations and organizations. In addition to his work with the City of Lancaster Tapestry Commission, he is an active member of the Lancaster Kiwanis Club and holds membership in the Auburn University Alumni Association, the Nicholls State University Alumni Federation, and the University of West Georgia Alumni Association. In his spare time, Dr. Marshall enjoys music, traveling, and working out.
Dwight Bonds, is the Executive Director of the California Association of African American Superintendents and Administrators (CAAASA) This organization consists of educational leaders committed to identifying and addressing the critical issues in education relative to the status and performance of African-American students in California.
Mr. Bonds has been an educator for over 40 years and has worked in many capacities including School Administrator with Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE). He also served as an Associate Director for a federal education teacher training program at the University of Southern California. As an employee of LACOE he established meaningful educational programs including Hollywood Entertainment Museum Arts Academy. This High School was created to provide adjudicated students with career preparation and employment in the entertainment art industry. Mr. Bonds also established work partnership programs for students with disabilities including Target stores, Vons Company, Johnson & Johnson companies, Paramount Studios and McDonalds national and state corporate offices. Mr. Bonds has spent most of his Professional career working with challenged student populations including incarcerated youth, students with disabilities and students in alternative settings. He serves on National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE) Board of Directors; National Council on Educating Black Children (NCEBC) Board of Directors, Co-Chair of the Education is a Civil Rights Committee and many other educational and civil rights organizations.
Dr. Charlie Mae Knight
Dr. Knight has dedicated her career to ensuring the educational success of generations of children. Dr. Knight is known for her commitment to students and their families. She is also known for her tremendous energy and her inspirational leadership. She has said, “You have to create a climate that suggests success is imminent.” In her years in California, Dr. Knight has served as Associate Superintendent, California State Department of Education, Trustee of Compton Community College, and Superintendent of Lynwood Unified School District and served 17 years as Superintendent of Ravenswood City School District. In Ravenswood, Dr. Knight transformed the education offered to students by bringing the district back from the brink of bankruptcy, initiating innovative programs, generating private and public support for programs and restoring public confidence in the district’s ability to educate its children. Dr. Charlie Mae Knight has championed the cause of African American leadership convening the Annual Multicultural Education Conference in Monterey, California, the California Education Summits in Sacramento, California, and the Urban Institutes in Santa Clara, California. She was also a Charter Member of the California Association of Compensatory Education (CACE), President of Region III 1975-77, and President of CACE 1978, She directed college summer training Institutes for teachers of the disadvantaged and administered tutorial programs for minorities for the University of California. Dr Knight is the proud founder of CAAASA and her legacy to increase African American leadership lives on today.
Dr. Rex Fortune
In his book, Fortune defines the “achievement gap” as academic performance disparities, confirmed statistically by academic testing that indicates Asian and white students are much more likely to score higher on state and national standardized tests. As a consequence they are more likely to complete high school and go on to obtain a college degree than their Black or Latino peers.
“This achievement gap problem has grave consequences for not only the children left behind, but for our whole society where such children grow up to become greater tax-using liabilities, instead of social and economic producers for themselves, their families and their communities,” stated Fortune.
Fortune is one of the nation’s leading advocates for education reform. In 2002, he co-authored the book “Leadership on Purpose: Promising Practices for African-American and Hispanic Students.”
Fortune’s impeccable credentials include a doctorate in education from Stanford University along with 40 years of experience as an educator. He began his career teaching high school before moving on to serve as a school site administrator.
Thereafter, Fortune served as associate superintendent of public instruction in the California State Department of Education for 11 years, superintendent of the Inglewood Unified School District for five years and superintendent of Center USD for 15 years before he retired in 2003.
During a time in his life when he could comfortably remain retired and enjoy the fruits of a long and storied career, Fortune continues to be an active force in education through the two companies that he founded.
Dr. Rex Fortune is passionate about Bridging the Achievement GapDr. Rex Fortune, Author and Educator (Image by: Courtesy of Fortune and Associates )Fortune serves as the president of Fortune & Associates. As president, he invested the time, energy, effort and resources to put together a team that includes his son, company vice president Rex Fortune III. Together they conducted the extensive research and writing required to publish “Bridging the Achievement Gap.”
Dr. Ramona E. Bishop
Dr. Ramona E. Bishop serves as the Superintendent of the Vallejo Unified School District. Prior to her position in Vallejo she served as Associate Superintendent for Curriculum and Academic Achievement with the Twin Rivers Unified School District. She holds a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership from the University of Pacific, Stockton; a Master of Science Degree in Educational Leadership from California State University, Hayward, and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of California at Berkeley. Dr. Bishop served as Superintendent of the Del Paso Heights School District, Sacramento, Director III Multilingual/Multicultural Equity, Access and Achievements in Sacramento City Unified School District, Principal and in a dual role as Associate Superintendent of Curriculum/Instruction and Principal of Anna Yates Elementary School, Emery Unified School District.
Dr. Judy White
On January 11, 2017, Dr. Judy D. White was appointed, by the Riverside County Board of Education, to serve as the 12th Riverside County Superintendent of Schools. As County Superintendent, Dr. White’s continued focus will be to deliver a high quality education that invests in all students; developing and sustaining strong collaborative relationships with students, teachers, parents, and the community that will bring formidable results in student academic success.
Dr. Judy White has worked as a classified educator, teacher, principal, assistant superintendent, deputy superintendent in San Bernardino City Schools, and Superintendent of Moreno Valley Unified School District. The community calls her a “history maker and stereotype breaker”.
Dr. White is the proud wife of 39 years to Mr. Anthony Wayne White. She is the mother of four children, grandmother of nine and attends Living Way Christian Fellowship. She describes herself as a servant leader and has added value to every position that she has ever held by increasing graduation rates, empowering students through internships, and facilitating a citywide adopt-a-school process.
Dr. Pamela Short Powell
Dr. Pamela Short Powell, is an educational consultant. She previously served as the interim CEO of the Greater Crenshaw Educational Partnership. This is a partnership between the Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Angeles Urban League, Tom and Ethel Bradley Foundation, and the USC Rossier School of Education. She has spent the last thirty-five years serving as an educator in the public school system. She served as the Superintendent of the Inglewood Unified School District, the Interim Superintendent as well as Chief Academic Officer for the Oklahoma City Public Schools, and the Assistant Superintendent for Schools, Director of Elementary Instruction, Principal, Curriculum Resource Specialist and teacher for the Pasadena Unified School District. Dr. Powell actively and successfully pursued various community outreach ventures for the benefit of children, such as implementing the Adopt-A-School Program; establishing a partnership with the Association of Inglewood Ministerial Alliance and initiated a district-wide fatherhood outreach effort. She has been a visiting professor for the University of San Diego and Azusa Pacific University. She has her own educational consultant business in which she consults with varioius school districts throughout the State.
Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond
Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond is the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University, where she has launched the Stanford Educational Leadership Institute and the School Redesign Network. She has also served as faculty sponsor for the Stanford Teacher Education Program. She is a former president of the American Educational Research Association and member of the National Academy of Education. Her research, teaching, and policy work focus on issues of school restructuring, teacher quality and educational equity. From 1994 to 2001, she served as Executive Director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, a blue-ribbon panel, whose 1996 report, “What Matters Most: Teaching for America’s Future,” led to sweeping policy changes affecting teaching and teacher education. In 2006, this report was named one of the most influential affecting U.S. education and she was named one of the nation’s ten most influential people affecting educational policy over the last decade. Another of Dr. Darling-Hammond’s more than 300 publications is “Preparing Teachers for a Changing World: What Teachers Should Learn and be Able to Do” (with John Bransford, for the National Academy of Education, winner of the Pomeroy Award from AACTE).
Dr. Sylvia Rousseau
Dr. Sylvia Rousseau has been a professor of clinical education and urban scholar for the USC Rossier School of Education since 2006, where she teaches in the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) program, focusing on instructional leadership, diversity, and organization in the K-12 concentration. She also teaches courses in the TEMS concentration.Her research interests include reforming systems and structures to organize urban schools for learning; the relationship between culture and cognition in promoting learning for all students; deepening understandings of literacy acquisition in urban schools; secondary literacy; and exploring and developing university and K-12 partnerships. She is often called upon to speak at educational conferences on creating change in urban schools. Rousseau has also held the title of Superintendent of Local District 7 in LAUSD from 2001 to 2005. During her tenure as Superintendent, Rousseau has led four years of consistent improvement in students’ academic performance; partnerships with universities and Teach for America to create a major increase in credentialed teachers; improved teacher retention rate; conversion of high schools to small learning communities; and creating instructional tools to promote literacy and effective standards-based instruction in grades K-12.
Dr. George McKenna
Dr. George McKenna is an Educational Consultant. He previously served as Superintendent, Local District 7, with the Los Angeles Unified School District. A lifelong educator, McKenna held several positions within the district before joining Washington Preparatory High School in Los Angeles as its Principal. While at Washington Prep, he developed and implemented the Preparatory School Model, stressing academic excellence at all levels. In four years, he successfully changed an inner-city high school that had been torn by violence, low achievement and lack of community confidence into a school with an attendance waiting list, and nearly 80% of the graduates enrolled in college. Because of his success, Dr. McKenna’s programs have been widely modeled throughout the country. Additionally, a motion picture about his success was released in 1986. In addition to serving as a teacher and principal, he served as General Deputy in a Local District, Superintendent in Inglewood, and Assistant Superintendents in Compton, Los Angeles, and Pasadena School Unified Districts before coming out of retirement to work with LAUSD again.